This list includes my favorite books of 2016. To simplify things, I’m only including books I experienced for the first time in the past year (as much as I enjoyed rereading the Glamourist Histories). Not all of these books are 2016 releases, but some of them are. Interestingly, I couldn’t help but noticing that as I was compiling this list, I ended up picking quite a few nonfiction titles. And while I certainly read more nonfiction this year then I have in the past, it didn’t make up THAT much of my reading, proportionally. Perhaps I just ended up choosing really good nonfiction titles!
Same as my last two lists, this is a countdown! So the number one book IS my number one book of the year.
10. The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin– Clearly, the world agrees with my on The Fifth Season‘s awesomeness, as it won the Hugo Award this year! The Fifth Season works for me for three reasons. The characters are complex, the world building is fascinating, and the way the book is structured is fascinating for me as a writer. I have no excuse for having not read the sequel (The Obelisk Gate) yet. Don’t worry, I feel the shame.
9. The House of Hades by Rick Riordan– One of the things I tried to do this year is catch up on Rick Riordan’s Mythology books. And I did great, until The Hammer of Thor was published, and now I’m behind again (d’oh!). My favorite of them all was The House of Hades, which brought our characters into new and interesting directions, my favorite being Percy and Annabeth’s journey through Tartarus, where they must face their slain enemies. Really good stuff.
8. Cinder by Marissa Meyer– I actually read all four books in The Lunar Chronicles this year (plus the spin off novella Fairest. The short story collection, Stars Above, is still in my TBR). I felt like the strongest was the first book Cinder. It’s not that the later books were bad. I just prefer the smaller, more personal focus of the earlier books. Cinder does a fantastic job of retelling the Cinderella story in a sci-fi setting. I’m impressed at how well Meyer took a fairytale lead particularly lacking in agency and crafted a really satisfying protagonist out of her. The romance was also top notch.
7. The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard- The Story of Stuff is a fascinating look into the lifespan of the things we own, from how the raw materials are gathered, up until after it’s been thrown away. Throughout this process, The Story of Stuff takes a close look on its impact on the environment, and the people who live it. The Story of Stuff will dramatically change how you look at the stuff in you life, from the cotton t-shirt on your back, to the cellphone in your pocket, and it manages to deliver an immense amount of information in a way that both informative and highly entertaining. This book should be required reading in high schools.
6. Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold– I read a few of the Vorkosigan books during 2016 but my favorite- by far- was Borders of Infinity. This collection of three very different novellas tells three satisfying Miles Vorkosigan stories, tied together by unrelated framing story. This is a wonderful addition to an already wonderful series. I suspect it will be satisfying to both new and existing fans of the series. I fangirled about this one over at Speculative Chic this fall.
5. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah– I’ve read my fair share of comedic memoirs, but Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime completely changed how I view the genre as a whole. On top of being funny, Born a Crime is also chock full of information about horrors of apartheid and its aftermath. The level of poverty the now cheerful host of The Daily Show experienced in his youth will be unfathomable to the vast majority of the book’s western audience. We talk a lot about checking your privilege nowadays, and that’s so important, especially when it comes to realizing what privilege really means in the context of the wider world. Born a Crime is a book that often left me in tears, which doesn’t happen all that often. I highly recommend reading this, even if you don’t watch The Daily Show.
4. The Supergirls by Mike Madrid- I write a lot about superheroes over at Speculative Chic. In preparation for that, I decided to brush up on my background reading. I started off with The Supergirls, by Mike Madrid, which is all about the history of female characters in comics. I had no idea that on top of being informative, that it would be such a page turner as well. Madrid clearly cares about the women he writes about here, and his enthusiasm comes through on every page. This is 100% recommended to anyone with any kind of interest in the role that female characters have played in comics from the Golden Age to the early 2000s.
3. City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong– I’ve been a big fan of Kelley Armstrong since I first picked up Bitten when I was in college, so the fact that she continues to wow me with great material, ten years later, really says a lot. City of the Lost is a fantastic thriller/murder mystery that takes things the next level thanks to its unique setting (focusing on a small community of people who live off the grid), tough-as-nails lead (have I mentioned recently that I have a weakness for awesome lady cops in my fiction?), and steamy romance (I thought I was going to hate it, but I was so on board by the end). I am chomping at the bit for the second Casey Duncan book A Darkness Absolute, which is supposed to be released this February.
2. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda– A behind the scenes look at Hamilton, this tome-sized book chronicles the evolution of the musical from its initial inception up and through its runaway Broadway success. To fans of Hamilton, I could not recommend this book more. It’s like someone has handed you all of the hidden secrets of the musical. The fact that it contains the entire script (with footnotes from LMM!), and gorgeous photos is a wonderful bonus. If you’re a Hamilton fan and haven’t read Hamilton: The Revolution, do yourself a favor and hit up your local library.
1. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron– And now we get to my favorite book of the year, the newest book in my favorite series, The Heartstrikers. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished continues the story of Julian Heartstriker, the one nice dragon of a clan of greedy dragons, trying to get by in a post apocalyptic world. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished has a distinctly political air, and the fact that I found is so enjoyable during a year when real-life politics thoroughly depressed me, says a lot about the quality of Rachel Aaron’s writing. I know that she’s currently hard at work at the fourth book, and I can’t wait to dig into it.
Honorable Mentions: Imago by Octavia Butler, A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord, Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal, The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
So those were my favorite reads of 2016. I’d love to hear how everyone else’s reading year went.
Next up, comics and graphic novels!