HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! We’re kicking off the year by fondly remembering our favorite books published in 2016. Without further ado, here are the Robbins Library librarians’ top picks of 2016!
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (2016) is set in Ireland in the 1800s, where eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell claims not to have eaten for four months. English nurse Lib Wright is brought in to determine whether this is a miracle or a hoax, but soon Lib begins to wonder not how Anna is pulling it off, but why? Emma Donoghue is a master storyteller; if you’re only familiar with Room, give The Wonder a try!
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (2016): Now I finally have something to recommend when people ask for something fun and light! Eligible has its serious moments, but it is mostly delightful: a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Cincinnati. Liz is just as witty, Darcy just as obnoxious. Jane and Bingley wind up on a reality show.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, Jack Tiffany, J.K. Rowling (2016): Rowling built the Harry Potter world so effectively in the seven books that it was perfectly easy to imagine The Cursed Child in great detail even though it was a play, not a novel. Utterly satisfying and magical, it’s the story of the Potter/Weasley, Weasley/Granger, and Malfoy kids at Hogwarts. And there’s time travel.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West (2016): Ferociously funny and highly articulate, Lindy West is the feminist everyone needs to read to become that little bit more aware and more compassionate toward all fellow humans. Especially on airplanes.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett – A sharp take on the impact decisions have on our lives, both the ones we make and the ones others make. There are crystalline sentences that explore grief, longing and all forms of love that left me speechless and shouting YES within moments. Its one of the best kind of books- I am so sad when it’s over because I want to stay in the world with the characters, who are so flawed and real. If you haven’t read this yet, I envy you.
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel is an epistolary sci-fi novel in which a giant hand, made of an unidentifiable metal, is discovered when a young girl falls into a hole in rural South Dakota. Fast forward to her adulthood, and Rose Franklin is a scientific researcher attempting to uncover the mystery behind the metal hand she fell onto all those years ago. The more that she and her team discover about the artifact, the more questions are raised. The format makes the book easy to read and compelling, but that doesn’t mean Neuvel skimps on the science or political intrigue!
Queer: A Graphic History by Meg John Barker (Illus. Julia Scheele) is an accessible & engaging primer on queer theory. Chock-full of pop culture references & possessing a whimsical tone, this graphic novel breaks down some pretty serious critical theory in a way that’s easy to understand without any background. Just don’t go into this expecting your typical graphic novel – the images are there to enhance the text, not to tell a story on their own.
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis is a YA novel that tackles rape culture head on, without being didactic. Alex killed her sister’s murderer & she doesn’t feel bad about it. She tries to make herself invisible at school, but is drawn out of her isolation after some chance encounters blossom into friendships. This book really reminded me of what it was like to be a teen, McGinnis has an authenticity to her characters that I really enjoyed. Not a book for the faint of heart, but a book with a very important message that needs to be heard.
Monstress: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu (Illus. Sana Takeda) is a graphic novel set in a matriarchal alternate version of Asia. This world is ravaged by a war between the Arcanics, a race of magical people that are often part animal, and the Cumea, an order of human sorceresses that enslave and kill Arcanics to harvest their magics. We follow our protagonist Maika Halfwolf, who is half human, half Arcanic, on her grim journey to learn more about her mother’s past, to avenge her death, and to figure out how to contain the primal power that lurks within her. The art is gorgeous and intricate – the book is well worth checking out for the illustrations alone.
The Devourers by Indra Das is a difficult book to describe without giving away too much. Set in India, it is told primarily through our protagonist Alok’s transcription of journals that were given to him by a person claiming to be a werewolf. The story is harsh, brutal, and forces the reader to confront what it means to be monstrous. Though the novel deals with a lot of topics that may be uncomfortable for some readers, including rape, it shows a level of nuance and sensitivity to these difficult topics that I don’t often see.
My absolute favorite book this year was A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It begins in 1922 when Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to a lifetime of house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow for being an unrepentant aristocrat, and follows his life for several decades. Despite being confined to the inside of one building, his life -and the story- is filled with vibrant characters and a rich, deep inner life. Every sentence felt exquisitely crafted and although it wasn’t a quick read, it was delicious, and I savored every word of this perfect marriage of story and language.
My second favorite book was My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier, which is about a teenage boy named Che whose ten-year-old sister is a psychopath. He has spent his whole life keeping Rosa in check because nobody else will believe that she is dangerous, and he feels a huge amount of responsibility and stress in trying to prevent her from hurting anyone. She is manipulative and creepy and she is totally open with her brother about her peculiarities, which only makes the story more chilling. There’s lots more going on in Che’s life and in their family to complicate matters, and I found it all incredibly riveting. It’s a teen novel that reads more like adult psychological fiction, and it is brilliant.
- Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
- The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
- The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz
- Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens
Let us know your favorites in the comments below! Or let us know what you’re looking forward to reading in 2017!