By year end, I’ll have read about 100 books in 2016. Any book I finish has merit, but only a few rock my world.
Note: Only a few of these books were published in 2016. So if you’re looking for “best books of 2016” lists, this isn’t that–though I have listed publication years, so the few that came out in 2016 may be worth a look.
1.) Title (Year): The Hidden Life of Trees (2016, English language ed.)
Author: Peter Wohlleben
I had no idea. Trees communicate, share, parent, form alliances, and I could go on. I’ll never look at a tree the same way.
2.) Title (Year): Being Mortal (2015)
Author: Atul Gawande
Beating one’s fear of death is not so hard as beating one’s fear of losing control.
3.) Title (Year): Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (2006 [this ed.])
Author: Matsuo Bashō
Any time one can glimpse the mind of a haiku master, one comes away with an injection of clarity.
4.) Title (Year): Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (2008 ed.)
Author: Lewis Carroll
Killing my misogyny. I love “secret door to an alternate universe” stories. Gaiman’s Neverwhere is one of my favorite novels. And here I’m just getting around to reading this exemplar (and the mother) of all such stories. I suspect I’d dismissed it as a girl’s book–whatever that means.
5.) Title (Year): The Dharma Bums (1958)
Author: Jack Kerouac
A voyeuristic impulse across time, space, and culture. Kerouac’s use of language and way of describing events sometimes rattles loose sticky ways of thinking.
6.) Title (Year): Gut (2015)
Author: Giulia Enders
This may seem like a bizarre and morbid fascination, but Enders makes studying the alimentary canal both interesting and amusing.
7.) Title (Year): The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep (1998)
Author: Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
Forget space. The subconscious is the final frontier, and this book offers insight into how to hack it.
8.) Title (Year): Touch (2015)
Author: David J. Linden
I was just reviewing a book (John Medina’s Brain Rules) that claimed that vision trumps all other human senses. Linden’s book made me rethink that belief.
9.) Title (Year): Life and Death are Wearing Me Out (2006)
Author: Mo Yan
Another kind of voyeurism across time, space, and culture–but this one giving one a taste of what it was like to live in China through the Cultural Revolution and what came after.
10.) Title (Year): Into Africa (2012 ed.)
Author: Martin Dugard
I bought this before my wife and I went to Zambia. Basically, I just wanted to know what “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” meant. However, I became fascinated with the challenges of exploring Africa in that era.
11.) Title (Year): The Little Prince (1943)
Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I’m stunned by the ability to pack this much wisdom into a book and yet make it approachable to a child.
12.) Title (Year): The Emperor of All Maladies (2011)
Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee
I knew cancer was mean, but I had no idea of the degree to which cancers are both vicious beasts and clever disasters.
13.) Title (Year): The Things They Carried (1990)
Author: Tim O’Brien
This book freed my impression of what a novel must be.
14.) Title (Year): The Relaxation Response (1975, but I read the 2009 ed.)
Author: Herbert Benson
A classic. The book reminded me of what it must have been like to be doing research on meditation back then–and makes me wonder whether we’d be much further ahead if one hadn’t had to have cast iron gonads to take on such a research agenda in those days.
15.) Title (Year): Siddhartha’s Brain (2016)
Author: James Kingsland
I’d read the life story of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, and I’m constantly reading about the science of the mind. Still, this book that drops chocolate in the peanut butter got me thinking in new ways on the subject.