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Reviewer Picks Reviewers Pick Their Favorite Books of 2016

Recently we asked our reviewers to provide us with a list of some of their favorite books from 2016. Included is a mix of fiction and nonfiction titles, all published this year. Take a moment to read these varied lists of titles and see if you agree with their selections! Please note that due to personal and professional commitments, some reviewers were not able to participate in this feature.


Kate Ayers



John Bentlyewski

  • MAP: Collected and Last Poems written by Wislawa Szymborska, translated by Stanislaw Baranczak
  • WOMEN OF ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM written by Irving Sandler, edited by Joan Marter



Alexis Burling



Harvey Freedenberg



Maya Gittelman

  • INVISIBLE MAN, GOT THE WHOLE WORLD WATCHING: A Young Black Man's Education by Mychal Denzel Smith
    This should be required reading for anyone in America right now. Refreshing, urgent and incisive.
  • HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi
    Simply one of the best novels ever written. Needs to be experienced.
  • THE WANGS VS. THE WORLD by Jade Chang
    Revolutionizes the immigrant novel. Utterly fresh, while simultaneously refreshingly familiar for this immigrant-descended reader. Funny, poignant and crucial.
  • WE LOVE YOU, CHARLIE FREEMAN by Kaitlyn Greenidge
    One of my all-time favorites. A genre-bending, scoping, intimate work. One of the clearest examples of what a novel can and arguably should do: character, style, criticism and love all woven so beautifully together.
  • THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead
    Need I say more? This is required reading. An exemplary work.
  • ANOTHER BROOKLYN by Jacqueline Woodson
    So tremendously grateful for her writing.
  • BEHOLD THE DREAMERS by Imbolo Mbue
    Can't wait to read more of her!
  • HERE COMES THE SUN by Nicole Dennis-Benn
    Also can't wait to read more of her. This book made me ache.



Amy Haddock

  • TELL ME THREE THINGS by Julie Buxbaum

    Here are three reasons why I loved this book:

    (1) Nostalgia. This book reminded me of Ann Brashares' The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series in all the best ways.
    (2) The story delivers. There was just enough light-hearted banter and high school shenanigans to keep the balance of a good young adult (YA) novel.
    (3) It's a well-written novel. That might sound like a simple compliment, but I think this book was brilliantly paced, expertly woven together and emotionally insightful.

    Three reasons to love it, but only one piece of advice: Get your hands on this book and read it. Posthaste.



Joe Hartlaub

  • SECURITY by Gina Wohlsdorf
    The employees of a new resort hotel are systematically being murdered on the eve of the property’s opening in this wonderfully literate and claustrophobic thriller by a debut author who along the way redefines heroism and romance. A must-read.
  • A BRILLIANT DEATH by Robin Yocum
    This gem of a book offers a mystery, a coming-of-age story, and a character study set in a place and time that is all but gone. Most of all, however, it is a wonderfully told story that deserves to be read over and over.
  • WILLNOT by James Sallis
    One of fiction’s most reliable authors, well into his fifth decade of work, returns and yet once again rewrites the rules of constructing the mystery novel in this tale of a small town physician (and occasional veterinarian) who finds himself acting as a somewhat reluctant private investigator. It hopefully will be the first of a series.
  • THE JEALOUS KIND by James Lee Burke
    This 1950s period piece and coming-of-age tale contains a mystery at its heart. If The Hardy Boys series of the 1950s had been a series for adults and written by our finest contemporary author, it would have looked something like this.
  • FRIDAY ON MY MIND: A Frieda Klein Mystery by Nicci French
    This husband and wife writing team deserves far greater recognition than it has received for this superlative series involving Frieda Klein, a damaged and difficult psychotherapist, and this latest installment is the best of the lot so far.
  • EVERY MAN A MENACE by Patrick Hoffman
    Read the first paragraph of this wonderfully dark, noir caper novel with five interlocking sections, and you will not stop reading until story’s end. Then pick up last year’s THE WHITE VAN.
  • IQ by Joe Ide
    Just when you think you’ve read every permutation of protagonist there is, a debut author presents a quiet, realistic private investigator with genius level functioning and pragmatic compassion. I hope that this series runs until the end of time.
  • BRONX REQUIEM by John Clarkson
    Veteran author John Clarkson surpasses the significant expectations that he created last year with AMONG THIEVES in this sophomore installment of a series concerning a group of hardened ex-cons who attempt to assist newly released offenders and often find themselves on the wrong end of both sides of the law. Gritty and memorable.
  • A TIME OF TORMENT: A Charlie Parker Thriller by John Connolly
    My bucket list includes re-reading all of the Charlie Parker books from alpha to present, and A TIME OF TORMENT is the latest reason why, as Parker, recovering from serious injuries, leaves his familiar Maine environs to confront an ancient evil in West Virginia.
  • THE EEL by David MacKinnon
    David MacKinnon is one of the best and smartest authors out there, and THE EEL, which defies classification and a short summary, is an instant old school and new school classic dealing with a failed author obsessed with the life, work and death of Blaise Cendrars, among many other things. It informs, challenges and entertains from first page to last.



