In Memoriam: Reading Remarkable People Who Died in 2016

Pretty much any way you look at it, 2016 was a rough year. As a country, we are dealing with the repercussions of an election cycle that stoked fears, fanned the flames of mistrust, and reinforced a sense of division. We are struggling with our national identity and trying to determine how to move forward. To make an already difficult year even more painful, we lost several extraordinary artists and public figures. Some of these people were visionaries who defied convention and encouraged us to embrace that which is eccentric and “other.” Many were trailblazers in their respective fields. They shaped our childhoods, our dreams, our love of art and literature, and our perceptions of our own capabilities. They were so utterly original that there is now an irreparable void where once they stood. We will miss them dearly.

As we make our way through December, we heave a collective sigh of exhaustion and begin to look toward 2017. But before we square our shoulders, take a deep breath and begin the healing process, let’s pay a literary tribute to the remarkable people who left us this year.


david bowieDavid Bowie: January 8, 1947 – January 20, 2016

Iconic and innovative singer, songwriter, and actor whose forward-thinking music, theatrical flair, and penchant for reinvention inspired generations of musicians and legions of fans.

Recommended Reading: David Bowie: Starman: A Coloring Book by Laura CoulmanCoco Balderrama


alan-rickmanAlan Rickman: 21 February 1946 – 14 January 2016

Actor and director best known for his roles as Severus Snape in Harry Potter, Hans Gruber in the Die Hard series, and Harry in Love, Actually.

Recommended Listening: Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy (audiobook narrated by Alan Rickman)


maurice-white-smile-billboard-650-bMaurice White: December 19, 1941 – February 3, 2016

Singer, songwriter, musician, and founder of the band Earth, Wind & Fire who won 7 Grammys and was nominated for a total of 20 Grammys.

Recommended Reading: My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire by Maurice White


Harper Lee SmokesHarper Lee: April 28, 1926 – February 19, 2016

Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the American Classic To Kill a Mockingbird. 

Recommended Reading: The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills


Patty Duke: December 14, 1946 – March 29, 2016

Academy Award-winning actor whose experience with bipolar disorder inspired her to dedicate much of her life to mental health advocacy.

Recommended Reading: Call Me Anna by Patty Duke


princePrince: June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016

Singer-songwriter, producer, and style icon, known for his eclectic work, his status as a sex symbol, and his influence on popular music.

Recommended Reading: Prince: Purple Reign by Mick Wall


aliMohammad Ali: January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016

Heavyweight boxing champion, activist, and philanthropist also known for his strongly held religious, political, and social convictions.

Recommended Reading: The Greatest: My Own Story by Mohammad Ali


elie wieselElie Wiesel:  September 30, 1928 – July 2, 2016

Writer, Nobel Laureate, political activist, and Holocaust survivor who spent decades championing human rights.

Recommended Reading: Night by Elie Wiesel


American actor Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in 'Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory', directed by Mel Stuart, 1971. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Gene Wilder: June 11, 1933 – August 29, 2016

Comedic actor, screenwriter, and director whose performances in films like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Blazing Saddles earned him a cult following.

Recommended Reading: Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art by Gene Wilder


anna-dewdneyAnna Dewdney:  December 25, 1965 – September 3, 2016

Author & illustrator of beloved children’s books

Recommended Reading: Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney




charmiancarrCharmian Carr:  December 27, 1942 – September 17, 2016

Actor and singer, best known for her role as Liesl in the Sound of Music.

Recommended Reading: Forever Liesl: A Memoir of the Sound of Music by Charmian Carr



Leonard CohenLeonard Cohen:  September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016

Singer, songwriter, musician, poet, and novelist who influenced generations of fellow poets and songwriters

Recommended Reading: Stranger Music: Selected Poems & Songs by Leonard Cohen


gloria-naynorGloria Naylor: January 25, 1950 – September 28, 2016

An award-winning author whose debut novel was adapted into a miniseries produced by Oprah Winfrey.

Recommended Reading: The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor


natalie_babbittNatalie Babbitt: July 28, 1932 – October 31, 2016

Writer and illustrator of children’s books, whose classic novel Tuck Everlasting was developed into two films and a musical.

Recommended Reading: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt


gwen-ifillGwen Ifill: September 29, 1955 – November 14, 2016

American Peabody award-winning journalist, television newscaster, and author who became the first African American to host a U.S. public affairs television program.

Recommended Reading: The Breakthrough: Politics & Race in the Age of America by Gwen Ifill


See More 2016 Tributes:

Harper Lee

David Bowie

Alan Rickman

Elie Wiesel


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