2016 was a Great Year for Fiction. Here are the Year’s Best Books

Plenty of people are complaining about what a terrible year 2016 was, but in one area, we were lucky: It was a great year for fiction. While none of us could read every single novel or short story we hoped to, we got to as many as we could — and here are our favorites.

‘The Underground Railroad,’ Colson Whitehead (Doubleday):

Whitehead’s novel about a runaway slave taking a literal underground railroad north in search of freedom is on many end-of-the-year lists, for good reason.

‘LaRose,’ Louise Erdrich (Harper):

A father inadvertently kills his neighbor’s son, so he reaches back into Native American tradition to find an unorthodox way of repentance: He and his wife send their own boy to live with the bereaved family.

‘Today Will Be Different,’ Maria Semple (Little, Brown):

The author of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” could make you laugh on your worst day — which is what animator and illustrator Eleanor Flood experiences over the course of the novel.

‘My Name is Lucy Barton,’ Elizabeth Strout (Random):

The beauty of this spare but evocative story lies in its ability to say so much about its protagonist’s troubled childhood without saying much at all.

‘Everyone Brave is Forgiven,’ Chris Cleave (Simon & Schuster):

This World War II drama, set in London during the Blitz and the lesser-known but horrific siege of Malta, was inspired by the experiences of Cleave’s grandparents, but its personal importance to the author never causes him to force his hand.

‘They May Not Mean to, But They Do,’ Cathleen Schine (Sarah Crichton):

Not everyone can wring so many funny, painful truths out of the hardships of old age, but Schine does in her story of the Bergmans of New York, who struggle with dementia, poor health and disruptive, long-distance caring for elderly parents.

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