The New York Times Book Review asked me (and many, many other people) to recommend our favorite books of 2016 in 300 words or less. At first I planned to just recommend Jane Hamilton’s The Excellent Lombards and Patrick Ryan’s The Dream Life of Astronauts, because those are the two books I loved this year that I think got short shrift. The popular books, I figured, would get plenty of attention from other people. But in the end I couldn’t contain myself. There were some fantastic popular books this year, and I wanted to cram in as many titles as I could.
When it was done I found I had written a list of my favorite books of the year, and so I’m passing it on to you a little early in case you need some tips for holiday shopping. I’ve talked about nearly all of these books in earlier posts so I’ll spare you my descriptions. I’m always saying I’m going to be brief and this is my opportunity to actually do it. It goes like this:
If ever there was a year to turn off the television, throw the phone out the window, and pick up a book, this was it. Lucky for us, 2016 was a knockout year in publishing.
Some of my favorite writers delivered their best works:
- Elizabeth Strout My Name Is Lucy Barton
- Louise Erdrich LaRose
- Michael Chabon Moonglow
- Jane Hamilton The Excellent Lombards
Jacqueline Woodson, who can do pretty much anything, gave us the beautiful and soulful Another Brooklyn.
I read my first Rabih Alameddine, The Angel of History, and now want to read everything he’s written.
I just finished Zadie Smith’s Swing Time and found it to be both great art and a great read.
I would also urge you to read my favorite short story collection of the year, Patrick Ryan’s The Dream Life of Astronauts.
There was a lot of great nonfiction in 2016, but there are four books that I recommend with a sense of urgency. Read these books, give them as gifts — each is essential:
- Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air
- Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl
- Susan Faludi’s In the Darkroom
- Matthew Desmond’s Evicted
If you’re in the market for a picture book, you’ll want Jon Klassen’s triumphant conclusion to the hat trilogy, We Found a Hat.
And please get a copy of Melissa Sweet’s illustrated biography of E. B. White, Some Writer. It’s a book for every age, including 53. I loved it.
Now take this list with you to your local independent bookstore and buy some books so that you can ensure the health of a small business in your community while enriching your life through reading. That’s the very definition of a win/win.
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Read along with Ann! Click any title in her note and toss it into your online cart. We’ll hold your books at the store for you or ship them, whatever’s most convenient. Need more ideas? Check out our Big Gift List, Part One (for adults) and Part Two (for young readers).
Related reading, from The New York Times: Ann Patchett’s Travel Guide for Bookstore Lovers