2016: My Year in Books

2016-coversWarning: This post may be of no interest to anyone but myself. Here is my annual reflection on what I read in the past year, with a Top 16 for ’16, a list I may find myself disagreeing with by tomorrow.

2016 was a tumultuous year, no doubt about it, but it also brought me out-sized portions of inspiration, laughter, friendship, and optimism. The books I read were all a part of that.

To be honest, as I look back at the 197 books I read this year, I can’t even remember some of them. Others though keep reminding me of important truths and perspectives different from my own.

I read several books about music this year, especially rock and country music. That music has always been important to me, so when I have a chance to understand it better through a book, I usually jump on it. Bruce Springsteen is a heroic figure for me, and his 2016 autobiography Born to Run tells his story with courage, charm, and his unmistakable voice. One of the highlights of my year was meeting Bruce at an event in Chicago to publicize the book. If I had to pick one favorite book for 2016, Born to Run would be it.


I had the chance to meet and exchange a few words with Bruce Springsteen in Chicago on November 28, 2016.  I told him I thought his book was really good and that I hoped he had more books in him.  Bruce said, “Thanks,” and “God bless.”

My country underwent some strange political contortions in 2016, and I tried to gain some perspective on all that through reading. The most helpful were Hillbilly Elegy and The Presidents Club. Both books helped me understand some of the currents in this country that are working their ways to the surface and how the presidency interfaces with all of that.

I’m always on the search for appealing humor books. I don’t like humor that is overly crass, and I like when writers see things in quirky ways and tell about them in surprising language. The most satisfying humor writers for me this year were Carrie Fisher and Bill Bryson.

Throughout the year, and especially in late summer, I tried to keep up with the best picture books of the year. Almost a third of my favorite books of the year are picture books. I admire the inventive ways that writing and illustrating come together to spark the imaginations of the youngest readers.

After posting something like what you’re reading here—and thank you for sticking with this–I sometimes get comments or questions about how (and why) I read so much. Many others read much more than me, so I’m not a record-setter or anywhere close. In fact, I’m kind of a slow but persistent reader. With that in mind, here are five ways I read:

1. My phone is usually with me, and I always have something interesting loaded on the Kindle app. While standing in line at the post office on Saturday others were mildly seething, but I read seven or eight pages of a book. Finishing that book might take me weeks or months, but who cares.

2. I get daily emails about e-book deals. When a book that interests me pops up, I buy it, usually for just a couple of bucks. I take my Kindle when travelling, and those books are my airplane and hotel reading.

3. I almost always have an audiobook going in the car. I tend to like nonfiction for audiobooks.

4. I don’t watch much television. I’d rather read.

5. I read several books at the same time. My attention span is zilch, so I like to bounce around between books. I usually finish all of them eventually. If I were only reading one at a time, I would bounce between that one book and piddling around doing something besides reading.

Although some of these books were published earlier, here are my Top 16 for ’16 in no particular order:

1. Jennifer Niven: All the Bright Places
2. Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O’Dell: Writing with Mentors
3. Cammie McGovern: A Step Toward Falling
4. Elizabeth Gilbert: Big Magic
5. Pat Conroy: Beach Music
6. J. D. Vance: Hillbilly Elegy
7. Frederik Backman: A Man Called Ove
8. Jennifer Mason-Black: Devil and the Bluebird
9. Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run
10. Candace Fleming: Giant Squid
11. Jolene Thompson: Faraway Fox
12. Sierra DeMulder: Today Means Amen
13. Michael Duffy and Nancy Gibbs: The Presidents Club
14. Salina Yoon: Be a Friend
15. Sherman Alexie: Thunder Boy, Jr.
16. Brendan Wenzel: They All Saw a Cat

Here is the complete list of books I read in 2016 in roughly the order I finished them:

