Category Archives: Most Popular Books of the Year

18 of the Most Popular Books of 2016 With Links to Book Club Questions

  1.  When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – added by 388,807 people on Goodreads.   This book is a memoir of a neurosurgeon who is faced with a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer at the age of 39.   He has grappled with the meaning of life since high school and his search for life’s essence led him to a career in neurosurgery.  Having spent so much time reflecting on life’s meaning, makes his memoir especially poignant.  That combined with his medical background and longtime interest in writing creates the right conditions for a well versed and thoughtful memoir on death and dying.25614898
  2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – added by 309,380 people on Goodreads. This is a novel about slavery and the underground railroad, which in this novel, becomes a virtual railroad.
  3. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris – added by 260,631 people on Goodreads.    Behind Closed Doors is a domestic abuse thriller.  Jack and Grace are the perfect couple to all outside appearances, however what lurks behind closed doors is exactly the opposite.  Grace must carefully calculate her moves if she wants to escape and save her sister from her husband’s brutality.
  4. The Girls by Emma Cline – added by 257,639 people on Goodreads.  This novel is Emma Cline’s re-imagining of Charles Manson’s ranch.  It is much less focused on Charles Manson and more so on “the girls” who are drawn to it.   It imagines the allure of the ranch to these girls, their connections to each other and to the outside world.  It is told from the viewpoint of a woman who had been a young girl at the ranch, at a point in time when this grown adult encounters another “girl” who could have just as easily been pulled into the ranch’s enticements.
  5. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance – added by 241,055 people on goodreads.  This is a memoir from a young man who grew up living between Kentucky and Ohio in the hillbilly culture.  A few things steered his life away from the direction he was headed.  He ended up going on to Ohio State for college and to Yale Law School.  He writes about his experience growing up as a hillbilly as well as the hillbilly culture at large.  There is a political bent to the way he thinks and this book has been touted as one of the best books to read to understand Trump’s presidential success.
  6. All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood – added by 210,338 people.  This novel is about a young girl growing up neglected and surrounded by debauchery.  It is about an unlikely ally and friend in a dismal situation.  It is about a romance that develops despite a large age gap.
  7. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – added by 199,048 people on Goodreads.  This novel shows how a seemingly enchanted moment in time completely disrupts two families resulting in divorce and remarriage, leading to neglect, anger, and distance.  It is beautifully written, each chapter effectively it’s own short story.
  8. A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles – added by 168,316 people on Goodreads.  An aristocrat  is found guilty of writing a poem inciting resistance to Bolshevism.  He is placed under house arrest in the Hotel Metrol in Moscow over a period of 30 years as the world outside undergoes tremendous change.
  9. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – added by 165,367 people on Goodreads. This is an epic novel spanning hundreds of years, beginning in Africa and following two sides of a family as one side is sold into slavery and brought to America and the other side remains in Africa. It is a story of race, roots, and remembrance.
  10. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – added by 151,688 people on Goodreads.  This novel is a gorgeous rendering of a dysfunctional family told through conversations between a mother and daughter while the daughter is hospitalized for appendicitis.  What goes unsaid is just as important as what is said. It is also a study on writing and what makes good writing.
  11.  I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh – added by 141,494  people on Goodreads.  This was a murder mystery thriller told in alternating perspectives that keeps you on your toes and does not disappoint with its twists and turns.
  12. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah added by 135,923 people on Goodreads. An amazing collection of autobiographical essays about Trevor Noah, a boy born to a black mother and a Swiss/German father under apartheid in South Africa. The essays are incredible, shedding much light on life in South Africa during and after apartheid. There is so much heart, courage, strength, humor and tremendous good fortune contained within these essays.
  13. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld -added by 127,988 people on Goodreads.  This novel is a modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” set in Cincinnati.  It is just as delicious and addictive as the original.25852870
  14. Swing Time by Zadie Smith – added by 82,683 people on Goodreads.  This novel is about the childhood friendship and all of it’s complexities between two “brown girls” growing up in the public housing estates in northern London.  This novel follows the girls into adulthood, exploring race, culture and gender and asks fundamental questions about identity.
  15. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson– added by 73,033 people.  This novel, set in the idyllic countryside of Sussex, is a comedy of manners.  It occurs in the summer before World War 1, exploring politics, manners, and gender roles of this era.
  16. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler – added by 68,800 people  on Goodreads.   Sweetbitter is a fictional novel based on Stephanie Danler’s many years of experience waiting tables in New York City following graduation from Kenyon College.  It is meant to provide insight into the secret lives of those who work in restaurants, their hours, habits, and addictions.  26192646
  17. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave – added by 62,226 people.  This World War II historical fiction novel takes place primarily in London.  It follows the lives of 4 main characters, their love interests, and their roles in the war.  Everyone is affected by the war, their courage and bravery tested.25814512
  18. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson – added by 58,843 people on Goodreads.  August is returning home to visit her ailing father, when she spots an old friend through the window.  Memories of her childhood growing up in Brooklyn come flooding back.  The memories have a dreamlike quality to them.  There is the remembrance of not realizing her mother had died for years afterwards, always expecting her to return.  There are descriptions of a tight group of girlfriends who had once felt powerful together that are now no longer in touch.  

**These rankings were updated on 9/17/2017 and are based upon how many people have added these books to their goodreads collection of books.  They will change as time goes on and I will update accordingly.