The Best of 2016 from the Cook Smarts Community

We decided to kick off a new tradition this year and end the craziness of 2016 on a high note – by looking at all the things that entertained you, that moved you, that changed you.

  • By Jess Dang
  • December 20, 2016

We surveyed the Cook Smarts community for the best books, movies, shows, songs*, podcasts and games they read, watched, listened to and played in 2016, and we received such an interesting assortment of answers.

For those still doing some last minute gift shopping, hopefully some of the items on this list can make your gift recipient’s 2017 a little bit more entertaining, educational or maybe both!

If you didn’t get a chance to submit or just want to comment on the entries, put them in the comments below.

*For the songs, it was just easier to put all your entries together in a Spotify playlist. We tried to include as many tracks / albums that were available. Some of the lyrics are explicit, so you may not want to listen with kids around. Happy listening!

Cook Smarts Team Best Of

We’ll kick off with our team’s best of and then proceed into the categories above:

Jackie Sun, Marketing and Social Media Cheerleader (Portland, OR)

Jen Gilbert, Chief Technology Officer (San Mateo, CA)

Jess Dang, Chief Kitchen Cheerleader (Mountain View, CA)

  • Best book: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Best movie: It’s a toss up between Fed Up and Straight Outta Compton – both movies touched on topics I care a lot about
  • Best show: This is Us. I’m a sucker for a family drama and this one knows how to pull at all my heartstrings
  • Best song / album: I was lucky enough to see Hamilton earlier this year and was so excited for the release of the Hamilton Mixtape. I’ve had it on repeat, and I still cry everytime I hear Regina Spektor’s version of Dear Theodosia
  • Best podcast: The episode Object Anyway from Radiolab Presents: More Perfect.
  • Best game: My husband and I played a lot of Star Realms this year. It’s the perfect 2 player game for 2 very tired parents.

Jess Smith, Meal Plan Creator (Kansas City, MO)

  • Best book: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • Best show: Madam Secretary
  • Best song / album: Little Seeds (album) by Shovel & Rope
  • Best podcast: Homecoming (only 4 episodes in but hooked!)

Sarah Byun, Kitchen Happiness Cheerleader (Washington, DC)


In the book category, I expected that we would see about a dozen best sellers repeated over and over again. However, there were just a few books who were were given more than 1 entry:

From the entries submitted, our community has a love for historical fiction, sci-fi / fantasy, memoir / biographies and self-growth books. Here they are by category:



Historical fiction

Sci-Fi / Fantasy







For your best movies of 2016, there were definitely a small handful of favorites, including many blockbusters. From the top 2 “bests”, we clearly have a lot of Harry Potter and animation fans among our community.

For all the other movie entries, scroll here.

TV Shows

There is so much good TV out there for our consumption pleasure and our community definitely has a wide variety of tastes – many shows I haven’t even heard of. The awards for the best shows of 2016 go to (with Netflix series as the big winners):

For all the other tv entries, scroll here.


I am always looks for new shows to listen to so I’m so excited to sample lots of the entries on this list. The big winners were:

For all the other podcast entries, scroll here.


It’s great to see that so many of us can still enjoy a game, whether it’s a board, card, video or even role playing one.

Our board / card game winners:



For all the other game entries, scroll here.

Full Lists

We were unable to link all the entries that were submitted but hope you go searching for some of these below!

All movie entries that weren’t listed above:

  • 10 Cloverfield Lane
  • Avatar
  • Boy in the Striped Pajamas
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Casablanca
  • Chef
  • Cinema Paradiso
  • Doctor Strange
  • Don’t Breathe
  • ELLE
  • Embrace of the Serpent
  • Everybody Wants Some
  • Eye in the Sky
  • Fed Up
  • From Up On Poppy Hill
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • Hell or High Water
  • Inserts
  • It’s A Wonderful Life!
  • Jason Bourne
  • Kubo
  • Legends of the Fall
  • Limitless
  • Maleficent
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Me Before You
  • Miss You Can Do It
  • Moonlight
  • Night Owls
  • Of Gods and Men
  • One Day
  • Other People
  • Papa Hemingway in Cuba
  • Planes Traines & Automobiles
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • SOMM, Wine Documentary on Netflix
  • Spotlight
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Star Wars: Rogue One
  • Suicide Squad
  • Tarzan
  • The Accountant
  • The Barkley Marathons (Netflix Documentary)
  • The Bible
  • The Finest Hours
  • The Hateful Eight
  • The Idol
  • The Little Prince (on Netflix)
  • The Way
  • Think Like A Man
  • Toni Erdmann
  • Videos of my baby doing funny things
  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

