By Dan Clendenin

“When I have a little money,” said the Renaissance humanist and Catholic priest Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536), “I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”

It’s that time of year for the most subjective of exercises — my ten favorite books of 2016. Truly, there’s no accounting for personal taste. For some reason, as I’ve noted before, I read very little fiction. I can’t explain why. But I still enjoy “reviewing our reviews” of the past year.

Please note that you can search JwJ’s Comprehensive Index of 750 book reviews alphabetically by author, or by fourteen different subject categories like history, art, economics, etc. And if you ever get stuck, just use the “search” button that you’ll find in the top right corner of every JwJ page.

The blue hot-linked titles will take you to my full book review.

Merry Christmas, and happy reading!

Mary Beard, SPQR; A History of Ancient Rome (New York: W.W. Norton, 2015), 606pp. A brisk page turner despite its length, by a noted Cambridge classicist. I read this before I walked the Way of Saint Francis last summer.

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Daniel Berrigan, Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings, selected and with an introduction by John Dear (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2009), 285pp. I circled back to this older book after Berrigan died on April 30, 2016.

Pope Francis, The Name of God is Mercy; A Conversation with Andrea Tornielli (New York: Random House, 2016), 151pp. A book length version of the Pope’s Year of Jubilee theme.

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Margo Jefferson, Negroland; A Memoir (New York: Pantheon Books, 2015), 248pp. Part of the black experience that we almost never hear about.

Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air (New York: Random, 2016), 228pp. This poignant memoir by a Stanford neurosurgeon has enjoyed a very long ride on many best seller lists.

David McCullough, The Wright Brothers (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2015), 320pp. A pivotal moment in world history told by a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name; Confronting Religious Violence (New York: Schocken Books, 2015), 305pp. A helpful exploration of a horrible problem by the well-known British rabbi.

Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation; The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (New York: Penguin Press, 2015), 436pp. A much needed push back against techno-idealists by a professor at MIT.

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy; A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (New York: Harper, 2016), 264pp. The historian Francis Fukuyama said this is the one book that he wishes our new president would read.

A.N. Wilson, The Book of the People: How to Read the Bible (New York: Harper, 2016), 212pp. For those of us who are overly familiar with the Bible, and for whom it has become a tired text, or for those who dismiss it for all the wrong reasons, this book is a blast of fresh air.

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