Every year I set a reading goal, and usually by December I’m pulling late nights trying to cram in the remaining books on my list. I’m proud to say that I’m sitting pretty well at the end of this year, happily going through the last book at a non-stressful pace.

I aimed for 30 books this year, and I’m about halfway through number 30! Knowing 2016 was going to be pretty busy – planning our wedding, changing my career and traveling on several weekends – I kept my goal number fairly low.

Sadly I didn’t make as much time for reading as I would in my dream life, but, unlike previous years, my 2016 list has quite a range of genres and subjects. I credit that to a few things:

  • Being part of a book club,
  • Reading to learn and prepare for a new career, and
  • Aiming to shift my anxiety-ridden mindset.

These three things forced me to read books out of my usual young adult or women’s fiction genres. In reading different authors and subjects, I’ve realized how much more I can gain from books than simply escaping into a world of dramatic fiction. While I still included a number of fun books to keep authentic to my reader-self, it was great to explore more of what literature has to offer.

Without further ado, here is my list of favorites from the year. If you’re looking for your next good read, try out one of the books listed below.

The Top 10 Books I Read This Year

Of the 30 books I read this year, here are my favorites:

1. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train best books in 2016

I can see why Orphan Train spent over 90 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. A fictional depiction of the orphan train movement (1854 through 1929), this novel is an emotional and educational ride through a well-kept secret of America’s history. Check out my full review.

2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist

If you’re looking for a quick read and a surge of motivation, pick up The Alchemist. This parable tells the story of a shepherd on a mission to find treasure, interweaving themes of fate, destiny and persistence. I’ve underlined about half the paragraphs in my copy; it’s packed with little nuggets of wisdom, some of which made their way into our wedding ceremony this year.

3. Two if by Sea by Jacqueline Mitchard

Two if by Sea best books in 2016

Mitchard tells a beautiful and intriguing story of love and loss, posing questions of how far should you go to protect your loved ones and how do you know what truly is best for the ones you love. Two If by Sea is a story of struggle and triumph, of suffering major losses and celebrating small wins, of letting go and moving on. Check out my full review.

4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

neil gaiman best books in 2016
I’m thankful to my book club at my old job for introducing me to this book. Magical, imaginative and sometimes spooky, this novel is an adventure through a childhood memory. It’s a quick read and a treat for the imagination. Neil Gaiman is so talented at writing fantasy that you almost forget you’re not in real life.

5. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

me before you
Cute, romantic and set in England – what more could you want from women’s fiction? The protagonist Lou – a fun, quirky character to follow – takes on a new job of caring for Will, a successful and wealthy young man who became paralyzed after being hit by a car. Lou doesn’t realize that part of her job is also to give this man a reason to want to be alive.

6. Playing Big by Tara Mohr

playing big best books in 2016
Now onto the nonfiction/personal development books, and Playing Big is a great place to start for women. Mohr describes how we naturally limit ourselves through the language we use and gives eye-opening advice for showing confidence and reaching for more in our work and in our lives. If you want to do more with your career but have too many mental blocks holding you back, this is the book for you.

7. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamot


A book for writers, Bird by Bird is the witty kick in the pants we need to quit whining and keep doing our work. Lamot tells of the woes of the publishing process in a humorous, self-deprecating way that writers can surely relate to. Tip: Try this one on audio! The narrator’s voice is perfect for this book, as witty as you can imagine the writer behind the text.

8. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale


This book has been around for decades. Even though I just got my hands on it, I am not putting it down any time soon. I use pieces of this book nearly every day. From focus and energy to clarity and confidence, certain chapters have played significant roles in helping me shift in my career to full time freelance writing. If you’re going through any big change or hardship in life, this book is incredible for cultivating the right mindset.

9. Let Your Spirit Guides Speak by Debra Landwehr Engle


This Des Moines author delivers an inspirational guide to connecting with your spirit guides and higher power to gain direction and answers for life’s changing paths. A quick read full of deep insights and realization, Let Your Spirit Guides Speak reminds us of the need to be quiet, slow down and ask our higher power for guidance. Check out my full review!

10. Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth


This was a powerful mind-shifting read for me. I had wanted to read it a few years ago in college, when I struggled with depression and body image issues. But reading it now after having overcome those things was especially impactful. So many women have negative relationships with food and their bodies. No matter how severe that negativity is, Women, Food and God can get you to ask yourself questions that in turn allow you to be more self-aware of how you use food. This isn’t a mushy, woohoo love-yourself book. Rather, it’s truth. It’s vulnerability. It’s reality. It’s well worth a read.

And there’s a coloring book to go with it!

Another good year with a good mix of new books.

It’s funny to look back on the books you read in the year and realize how they correlated with life events. The books I read in 2016 were definitely decided up by the changes I was going through. They’re like literary friends who accompany you on the ride, always there when you need them.

As we get into 2017, I’ll share my reading goals for the new year and how you can make reading a more consistent part of your life. Reading has so many benefits, from making you a better writer to helping calm your anxious thoughts. I can’t wait to dive into the specifics with you in January. Stay tuned!

What are your favorite books you read this year? List them in the Comments section! I always love a good book recommendation 🙂

Best Books I Read in 2016
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2 thoughts on “Best Books I Read in 2016

  • Great post. I read and loved some of the same books, and I now also have some new ones on my list!

    Did you read the sequel to Me Before You? I have been debating it because I heard some people wished they hadn’t.

    1. Thanks, Jackie!

      I have not read the sequel, and I don’t really feel the urge to. I had a pretty good feeling with the first book and I don’t want it to be ruined if the sequel disappoints! Let me know if you do read it. Happy holidays! 🙂

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