Christine M. Irvin

As a book reviewer, I have the pleasure of reading lots of good books every year. This year was no exception. During the course of the year, I read a number of them by one of my favorite authors, James Patterson, as well as titles by many other writers. Here's a list of my top favorites for 2016:



Sarah Jackman



Rebecca Kilberg



L. Dean Murphy

  • DARK FISSURES: A Rick Cahill Novel by Matt Coyle
    La Jolla Police Chief Tony Moretti is convinced that Private Investigator Rick Cahill killed a missing person. With Moretti on his tail and the bank about to foreclose his mortgage, Rick takes a paying case that will stave off the bank, but pits him against Moretti and the La Jolla Police Department. Brianne Colton, a beautiful country singer, claims her estranged husband’s suicide was really murder. Each new piece of evidence convinces Rick that she’s right. He breaks his number one rule and falls for Brianne, even as he questions her motives. As Moretti cinches the vise tighter, evil forces emerge from the shadows who will do anything to stop Rick from uncovering the truth.

- Click here to read’s exclusive interview with Matt Coyle.

  • FRIENDLY FIRE: A Jonathan Grave Thriller by John Gilstrap
    Barista Ethan Falk chases a customer into the parking lot and kills him. He tells police that years ago the man abducted and tortured him. Then Ethan’s story takes an even stranger turn: he says he was rescued by a guy named Scorpion. Of course, there’s no record of either the kidnapping or the rescue, because Scorpion --- Jonathan Grave --- operates outside the law and leaves no evidence. As Grave struggles to find a way to defend his former precious cargo without blowing his cover, he learns the dead man has secrets that trace to an ongoing terrorist plot against the heart of America.

- Click here to read’s exclusive interview with John Gilstrap.

    What if you could choose your heaven now? At age 35, Vivienne Marshall does just that, as she lies dying in the ICU. In her final week of life, she treks through the Heavens of a priest, a best friend, a homeless child and a lover who never was. Her guardian angel, Noah, who may just be her soulmate, escorts her through selections of Heavens and through the confusion she experiences as she flounders between a doubt of life and the certainty of death. Although her visits to varied afterlives provide peace and beauty, choosing proves not so easy: Vivienne’s love for her young son and her earthly father pull her from her colorful journey --- and from her divine love of Noah.

  • THE INHERITANCE: A Charles Lenox Mystery by Charles Finch
    Charles Lenox has received a cryptic plea for help from an old Harrow schoolmate, Gerald Leigh. Investigating the matter, Lenox finds that his friend has disappeared. As boys they had shared a secret: a bequest from a mysterious benefactor had smoothed Leigh’s way into the world after the death of his father. Lenox, already with a passionate interest in detective work, made discovering the benefactor’s identity his first case --- but was never able to solve it. Now, years later, Leigh is the recipient of a second, even more generous bequest. Is it from the same anonymous sponsor? Or is the inheritance poisoned by ulterior motives?

  • LaROSE by Louise Erdrich
    Hunting at the edge of his property, Landreaux Iron accidentally kills his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich. Horrified by what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition --- the sweat lodge --- for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and wife Emmaline give their son, LaRose, to Dusty’s grieving parents. But when a vengeful man with a long-standing grudge against Landreaux hurls accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole.

