I read 70 books this year – that’s more than I have read since I started tracking. It’s more than twice as much as my first Goodread’s Reading Challenge goal in 2014.
This year was the year of nonfiction for me. A whopping 67 percent-47 books-were nonfiction. In years past the opposite has been true, but I wouldn’t change anything. I learned so much and really fell in love with the power of nonfiction.
The books below were some of my favorites from this year, although not all of them were published in 2016. I got a bit carried away with new releases and mostly forgot to pick up books from higher up on my list, but there are a few on the list that have been out for years.
Top 12 Nonfiction Books of 2016
Since I clearly went for nonfiction over and over this year, it seemed appropriate to start with this list. It contains some of my favorite books from the year. Please note that these are in no particular order – it seems cruel to rank the books that I spent so much time with and that taught me so many different things.
Tim Ferriss’ debut book is one of the few books that still impact my behavior today. A lot of the rules I have set for technology and my morning routine have come from The 4-Hour Workweek. I don’t have plans to start a product-focused business or take six months off for a mini-retirement, but his principles have still proven to be powerful tools for me.
Wendy MacNaughton’s illustrations are beautiful. They make you feel like you are there with her. Her insistence on talking to everyday people around the city was inspiring to me. It’s a bit like Humans of New York, but illustrated and about San Francisco.
I think my original review said it best: “Ta-Nehisi Coates is incredible. His book is gut wrenching, especially in light of the recent shootings and violence.
“I’m a small white woman, and I will never truly know what it’s like to be anything but. Coates’ experience and his criticism of The Dream hit me hard. I know what it’s like to always be on guard, to always be afraid, but I have always had privilege to shield me from the worst. This book is as good as everyone says it is. Read it.”
This book made me re-examine my experience and realize that I don’t spend enough time engaging with work (art, music, books, news articles) from people of color. Ta-Nehisi Coates is the reason many of the books I read this year ended up on my list at all. I also think now might be a great time to re-read it. (PS. You should read his recent article on President Obama while you’re at it.)
Yes, we should.
This book lit a fire under me and got me really thinking about how I like to create and what is/was holding me back. “A must read! Especially if you are creative or you think you aren’t. Loved it,” according to me from June.
This is another one that has changed my day to day life. I still follow the morning skin routine and diet changes that I started when I first read the book. Although I have to admit that December has been awash in sugar. (So many delicious homemade cookies.)
I read a lot of books this year from comedians and culture writers, but Lindy West’s was one of the best. She can easily switch from talking about serious, important topics to telling a hilarious story about her past.
Lab Girl is one of the highlights of my reading this year. This book captivated me and let me see a glimpse of what it would have been like if I had gone into science instead. It was like a taste of an alternate reality for me. Plus, I now have a ton of random facts about trees stored away.
Another one I haven’t stopped talking about. This book confronts the way that we teach girls about sex, sexuality, and intimacy through interviews with girls in high school and college. I had many revelations, and I finished the book feeling incredibly thankful for the way I was raised (and the fact that Snapchat and Instagram weren’t a thing when I was in high school).
A practical guide to actually liking everything in your closet and knowing what your style is. I still haven’t gotten my style figured out or exactly how I like to dress, but this book is getting me there.
How many more times can I describe one of these books as inspiring? In the Company of Women felt like sitting down for a quick cup of coffee with incredible women creators from the around the world. I loved it.
I highly appreciate anything that can manage to be inspiring and get a laugh. This book is no joke–I took pages of notes on advice for how to handle common work-place situations and advocate for myself–but it does have a “laugh at your own pain” vibe. Her chapter for men “PSA: A Penile Service Announcement: How to have a dick without being one” had my boyfriend and I rolling.
6 Best Fiction Books of 2016
Despite being a short list, these books are the ones I keep recommending to my friends and can’t stop talking about. I read them all quickly and voraciously, much like I would devour a piece of lemon cake. Please enjoy these reading treats.
This is one of the first books I read of 2016, and I continued to recommend it to friends throughout the year. The story has stuck with me, and I can still remember how it made me feel. I stand by my (repeated) recommendation.
Told from the point of view of a professor who is slowly succumbing to early-on-set Alzheimer’s, this book drew me in and spat me back out paranoid. The insight into the frustration and the fear from Alice’s point of view was heart-breaking.
This is another book I continue to recommend. It was originally recommended to me by a coworker, and I put off reading it for months. I wish I hadn’t. The story is rich and complex. I couldn’t put it down.
Americanah languished on my list for months before I read it from start to finish in quick succession. I enjoyed exploring Nigeria and seeing America through an immigrant’s eyes. The story is harrowing, but worth sticking with.
Rainbow Rowell, the author of Landline, made me fall in love with fiction again. I had been on a massive streak of nonfiction before reading Rowell’s (also excellent) Fangirl. I then read through all of her books. I would recommend all of them, but this one really sucked me in and left me thinking about it weeks after.
The Unseen World took me by surprise. I don’t remember where I heard of it, but I wasn’t sold on the premise when I picked it up from the library. But I couldn’t get enough of it once I started reading it. The main character is trying to unearth her father’s past, and the realness of the story made it come alive. Warning: I spent an entire work day reading this book after intending to read only a few pages at lunch.
If I could only recommend two fiction books to read from this year, I’m pretty confident I would go with All the Light We Cannot See and The Unseen World.
You can see my entire year of reading here.