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My 10 Best Books of 2016

Posted in Bob's Upticks

Those of you who’ve been reading my posts for a while know that I depart from securities and governance topics only once each year, to report on my 10 favorite books of the year just gone by.  I will point out again that my list consists of the books I read during 2016 and is not limited to books that were published during the year.

By way of introduction, from my literary perspective, 2016 was the best of times and the not-so-good of times.  By that I mean that in most years I struggle to limit my choices to my favorite five fiction and non-fiction books, while for 2016 it was hard for me to come up with my remaining books in each category beyond the top one or two.

So much for introductions.  My top favorite works of fiction were:

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • Moonglow by Michael Chabon
  • The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
  • Dictator by Robert Harris
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The Underground Railroad and Moonglow were, IMHO, masterpieces and will remain on my shelves in the hope that I’ll get around to re-reading them at some point.  Likewise Dictator, along with Harris’s other two books comprising the Cicero trilogy; the trilogy is a classic example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts, and collectively, they comprise brilliant historical fiction and are a joy to read.  And I included Ms. Gyasi’s book more for the promise it holds for her future writings than for its own merits.

My non-fiction favorites were:

  • Blood in the Water by Heather Anne Thompson
  • Negroland by Margo Jefferson
  • Avid Reader by Robert Gottlieb
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • Oh, Florida! by Craig Pittman

For me, Blood in the Water, concerning the 1971 Attica prison uprising and its legacy, was ahead of the others I’ve listed by many miles; while not a perfect book, it was as gripping as the best thriller despite knowing the outcome from the start.  It was also profoundly upsetting.  Negroland was also upsetting but for different reasons, including in part that I went to college with the author and reading the book made me think a bit about my own ignorance of the black experience and the biases that my ignorance may have generated.  Avid Reader was intriguing and may even qualify as a “must-read” for anyone like me who is a voracious reader.  Born a Crime tells an incredibly moving story that personalizes apartheid in a way that few other books have in my experience.  And Oh, Florida! is definitely a must-read for anyone like me who has moved to the Sunshine State and loves it despite its many weirdnesses.

That does it.  Happy New Year to all!

Bob