The Top 36 from the Best Books of 2016 List of Lists


This is my community service to book bloggers – a list of the books that appear most frequently on all of the lists I listed on Best Books of 2016 – A List of Lists. So before I have to write the word ‘list’ again, here it is, the 2016 Commonly-Agreed-by-the-People-Who-Publish-Best-of-2016-Book-Lists-Before-December-31 top 36 books.

Books that made four lists –

01. What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
02. Mischling by Affinity Konar
03. Pond by Claire Louise Bennett
04. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
05. Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
06. Moonglow by Michael Chabon
07. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
08. The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
09. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
10. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
11. Evicted by Matthew Desmond
12. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

Books that made five lists –

13. All That Man Is by David Szalay
14. Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
15. The Nix by Nathan Hill
16. The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan
17. The Wangs vs the World by Jade Chang
18. Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Books that made six lists –

19. News of the World by Paulette Jiles
20. Zero K by Don DeLillo
21. The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
22.  Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
23. Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
24. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Books that made seven lists –

25. The Girls by Emma Cline
26. LaRose by Louise Erdrich
27. Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
28. What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

Books that made eight or nine lists –

29. Barkskins by Annie Proulx
30. The Vegetarian by Han Kang
31. The Mothers by Brit Bennett
32. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
33. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Books that made ten or more lists –

34. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
35. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
36. Swing Time by Zadie Smith

I’ve only read five of these (Foer, Strout, Chang, Levy, Cline). I own another three (Konar, Smith, Barnes). I’m busting to read three in particular (Erdrich, Bennett, Patchett).

I do think it’s interesting that in a year when some big names published books (Russo, Shriver, Atwood…who else have I missed?) they don’t rate. Likewise, where was the Bailey’s Prize Winner? Swing Time was officially released mid-November and yet came in on top (fresh in the minds of critics?). The new Proulx garnered lots of attention although I don’t know anyone who has actually read it yet. Thoughts?





44 responses

  1. I’ve only read two of the thirty-six…and, I’m not ashamed. I’m the leader of a tribe of one, not a follower of lists generated by people who are…well, list makers.

    • Well, I’m not ashamed to say I love lists and I’m a list maker. I do find it fascinating which books manage to balance the fine line between being considered ‘literary’ enough by critics, and also popular enough to hit best-seller lists. My interest is in contemporary-lit so much of what is on this list appeals to me (although still flummoxed by Barkskins – I’m sure it’s lovely but I don’t know anyone who was willing to tackle it, which probably goes to show that needing to be a ‘best seller’ has no bearing on this list).

  2. This is so handy! I’ve read eight on this list and most of the ones I haven’t read are on my TBR list, but I didn’t know about the latest Louise Erdrich book. That will definitely be going on the list too!

  3. Hmm.. I read the Proulx. Well, actually I read a third of it and then decided life was too short to be preached at for another 400 pages. 😉

    On the upside, I loved the Don DeLillo and Emma Cline’s The Girls…

    • Well that’s a darn lot more of the Proulx read than anyone else I know! I’m sure the language is lovely but, from the sample that I read, it seems incredibly dense – not sure I’m up for such a reading commitment.

  4. It’s always interesting to see the lists, but I usually find the results don’t reflect what I see people reading. Like Barkskins – I haven’t heard much about that one at all (except from FF). And, like you, I wonder about more recent books appearing on more lists.

    • I think only the critics read Barkskins. And they were paid for their time 😀

      I’ve had a run of pretty poor books, so wondering if I go with what the list suggests and finish the year with Swing Time?

      • The odd thing is that of the three that ranked the most highly, I’m not aware of any bloggers I follow having read them (perhaps a few Swing Times in the last couple of weeks).

      • It must have to do with where they come out first and which blogs you follow – I’ve seen quite a few of all 3 of them. A lot of US bloggers have been talking about The Underground Railroad lately. (I think it won the National Book Award?)

  5. Pingback: The Top 36 from the Best Books of 2016 List of Lists | booksaremyfavouriteandbest – Tasmanian Bibliophile @Large

  6. Well, I’ve considered making more of a point next year to read more of the “popular stuff” but I read two of these and one was 2 star and one was a DNF so maybe I’m just not cut out for the popular stuff. There are still several that I’d like to get to though.. Erdrich mainly, so hope I get better results with that one. 🙂

  7. Thanks for this – fascinating! I’ve only read 2, but I’m amazed I’ve read any, as I don’t buy many new books and have to wait for them to filter through to the charity shops.

    I think you’re right about Swing Time being uppermost in the mind. And it is astonishing that Atwood doesn’t feature. I’m a big fan of Proulx but Barkskins just seems such an arduous read…maybe I should take heart from the fact that it made it onto so many lists?

    • I read a sample chapter of Barkskins and although I liked it, I got the sense that 700 pages (or whatever it is) would be too much of a slog – I’ll wait for a true Proulx fan to tell me it’s worth it *hint hint*

  8. Currently reading The Nix which despite its door stopper sized bowls along beautifully and I’m so pleased to see that Sweetbitter made it on to so many lists. Loved that book. Thanks for the list compilation, Kate.

  9. Yay – I’ve been waiting for this and thank you for putting it together! It’s fascinating to think about this. I always wonder how various books make it onto these lists…sometimes it feels like the books that got big marketing $$ whether or not they ended up with lots of acclaim after publication (Wangs vs. the World, Today Will Be Different – I DNFd both) end up on them. There are a couple others on here that I finished, but didn’t like. Then some of my favorites are on here too…actually, at least 5 of them. Would love to be a fly on the wall!

  10. Wow! I love your compilation of so many lists. It’s so interesting to see what books got the attention and what books didn’t. I hadn’t read any of the 10 or more, but some of my favorites did get quite a bit of attention.

    I think part of the problem for the Proulx book is that it’s so long! It’s a big time commitment at a busy time of year.

  11. I’ve read seven of these, and was massively impressed with all of them. I’ve got Barkskins, and I’m dying to get/read The Underground Railroad, Swing Time, The Nix, and Pond!

    • Well I think you’re the winner so far, for having read the most titles 🙂

      From memory, The Underground Railroad got the most votes – oddly, I’m not aware of any bloggers that I follow having read it.

      • I’ve never read any of Whitehead’s work, but I read an overview of each of his novels which made them all sound absolutely amazing, so now I really really want to. I did ask for The Underground Railroad for Christmas…!

  12. This is a labour of love indeed. Like you Ive read just three of these but then I don’t follow lists much other than the Booker prize. Some of these on the lists are ones I have on my radar screen – I’m particularly keen to read Homecoming ……

  13. I run an environmental book club and was looking at my option for a fiction title to include in the mix. Barkskins was high on the list, but after picking it up, I decided not to punish myself. I’m sure it’s great…just no.

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    • The interesting thing is that I usually put the list together end of November/ first week of December – all the bloggers publish their ‘Best of’ lists a week or two later and there are so many lists that match the master list – so someone is getting it right!

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