  • THE BEAUTY OF THE END by Debbie Howells
    Ex-lawyer Noah Calaway is haunted by the memory of beguiling April, who left him at the altar 16 years earlier. Then one day, he receives a troubling phone call. April now lies in a coma, the victim of an apparent overdose --- and the lead homicide suspect. While Noah searches for evidence that will clear her, a teenager named Ella sifts through the secrets of her own painful family history. The same age that April was when Noah first met her, Ella harbors a revelation that could be the key to solving the murder. As the two stories converge, there are shocking consequences when the truth emerges. Or so everyone believes…

  • BAD SIGNS by R.J. Ellory
    Orphaned by an act of senseless violence that took their mother from them, half-brothers Clarence Luckman and Elliott Danziger matured in state institutions, unaware of any world beyond its walls. But their lives take a sudden turn when they are seized as hostages by a convicted killer, Earl Sheridan, en route to his own execution, a psychopath of the worst kind. As he and his two hostages set off on a frenetic path through California to Texas, Clarence and Elliot must come to terms with the ever-growing tide of violence in their wake.
  • PASSENGER 19: A Jammer Davis Thriller by Ward Larsen
    Jammer Davis has spent much of his career investigating aircraft accidents. When a small regional jet disappears over the jungles of Colombia, it is a tragedy like dozens of others he has seen, but for one terrible detail: his teen daughter is listed on the passenger manifest. The possibility of a hijacking looms large as the search begins to focus on two passengers who boarded the plane, yet their remains cannot be found. Davis uncovers an even more sinister plot behind the entire disaster --- one that goes to the highest levels of the US government. But how could it possibly involve his daughter?
  • MORTAL DILEMMA: A Matt Royal Mystery by H. Terrell Griffin
    Jock Algren arrives on Longboat Key depressed and hopeless. A recent mission for his secretive government intelligence agency was disastrous, and friends Matt Royal and J.D. Duncan aren’t sure they’re able to pull him out of his despair. Duncan investigates a case when the victim’s brother shows up and complicates the investigation. A grizzled sailor brings his boat into a local marina, and bodies begin to accumulate. Middle East jihadists intent on revenge lock on to Jock’s clandestine past, bringing a deadly chase to the last outpost in the continental U.S. --- Key West.
  • NOAH’S WIFE by Lindsay Starck
    Noah and his wife arrive in a gray and wet little hill town where it’s been raining for as long as anyone can remember. As they strive to bring the townspeople to the church --- and keep the strains on their marriage at bay --- the rain intensifies, impeding their efforts. The river rises, flooding the town’s streets and driving scores of animals out of the once-renowned zoo. As the river devours houses, utility poles and the single road out of town, Noah, his wife and the townsfolk must confront the savage forces of nature and attempt to reinforce the fragile ties that bind them to each other before their world is washed away.



Ray Palen



Melanie Reynolds

  • THE PROGENY by Tosca Lee
  • SAFFIRE by Sigmund Brouwer
  • THE ALLIANCE by Jolina Petersheim
  • THE BEAUTIFUL PRETENDER: A Medieval Fairy Tale by Melanie Dickerson
  • THE WITNESSES by Robert Whitlow
  • THE CHEMIST by Stephenie Meyer
  • THE LIFE WE NEVER EXPECTED: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs by Andrew and Rachel Wilson
  • NONE LIKE HIM: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That's a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin



Lorraine W. Shanley

Many favorite books missed the cutoff of being published in 2016, and many that I enjoyed don't quite belong in the "best" category.  But the three below fit both criteria, and only one of them comes from the Bookreporter reviews I filed this past year.

  • I just finished reading HERO OF THE EMPIRE by Candace Millard. I loved DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC, and while this focuses on a different slice of history --- Winston Churchill's early years, when he reported on, and later fought in, the Boer War --- they have much in common. Millard knows how to tell a story, and this one is "a corker" about Churchill's imprisonment and daring escape from a Boer prison. She argues persuasively that the months in 1899 that he spent in Africa set him up for the brilliant career that followed.
  • Much has been written about BEFORE THE FALL by Noah Hawley, and it has spent time on the bestseller lists this year --- and deservedly so. Though some take issue with the ending, it is a terrific page-turner (though I listened to the audiobook), with well-defined characters and some meaty ideas and plot twists. I'd call it airplane reading, but given the subject matter, that's the last place you'd want to read it.
  • EVERYBODY BEHAVES BADLY by Lesley M. M. Blume is a very readable book about how Hemingway's THE SUN ALSO RISES came to be. What is appealing about this retelling (which was the basis of the novel THE PARIS WIFE) is that it's neither too academic nor too sensationalist --- though there's plenty of room for both in this story. Hemingway comes off here as both a nasty man and a sensitive soul, with a magnetism that explains at least some of his literary success.



