Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Best Books of 2016

So many books, so little time, but these are the best I read in 2016. There were of course many great books published in 2016 I didn't read. I welcome your recommendations as additions to this list. 


I always love Billy Collins. I read one of his poems, and I think, "How did he do that with words?" Eliot is a poetry lode-star for me, and this collection is the one. And of course Mary Oliver, although these are essays, I'm dropping them in the poetry category, because she's THE poet.

Billy Collins, The Rain in Portugal: Poems

The Poems of T.S. Eliot, Collected and Uncollected, Volume 1

Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays

Religion & Theology

Altmann's work is an update after 20 years, and it is as fresh as ever. Liz Edman's book was the most transformative read of mine for the year, seconded by Pettegree, both of which dramatically reframed some of my assumptions. Barber is inspiring me for action in 2017, and Ola's is genuinely the systematics I've been hoping to read for some time, challenging and academic and hefty.

Walter Altmann, Luther and Liberation: A Latin American Perspective, Second Edition

Liz Edman, Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity

Andrew Pettegree, Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town Into a Center of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe, and Started the Protestant Reformation

William J. Barber II, The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear

Ola Sigurdson, Heavenly Bodies: Incarnation, the Gaze, and Embodiment in Christian Theology


I didn't read a ton of novels this year, and most of what I did read was pulp fantasy and science fiction. But Death's End was the best novel I've read in the last decade, and The Sympathizer was my favorite audio book of recent memory. Lagoon is bizarre and set in Nigeria, and Gods of the Fall is just one example of the amazing RPG gaming volumes that came out in 2016. Jemisin won the Hugo award for the novel that precedes Obelisk Gate, and I guarantee the second installment is as good if not better, worthy perhaps of a Hugo in 2017.

Cixin Liu, Death's End

Gods of the Fall (okay, this is really a game/RPG, but I liked it like a novel)

Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer

Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon

N.K. Jemisin, The Obelisk Gate


I read a bit of older philosophy this year, especially Walter Benjamin, but these volumes will do the trick, accessing philosophy without bogging the reader down in the difficulty of philosophical prose. Except for Marion. He's straight up philosophical. But worth your attention.

Timothy Snyder, Black Earth: The Holocaust As History and Warning

Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others

Stuart Jeffries, Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School

Wendy Hui Kong Chui, Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media

Jean-Luc Marion, Givenness and Revelation


These three really speak for themselves. Each is amazing in its own way.

Tamara Draut, Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America

Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the Drug War

Jane Meyer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

1 comment:

  1. I'm certainly looking forward to Ada Palmer's Too Like the Lightning. The sequel, Seven Surrenders, is due out on 21 February. Have a look at her blog: