2016 is well-acknowledged to have been a pretty terrible year. You know why. On the plus side, 2016 has been a very very good year for books. Here are my ten favourites:
Best Horror – The Hatching
I cannot imagine anything more terrifying than alien spiders that do what the spiders in this novel can do (and I’ve had six month’s worth of delicious fun trying.) Let me say it again: alien spiders. (Also, they chew.) I pride myself on liking epically violent horror and yet could only read this book — the first in a series — with the lights on in the daytime when other people were around. Warning: You will want to read the sequel immediately after finishing this book. Also: alien spiders.
Best Fiction for Art Lovers – The Weeping Woman
I feel deeply in love with this novel about a Cuban woman living in Paris and writing a biography of Picasso’s one-time lover Dora Maar, and have been mulling it over in my mind for the better part of this year. Its release was timed near perfectly with the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibition Picasso: The Artist and his Muses. I’m very much looking forward to a re-read in 2017.
Best Teen Read – Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Hermione Winters is a high school head cheerleader who gets raped at cheerleading camp. The way that she copes and heals in the aftermath makes for compelling reading. Hermione’s powerful relationship with her best friend Polly and the strength she draws from her make this book my favourite YA read of the year.
Best Post-Apocalyptic Red – The Blizzard
In nineteenth-century Russia. Garin, a district doctor, is desperately trying to reach the village of Dolgoye, where a mysterious epidemic is turning people into zombies. He carries with him a vaccine that will prevent the spread of this terrible disease but is stymied in his travels by an all-consuming snowstorm.*
Best Quick Read – Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies (And Why We Don’t Learn Them From Movies Anymore)
It’s okay to be authentically awkward in 80s films, and to dress badly, and to grapple with difficult problems. Hadley Freeman celebrates many of our favourite 1980s films while examining them with a critical (often feminist) eye. This book would make a perfect Christmas present for anyone nostalgic for the 1980s, or for those interested in feminist takes on pop culture. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.
Best Book to Share with the Family – Pax
Pax is the story of a boy and his pet fox, Pax. Peter’s father forces him to abandon his beloved companion in the woods. Unable to be apart Pax and Peter each go on journeys to get back to one another. The story is told alternates between Pax and Peter’s perceptions. Pennypacker does a marvellous job of writing a page-turning adventure that still leaves room for quiet beautiful moments. (And Jon Klassen should illustrate everything.)
Best Memoir – Precious Cargo: My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077
Craig Davidson is now a well-known writer of Canadian literary fiction. He’s also a successful writer of horror under the pseudonym Nick Cutter. And he used to be a bus driver. “For readers of Kristine Barnett’s The Spark , Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree and Ian Brown’s The Boy in the Moon, here is a heartfelt, funny and surprising memoir about one year spent driving a bus full of children with special needs.”*
Confession: Even the title makes me teary. I cried so much reading this book that my eyes hurt for a whole day. After nearly a decade of training to be a neurosurgeon, 36-year old Paul is on the cusp of the career of his dreams when he learns that he has an aggressive form of cancer. I cannot highly recommend this memoir enough: it’s questioning, moving, and wise. Nor can I warn you enough against reading it in public. It should come with a warning: for home use only.
Best Fantasy – Every Heart a Doorway
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been one of those people who still half believes in magical lands like Narnia or Fillory. I can clearly imagine how privileged I would feel to belong in a place so precious that few people know it’s really real. I can imagine how desperate I would be to get back ‘home’ to such a place if I left. This book tells of children who have found their ‘home’ in magical places and are desperate to get back there. It feels raw and true and beautiful.
The concept of Homegoing is simple and rich: it traces the lives of the descendants of two half-sisters born in 18th century Ghana. One sister marries an Englishman an lives in a castle; the other is captured into slavery. Each chapter jumps forward one generation. There is longlasting evidence of the damage done by colonization and slavery in these very personal feeling stories. Best of all, the ending is note perfect.
I’m super keen to know what other people’s favourite reads of 2016 are — Please share in the comments!
*Description from Bibliocommons