The Best Books I Read in 2016

According to Goodreads, I’ve read more than 54 books and 17,000 pages in 2016. That’s pretty amazing considering that for the past 15 years, I’ve probably averaged a book or two per year.

2016 is the year I fell in love with reading again and the only way I made it through as many books as I did is that I made reading a priority. Here are a few of my favorite books that I read this year.

Books in a series:

I’ve discovered I really like series because when I read a book with characters I like, it’s great to know there are other books that I get to discover with the same characters.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache — Louise Penny

How the Light Gets In — Louise Penny

This series follows Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec, Québec’s Provincial Police. In each book (beginning with Still Life), Gamache investigates a murder, but the book really digs deep into the living characters, and Penny uses murder as a way to investigate people and their motivations. I’ve read the first 10 books this year and have two more to finish in 2017.

The books never get grisly, and most don’t contain much action, but it’s a very solid series and the characters are why I keep reading.

Favorite book in the series (so far): How The Light Gets In

Luis Chavez Mysteries — Mark Wheaton

In his youth, Luis Chavez was a gang member in L.A. Years later he becomes ordained, but his street smarts have stuck with him. The series is just two books deep so far, and each book tackles a large topic (undocumented farm workers, “birth tourism”, and a mysterious virus spreading through L.A.), but does so through the lens of well-developed characters. Both books dig into Chavez’s history and explore his present.

My favorite book in the series (so far): Fields of Wrath

Cemetery of Forgotten Books — Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a Spanish author who has penned several YA books (Marina is excellent). The Cemetery of Forgotten Books is his adult series. The gothic series takes place in Barcelona and follows characters through several generations over the course of the series. The fourth book was just published in Spain in November 2016 and should see an English release in 2017.

My favorite book in the series (so far): The Angel’s Game

Baby Ganesha Agency — Vaseem Khan

Inspector Ashwin Chopra is on the verge of retirement from a career at the Mumbai Police Department, but there’s one final murder he must solve. Hindered (or aided?) by Ganesha, an elephant gifted to him by his uncle, Chopra must solve the murder before his retirement and discover if the killing reveals a deeper conspiracy within the Mumbai Police Department. There are two books in the series so far and Book #3 comes out in May 2017.

My favorite book in the series (so far): The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra

Books that surprised me:

While I love ready books in a series, about 60% of the books I read this year aren’t part of a series (at least, not yet). I don’t start reading a book expecting I won’t like it, but these books were pleasant surprises in 2016.

Long Division — Kiese Laymon

I heard about this book on the excellent All The Books Podcast (Thanks Rebecca Schinsky!). The main character, City Coldson, lives in Post-Katrina Mississippi, and is given a book — Long Division — that features a main character also named City Coldson, but the book takes place in 1985, 28 years before present day. Long Division is so clever because it involves a book within a book as well as — wait for it — time travel. Give it a shot, it’s totally worth it.

I Am Pilgrim — Terry Hayes

I listened to the audiobook version of I Am Pilgrim as I drove around the midwest on a work trip this summer. It’s a big book (over 600 pages) that dives into an impending terrorist attack. More than the typical terrorist thriller, Terry Hayes explores the backstory of the terrorist to explain why he resorted to terrorism. Like much in our world, nothing is as simple as we’d like it to be. If you like thrillers, you’ll love this book.

Underground Airlines — Ben H. Winters

Imagine a world where the Civil War never happened. It’s present day and brand of corporate slavery still exists in the Hard Four, the four deep south states that still allow slavery. The novel begins in and heavily features Indianapolis before heading to the Hard Four.

This alternate-history book explores what our country would look like if slavery were still allowed and does so through a compelling story.

Hillbilly Elegy — J.D. Vance

I’ve heard this book mentioned as what liberals should read to understand Trump voters. While I can see why that recommendation has been given, but this book stands on its own as a fascinating memoir of a man from Appalachian Kentucky (who moved to rural southeastern Ohio to escape crushing poverty). You get to learn what life was like for J.D. Vance and how he eventually graduated from Yale Law School.

IQ — Joe Ide

I heard about this book billed as an “Urban Sherlock Holmes”. Isaiah Quintabe (IQ) is brilliant and puts his talent to use as an unlicensed private investigator. This isn’t a series (yet), but I’ll be very disappointed if it doesn’t become a series, as Joe Ide has created a great character in IQ that you just want to learn more about. If you’re looking for a good Sherlock Holmes-type of mystery set in a completely different context check out IQ.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August — Claire North

I started this book in 2015 and took a break when I got about 40% through it. When I came back to it in 2016, I was ready to finish. Each time Harry August dies, he is reborn — same time, same place. However, in each new life, he remembers more about his previous lives earlier in his life. He also starts to notice that things are changing in the world with each new life. It’s up to Harry to figure out why things are changing, and stop them from changing for the worse.

Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur — Derek Sivers

My wife encouraged me to read this book. I typically lean toward fiction, but this short book of 40 lessons learned by the founder of CDBaby was excellent. At around 80 pages, it’s a very quick read, but there are some great tips for entrepreneur. While I don’t think all of Sivers’ tips are applicable for every business, there are sure to be a few nuggets to take back to your business.

What did I miss?

2016 was a banner reading year for me, and I want to keep the trend going. What did you read this year that you’d highly recommend? What are you looking forward to reading in 2017?