Best Books of 2016

The time has come…. statistics, and best of 2016! If you’re looking for recommendations, this is just the hard-fought best-of-the-best list – anything rated a 3 on any of the monthly reviews is something I think worth reading. And I will be the first to admit that these winners are anything but objective and suffer from a very serious recency effect, but I make the rules, so I do what I want.

First, statistics: I get to do year-over-year comparison for the first time!!

Books this year: 65 (41% more than 2015)

Total pages: 22835 (19% more than 2015)

Average book length: 351.31 (19% shorter than 2015)

Standard error: 31.36 (9% more variation in length than 2015)

Average rating (of 3): 2.69

Longest book: The Fiery Cross (Outlander book 5), 1456 pages, Diana Gabaldon

Shortest book: A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows (Outlander tie-in novella), 58 pages, also Diana Gabaldon

Genres: 43, but some of those are kind of desperate grabs (if Library of Congress can do it, so can I)

Most represented genre: fantasy rules the roost again, at 29. The nebulous catch-all “adventure” comes in a distant second, with 12.

Greatest increased genre compared to last year: graphic novel, 125% increase (from 4 to 9)

Greatest decreased genre compared to last year: science fiction, 60% drop (from 5 to 2)

Most common reason I picked something up: series continuations, spinoffs, or tie-ins lead with 18. Other reasons: recommended, loaned to me, given to me, impulse buys, authors I track, seeing the play, reputation, and of course, “can’t pass up new Harry Potter” (2020 update: you have now found the circumstances under which you will pass up new Harry Potter)

Most books by a single author: Diana Gabaldon (6), who cheats by writing novellas; Ellie Alexander (4); JK Rowling (4); Jim Butcher (4). Mary Roach (3) gets points as the only nonfiction author with multiple appearances.

Estimated hours spent reading: at approximately 75-90 pages per hour, which is honestly a guess, about 250-300 hours this year. That’s about 45 minutes a day.

And my favorites:

As established last year, the categories are

Fiction: (1) fictional (duh), and (2) not part of a series. Does not include short stories.

Non-fictional: are not fictional (also duh). Does not include essay collections or memoirs.

Series: (1) two or more books set in the same universe featuring at least some of the same characters, (2) that I read more than one of during 2016, and (3) was not eligible winner of best series in a previous year.

Graphic novels: pictures told with stories, which may be originally written as novels (like Nimona) or collected editions of comics (like Sandman).

And introducing…

Short stories and novellas: fiction, but shorter than a novel (<100 pages). Multiple works may be collected in a single volume, or not.

Other: plays, essay collections, memoirs, and anything else that doesn’t fit one of the above categories.

This year produced a bumper crop of particularly excellent nonfiction, but the marquee category remains best series.


The Girl with All the Gifts, Vinegar Girl

Honorable mention: Redshirts, The Ragwitch


The Rook Files (The Rook, Stiletto); Bakeshop Mysteries

Series ruled ineligible:

Outlander, Dresden Files, (last year’s winners); Beka Cooper, Tiffany Aching, Glamourist Histories (insufficient number read this year)


The Checklist Manifesto, Weapons of Math Destruction

Honorable mention: all of Mary Roach’s appearances this year (Gulp, Packing for Mars, Grunt); The Gene; Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Graphic novels:

Nimona, Habibi

Short stories and novellas:

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

The Lord John novellas, collectively


Best American Science and Nature 2015

And special mentions go to…

Put up the best fight: Count of Monte Cristo, which took me over a year to finish

Hardest to categorize: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (is it a novel?? Is it nonfiction?? Is it a novella?? I’m not sure)

Best science: Weapons of Math Destruction; everything Mary Roach, who continues to be my writing hero, touches

Surprise tears: Habibi; M is for Magic; The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

Best dinosaurs: The Skin of Our Teeth

Don’t read alone at night: The Girl With All the Gifts

Biggest surprise: The Rook. I went in knowing literally nothing about this. I didn’t know what genre it was. I was not even sure it was actually a novel (as it appeared to be). It was my single favorite book of the year. If you only read one thing I did, choose this.

Best impulse read: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories; The Checklist Manifesto

Weirdest: Harry Potter and The Cursed Child; The Skin of Our Teeth (both plays, interestingly)

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