Top Books of 2016

My Top Books of 2016

Top Books of 2016The one thing that’s almost as fun as looking back on the writing I accomplished during the year is looking back on reading my top books of 2016.

Ironically, the one year I decide to host a “Read 100 Books in a Year” challenge on Goodreads is also the first year in recent memory when I don’t personally come anywhere close to reading 100. I topped out at 80 (which isn’t bad, but is bad for me). I blame the low number on a couple of factors.

1. I did a lot of beta-reading for writing buddies.

2. I read a lot of loooong books.

3. Life interfered a little more than usual.

But the good news is that even though the quantity declined, the quality only increased—to the point I’m hard-pressed to narrow my favorites down to just five in each category.

But first, the usual round-up of fun stats:

Total books read: 80

Fiction to non-fiction ratio: 51:29

Male to female author ratio: 50:30

Top 5 genres: Classic Fiction (with 13 books), Fantasy (with 12), Writing How-To (with 10), Historical (with 8), and Romance (with 8).

Number of books per rating: 5 stars (5), 4 stars (26), 3 stars (35), 2 stars (13), 1 star (1).

Top 5 Fiction Books

Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

1. Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

The Book Thief Markus Zusak

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Broken Eye Brent Weeks Lightbringer

3. The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks

Cold Mountain Charles Frazier

4. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Magic Mountain Thomas Mann

5. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

(With honorable mentions to Midshipman’s Hope by David Feintuch, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and Into the Fire by Kim Vandel.)

Top 5 Non-Fiction Books

Scotland Magnus Magnusson

1. Scotland by Magnus Magnusson

On Guard by William Lane Craig

2. On Guard by William Lane Craig

Scotland by Fitzroy MacLean

3. Scotland by Fitzroy MacLean

I Need Your Love—Is That True? by Byron Katie

4. I Need Your Love—Is That True? by Byron Katie

The Last Boy by Jane Leavy

5. The Last Boy by Jane Leavy

Top 5 Writing Books

Caught Up in a Story Sarah Clarkson

1. Caught Up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson

The Writer's Guide to Beginnings by Paula Munier

2. The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings by Paula Munier

Book Launch Blueprint by Tim Grahl

3. Book Launch Blueprint by Tim Grahl

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

4. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Write Like the Masters William Cane

5. Write Like the Masters by William Cane

My Books

And if all these goodies aren’t enough to fill your To Be Read pile this year, here’s a few more! 🙂

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What were your top books of 2016? How many books did you read? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. I’ve read 74 books this year, which is a far cry from the 15 I read the year before. I’m pretty proud of myself.

    My goal for next year is to read more nonfiction. This year, I only read 4 nonfiction books, and two were on writing (Your book, “5 Secrets of Story Stucture” and Diana Gabaldon’s “I Give You My Body.”). My reading goal for next year is to alternate fiction and nonfiction books. And also to read all of the Narnia books (I just finished “The Magician’s Nephew” and”The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” in the last week, LOTR, and The Hobbit, which I’ve never read. Hopefully I hit 80 books.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Woohoo! You go! I always keep a bookmark in both a fiction and a nonfiction, but as you can see, I read the fiction much faster.

  2. The Book Thief is amazing! I read a couple of great historical fiction books this year as well by Ruta Septys, Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray. I also read the first four Anne of Green Gables books for the first time ever and loved them, especially Anne of the Island!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Aw, I love the Anne books. I read them ragged when I was growing up, and I was just thinking last night how I’d like to revisit them.

  3. Hey, I have a question as a novice. I get a lot of ideas for potential stories, but I just can’t expand that idea into the setting, a plot, or a character. I just stare at the blank page and get stuck. That’s why I write short stories and nothing else.

    How do I step up my writing from short stories that revolve around a single idea or a twist, into a full-blown novella or a novel?

