Julie’s 2016 Best of Books

Book lists are the best. I can spend hours going through them. It’s like shopping, but without the crowds or the debt!

I read 151 books this year. You can see more of my reviews on my Goodreads page. If you aren’t friends with me on there yet…why not? My longest read was Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, the shortest was The Heart of Haiku by Hirschfield (and I went on to read the whole book of which that was a stand alone on the Kindle).

Okay, no particular order and different genres mixed together, but here are the 5 stars –

    • The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe
      I liked this one so much I did a whole post on it. A collection of sharp and bold fairy tale retellings and adaptations topped off with delicate dropcap art . I found a new author I love, and was reunited with many of my old favorites.
    • Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
      This graphic novel series masters characterization economy. It’s also bold. Lying Cat is the best. This writer is on this list twice.
    • Turkey from the Air by Yann Arthrus-Bertrand
      This is an odd choice for the list, I know. It’s probably not a book to buy, but one that you could get from a library to enjoy. I have a soft spot for Turkey because of the historical fiction I started. I mean, I finished it, but it’s awful, so I don’t count it. Anyway…this book is full of gorgeous pictures of super cool spots in Turkey…you guessed it, from the air.
    • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
      Yep, it is that good. I know you’ve seen this book on other lists because it won the Pulitzer. The unique perspective of the blind protagonist would be enough, but the slow build and careful emotions make it excellent.
    • Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney
      Lyrical and a writing voice to die for, C.S.E. Cooney is a master. How she isn’t making millions is beyond me. The Pied Piper retelling felt deep enough to be a book on its own, and left me a little short of breath.
    • Lexicon by Max Barry
      A ride. It also made me think about how we handle data, or should I say, how we are handled by our data? I want this book to be a movie. This author is on the list twice, too.
    • The Private Eye #1 by Brian K. Vaughan
      This book is an odd shape, but otherwise awesome. The art is crisp and rich. The story is unique and at times, hilarious. I loved the future envisioned here. Subversive and sly.
    • Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
      You do not have to have read Crow by Ted Hughes to love this reality-bending story of how a family deals with the death of their wife and mother. It’s a powerful scrap of torn poetry camouflaged as prose.
    • Machine Man by Max Barry
      I know this book is not for everyone. It’s weird. It’s hyperbole. But…it’s also seriously funny and quirky and I loved it. There aren’t many books that make me chuckle the whole way through, but this one did.
    • The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
      I discovered Hardinge’s work last year, and this continues that brilliance. The very idea at the core of the book leaves me astonished every time I think of it. The Poisonwood Bible meets Fingersmith meets The Monkeypaw.
    • Wandering by Herman Hesse
      A beautiful glance into how someone with depression goes on even when it is at its worst.
    • Selected Poems:Pablo Neruda translated by Ben Belitt
      Here is where I met Mr. Neruda and his silver tongue. Just thinking about it makes me want to go read it again.
    • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
      Probably one of my favorite books I’ve read in my adult life. When I was a nursing student, I observed a surgery. It was a radical laryngectomy, and this book was the same. It was a flaying of the earth to expose the raw and gorgeous inner workings and pulsing lifeblood. Seeing the viscera and blood and shine of it all, I said, “It’s beautiful,” and the surgeon gave me a look of pure understanding and communion.
    • The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth
      Unreliable narrator in a language which wormed its way into my brain for a win. I still occasionally catch myself speaking this shadow-language. It requires some patience at the beginning, but it reads like swimming in wild water. There is a pull and glide with effort rewarded in muscles stretched and smoothed. There is a brief appendix for those words that don’t untangle easily, but it was rarely needed.
    • Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
      I didn’t understand most of it, but the depth and beauty glimpsed expanded my little soul. I will be re-reading this work over and over in the years to come.
    • Narrative of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
      I wish I’d read this book sooner. It truly speaks to the courage of people who overcame (and are still overcoming) a horror white America will never know. Powerful and eloquent.
    • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
      This book broke my heart. Seriously. It shattered me.
    • Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente
      Because you can’t have a Best Of list by me without her name on there! You can’t.
      I love her writing. I love the nuances and layers. I love the grooves of tattoos, animal-humans, queens and mothers, lovers, and of course books, that she wears into her stories. I love her attention to detail that never becomes dull or extraneous. I realized while reading this one that she is careful to include small, but saturated, points of interest that bring her scenes to life. Her characters are real in their strangeness; it is a paradox in her writing that I have yet to solve.
      Her writing is a painting that takes the perfection of Monet’s water lilies, the sparse brush masterfully placed, and marries them to the transcendent thick textures of Van Gogh to create a lyrical and lush storytelling.
    • It Blows You Hollow by Diane Seuss-Brakeman
      Poetry is hard to recommend to people. It’s a lot like music, I guess. The best poetry connects with everyone on some level. I feel like her work does that. It’s not fancy or soft, but real.
    • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
      Winner of the National Book Award. My God. This book. It’s masterful in the portrayal of what slavery has done. It doesn’t tell you, it shows you with heart and despair. This could be interpreted as a series of dream sequences, a horror of Alice’s Adventures, where each new freedom slowly reveals its poison and its illusion. It wasn’t easy to read because of the brutality and cruelty, but necessary. It felt alive, and continues to shift and morph as I think on it more.

That’s it. Out of 151! I think I’m getting pickier, although my average rating was 3.4 stars. I won’t be making a numbers goal for 2017. I have too many things to write, and I want to focus more on reading longer works intermingled with short stories from awesome online magazines like Uncanny, Shimmer, and Apex.

My only reading requirements for 2017 are:
1. The Landmark Herotodus
2. Ovid’s Metamorphoses (I’ve been trying to finish it for two years.)
3. Reread Crime and Punishment, Six of Crows, and Deathless.
4. Try to get through the entire Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

I’m considering doing a weekly post about my reading. Still thinking how I’ll fit that in. I love a new year. It’s like a sheet of blank paper. So much potential!

What are your 2017 goals?(a friendly reminder about my Patreon page. An original poem on a postcard!)

One thought on “Julie’s 2016 Best of Books

  1. 151 is quite an impressive number of books read in one year. I recently read a post of a young writer who said that she read 7 books in 2016. I pity her. I didn’t count my books but I think if I did I would have a number around 100, maybe a bit higher. I can’t imagine going weeks without a book.
    Happy New Year, Julie!

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