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Best Books of 2016

Thank you for visiting our “Best Books of 2016” page. We hope you find these books as interesting and entertaining as we have. This year’s books were selected by a group of twenty-four booksellers from across the country. We had the privilege to review 100s of books that were published this year and as always it was very difficult to choose which books made the list. If you agree or disagree with our selections please let us know by tweeting with us @HudsonBooks or by posting on our Hudson Booksellers Facebook page. Enjoy!

2016 Book of the Year

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War explores the amazing innovations that are born when brilliant scientific minds are tasked to problem solve with the astronomical budgets and resources of the United States Armed Forces. Military science is about so much more than just weapons. A military must be able to keep its soldiers clothed, fed, healthy, rested, and protected from a host of extreme, often life-threatening, conditions on and off the battlefield. It is the advances in these crucial areas that are the focus of this fascinating book. Despite the serious nature of the material, Mary Roach’s signature wit and humor are ever-present as she leads readers into the labs and battlefield simulations that save countless lives every day. –Ryan, Chicago ORD

Best Non-Fiction

Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling is something of a sequel, written after 20 years, to just one of his many bestselling travel books: Notes from a Small Island. He is once again traveling around Britain by bus, train and on foot, and experiencing all the joy and pain traveling can entail. His writing makes sharing in his adventures a humorous ride for seasoned & armchair travelers alike and the perceptive insights he shares on the sights & sites he visits make this book a delight to read. Bill Bryson’s Road to Little Dribbling is classic Bryson laugh-out-loud funny and heartwarming. –Anne, Atlanta
Paul Kalanithi’s brilliant book is like his life: not very long, thought-provoking and hard to forget. His journey toward becoming a doctor was circuitous and from an unusual perspective. After Bachelor’s degrees in biology and English literature, a Master’s degree in literature and one in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine, he considered a Ph. D. in English literature but decided on Yale medical school. The first part of the book is about his search for the intersection of human connection with science through literature and philosophy.
The second part is about his transition from physician to patient and disease from the other side after he is diagnosed with lung cancer when he is a neurosurgical resident. We don’t know when we will die but we can all decide how we will live. Paul’s wife Lucy said that this memoir, which she had to complete posthumously, “teach(es) us to face death with integrity.” I believe Paul faced life the same way. –Sydne, Atlanta
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies comes an important analysis of the history and future of genetics. In Siddhartha Mukherjee’s new book, The Gene: An Intimate History, we learn about the journey of scientists, from Aristotle to Darwin, and the discovery of the Double Helix to the Human Genome Project. Gregor Mendel truly gave “peas a chance” as the pioneer of heredity experiments, while the horrors of “genetic cleansing” in Nazi Germany brought to light the dangers of modifications in humans. Mukherjee’s extensive research is brought to life by the story of how mental illness has affected his family and the genetic implications. The Gene is a message to all: we hold many answers but must continue to ask questions. -Sandra, Seattle
Blood at the Root should be required reading. It is a beautifully written, straightforward, and striking account of a turbulent time in American history. Author Patrick Phillips grew up in Forsyth County, Georgia, which was an “all white” community until the late 1990’s. Sifting through decades of news, propaganda, urban myth and family stories to find the truth, Phillips focuses on the pivotal events, people, and circumstances which resulted in the massive racial cleansing of 1912. Inserting himself into the story offers a brilliant way to draw the rest of us in as well. We are all implicated, we can all make a difference, and Blood at the Root’s lessons are almost unbearably timely. Yet this hardly touches on the complexities and rewards of this stunning book. I hope you will read it, and pass it on. –Sara, Atlanta
When most people talk about poverty it’s usually in the context of the urban black environment. The truth is there are more white poor, than black poor. This book shows us poverty through the scope of the white underclass, often referred to as hillbilly, redneck, or white trash. J.D. Vance takes us through the Rust Belt and helps us understand what went wrong there. Through wonderful stories about his Appalachian grandparents and terrible stories of his drug addicted mother, we come to understand how complicated it is to eradicate poverty in America. Poverty, drug addiction, alcoholism, and violence are the staples of Vance’s childhood. A hard book to get through, but even harder to put down. –Rosa, New Jersey