  4. Thanks for the honorable mention. I’m honored!

  5. I’m impressed by your 80 books read! I’m no where close and I never thought to count my own.
    I will tell you that I struggle to read many fiction books because its frustrating to have to put them down and reread pages or chapters to figure out what’s happening when I get back. I read the newspaper from cover to cover between chores, and I also adore magazine articles. I’m a huge fan of cookbooks and recipes too. Non-fiction writing books often make it in front of my face before the fiction type. Perhaps I’m skewed to heavy there. I will have to set myself a fiction goal for 2017. I thought Goodreads would help me but its distracting! So many books! It’s like being in a library or bookstore. If I don’t have hours to spend, I don’t go! lol
    Regarding Cold Mountain, I recall seeing the movie and it was hugely unsatisfying for me. I don’t recall why but I did hear that the book was much better. Thanks for your list-I may add a few to my own!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I saw Cold Mountain‘s movie first, and I much prefer the book. The take on the romance is totally different in the book (although the ending is the same).

      • Good to know, especially since Romance is my favorite genre. I’ve added Cold Mountain to my reading list.
        I recall that the ending is not what I expected but perhaps a more satisfying romance will make up for that.
        Just curious-will you be doing another reading challenge on Goodreads?
        (I haven’t finished reading the comments, so forgive me if you’ve answered this)

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Well, *I* like the romance better in the book, but if anything it’s less of a classic romance than it was in the movie. More realistic. Definitely go in expecting a “romance” in the genre sense.

          I won’t be doing an official challenge on Goodreads this year, but great to hear you all enjoyed it so much!

  6. How do you fit reading into your writing life? Maybe that sounds like an inane question, but I find that with deadlines and marketing, I don’t find enough time to read anymore. Do you schedule reading in as part of your day? Curious as I’m seeking strategies to read more books next year! Thanks for your always helpful blog! 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I do schedule my reading, actually. I’m kinda a schedule nut. 😉 I do my writing first thing in the day most of the time, and my reading last thing before bed. The reading is always a reward of sorts to look forward at the end of each day.

  7. I ended up working on three of the top 30 fantasy series list. I am reading Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the moon, Brent week’s trilogy, and Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives. I have already read all the Terry Gookind’s novels, around 20 or so in the series. I loved that series! Oh and still working on Dreamlander! Thank you so much for mentoring us!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Ooh, lots of good stuff! I really wanted to love Garden of the Moon, but the complexity got a little too crazy for me by the second book. But, of course, I adore Brent Weeks. 🙂

  8. I aimed for 50 this year, and I’m at 47 with two days to go! (It was a tough year for reading.) But I had five 5-star books, with my most recent recommendation being Exile for Dreamers, a young adult historical by Kathleen Baldwin. Excellent read!

    One goal for 2017 is to read more writing craft books, so I was glad to see your list! Thanks.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s fab! You can still do it. 😀 Honestly, I’m always ashamed of myself for not reading more craft books at the end of the year too. But there are just so many other things to read too! That’s one reason I like subscribing to writing magazines–to make sure I get a regular dose of writing advice.

  9. An interesting list. I’m impressed that you made it through Magic Mountain, that, Ulysses (Joyce), and Remembrance of Things Past remain on my “maybe some day when I’m able to devote more time” list. On the other hand, I was totally unimpressed with Cold Mountain. I found it unbelievable on so many levels (wearing hooped skirt in a row boat? and wearing a very precious piece of jewelry on the cold dangerous trek?). I don’t count the books i read but I’m a fast and addicted reader. I’m looking forward to more reading and writing in 2017. To me one of the most unnerving thing about our current Prez Elect is that he doesn’t read and is proud of it!!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Magic Mountain is dense, but definitely not as difficult as James Joyce. It came at a good time for me, and I found reading (out in the hammock this past August) very relaxing and nourishing.

