The Best Books Read in 2016

Here is my annual round-up of the 12 best books I read this year, one for every month. The list is alphabetical by author. For the first time since I started keeping annual lists (about 11 years, I believe), I cannot pick a single book to be my favorite. Several of them vied at times for the top spot, but I couldn’t settle on one, so I will not choose one absolute favorite this year*. Hey, if it’s good enough for the Pulitzer board, it’s good enough for me.

Happy reading!

*Though I do reserve the right to retroactively anoint one later.

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What It Takes (1992), by Richard Ben Cramer

Is there such a thing as being too definitive?

The late Richard Ben Cramer’s titanic deep dive into the 1987-88 presidential primary season is rightly regarded as the last word on the crazy-making rigors of electoral politics in this country. Hard to argue: books like Game Change, which purport to tell us what the candidates are really thinking, are but superficial imitators to the throne in comparison.

 

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The level of commitment from Cramer here is awe-inspiring, likely rivaled only by Robert A. Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson in the category of total immersion. But at least Caro has been writing for nearly 40 years about one man; Cramer somehow managed to follow six different campaigns around in real time over a two-year stretch, apparently leaving no stone unturned and unpacking each candidate’s life story in indelible detail (at great cost to his own health, it turns out).
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