Here are my top 10 favorite books read in 2016. Enjoy.
10. The Man with the Golden Arm, by Nelson Algren
A novel of rare genius, The Man with the Golden Arm describes the dissolution of a card-dealing WWII veteran named Frankie Machine, caught in the act of slowly cutting his own heart into wafer-thin slices. For Frankie, a murder committed may be the least of his problems. The literary critic Malcolm Cowley called The Man with the Golden Arm “Algren’s defense of the individual,” while Carl Sandburg wrote of its “strange midnight dignity.” A literary tour de force, here is a novel unlike any other, one in which drug addiction, poverty, and human failure somehow suggest a defense of human dignity and a reason for hope.
9. The Immortal Life on Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.
8. Native Son, by Richard Wright
Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.
7. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
“Funny, tender, and moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry reminds us all exactly why we read and why we love.” — Literary Journal. A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over–and see everything anew.
6. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin,
by Jill Lepore
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST, ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR, NPR • Time Magazine • The Washington Post • Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe, A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK. From one of our most accomplished and widely admired historians—a revelatory portrait of Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister, Jane, whose obscurity and poverty were matched only by her brother’s fame and wealth but who, like him, was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator. Making use of an astonishing cache of little-studied material, including documents, objects, and portraits only just discovered, Jill Lepore brings Jane Franklin to life in a way that illuminates not only this one extraordinary woman but an entire world.
5. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,
by Mark Haddon
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow. This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.
3. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and a finalist for the National Book Award! From the PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed short story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, comes Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (“The Catch-22 of the Iraq War” —Karl Marlantes). A razor-sharp satire set in Texas during America’s war in Iraq, it explores the gaping national disconnect between the war at home and the war abroad. Ben Fountain’s remarkable debut novel follows the surviving members of the heroic Bravo Squad through one exhausting stop in their media-intensive “Victory Tour” at Texas Stadium, football mecca of the Dallas Cowboys, their fans, promoters, and cheerleaders.
2. The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen,
by Stephen R. Bown
The Last Viking unravels the life of the man who stands head and shoulders above all those who raced to map the last corners of the world. In 1900, the four great geographical mysteries—the Northwest Passage, the Northeast Passage, the South Pole, and the North Pole—remained blank spots on the globe. Within twenty years Roald Amundsen would claim all four prizes. Renowned for his determination and technical skills, both feared and beloved by his men, Amundsen is a legend of the heroic age of exploration, which shortly thereafter would be tamed by technology, commerce, and publicity.
1. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
The #1 New York Times bestseller, now available in paperback—Jess Walter’s “absolute masterpiece” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author): the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 and resurfaces fifty years later in contemporary Hollywood. The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962…and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.
My Favorite Books … 2015
1. The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
2. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
3. My Autobiography, by Charles Chaplin
4. Everyman, by Philip Roth
5. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, by Tom Reiss
6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
7. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, by John le Carre
8. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
9. The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro
10. This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, by Tadeusz Borowski
My Favorite Books … 2014
1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
2. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
3. Jackson Pollack: An American Saga, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
4. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
5. The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century, by David Laskin
6. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
7. A Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
8. Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
9. Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers
10. Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
My Favorite Books … 2013
1. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
2. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
3. Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem
4. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
5. All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy
6. A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
7. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
8. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
9. High Fidelity, by Nick Hornsby
10. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, by Seth Godin