My 2016 Book List
At the end of every year, a group of friends and I share lists of the books we’ve read and what we thought of them. It is one of my favorite annual traditions. Over the years, my “reviews” have gotten longer, sometimes more personal. Sometimes they wander. Books are a lens through which I try to understand the world. So these reviews are sometimes just me thinking out loud. And sometimes they’re just about the book.
It seems like forever ago that I kicked off 2016 with some random reads: books on method acting, Japanese artistic philosophy and prison life. None too notable.
But then I hit a string of excellent books: a re-read of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, the Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings and Helen MacDonald’s amazing H is for Hawk.
For crime fiction, I’m a big fan of Dennis Lehane. Live By Night (soon to be released as a film) didn’t disappoint.
Two novels about the Underground Railroad this year: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters. Both deserve the hype they received.
I started reading stage plays this year and was blown away by Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman. Like nothing else I’ve ever read.
In understanding American culture at the moment, Hillbilly Elegy is a must read (paired with last year’s Between the World and Me, it should be required). But Gun Guys was also enlightening and entertaining. And Rise of the Warrior Cop leaves one dumbfounded and angry.
Looking overseas, Black Flags provides a good understanding of how ISIS came to be.
One book on writing this year, but it was a good one: How to Write Short.
And I like to end my years with a weighty, reflective book. When Breath Becomes Air is crushing. I’m still trying to digest it.
I write about books throughout the year on my blog, but here’s the full 2016 Book List.
As for my short list of recommended books…
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
City of Thieves by David Benioff
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
Black Flags by Joby Warrick
Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko
Thanks to my friend Greg for convincing me to start this tradition 17 years ago. And to my mom who reads every review and makes astute editing suggestions.
What did you read? What did you love? Let me know. Happy reading in 2017!