Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My Top Ten of 2016

I'm finally posting my top ten list. I'd put it together in mid-December, but since I planned to finish eight more books before the end of the year, I decided not to post it until January. (I was thinking more like January 1, but, alas, time got away from me.)

My criteria for the best books of the year boils down to one simple thing: the book had to touch me viscerally. It had to demand something of me or comfort me in a profound way. It had to teach me something about humanity. It also had to entertain me. I read a lot of great books this year, and this list was harder to compose than most years.

Some notes: 1. I don't include children's books in my top ten because it just doesn't seem like an apples and oranges comparison. My favorite children's books of 2016 can be found here and here. 2. I don't include re-reads on my best of list. 3. Can you believe 6 of my top ten books this year are fiction?! More than half? Fiction!

End-of-year Stats
Books read: 128
Fiction: 20
Children's: 22
Picture Books: 114
Poetry: 14
Audio: 17
Re-Reads: 9



Favorite book of 2016 [published in 2016]

A Gentleman in Moscow


10 Best Books of 2016 (in the order I read them)

1. Jane Eyre

2. Dead Presidents

3. A Man Called Ove

4. The Summer before the War

5. In a Sunburned Country

6. Five Presidents

7. My Cousin Rachel

8. News of the World

9. A Gentleman in Moscow

10. Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure



50 Paintings You Should Know


First Women

For the Love

The French Chef in America, Alex Prud’homme

Girl Waits with Gun

How to Celebrate Everything

Living with What You Love

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Present over Perfect

The Road to Little Dribbling

The Song Poet, Kao Kalia Yang

Tarzan of the Apes

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
*there will be a post on these later


Best Memoir

Five Presidents


Best Nonfiction Book (non-memoir/biography)

In a Sunburned Country


Best Biography

Adult: First Women or The French Chef in America

Kids: Grover Cleveland, Again!


Best Fiction

Contemporary: A Gentleman in Moscow (The Summer before the War is a close runner-up.)

Classic: Jane Eyre


Best Parenting/Family Book

A Doctor in the House


Best Project or Adventure Book

In a Sunburned Country


Best audiobook

In a Sunburned Country

(Delicious! was also excellent.)


Best Poetry Book

Otherwise (Jane Kenyon)


Best Cookbook

Tie: American Cake

        How to Celebrate Everything


Best Photography/Art Book

50 Paintings You Should Know


Best Decorating Book

Living with What You Love



Best Picture Book

Tie: Mother Bruce

        I Love You Already!

       Ada Twist, Scientist

       Flora and the Peacocks


Best Middle Grade or YA Book

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate



Best books about presidents, first ladies, or the White House.

Presidents: Dead Presidents, Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure, and Killing Lincoln

First Ladies: First Women

White House: Under This Roof


Proud to be an American award

Five Presidents


Best book that deals with religion or faith

For the Love


Best book that deals with food or cooking or chefs (non-cookbook)

Tie: How to Celebrate Everything (maybe you’d call this a cookbook?)



Most inspiring, cathartic, or (Self-)helpful

Present over Perfect


Best books set in another country

Jane Eyre (England)

A Gentleman in Moscow (Russia/USSR)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (England)

In a Sunburned Country (Australia)

The Latehomecomer (Laos & Thailand)

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (England)

A Man Called Ove (Sweden)

My Cousin Rachel (England)

The Summer before the War (England)

Tarzan of the Apes (someplace in Africa)


Best book based on a blog

How to Celebrate Everything


Best books by authors I’ve read before

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly

Delicious!, Ruth Reichl

Five Presidents, Clint Hill

For the Love, Jen Hatmaker

How to Celebrate Everything, Jenny Rosenstrach

In a Sunburned County, Bill Bryson

My Cousin Rachel, Daphne du Maurier

Present over Perfect, Shauna Neiquist


Best book by a celebrity

No Award


Best book about sports

No Award


Funniest book

In a Sunburned Country

Runner Up: Shake


Best covers


Ms. Marvel

First Women

A Man Called Ove

Miller’s Valley

Death Comes to Pemberley


I Never Had It Made

My Cousin Rachel

News of the World

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Lulu Walks the Dogs

A Gentleman in Moscow


Worst cover

Kick (chest hair on the cover of a book—even if it’s Jack Kennedy’s chest hair—is a turn off for me)


Also, poetry collections almost always have the absolute worst covers:

The Lost Neruda Poems

Mortal Trash

Show and Tell


Best book about books or reading

No Award


The “I want to write like that” award

A Gentleman in Moscow


Well-written books that I did not like

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

Gone with the Wind

Hidden Figures

When Breath Becomes Air


Book everyone should read

Classics: Jane Eyre, My Cousin Rachel, Tarzan of the Apes

Contemporary fiction: A Gentleman in Moscow, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, A Man Called Ove, News of the World

History: Five Presidents

Art: 50 Paintings You Should Know

Religion: The Bible, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

Children’s: The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, Grover Cleveland, Again!