Stuart Shiffman

It is always difficult to narrow the list of my favorite books of the year to a manageable amount.  For the first time, I used Goodreads to keep track of my 2016 reading, and it made the creation of my list somewhat easier. I have limited myself to five books and have some brief comments on each.

  • THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead
    Superlatives abound in describing this National Book Award winner and a novel that appears on every Best Books of the Year list. There is little for me to add except to say that I was moved as I read this beautiful novel set in the pre-Civil War south. The characters will remain with you long after you have finished it. The writing and the themes will haunt you as well. When I reviewed the book, I suggested that everyone should read it. I remain steadfast in that belief.
  • THE ARM: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports by Jeff Passan
    The explosion of sports-themed books over recent years is very good news for avid readers who are also sports fans. Golf, football and baseball are my favorites. THE ARM discusses pitchers, their value, their injuries and how pitching impacts major league baseball. From a discussion of Tommy John surgery to the minute-by-minute negotiations behind the Chicago Cubs signing of Jon Lester, Jeff Passan takes readers far inside the “inside” of baseball. While limited to true baseball fans, it nevertheless is a book that fans will enjoy.
  • THE RAIN IN PORTUGAL: Poems by Billy Collins
    Yes, this is a book of poetry. But reading poetry in these turbulent times can have a soothing effect. And Billy Collins, once America’s Poet Laureate, is a great poet. Please read my review to get a flavor of Collins' poetry.
  • AMERICAN HEIRESS: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin
    The greatness of Jeffrey Toobin’s exhaustive account of the Patty Hearst case comes from the manner in which it captures a perilous moment in American history. In great detail, it also reminds us how that era in history has parallels to our present day. Hearst was kidnapped by a rag-tag group of radicals, and after her release was charged and convicted following a trial for crimes committed while she was a hostage. Toobin captures the personalities and events of the Hearst abduction in this highly readable chronicle.
  • AS CLOSE TO US AS BREATHING by Elizabeth Poliner
    The first line of this wonderful novel tells us: "The summer of 1948 my brother Davy was killed in an accident with a man who would have given his own life rather than have it happen." From there readers travel through the story of a Jewish family struggling with the changes in their lives in America in the years after World War II. This is an artfully told story because of the characters Elizabeth Poliner creates. As she tells you of their lives, you truly care about what happens to them. A thoughtful book about family, religion and life.



Carly Silver



Katherine B. Weissman

  • EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire
    To get a handle on this smart, darkly ironic fantasy, think what would happen if Dorothy, Alice or the Narnia kids were dumped back in the so-called real world with no way to return to fairyland.... 
    I’m a sucker for novels set during The Blitz, and this one is irresistible and absorbing (I am also a sucker for Chris Cleave, whose LITTLE BEE I devoured recently).
  • NEWS OF THE WORLD by Paulette Jiles
    In this short, tender, powerful story set in post-Civil War Texas, Paulette Jiles explores the wrenching theme of white children taken by Native American tribes and then restored (unwillingly) to their families.
  • MERCURY by Margot Livesey
    How often do I recommend a book before I’ve even finished reading it? Never. This is a first. It’s a thriller, sort of, but as it is told alternately by two halves of a couple, it is also a piercing exploration of marriage.
  • MARGARET THE FIRST by Danielle Dutton
    This brief, vivid novel, set in the murky waters of the English Civil War, introduces us to the 17th-century author and renegade Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, whose life and writings were memorialized by no less than Virginia Woolf (in THE COMMON READER).
  • THE VIOLET HOUR: Great Writers at the End by Katie Roiphe
    An inspired idea for a book, executed with skill and grace.
  • THEY MAY NOT MEAN TO, BUT THEY DO by Cathleen Schine
    Thanks to expert writing, abundant wit and a sense of the absurd, this multi-generational family saga is anything but a gloomy read, despite its dour subject matter (Alzheimer’s, cancer, guilt, death).