13 Top Authors on the Best Books of 2016
Magazine / 13 Top Authors on the Best Books of 2016

13 Top Authors on the Best Books of 2016

Arts & Culture
13 Top Authors on the Best Books of 2016

2016 has certainly seen its share of ups and downs. From the stress of the election to the loss of such artistic greats as Prince, David Bowie, and now Carrie Fisher, we need great literature now more than ever to challenge us and guide us into 2017. We polled the Heleo community, asking 13 of our favorite authors to name the best book of the last 12 months. From poignant memoir to practical self-development, their picks cover a broad range of subjects, adding important perspectives to a turbulent year.

1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi


Chosen by Susan Cain, author of Quiet

“Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, the memoir of a 36-year-old Stanford neurosurgeon’s life and death with cancer teaches us, in thoughtful, elegant prose, how to live and how to die. If you want to rethink your entire existence, read it together with The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.”

2. Peak by Anders Ericsson


Chosen by Angela Duckworth, author of Grit

“This was the book I’d been waiting for my entire career. Finally, Anders Ericsson—the world expert on world experts—tells us how to practice like an expert, no matter what it is we’re trying to improve!”

3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


Chosen by Tiffany Dufu, author of Drop the Ball

“If Yaa Gyasi’s sweeping novel, Homegoing, isn’t on your 2016 favorite list, you can hardly call yourself a book lover. In one inhale I was in an eighteenth-century Gold Coast slave dungeon. In one exhale I was in a twentieth-century jazz club in Harlem. And with each breath I felt the tension between history and memory that shrouds all of our identities.”

4. Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, & the Secret of Games by Ian Bogost


Chosen by Nir Eyal, author of Hooked

“I’m a sucker for books with counterintuitive insights. In Play Anything, Ian Bogost, a game designer and theorist at Georgia Tech, provides unconventional advice for prospering in business and life by making mundane experiences into gameful ones. Bogost forces the reader to rethink what a game is and why looking at the world through a gaming lens challenges us to overturn some of our limiting beliefs and assumptions.”

5. Messy by Tim Harford


Chosen by Adam Grant, author of Originals

“The undercover economist at the Financial Times shows that if you want to be creative and resilient, you need a little more disorder in your world. It’s a masterful case for the life-changing magic of cluttering up.”

6. Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein


Chosen by Dan B. Harris, author of 10% Happier

“The book I keep coming back to is Mindfulness, by my meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein. It’s not new, and it’s a bit dense at times, but if you’re interested in serious meditation practice, the thing is a goldmine.”

7. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson


Chosen by Scott Barry Kaufman, author of Wired to Create

“I really liked this book because it was real. Mark Manson clearly has read widely on self-development, and he delivers transcendent morsels of wisdom in a way that I think most people can relate.”

8. Originals by Adam Grant


Chosen by Sarah Robb O’Hagan, author of ExtremeYOU

“It was so refreshing to read a book that dispelled so many myths that hold people back from taking the leap to discover their true originality and potential. [Originals] was awesomely researched, of course, but moreover it was loaded with great stories of people that had defied the status quo in really fascinating ways. I’ve found myself referring to it over and over again this year and it has fully inspired a lot of my leadership thinking.”

9. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond


Chosen by Daniel Pink, author of Drive

“A sociologist’s detailed look at life in low-income housing and trailer parks; one of the most powerful books I’ve read in years.”

10. You’ll Grow Out Of It by Jessi Klein


Chosen by Ann Shoket, author of The Big Life

“I love how Jessi tells a story, just as it is, without the need to overthink or overwrite. She’s a woman with something to say, and she says it—hilariously. We should all be so brave in telling our stories.”

11. What Made Me Who I Am by Bernie Swain


Chosen by Bonnie St. John, author of Microresilience

“This book gives you a chance to know great leaders, thinkers, and athletes in a deeper way than you would even if you were lucky enough to spend a little bit of time with them. Here, you eavesdrop on the conversation that only happens between long-time, trusted friends. We should all have friends like Bernie who ask us the important questions and listen so carefully to the answers.”

12. Upstream by Mary Oliver


Chosen by Lisen Stromberg, author of Work Pause Thrive

“This collection of essays are prose poems in honor of the muse. As Oliver writes, “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

And since it’s impossible for me to choose just one book, I also recommend I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi. It is as thoughtful, insightful, and funny as she is—if I am going to be told I can do better, I’ll take a scolding by Luvvie any day. She makes me want to be a better woman.

And The Girls by Emma Cline is a masterful look at life for girls coming of age in the early 1970s in Marin County. Emma Cline’s prose is stunning. Worth reading for that alone.”

13. Nutshell by Ian McEwan


Chosen by Caroline Webb, author of How to Have a Good Day

“Punchy, inventive and elegant in equal measure. Within a few pages he creates a world that is both haunting and hilarious—and its phrases and ideas keep coming back to me in the middle of the day, making me wince or giggle unexpectedly.”

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