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Quartz’s favorite books of 2016, reviewed in 25 words or less

A woman reads a copy of the The Secret at the Laqlouq ski resort about an hour from Beirut
Reuters/Steve Crisp
Relax. Reading shouldn’t have to be stressful.
  • Molly Rubin
By Molly Rubin

Video journalist

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

The idea for Quartz’s “Best of 2016” book list is brevity because our readers’ time is valuable. We compiled reviews of some of our favorite books published this year in 25 words or less—so you can get straight to reading. There’s no theme or ranking of our choices; they simply capture the eclectic interests of our team of reporters and editors. 

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

“Vance is Frank McCourt in his direct and emotive language, and Tim O’Brien in bringing home an age.”
Steve LeVine, Washington correspondent

Death’s End by Cixin Liu

“The final book to the captivating Three Body Chinese sci-fi series, Death’s End reminds us escapism is the only answer.”
Alice Truong, deputy growth editor, Asia

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

“WTO protest on the ground from all angles. Father, son, anarchist, cop. Amazing.”
Sarah Slobin, things editor

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing

“Olivia Laing combines thoughtful scholarship and lyrical writing in this achingly beautiful meditation on art, loneliness, and connection.”
Corinne Purtill, reporter

The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf

“There aren’t many ‘lost’ heroes in science. When you read this book, you’ll keep wondering how we lost such a genius.”
Akshat Rathi, science and health reporter

Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec

“A year in the life of two friends, quantified through beautifully illustrated visualizations. Dear Data is a revelation of the human face of data.”
Annalisa Merelli, reporter

Invisible Planets by Ken Liu

“A new collection of contemporary Chinese sci-fi stories in translation. Has: aliens, steampunk, and ghosts. Is: hilarious, weird, moving, and different.”
Nikhil Sonnad, things reporter

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver

“Set in the not-too-distant future, Shriver envisions an economic apocalypse and breakdown of civilization in the US that is terrifyingly plausible.”
Eshe Nelsoneconomics and markets reporter

Known and Strange Things: Essays by Teju Cole

“This brilliant essay collection brings fresh perspectives and nuanced understanding to subjects as varied as literature, music, politics, history, travel and photography.”
Abdi Latif Dahir, reporter

The Invisibility Cloak by Ge Fei (Author) and Canaan Morse (Translator)

“Quirky Chinese novella that follows a happy-go-lucky audio repairman around the depraved world of Beijing’s elite.”
Max de Haldevang, editorial fellow

The Hike by Drew Magary

“Funny, heart-breaking, sweet magical-realism that you’ll devour—read it in one sitting.”
Dave Gershgorn, technology reporter

Food 52: A New Way to Dinner by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs

“This is a total game-changer—more playbook than cookbook—that plans for a week of excellent eating, rather than preparing one dish at a time.”
Jenni Avins, global lifestyle correspondent

Sweetbitter: A Novel by Stephanie Danler

“A lush coming-of-age novel set in New York’s restaurant world that turns the taste of oysters and wine into poetry.”
Sarah Todd, deputy ideas editor

Homegoing: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi

“This imperfect, moving novel should be required high school reading. I’ve never heard some of these voices before—and I really should have.”
Hanna Kozlowska, politics and criminal justice reporter

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil

“O’Neil makes the urgent case for applying basic ideas of auditing and transparency to algorithms, which rule our world in opaque and sometimes unintended ways.”
Joon Ian Wong, technology reporter

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

“A young neurosurgeon questions what gives our days meaning, and the limits of medical science, as he documents his final two years of life.”
Lila MacLellan, reporter

The Fireman: A Novel by Joe Hill

“An unusual, but chilling and heart-pounding take on the post-apocalypse novel by the son of horror maestro Stephen King (writing under a pseudonym). Who knew a novel could be written about spontaneous combustion?”
Erik Olsen, West coast video correspondent

Wasting Time on the Internet by Kenneth Goldsmith

“Not only does this book reveal the history and psychology behind internet addiction—it also justifies all those cat videos you just watched.”
Georgia Frances King, deputy ideas editor

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

“This memoir proves that writing about surfing, like boxing, can create a stripped-down character study and a pitch-perfect portrait of a broader cultural landscape.”
Thomas McBee, editorial director for growth

His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Macrae Burnet

“This disturbing tale of violence in the 19th-century Scottish highlands is ultimately a meditation on psychosis and a legal interpretation of the human mind.”
Elijah Wolfson, deputy science and health editor

All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister

“When there are more single women, society historically changes faster. We can thank these women for the last 200 years of progress.”
Kristin Oakley, growth editor for new initiatives

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl: Fiction by Mona Awad

“Vignettes that come together as a novel, this is hands-down the best examination of what it’s like to struggle with weight.”
Kira Bindrim, talent lab editor

The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-first Century by Ryan Avent

“Work will never be the same—and that’s (probably) okay!”
Jason Karaian, senior Europe correspondent

One Indian Girl by Chetan Bhagat

“Pop-fiction, strictly meant for light-reading. Bhagat gives us a well educated, highly paid female protagonist and her dramatic love affairs.”
Suneera Tandon, Quartz India reporter

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