32 Books I Read in 2016


Today, I’m giving myself a pat on the back after reviewing the list of 32 books I read during 2016. That was 23 works of fiction and 9 works of nonfiction. Notably, there were 28 authors, 7 collections of short stories, 6 books published in 2014, 4 books including a map, and one book with a character who falsely claims to be Anne Frank. There was a love triangle in Papua New Guinea, a love triangle in the midst of a global bio-catastrophe, and a love triangle at a McDonalds ad reunion in the middle of a postmodern American cornfield.

More stats:

35% of my reading was by women.

28% was by non-US authors.

37.5% of these titles were written after the year 2000.

15.6% of my reading included some kind of supernatural element.

Here are some superlatives:

Most Challenging Read – The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen 


Matthiessen’s patient attention to the details of his surroundings is a lesson to me. This book compelled me to slow the pace of my mind for a few hours a day.

The “Page Turner” Award – Euphoria by Lily King


Euphoria is the swift paced tale of three anthropologists racing to unlock the secrets of a native tribe in Papua New Guinea while falling into a complicated love triangle! The story takes inspiration from the early travels of famed anthropologist Margaret Mead. I intend to try Coming of Age in Somoa for further reading.

The Zac Swann “Absurdity” Prize – The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth


Roth does not disappoint. Expect self-pity, self-aggrandizing, lust, comical behavior, and at least some outright absurdity. Philip Roth is one of a few authors I try to read annually.

The Zac Swann Award for Edifying Fiction – The Wild Birds by Wendell Berry


Edifying, yes, and soul-lifting, wisdom-imparting, and thoughtful. Each of Berry’s characters seeks to live rightly in their community. Their failures are humbling; their victories inspire.

An Unexpected Pleasure – Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace


Lyndon B. Johnson and Winston Churchill: two 20th century political powerhouses for whom I could not have cared less until 2016. Netflix’s beautiful royal drama The Crown showed me Churchill, and “Lyndon,” a fictional short story from this collection by David Foster Wallace, showed me Johnson. I admit my pleasant surprise.

A New Perspective – Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


“Many stories matter” may be Adichie’s most succinct thesis. This novel was refreshing simply by being about people who are different from me. So I was refreshed, but I was also moved to seek out more stories that will challenge my beliefs about how the world works.

Zac’s Complete 2016 Book List

Kafka on the Shore Haruki Murakami
The Breast Philip Roth
How About Never… Robert Mankoff
Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood
Fires Raymond Carver
Magician’s Land Lev Grossman
The Circle Dave Eggers
Both Flesh and Not David Foster Wallace
The Way of the Pilgrim Anoymous
Revolutionary Road Richard Yates
11 Kinds of Loneliness Richard Yates
The Snow Leopard Peter Matthiesen
Blood Meridian Cormac McCarthy
Interpreter of Maladies Jhumpa Lahiri
Steps Jerzy Kosinski
Poetry: a handbook Mary Oliver
Stormy Weather Carl Hiaasen
Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel
The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath
Comedy of Errors Shakespeare
H is for Hawk Helen Macdonald
The Heart of a Goof PG Wodehouse
Girl With Curious Hair David Foster Wallace
The Wild Birds Wendell Berry
Euphoria Lily King
A Wizard of Earthsea Ursula K LeGuin
Discovering the Enneagram Richard Rohr
The Lynching Laurence Leamer
The Secret History Donna Tartt
The Ghost Writer Philip Roth
Americanah Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Absolutely on Music Haruki Murakami/Seiji Ozawa

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