I just finished sending out my Christmas cards, and I feel the need to do some 2016 recap posts. I haven’t done those in a while…
As of last count, per Goodreads, I have read 62 books this year, and I can probably knock a few more out before December 31. Here are my favorites for the year.
#1 – The Expanse
My absolute favorite for the year is The Expanse series by James SA Corey (who is actually two people, neither named James. The more you know…) The first book is Leviathan Wakes.
If I’ve talked to you about books this year, I have gushed about The Expanse. At last count, there are 6 novels and something like 3 novellas. (The novellas aren’t particularly worth it, in my opinion, but do add something to the background of the series.) There is a fantastic show on SyFy adapted from the novels, season 2 starts in February.
The Expanse is a fantastic addition to the Space Opera subgenre. The characters are real and believable, and the series delves deep into the moral quandaries of otherness and belonging, of created families, of the consequences (often unintentional) of telling what one believes to be the truth.
It has been a long while since I have found a series where I have to pick up the next book as soon as I am finished with the last. After I finish Babylon’s Ashes, I am going to be in a sad place while I wait for the next book.
#2 – Locke and Key
From this point on, I’m not ranking the books, because there is foolishness in that, but these are my favorites.
Locke and Key by Joe Hill is actually a series of graphic novels, but I listened to the Audible adaptation, and ZOMG was it amazing. Not only was it a full cast reading, the sound effects and music were amazing too. I ended up checking out some of the books from the library to just look at the art and see how it was translated to audio.
Locke and Key tells a spooky coming of age story of a family that moves into a family mansion filled with keys that don’t just unlock doors. An evil spirit wants to be released and will do anything to manipulate the kids in the family to discover the keys that will enable it to escape the underworld.
Both the graphic novels and the Audible adaptation are top notch. You will not be disappointed.
#3 – Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy (The Imperial Radch series)
The Imperial Radch series by Ann Leckie was another favorite this year. I ended up re-reading Ancillary Justice with my SpecFic bookclub because I enjoyed it so much, and I purchased both hard copies and Audible versions.
Ancillary Justice and its sequels could almost be classified as Space Opera, but they are far more human than just space battles and such (and when you read the books you’ll understand the irony of that statement). In fact, they have elements of first contact, classism, and a strong undercurrent of what it means to be human. Also, lots and lots of discussions about tea.
Lest you think I only enjoyed SciFi, and dark fantasy this year, I also really enjoyed David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers. I thought I knew something about the story of the first flights, but I realized my (admittedly basic) understanding more or less ended at Kitty Hawk in 1903.
There is a whole lot more to it than that, as it turns out. From the absolutely critical involvement of their sister, to the time spent trying to convince governments at home and abroad that their flying machine was not some crackpot inventor’s fever dream, there was a lot of the story I was missing. And McCullough masterfully pulls it together, as he always does.
I was doubly lucky that The Henry Ford museum has two replicas of the Wright Flyer and I was able to stop by after work one day while I was listening to the book to more closely examine the genius work of those two bicycle builders from Ohio.
#5 – The Boys in the Boat
I didn’t know going into the year that I needed to read the story of a crew team from Washington working towards a gold medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. And yet somehow I did need exactly that. In The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown tells a fascinating story of everything that came together to bring home the gold medals, from a very talented boat builder, the dedication of both the crew and its coaches, to its rivals, to the production of the Berlin Olympics themselves.
I think there is no more quintessentially American story than this one.
Bonus!: All the Birds in the Sky
Because my top 5 list already has 12 books in it, why don’t I just throw in a 13th for good measure (Although technically, Locke and Key is collected in 5 or 6 volumes, so, you know, I’m really bad at top 5 lists.)
I just finished All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, and if it isn’t in all of the year end round ups of best SciFi and Fantasy novels of 2016, someone is doing it wrong. Simply put, this book should win all of the awards next year. It tells the story of two people whose lives keep intersecting at critical and sometimes awkward points. One is a modern witch, the other a techno wunderkind. They are best friends, enemies, lovers, and more, but more than anything they are, they are there for each other when no one else is. Also, their middle school guidance councilor is a trained assassin. So there’s that.
These were some of my favorites this year. What did you read this year that you loved? Couldn’t put down? Kept you thinking?