All TV show entries that weren’t listed above:

  • Adam Ruins Everything
  • Ali Wong: Baby Cobra
  • An Idiot Abroad
  • Arpeggio of Blue Steel
  • Better Things
  • Black-ish
  • Blind Spot
  • Bones
  • Brooklyn 99
  • Burn Notice
  • Channel Zero: Candle Cove
  • Crazy Ex Girlfriend
  • Criminal Minds
  • Doctor Foster
  • Doctor Who
  • Downton Abbey (serially watched on Netflix)
  • Easy (Netflix)
  • Empire
  • Fear of the Walking Dead
  • Goliath
  • Good Behavior on TNT
  • Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Home Cooking
  • Gotham
  • Grace & Frankie
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Grimm
  • Hawaii Five-O
  • Homeland
  • Jessica Jones
  • John Oliver on HBO
  • Last Tango in Halifax
  • Leverage
  • Luke Cage
  • MacGyver
  • Making of a Murderer
  • Mars (on the National Geographic channel)
  • Master of None
  • Mozart in the Jungle
  • New Girl
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Orel i reshka
  • Orphan Black
  • Outlander
  • Parenthood
  • Poldark
  • Poldark
  • Rick and Morty
  • Scandal
  • Scarlet Heart: Ryeo
  • Sense 8
  • Shameless
  • Sherlock (PBS Series)
  • Sherlock BBC
  • Shonda Rhymes (Scandal, How To Get Away w/Murder & Grey’s Anatomy)
  • Speechless
  • Suits
  • Survivor
  • Survivor Australia
  • The Americans
  • The Goldbergs
  • The Good Place on NBC
  • The Great British Bake Off
  • The Leftovers (particularly “International Assassin”)
  • The Newsroom
  • The Night Of
  • The Office
  • The Today Show
  • The Voice
  • The Winds of Winter (Game of Thrones)
  • Walking Dead (mid-season finale)
  • West Wing (so oddly relevant during election years!)
  • White Collar
  • Yuri on Ice
  • Zoo

All other podcast entries that weren’t listed above:

  • 2 Dope Queens (Stacy B)
  • A tie between “No Such Thing as a Fish” and “Fighting in the War Room” (Laura A)
  • Another Round (Megan K)
  • Any by Chalene Johnson or Ted Talks (Marla T)
  • Ask me another  (Angie R)
  • At Issue CBC (nerdy, I know, but keeps me current) (Nancy Z)
  • Bardcast: The Shakespeare Podcast (Darinlee N)
  • Beginners French by a guy with thick Irish accent. It’s hilarious! (Susan R)
  • Being Boss (Sam T)
  • Christ Wright’s Business Boutique (Laura M)
  • Common Sense (Dan Carlin) (Niki M)
  • Criminal (show) (Nina M)
  • Crossover Church (Janice B)
  • Dan Rather – after Election (Mary M)
  • Dear Sugar or Note to Self — Dear Sugar because it’s always an engaging, compassionate listen about important topics, and Note to Self because it’s talking about some really important topics for the digital age that are relevant to what’s going on RIGHT NOW. (Leila K)
  • Dinner Party Download – erudite and funny (Rebecca W)
  • Freakonomics (Cam M)
  • Hamish and Andy (Ruth P)
  • Happier with Gretchen Rubin (Samantha H)
  • Hardcore History WW1 episodes (Aaron L)
  • Hello Internet (Courtney D)
  • Heroes And (Kelsey T)
  • Homecoming (only 4 episodes in but hooked!) (Jess S)
  • How I built this – taught me that the common theme among successful people is hard work, consistency and dedication when the going gets tough (Randelle S)
  • I like Anna Faris is Unqualified for a laugh (Sidney K)
  • Interview of Cornell William Brooks, President NAACP (Angie A)
  • Joe Rogan  (Jillian G)
  • Joel Osteen (Tanya P)
  • Jordan, Jesse, Go  (Pablo S)
  • Journal en Français Facile (Laura B)
  • Keepin’ it 1600 (Rachel D)
  • Keepin’ it 1600 (Chris B)
  • Keith and the Girl or Gilmore Guys (Katrina M )
  • Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review from BBC Radio 5 Live (Drew W)
  • Mark Levin Show (Kelly W)
  • Marketplace from APM (Peter R)
  • Mo’nique (Monica G)
  • Not Too Deep with Grace Helbig (Lyndsay L)
  • Note to Self, because there is so much variety that is discussed (Kareem A)
  • NY Times Modern Love (Wendy N)
  • Object Anyway from Radiolab Presents: More Perfect (Jess D)
  • Planet Money (Namrita K)
  • Recode Decode with Kara Swisher (Michelle P)
  • RMC Italia (Tatiana M)
  • Science Friday (Teri A)
  • Sleep With Me (it’s helped my insomnia issues so much!) (Julie S)
  • Slow Your Home (Lauren W)
  • SmartSex with Kerri Miller (Mandy P)
  • Snap Judgement (Sarah N)
  • Sounds Good with Branden Harvey (Toria L)
  • Star Talk (David P)
  • Steven Furtick / Elevation Church (Cindy B)
  • Stuff You Should Know  (Cherice G)
  • Sword and Scale (Kortnee Y)
  • TED Radio Hour on NPR (Maria F)
  • TedTalks – very motivational, broad range of topics and ideas. Speakers from varied backgrounds, makes me think. (Marcy T)
  • Tell me something I don’t know! (Ben K)
  • The “Face/Off” episode of How Did This Get Made (Kim J)
  • The Adventure Zone (Joe M)
  • The answer to this is ALWAYS How Did This Get Made? (Melissa S)
  • The Axe Files  (Tiffany L )
  • The Bugle (Deb S)
  • The Great Detectives of Old Time Radio (the “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar” episodes are my favorite!) (Andrea J)
  • The herd.  (Jeff S)
  • The Joy Junkie! (Meghan C)
  • The Lively Show Episode #124 with Brene Brown (Priscilla M)
  • The new Prairie Home with Chris Thile (Meg F)
  • The OMC Podcast! I love it because it’s mine! I make it. And we talk about all of these things. (Travis G)
  • The Truth  (Stephanie K)
  • Two Dope Queens (Megan E)
  • Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (Lindsey K)
  • Wait Watin Don’t Tell Me (Erin P)
  • West Wing Weekly (Nicole N)
  • Women of the Hour with Lena Dunham  (Meaghan O)
  • Writers’ Beat – a must listen for any TV or movie writer. These pros show you how. (Reenie L)
  • You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes (Erin B)
  • You Must Remember This – (Liz K)

All game entries that weren’t listed above:

Board / Card



Physical Games

  • Bowling with friends
  • Chicago city-wide scavenger hunt.
  • Fetch’ with my dog
  • Hide and Seek!
  • Peekaboo with my baby


  • Good ol’ 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle
  • Sudoku

Role Play Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Mafia
  • Shelter in Place (Zombie-themed LARP scenario)
  • The game where I dress up in a full size Grumpy Care Bear costume and have story time with my kids. Does that count? Otherwise I think the only other game I’ve played this year is Hide and Seek. 🙂

Video Games

A little note: Some of the above links are Amazon affiliate links, which means we earn a small percentage from those sales. We use this affiliate revenue to support the continued growth of Cook Smarts. Thank you!


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