1. Mike Sewall: The Pitch That Killed
2. Cammie McGovern: A Step Toward Falling
3. Lindsay Mattick: Finding Winnie
4. Troy Andrews: Trombone Shorty
5. Liniers: Written and Drawn by Henrietta
6. Elizabeth Gilbert: Big Magic
7. Sarah Vowell: Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
8. Margarita Engle: Enchanted Air
9. Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O’Dell: Writing with Mentors
10. Stephen Savage: Supertruck
11. Stan Lee: Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvel Memoir
12. A. E. Hotchner: The Good Life According to Hemingway
13. Stephen King: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams
14. Ramin Gameshram: A Birthday Cake for George Washington
15. Rachel Isadora: I Hear a Pickle
16. Salina Yoon: Be A Friend
17. Kelly Starling Lyons: Ellen’s Broom
18. Steve Sheinkin: Most Dangerous
19. Bob Woodward: The Last of the President’s Men
20. Bill Bryson: One Summer: America, 1927
21. Ryan T. Higgins: Mother Bruce
22. Birgitta Sif: Where My Feet Go
23. Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely: All American Boys
24. Anthony Doerr: Four Seasons in Rome
25. Sierra DeMulder: Today Means Amen
26. David Denby: Lit Up
27. Rick Bragg: My Southern Journey
28. Randy Wayne White: The Sharks of Lake Nicaragua
29. Peter H. Reynolds: Going Places
30. Nikki Grimes: Poems in the Attic
31. Kelly DiPucchio: Gaston
32. Trudy Ludwig: The Invisible Boy
33. Chris Butterworth: How Did That Get In My Lunchbox: The Story of Food
34. Suzanne Lang: Families, Families, Families
35. Kathryn Gibbs Davis: Mr. Ferris and His Wheel
36. Andrea Beaty: Rosie Revere, Engineer
37. Lynne Cox: Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas
38. Kathy Parks: The Lifeboat Clique
39. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson: The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore
40. Amy Cuddy: Presence
41. Miranda Paul: One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia
42. Susan Lynn Meyer: New Shoes
43. Danah Boyd: It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens
44. Pat Conroy: The Great Santini
45. William Shatner: Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man
46. Audrey Vernick: The Kid from Diamond Street
47. Rick Steves: Travel as a Political Act
48. Hervé Tullet: Let’s Play
49. Carrie Fisher: Wishful Drinking
50. John Brandon: Citrus County
51. Kwame Alexander: Booked
52. Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor: Trapped!: A Whale’s Rescue
53. Irin Karmon and Shana Knizhnik: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
54. Randy Wayne White: Deep Blue
55. Mark Holtzen: A Ticket to the Pennant: A Tale of Baseball in Seattle
56. Jennifer Niven: All the Bright Places
57. Jess Keating: Pink is for Blobfish
58. Jane Smiley: Twenty Yawns
59. Ken Mochizuki: Baseball Saved Us
60. Kathryn Lasky: Georgia Rises
61. Nancy Churnin: The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game
62. Julie Murphy: Dumplin’
63. Lisa Brown: The Airport Book
64. Thomas Newkirk: The Art of Slow Reading
65. Sherman Alexie: Thunder Boy Jr.
66. Benjamin Alire Sáenz: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
67. Eric Weiner: The Geography of Genius
68. Mark Pett: The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
69. Chris Bachelder: The Throwback Special
70. Lisa Mantchev: Strictly No Elephants
71. Andrew Smith:100 Sideways Miles
72. Michelle Markel: Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead
73. David Hajdu: Positively 4th Street
74. Tara Sullivan: The Bitter Side of Sweet
75. Terry Jennings: Waylon: Tales of My Outlaw Dad
76. Barb Rosenstock: Dorothea’s Eyes
77. Pat Conroy: Beach Music
78. Milan Kundera: The Festival of Insignificance
79. Paula Hawkins: The Girl on the Train
80. Julie Falatko: Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)
81. Don Brown: Aaron and Alexander
82. Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy: The Presidents Club
83. Lauren Roedy Vaughn: OCD, The Dude, and Me
84. Ted Kooser: The Bell in the Bridge
85. Pat Conroy: The Death of Santini
86. Bruce Bohrer: The Best Seat in the House
87. Amy Krouse Rosenthal: Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
88. Jo Knowles: Still A Work in Progress
89. Neal Shusterman: Unwind
90. Adam Rex: School’s First Day of School
91. Elanna Allen: Poor Little Guy
92. Jon Agee: Lion Lessons
93. Hannah E. Harrison: My Friend Maggie!
94. Maria Gianferrari: Coyote Moon
95. Hudson Talbott: From Wolf to Woof!
96. Giselle Potter: This Is My Dollhouse
97. Bill Slavin: Who Broke the Teapot?!
98. Lori Haskins Houran: Next to You: A Book of Adorableness
99. Anne Hunter: Cricket Song
100. Diana Murray: City Shapes
101. Cale Atkinson: Explorers of the Wild
102. Aaron Becker: Return
103. Dave Keane: Who Wants a Tortoise?
104. Akiko Miyakoshi: The Storm
105. David Litchfield: The Bear and the Piano
106. Stacy McAnulty: Excellent Ed
107. K. G. Campbell: Dylan the Villain
108. Matty Long: Super Happy Magic Forest
109. Daniel Bernstrom: One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree
110. David Barrow: Have You Seen Elephant?
111. Evan Turk: The Storyteller
112. Adam Lehrhaupt: Chicken in Space
113. Kyle Mewburn: Hill & Hole
114. Alex T. Smith: Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion
115. Shane Peacock: The Artist and Me
116. Ame Dyckman: Horrible Bear!
117. J. J. Austrian: Worm Loves Worm
118. Mark Sommerset: Baa Baa Smart Sheep
119. Dan Santat: Are We There Yet?
120. Mo Willems: The Thank You Book
121. Philip C. Stead: Ideas Are All Around
122. Jeanne Birdsall: My Favorite Pets
123. Eugenie Doyle: Sleep Tight Farm
124. Katrina Goldsaito: The Sound of Silence
125. Antoinette Portis: Best Frints in the Whole Universe
126. Minh Le: Let Me Finish!
127. Mahak Jain: Maya
128. F. Isabel Campoy: Maybe Something Beautiful
129. Steve Goetz: Old MacDonald Had a Truck
130. Bob Boilen: Your Song Changed My Life
130. Erin Hagar: The Inventor of Lego Toys
131. Torben Kuhlmann: Armstrong: Mouse on the Moon
132. Dan Richards: Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly?
133. Patrick Downes: Come Home, Angus
134. Lucy Ruth Cummins: A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals
135. Brendan Wenzel: They All Saw a Cat
136. Sean Ferrell: The Snurtch
137. Rebecca Kai Dotlich: The Knowing Book
138. Pat Conroy: The Pat Conroy Cookbook
139. Bill Bryson: Neither Here nor There
140. Ron Fournier: Love That Boy
141. Andrew Smith: Winger
142. Susan Verde: The Water Princess
143. Jolene Thompson: Faraway Fox
144. Kate Beaton: King Baby
145. Heidi Schulz: Giraffes Ruin Everything
146. Benedikt Groß: ABC: The Alphabet from the Sky
147. Mac Barnett: How This Book Was Made
148. Jim LaMarche: Pond
149. Cynthia Rylant: Creation
150. Oliver Jeffers: A Child of Books
151. Vera Brosgol: Leave Me Alone
152. Bryan Stevenson: Just Mercy
153. Raina Telgemeier: Ghosts
154. Mary Roach: Grunt
155. Lauren Stringer: Yellow Time
156. Debbie Levy: I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
157. Drew Dernavich: It’s Not Easy Being Number Three
158. Gae Polisner: The Memory of Things
159. J. D. Vance: Hillbilly Elegy
160. Candace Fleming: Giant Squid
161. Philip C. Stead: Samson in the Snow
162. Jason Carter Eaton: How to Track a Truck
163. Norman Messenger: An Artist’s Alphabet
164. Maribeth Boelts: A Bike Like Sergio’s
165. Jory John: Penguin Problems
166. Deana Martin: Memories Are Made of This
167. Jon Klassen: We Found a Hat
168. Kelly DiPucchio: Dragon Was Terrible
169. Joyce Sidman: Before Morning
170. Kate DiCamillo: Raymie Nightingale
171. Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run
172. Kurt Cyrus: Billions of Bricks
173. James Howe: Big Bob, Little Bob
174. Bill Clinton: Giving
175. Garrison Keillor: The Old Man Who Loved Cheese
176. Dave Barry: Best. State. Ever.
177. Demi: The Shady Tree
178. Katie Kennedy: Learning to Swear in America
179. Kaitlin Ward: Bleeding Earth
180. Tommy Wallach: Thanks for the Trouble
181. Randy Wayne White: Seduced
182. Candice Millard: Destiny of the Republic
183. Peter Mills: The Monkees, Head, and the 60s
184. Elizabeth Briggs: Future Shock
185. Carson Ellis: Du Iz Tak?
186. Jennifer Mason-Black: Devil and the Bluebird
187. Michael Tackett: The Baseball Whisperer
188. David Hepworth: Never A Dull Moment: 1971–The Year Rock Exploded
189. Garrison Keillor, Editor: Good Poems
190. Barbara McClintock: Lost and Found: Adele and Simon in China
191. A. S. King: Still Life with Tornado
192. Anna Kendrick: Scrappy Little Nobody
193. Pat Conroy: The Lords of Discipline
194. Robison Wells: Dark Energy
195. John Lewis: March Book Three
196. Fredrik Backman: A Man Called Ove
197. Carrie Fisher: The Princess Diarist

