Another Year in Books: Best of 2016


best-of-2016Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for another wonderful year in the world of books. I wish you health and happiness in the new year, and a warm, cheery holiday season, however you celebrate.

Now, for the last Rosemary & Reading Glasses post of the year, the traditional last-minute gift guide. It would tax your patience if I were to talk about every book I’ve read this year (97 as of this writing, probably just over 100 by year’s end), so I’ve listed (with two exceptions) 2016 releases in categories constructed by my arbitrary whims. All these books are recommended.


Ocean Vuong, Night Sky with Exit Wounds

Donika Kelly, Bestiary

W. S. Merwin, Garden Time

Catherine Pierce, The Tornado is the World

Monica Youn, Blackacre

Honorable Mention to Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (2015), which I couldn’t bear to leave off this list.

Short Stories

Ellen Prentiss Campbell, Contents Under Pressure

Helen Oyeyemi, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

Junot Díaz (editor) and Heidi Pitlor (series editor), The Best American Short Stories 2016

Clare Beams, We Show What We Have Learned

Short Novels

Kent Haruf, Our Souls at Night

Graham Swift, Mothering Sunday

Elizabeth Strout, My Name Is Lucy Barton

Idra Novey, Ways to Disappear

Longer Novels

Dominic Smith, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

Alexander Chee, The Queen of the Night

Louise Erdrich, LaRose

Peter Ho Davies, The Fortunes

Lived Up to the Hype

Ann Patchett, Commonwealth

Brit Bennett, The Mothers

Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad

Jeff Zentner, The Serpent King

Books in Translation

Maylis de Kerangal, The Heart (translated by Sam Taylor)

Dulce María Loynaz, Absolute Solitude (translated by James O’Connor)

Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Reputations (translated by Anne McLean)


Claire Harman, Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart

Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures

Depressing (and Very Good)

Katy Simpson Smith, Free Men

Jung Yun, Shelter

Garth Greenwell, What Belongs to You

Katie Roiphe, The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End

Delightful (and Very Good)

Shirley Barrett, Rush Oh! 

Lindsay Faye, Jane Steele

Honorable Mention to Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, out in paperback this year

Best for Sleuths

Elliott Chaze, Black Wings Has My Angel

Erica Wright, The Granite Moth

Best for New Parents

Jennifer Stewart Miller, A Fox Appears

Best Shakespeare Adaptation

Margaret Atwood, Hag-Seed

Best Graphic Novel/Comic

Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Saga: Volume 6 (Start with Volume 1, though!)

Best Sui Generis

Claire-Louise Bennett, Pond