Weirdest book

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal (and it was weird in a good way)


Most charming

A Gentleman in Moscow


Most disappointing

Love Warrior


Book I’m still not sure how I feel about

The Remains of the Day


Toughest read

Holy Bible


Thickest read

Gone with the Wind


Made me cry

I think I cried during When Breath Becomes Air because I’d lost my dad not long before to a neurological disorder.

And I hate admitting that I cried during Lily and the Octopus, because that was what the book was written to make you do.


Renewed my faith in mankind

A Man Called Ove


Best science book

For adults: Patient H. M. (neurological sciences)

For kids: The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate (natural sciences)


Book that best displays the battle between traditionalism and progressivism

The Remains of the Day


Most unique

Ella Minnow Pea


Best book from a genre I’ve never read before

Tie: Ms. Marvel (comic)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (fantasy)


Kept me on the edge of my seat

My Cousin Rachel


Best book about animals

Tie: Appleblossom the Possum

       Tarzan of the Apes


Number of books read that were published in 2016



Highly- and widely-recommended books that lived up to the hype
Girl Waits with Gun

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

A Man Called Ove

Present over Perfect

News of the World (National Book Award finalist)

The Summer before the War


2016 bestsellers that disappointed

Love Warrior (Aug.)

Raymie Nightingale (April)

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (March)


Books I’m most glad I finally got around to

The Bible

Jane Eyre

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


Oldest book read

The Bible



Coop (as good as I remember)

The Pioneer Woman (as mediocre as I remember)

The Longest Trip Home (not nearly as good as I remember)

The Duggars: 20 and Counting! (as remembered)

The Latehomecomer (as remembered)

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry (not as good as I remember)

Risking Everything (as remembered)

Dancers among Us (lost its charm the second time around)

Killing Reagan (as remembered)


Best story (within a book)

When Lord Carnarvon discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey. It really surprised me, and I was delighted by the surprise.


Books that deserve more praise

Dead Presidents (witty dissertation of the presidents, how they died, and where they rest)

The Summer before the War (novel about England during World War I)

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate (my favorite children’s book of the year)

For the Love (honest, heartfelt, and funny book about Christian women and church)

Grover Cleveland, Again! (one of the best children’s books I’ve read in a long time)

My Cousin Rachel (gothic suspense every bit as good as Rebecca)

How to Celebrate Everything (memoir/cookbook about family rituals)

A Gentleman in Moscow (my favorite book of the year, but only the very bookish have probably heard of it)


Books that took me out of my comfort zone (and what happened)

comic: Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal & Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why (loved them)

fantasy: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (really liked it)


Authors added to my TBR because of 2016 Reads

Fredrik Backman (A Man Called Ove)

Edgar Rice Burroghs (Tarzan of the Apes)

Luke Dittrich (Patient H.M.)

Helen Simonson (The Summer before the War & Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand)

Holly Goldberg Sloan (Appleblossom the Possum)

Amy Stewart (Girl Waits with Gun)

Amor Towles (A Gentleman in Moscow)


Books over 30 years old

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

And Then There Were None

Jane Eyre

The House at Pooh Corner

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures


Holy Bible

Harriet the Spy

Gone with the Wind

Farmer Boy

Anne of Avonlea

Tarzan of the Apes

I Never Had It Made

My 21 Years in the White House

My Cousin Rachel


Book that didn’t stick with me even until the end of the year

Anne of Avonlea

Eighty Days

Mortal Trash

The Road Not Taken

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

The Story of Diva and Flea

That’s Not English

The Trouble with Poetry


Books I’ve already gotten rid of

The Bridge Ladies

Crossing to Safety

Dear Cary

Death Comes to Pemberley

Florence Foster Jenkins (did not finish)

In the Heart of the Sea



Me (Katharine Hepburn)


Spark Joy


Did not finish.


Moving to Higher Ground

Florence Forster Jenkins

West with the Night

Dogs (I’ll probably finish this someday.)

The Perfect Horse (I will finish this someday.)


Past year’s Top Ten and Awards posts:






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