  10. This year I’ve been busier than usual so I didn’t read as much, but more of the books were new instead of old favorites. New (or at least new to me) books I read this year: `Mary Barton’ and `Cranford,’ both by Elizabeth Gaskell, `Golden Braid’ by Melanie Dickerson, `Storyworld First’ by Jill Williamson, `The Thorn of Detonhill,’ `Alchemy of Chaos’ and `An Import of Intrigue’ by Marshall Ryan Maresca, and `Dreamlander’ and `Storming’ by you. 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Well, I’m honored to have been included. 🙂 Cranford is great. One of my favorites of Gaskell’s.

  11. I read 168 books (my goal was 150), and I might have missed a couple of the NF reads. Add to this my Bible reading…and I imbibed a LOT of words.
    I appreciate your recommendations, though. I’m looking for writing craft books because I’ve set a goal to read more of those in 2017.
    Here’s to another 150 books in 2017!

  12. Sara J Green says

    I didn’t think to count them either. I’m a very slow reader, have to chew over most sentences, so I’d only depress myself if I counted!! I only get to read at bedtime so I usually have to read the same page two nights running. I’m in a Virtual Book Club with some writing friends and I read about 1:3 of the books suggested. I spent most of this year on a Heavy Edit. I’m writing a family story non-fiction (murder of my great aunt in Adelaide in 1924) and getting ready to approach publishers. Got a date with on on 17 March. Naturally it’s brilliant but I know this is where the story really starts… Thanks for your writing craft tips and encouragement, K.M. Happy New Year to all!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Congrats on nearing agent-hunting stage, Sara! That’s fabulous. I wish you all the best with it.

  13. Roberto Fiocco says

    Your number of read books is very impressive for me. I (re)started writing this year. After almost 10 years of poor reading (and no writing, I was discouraged about my writing abilities so I started to read very very little), I decided from november 2016 to restart. In 2 months I read 7 books (all of them are fiction books) and you are motivating me to make better in 2017. In the books I read I loved very much Divergent (the author is Veronica Roth) and now I’m reading the rest of the series.

  14. Mathieu Clément says

    I started reading again as my last year resolution. I feel nostalgic at the end of every year and actually started with Bantam Classic Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass that I bought on amazon.

    I was thinking of buying Anne of Green Gables Boxed Set and Jack London’s White Fang to start 2017.

    I was impressed by the total of books I have read during 2016 which is 51 books, not including the 20 comic books I have read in between. My last book of the year was Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games from the Foil Edition’s Box Set I bought for Christmas that made my cat go crazy when the foil cover reflected the light. You should’ve seen her run!

    Have a happy new year!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      White Fang… *slaps head* You just made me realize I missed that one when reading Jack London this summer.

  15. Hey, KM.

    Lovely recommendations. I don’t think I’ve read many of them, but then I only hit 60-odd books this year and some of them were very very short! LOL I set a more reasonable goal of 50, will up it if I see I have and use more time to read 😀

    I am also going to put together a recommendations list from my own read in 2016 list.. I love Goodreads for helping keep up with such fun and silly things. Thanks for the inspiration, My poor blog was getting dusty!

  16. Andrea Rhyner says

    Thank you for the list!
    I didn’t read anything last year until December. Before you faint, know it was due to my father’s sudden passing. I’m excited to read again and also to start writing again.

    In December I downloaded the 5 Secrets to Story Structure, and asked hubby for your new Character Arc book for Christmas. I started reading your arc book on the 26th. I read all of your character arc articles on your website, and so much of the book is familiar, but I am loving the new insights and the refresh. I love to highlight and flag my books for later use, so having it in paperback is perfect for me.

    Next year I plan to re-read my top five or six how-to books (The Snowflake Method, your Story Structure book, The Story Template by Deardon, Character Arcs, Writing Subtext, Story Tension, and maybe a couple on showing vs telling). I have a long list of my favorite how-to books and what in each book was most helpful. I’ll revisit my list to see what else I need a refresh on. I may read the Harry Potter series (I’ve never read them or seen the films but so many love them that I have to see what they’re all about).

