2016 Best Books

Best Books of 2016

In the past, I’ve always split my favorite books of the year into several lists, but 2016 seems to be breaking the rules in every way possible. There were just so few books I loved this year. Rather than splitting everything into three or four repetitive lists made up of books I just liked, I’m going with a single, solid top ten that I absolutely adored. But please don’t ask me to pick a favorite.


Evicted by Matthew Desmond

“In white neighborhoods, only 1 in 41 properties that could have received a nuisance citation actually did receive one. In black neighborhoods, 1 in 16 eligible properties received a citation. A woman reporting domestic violence was far more likely to land her landlord a nuisance citation if she lived in the inner city. In the vast majority of cases (83 percent), landlords who received a nuisance citation for domestic violence responded by either evicting the tenants or by threatening to evict them for future police calls. Sometimes, this meant evicting a couple, but most of the time landlords evicted women abused by men who did not live with them.”

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing?, Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”

Tender by Belinda McKeon

“He was not trying to comfort her, Catherine realized. He was not trying to take something painful away. It was as if he was trying to tell her that something painful had never been hers to hold on to at all.”

Pushout by Monique Morris

“The student-teacher relationship is a critical component of whether a girl’s comments will be seen as a part of her expression and learning, or as a deliberate and willful affront to the teacher’s authority. Neither of these is against the law, by the way. Yet many schools punish girls who speak out of turn or challenge what they feel is injustice as if it were a violation of law rather than an interrogation of fairness.”

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

“The house becomes a physical encyclopedia of no-longer hers, which shocks and shocks and is the principal difference between our house and a house where illness has worked away. Ill people, in their last day on Earth, do not leave notes stuck on bottles of red wine saying ‘OH NO YOU DON’T COCK-CHEEK’. She was not busy dying, and there is no detritus of care, she was simply busy living, and then she was gone.”

Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein

“Sometimes, when evening comes and the light hits our home in a way that reminds us of that other life, We’ll talk about them. What their faces looked like, the feeling of their weight in our arms, the way our youngest would crawl onto my back. I’ll see Mary sitting alone in our living room, the sun gone, just the reds of dusk outlining the trees, and I know she’s remembering them. I walk over, put my arms around her, or kneel by her and place my head in her lap, and we’ll stay like that, holding one another’s pain, wondering whether we are truly monsters.”

Shrill by Lindy West

“When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time—that moves the rudder of the world. It steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women’s safety and humanity are secondary to men’s pleasure and convenience.”

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

“At the auction block they tallied the souls purchased at each auction, and on the plantations the overseers preserved the names of workers in rows of tight cursive. Every name an asset, breathing capital, profit made flesh. The peculiar institution made Cora into a maker of lists as well. In her inventory of loss people were not reduced to sums but multiplied by their kindness.”

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

“Would it be said, they ‘disappeared’, ‘were lost’? Would it be said that they were abandoned or taken, the way people said a girl was attacked, a woman was raped, this femaleness always at the centre, as if womanhood itself were the cause of these things? As if the girls somehow, through the natural way of things, did it to themselves. They lured abduction and abandonment to themselves, they marshalled themselves into this prison where they had made their beds, and now, once more, were lying in them.”

Shelter by Jung Yun

“So there I was, sitting between the while they’re talking to my teachers, and my dad’s asking all these questions about my grades, while my mom’s sitting perfectly straight, her hair and makeup just right even though her back was covered with gashes. And I remember thinking, even before I really knew the meaning of the word, that my family was just so fucked, and I’d never be able to explain that, because who would believe me? We were all too good at pretending to be normal, like the world would end if anyone realized who we actually were inside.”

  • Evicted and Shrill were both SO great (I listened to them both) and I probably would not have picked them up, at least not as soon as I did, had it not been for your recommendation. Thank you!

    • I listened to Evicted, too, and it was such a great audiobook. I’ve heard amazing things about the audio version of Shrill, too!

  • Yay for Shelter and Tender! I haven’t made my list yet, but both are likely candidates. And thank you for making me read Shelter…you were the one that pushed me over the edge.

  • Karen

    You have a few here that I have on my wishlist – like the Homegoing. I’m wondering if I can sneak in a purchase and pretend the parcel is a christmas gift for someone else????

  • Shrill definitely is near the top of my list as well, and a few of these I still REALLY want to get to. I agree though, the reading just hasn’t been this year, but I thought it was me…. perhaps not?

  • I loved Shelter, too. Such an emotional, powerful debut novel! I feel like I’ve really dropped the ball by not reading Homegoing or The Underground Railroad. They’re both on so many “Best” lists. Maybe over my break?

  • So great to see your list! I’m hoping to squeeze in a few of these over the long awaited break.

  • JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

    Shelter is on my list, too… such an amazing debut! Homegoing will be my first book of 2017 and I’ll also be reading Evicted soon. Great list!

  • Kailana

    And, I haven’t read any of these. lol I do own some of them, though, so hopefully in 2017!

  • There were very few books that I loved this year either! What is wrong with me Shannon! Have I lost the ability to love books? (I worry about this every time I have an uninspiring reading year.) Hopefully not, right? Hopefully in 2017 I will have five-star read after five-star read. That’s not so unrealistic, is it?

  • Oh nice list. These quotes are great. I’ve read 2 of these Shelter and Shrill – both of which I liked. I hope to get to The Underground Railroad soon.

  • I only recently stumbled upon Grief is the Thing with Feathers but I immediately put it on hold at the library. Hoping I get it soon. :) Looks like I have several others to add to my list too.

  • These are great quotes! Better luck finding books you love in the new year :)

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was one of my favourite books of 2016 too, such a wonderful story. I love Tender as well, one of the best books of 2015 for me.

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  • Almost every one of these is on my list. Homegoing is the only one I’ve read, and it also made my best-of list!