My Top 6 Books of 2016 (Or: Unsurprising Surprises)

Back in high school, I used to keep a list of books I read each year. Because I like books. And lists.

But for some reason, once I left high school, I stopped keeping track of my reading. Probably because college hit me hard and I had no time to wash my hair or cook in an oven anymore, let alone keep lists of my books (although I did still read a lot, both in and out of class).

Last year, though, I decided to try again. I kept a list of every book I read for a year. And it was satisfying. (Which surprised me, for who-knows-what-reason. Because books. And lists. Obviously.)

I was also surprised that in spite of my two jobs and a published novel this year, I still managed to read 70 books! It was fun to count them and watch the trends in my genre preferences. Fantasy, steampunk, and children’s lit were the big winners this year (more non-surprises). I also starred my very favorite reads, books which (surprisingly or unsurprisingly) deeply moved, entertained, or educated me in an important way. Six books got starred, so I thought I’d share these meaningful books with you.

Alina’s Six Top Books of 2016

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

In a world stuffed with sappy, simplistic spiritual books, Taylor does not add to the problem. This book was deep, sensitive, insightful, brave, and completely helpful to me.


The Color Purple by Alice Walker

A beautiful, sad, empowering classic about a young woman who goes from victim to victor. Favorite quote: “No one is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.”


Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Sometimes (a lot of the time) I learn from teaching as much as I ever did from being a student. Having assigned this novel to my students, I figured I’d better read it…and it was wonderful. Shattering. Honest about the complexities of racial tensions in pre-apartheid South Africa (and anywhere). But also unapologetically hopeful about the possibilities of love and kindness.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I have no idea how I got through high school and a college English degree without reading this one, but I’m glad I finally got around to it. This book was wise, sorrowful, hopeful, and so so so relevant to life in 2016. It had an eerily prophetic ring to it, actually. Or maybe the world just hasn’t changed that much.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

This book was just sheer fun. I love Jane Austen and I love Shannon Hale, so put the two together and you get a decadent slice of fun and humor. And also a strong heroine with some wise insights on being a young woman in the 21st century. I (maybe) read it three times in the same month.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

This one was also pure fun. I was first attracted to it for its cover (yes, even authors do that), but I stayed for the rollicking romp of fantasy-steampunk-science fiction-Sherlock Holmes delightfulness, complete with cyborg alligators and plenty of bibliophilia. Now I must read the rest of the series.

A spiritual book, three social commentaries, a parody on a classic, and a fantasy romp, making the top of my list? How…unsurprising.

What were some of your favorite reads in 2016? 

2 thoughts on “My Top 6 Books of 2016 (Or: Unsurprising Surprises)

  1. Mine were The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.
    The Dancer and the Raja. Javier Moro
    The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah
    The Red Sari. Javier Moro
    The illuminator’s gift. Alina Sayre
    El Tiempo Entre Costuras. Maria Dueñas

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