    I’m also going to get the how-to you recommended; Writer’s Guide to Beginnings. Thanks for the suggestion! Yesterday I started reading Zoo.

    I’m also reading all of your blogs from 2016. I’m so behind! However, doing a marathon is fun too. I don’t have to be patient to read them all. Smile.


    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Very sorry to hear about your loss, Andrea. When life hits us like that, sometimes we just need to pause for a reset. I hope 2017 turns out to be very rewarding for you in your reading, your writing, and all the rest of your life.

  17. Impressive. I think I’ll give myself a book-reading challenge this year!

    Do you read mainly from actual books or do you also include audiobooks in the mix?

    Thanks for always being such an inspiration. You were my number 1 writing resource for 2016. When I FINALLY complete and publish a novel, I will put a dedication to you in there…promise. 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks for the kind words, Yolanda. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the site. 🙂

      I’m not an audiobook listener myself, primarily because I don’t do much during my day that doesn’t require concentration. Plus, there’s just something about a book in hand that creates a different experience. However, on the rare occasions when I do listen to an audiobook, I certainly count it as a book read.

      • You’re very welcome.

        I tend to agree with you. I find I mostly listen to audio books during my commute to and from work. I do prefer physical books…there’s just something magical about them. Call me old school, but I love it.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Still, there’s a part of me that wishes I had enough mindless busywork during the day to justify cramming in *more* books via audio!

  18. Bill DeWitt says

    I loved both ‘The Book Thief’ and ‘Cold Mountain,’ particularly the language and the settings developed through the eyes of the characters. My favorite fiction book this year (a re-reading actually) was ‘Silence’ by Shusku Endo. Have you read it? It’s the book that the Martin Scorsese movie is based on. Very powerful story about a priest in 17th century Japan struggling with his faith and the “silence” of God amidst the intense suffering of the persecuted believers there. The climax left me stunned.
    Concerning your non-fiction section, I also like William Lane Craig. Have you seen the debate between him and the late Christopher Hitchens (author of “God is Not Good”) on the question “Does God exist?” Here’s the YouTube if you want to watch it: Craig is an amazing debater, and it’s fascinating to see him take on Hitchens who, as you probably know, is also a skilled debater and articulate agnostic / atheist.
    My favorite non-fiction book was “The Abundance,” a collection of Annie Dillard’s essays. One of my other favorite Christian writers. Her language is amazing. In that volume, be sure to check out “Expedition to the Poles.” It’s one of those essays I frequently re-read.
    On books I’ve read about writing–well, yours repeatedly. And I also have started “Story Genius–How to use Brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel” by Lisa Cron. She’s trying to build a case that if you tell your story in the right way, the neural pathways in our readers’ brains will “light up,” and the reader is be more drawn in, even if the book isn’t particularly well written. Similar to your point, that the story structure you teach works because it is the structure most conducive to how our brains best experience story. Cron is takes up a similar idea, and adds in research on brain physiology published in peer-reviewed journals to make her point. I’m just starting this book, and so the jury is out as to whether she pulls off her thesis. But her style is fun. I’ll give you are more involved critique when I finish.
    Ah, but I ramble. I could go on for hours on favorite books. But I’ll let you, and any of your readers that have hung in this far, go on to activities more stimulating to your neural pathways. Have a great new year.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m wanting to read Story Genius too. Didn’t realize Silence was based on a book, but the trailer looked great, so I’ll definitely keep an eye out for that. Thanks, Bill!

  19. Thanks for sharing these!
    Sadly, my reading rate was pretty low last year-I’m hoping to make some changes and amend such a lack this year.

    I hadn’t heard of On Guard, but I have a few resources from William Lane Craig and even had the privilege of hearing him speak in person, twas most excellent. If you liked that book, I highly recommend Tactics by Greg Koukl.

  20. I have that Thomas Mann, plus Byron Katie’s first book and The Book Thief – all unread. Methinks this is a good nudge to dig into those.


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