My first reading goal for 2017 is to finish Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton.  And a tempting book club invitation came my way today.  It never ends.

I wish you a happy reading year in 2017!

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3 Responses to 2016: My Year in Books

  1. claudiaswisher says:

    Love your lists! The only one I also read this year was MAN CALLED OVE…You went on a Pat Conroy tear. I got to hear him speak…he told the story of his parents’ divorce. He said his mother told the judge he didn’t have to call any of the (grown) children to testify. She gave him a copy of SANTINI, and said, “This is all you need to know.” Have you read MY LOSING SEASON? I actually started with that one, and then found my way into his novels.

    Thanks for reading and finding great books for us!


    • I wish I’d heard Pat Conroy. He and I have some common ground. Although he was quite a bit older than me, we lived on the same military base for a short time. It’s possible that our mothers crossed paths. I’m three books away from finishing his body of work: The Boo, South of Broad, and the posthumous collection of essays.

      Thanks for visiting my blog. I always enjoy when our paths cross.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Glenda Funk says:

    Several of your favorites are also on my list of favorites for the year. I loved Big Magic. I read it at just the right time.

    I’m reading more audiobooks and also like them for nonfiction, especially as they give my husband and me a way to read together and have conversations about our reading. Right now we’re reading Evicted. It’s so sad.

    I’m anxious to read over a hundred books a year when retirement greets me. Until then, I’ll stay the less is more course!

    Liked by 1 person

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