Best Fiction

All the Birds in the Sky reads like an instant classic. It soars through magic and science, good and evil and all the shades in between; through the struggles of children against clueless parents, teachers, and spiteful kids, and the struggles of adults against a heedless society, with a love story at its heart. All the Birds explores big questions: What is really important? How are we all connected? Yet the book comes in at a weightless (and witty) 300 pages that simply fly by. I hope it takes off the way it deserves. –Sara, Atlanta
At some point, one would think that every possible story, angle, battle, and relationship that arose from WW2 has been told. What more could there be? The sad truth is that as long as there is the possibility of going to war again, we need to remember what happened in previous wars – the loss, the pain, the privations, the toll paid by individuals and nations. Chris Cleave beautifully reminds us and indeed teaches us about engaging characters and heart-wrenching situations. Everyone Brave is Forgiven follows young, eager and privileged Mary, anxious to do her part as soon as Britain declares war. Tom and Alistair are flatmates; one enlists and the other continues to work in London and they both love Mary. Though she sees herself as a spy or as an attaché to a general, Mary finds herself teaching school. Her commitment and bravery in London during the Blitz are matched by that of the soldiers stationed on Malta. The letters that pass between the two fronts both illuminate and obfuscate the reality of both situations. The story moves quickly and the dialogue is reminiscent of Evelyn Waugh and Oscar Wilde – brisk, smart, world-weary, and totally entrancing. –Sydne, Atlanta
What would you do if a wormhole appeared in your bedroom closet that allowed you to travel anywhere in time? When it happens to former Nineties indie rockstar Karl Bender, he sets up a small business sending trusted friends and associates back in time to see the greatest (and sometimes not so great) concerts of all time. Keep the client base small. Follow some basic rules to preserve the past. What could go wrong? Mo Daviau’s terrific debut is a fun, twisty novel that moves effortlessly through time and space, but never loses its warm heart and soul along the way. –Ryan, Chicago ORD
An impetuous kiss leads to the dissolution of two marriages and to a blended family, in that the siblings are mixed together periodically and then separated to be mixed again at the next summer vacation or holiday. The newest novel from Ann Patchett examines familial relationships and how they change over time in a way that is neither too weird to identify with nor too stereotypical to seem real. When a writer dating one of the sisters appropriates their tragedy as grist for a bestselling novel, the question of who owns the memories arises. Do they change when opened up to the world? Do you forgive or do you cling to your version while facing that of others? These heavy subjects are handled with a light touch that is not dismissive, but rather allows the details to unfold in vignettes covering fifty years. This is a lovely book, written beautifully. –Sydne, Atlanta
Oil and Marble is a magnificent story brimming with an all-star cast of world famous artists conducted by the talent of author Stephanie Storey. The novel centers around two of the most extraordinarily relevant talents in history, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. As chapters are cleverly divided into Leonardo and Michelangelo, the reader visits Florence and delves into the triumphs and tragedies that are guided by a strong commitment to faith and art by both these men. Stephanie Storey has succeeded at weaving these two legends together as well as creating an intriguing unforgettable classic piece of historical fiction. –Mike, Albuquerque
No sophomore slump here! After his wonderful debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles graces us with the story of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov. This “Former Person” has been sentenced to house arrest in the world famous Hotel Metropol of downtown Moscow. This is a charming mashup of Eloise; Upstairs, Downstairs; and Anna Karenina (the juicy bits, not the dry agrarian policy parts); with a bit of Shawshank Redemption tossed in for a delightful twistiness. The Count continues his pursuit of a life examined after he is down-sized from a well-appointed suite to a tiny room on the top floor. He befriends everyone who matters – including a feisty nine-year-old, the bartender, the chef, and the maître d’ – and spends the next thirty years observing the hotel and Russia evolve. There is political intrigue and romantic entanglement, domestic interplay with global implications. This is as satisfying as dinner at a fine restaurant, paired with the perfect wine, enjoyed with the perfect companion, served with impeccable panache – all to be found at the Hotel Metropol. –Sydne, Atlanta
In Mr. Whitehead’s pre-Civil War South, The Underground Railroad is more than just a metaphor for a means of escape from slavery. It is an actual path, carved out of the landscape silently and secretly, and provides runaway slaves with a chance for freedom. This elegant novel introduces us to Cora and Caesar, as they make their way out of Georgia into realities that are quite different from what they are accustomed to, but no less terrifying. As Cora and Caesar travel North into societies that are dramatically altered from the histories we learned in school, they stumble and struggle as they search for truth and freedom. -Christine, Chicago ORD
Ben Winters has received awards in both the mystery and science fiction genres, and now he brings us a powerful story of speculative history. Underground Airlines is set in modern times. However, imagine that the Civil War never happened and four states maintain slavery. This chilling scenario seems somewhat far-fetched, but sadly hits too close to home. -Sandra, Seattle

Best Business Interest

Productivity is a big problem in today’s workplace. There are more distractions than ever fighting for our time at work, such as email and social media in a new faster paced world. Being the best you can be in less time is a goal we all want to achieve. Well, how do you get there? In Smarter Faster Better, Charles Duhigg is trying to answer that. Equal parts self-help book, business history lesson, and science course, Duhigg’s book brings us tales of lessons learned and lessons lost. I know you will find something informative for you in your life. I know I did. –Rosa, New Jersey

Best Young Readers

Thunder Boy JR cover image
One Day in the Eucalyptus Eucalyptus Tree cover image
Airport Book cover image
Night Gardener cover image
Child of Books cover image
Raymie Nightingale cover image
Best Man cover image
Pax cover image
Wolf Hollow cover image
Moo cover image
Serpent King cover image
This is Where it Ends cover image



Bookseller Favorites

Anne - Atlanta


Christine - Chicago-ORD


Jennifer - Atlanta


Justin - Atlanta


Len - Chicago-ORD


Matt - Los Angeles


Mike - Albuquerque


Paul - Seattle


Rosa - New Jersey


Ryan - Chicago-ORD


Sandra - Seattle


Sara - Atlanta


Sydne - Atlanta