My Favorite Books of 2016

Some favorite books of the year (and more below)

My husband and I started making  “Best of the year” lists in the ’90s.  We typed them up in an amateurish newsletter and mailed them to friends.  Our friends laughed at our lists and made counter-lists.   Did we really think the best book was X, the best movie Y, the best restaurant Z?  What you do then is look them in the eye and say, “WOULD WE LIE TO YOU?”  Then there is much good-humored bickering. The one thing we agreed on in 1997 was that  Ulee’s Gold was the best movie of the year.

I miss pre-internet days.  In the ’90s we had AOL and dial-up and the server was unable to reach the internet.  We read fewer publications and probably read more deeply.  Things were more personal.  We knew the people we exchanged lists with.  Now I have access to lists in book pages of newspapers around the world, online magazines, blogs, Goodreads, list-and-podcast oriented sites like Book Riot, public library websites, and more.

I must have  read at least 20 lists so far.  But the one I most look forward every year is complied by the daily New York Times critics, Michiko Kakutani, Dwight Garner, Janet Maslin (now freelance), and Jennifer Senior.  I requested and received three books from this list for Christmas : Michael Chabon’s Moonglow (recommended by Kakutani)  and Jennifer Haigh’s Heat and  Light and Paulette Giles’ News of the World (recommended by Maslin).  This is the only list that translates into sales at my house.  Again, it’s because it doesn’t look like a shopping list.  It is published a couple of weeks after Black Friday

Well, WE DON’T NEED ANOTHERNARCISSISTIC BLOGGER’S “BEST OF” LIST.  But I’m not going to deny myself the fun of it!    So here it is.

MY FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2016.  (Click on the titles to read my posts.)

FAVORITE NEW NOVEL.  Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool

FAVORITE DEBUT NOVEL.  Emma Cline’s The Girls

FAVORITE SHORT STORY COLLECTION.  Tess Slesinger’s On Learning That Her Second Husband Has Taken His First Lover and Other Stories.

FAVORITE NOVEL IN TRANSLATION. Madeleine Bourdouxhe’s La Femme de Gilles


FAVORITE CLASSIC.  Balzac’s Pere Goriot

FAVORITE “REDISCOVERED” CLASSIC.  Barbara Comyns’ Our Spoons Came from Woolworths



FAVORITE ENVIRONMENTAL CLASSIC.  Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons

FAVORITE HORROR NOVEL.  E. Nesbit’s Dormant 


FAVORITE FANTASY.  Kathryn Davis’s The Thin Place

FAVORITE MYSTERY. Janwillem van de Wetering’s Outsider in Amsterdam

FAVORITE MEMOIR.  Peter Stothard’s The Senecans: Four Men and Margaret Thatcher

FAVORITE ESSAYS.  MFK Fisher’s The Gastronomical Me


FAVORITE LITERARY CRITICISM.  D. J. Taylor’s The Prose Factory

FAVORITE HUMOR PIECES.  Jean Kerr’s How I Got to Be Perfect

P.S. Do tell me your favorite books of the year.  I will add them to the list.  And if you give me enough titles , I’ll list them in another post.

6 thoughts on “My Favorite Books of 2016

  1. I read La Femme de Gilles this year too – probably due to your review.
    I love the best of lists I admit. It’s also great making the list- looking back over the year and remembering what was particularly good. My list will be up tomorrow.


  2. I don’t think it’s narcissistic for bloggers to compile “best of” lists — the ones I know are not arrogant enough to present them as some kind of declaration of universal value. I love seeing what each person picks.

    I’ve got to reread How I Got To Be Perfect — I have not read Jean Kerr since I was married and had kids myself, but she was a favorite in our house growing up. And I’ve been meaning to look into more of E. Nesbit’s adult books. I keep eyeing that e-book collection, I should just go ahead and get it.


    • I really like Jean Kerr. Domestic columnists don’t seem to be “in” this year, but I also enjoyed rereading Shirley Jackson’s Life among the Savages. I remember some very serious feminists in the ’70s who thought women shouldn’t laugh at themselves. I wonder if that influenced domestic columns.

      Liked by 1 person

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