Another year has passed, and that means it is time for my favorite books of 2016 post! I hope you either see something you enjoyed this year, or find something new to read!
Nonfiction: I read so many fascinating nonfiction books this year, but the one that really drew me was Mychal Denzel Smith’s Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching, which chronicles Smith’s coming of age as a young black man in America. Smith has a unique and compelling voice, and I found myself completely engrossed. If you are looking for books on the black experience, I found this one highly accessible and eye-opening, especially when paired with books, such as Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Jeff Chang’s We Gon’ Be Alright. (Honorable Mentions: Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates); The Nazi Hunters (Andrew Nagorski); Born on the Edge of Race and Gender (Willy Wilkinson))
Graphic Novels: Monstress (Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda) takes this spot. Monstress follows Maika Halfwolf, a young woman who has a literal monster inside of her. As she tears through obstacles to her answers, she also awakens forces that have long laid dormant. Monstress’ art is gorgeous and immersive, and Maika is an engaging heroine in what is shaping up to be a great story. I can’t wait to read more. (Honorable Mentions: The Nameless City, by Faith Erin Hicks; Toil and Trouble, by Mairghead Scott, March 1-3, Lewis et al; Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill)
Realistic Fiction/Literary Fiction: The Last Painting of Sara De Vos (Dominic Smith) takes this category. The story explores the intertwined lives 0f Sara de Vos, one of the few Dutch female artists; Marty De Groot, the descendant of the owner of de Vos’ last remaining painting; and Ellie Shipley, an angry grad student who forges the painting. After Ellie gets her life together and acquires a professorship in Sydney, Australia, her life threatens to unravel when both her forgery and the original come to Australia for an exhibit. Smith does a superb job of building up the character dynamics and weaving the story threads together in this engrossing novel.
Science Fiction & Fantasy: The Paper Menagerie (Ken Liu) was my favorite science fiction and fantasy book this year. Liu blends science fiction concepts, history, identity, and mythology in this compelling collection of unique science fiction stories that should not be missed. (Honorable Mentions: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Becky Chambers); Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction (translated by Ken Liu))
Young Adult: The YA winner is Ruta Sepetys’ Salt to the Sea. Salt to the Sea follows a group of teenage refugees who, along with thousands of other refugees, board the Wilhelm Gustloff in order to escape the German-Soviet conflict in the last year of World War II. Their relief is short-lived: a submarine attacks the Wilhelm Gustloff, which sinks, taking most of its passengers with it. Sepetys has a knack for bringing to life relatively unknown historical events (The Wilhelm Gustloff lost over 9,000 of its 10,000 passengers, and the tragedy is considered one of the (if not the worst) worst maritime disasters, even though not many know about it), and this book was no different. Salt to the Sea is a compelling story with sympathetic characters, and reading about the characters’ experiences brought tears to my eyes. (Honorable mention: Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo)
Best wishes for 2017! Happy reading!