The Best Books of 2016

The Best Books of 2016

In 2016, we stocked our bookshelves with incredible new titles. As the year draws to a close, we’re looking back on the great reads that we picked up during the last 12 months. Here are 10 of our favorite books that were published in 2016.

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

My book of the year is Helen Oyeyemi‘s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours. These wildly, oddly, darkly brilliant stories are not quite like anything you’ve read before. Mixing fairy tales and creation myths, science fiction and romance, psychological depth and swooningly brilliant sentences, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is extraordinarily alive. —Stuart

The Winner’s Kiss

Marie Rutkoski blew me away with The Winner’s Trilogy. Her writing is enchanting and I fell completely under her spell. She’s put her two protagonists through the wringer and helped them grow and evolve as the world continued to conspire against them. Many romances rely on miscommunications to heighten the tension, but Rutkoski never does that. Arin and Kestrel are faced with impossible choices and, when they do finally choose, they are always forced to deal with the consequences. Nothing is ever easily won, and as a result the character growth is well earned. Not only were Arin and Kestrel so vivid that they felt real, Rutkoski never skimps on her side characters, and the relationships between the main characters and supporting cast are fleshed out and detailed. She’s a writer who makes familiar tropes feel brand new. It has been a long time since I ended a series feeling so utterly and completely satisfied. I have nothing but high praise for this series and this finale. It was all that I wanted and more. —Kelly

Loner

I was unnerved by this book, and that’s not a feeling that fiction often gives me. What troubled and fascinated me was how author Teddy Wayne initially made Loner’s narrator sympathetic, so that when things began to spin out of control, I felt weirdly implicated. This book’s brilliance, I thought, came from its ability to make the reader simultaneously feel real discomfort and a reluctance to put it down. I have a soft spot for campus novels, and will shelve this right next to my copy of I am Charlotte Simmons. —Elizabeth

Shrill

I have been following, reading, and loving Lindy West for a while now. I always appreciate what she has to say, and in this book of essays she says a lot. This collection is filled with honesty and pain, anger and tears, and, most of all, a great deal of hope. Shrill proves beyond a doubt that West is truly one of the most important voices for a generation women—those of us who live our lives out loud and who will never, ever give up on believing that all people are created equal. —Myf

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Not only does this YA novel have one of my favorite covers of the year, it is one of my favorite books of the year. I don’t read a lot of contemporary young adult books, but when I do, this is exactly what I’m looking for. Inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, this book tells the story of a girl named Hermione who is drugged and raped at cheer camp. In the aftermath, she’s forced to endure ignorant comments and slut-shaming, but she never bears the weight alone. Her family and friends support her in every possible way. Female friendship, in particular, plays a large role in the story. This is a vital book about the importance of creating a strong system of support for victims of assault. —Kelly

The Lonely City

It appears I’m a fan of Olivia Laing. The Trip to Echo Spring was the best non-new book I read in 2016, and her latest, The Lonely City, was the best thing I read that came out this year. She is stunning at the level of the sentence, scarily smart, adept at both navigating theoretical nuance and telling stories, erudite, humane, radical. More than any writer I know, her work incarnates a vision captured by the Roman playwright Terence: “I am human: Nothing human is alien to me.” (Leslie Jamison fans: This epigram is tattooed on her arm, in the original Latin.) Spurred by a deepening interest in visual art and a move to New York City that sent her into an experience of loneliness, Laing meditates on being alone, creating art, the private and public self, sexual desire, the need to communicate, social media, and much else. The book soars simply as a portrait of New York City, but ranges far and wide, and gets its spine from a brilliant engagement with four artists who understood aloneness: Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Henry Darger, and David Wojnarowicz. This book is also fearless, with Laing looking squarely at aloneness in her own life, addressing a subject not easy to address. —Phil

The Raven King

I picked up The Raven Boys, the first book in the Raven Cycle series, this summer. I committed to read more sci-fi this year. This series was mentioned more than once when I asked friends for recommendations. It’s YA, which I’m not always a fan of, so I was hesitant. But wow! I read through the first three books in a matter of three weeks on my Kindle, and was so excited to get my hands on book four, The Raven King, which was published this spring. I opted for the hardcover, and I couldn’t believe how beautiful the cover art was. All the covers in this series are gorgeous.

The characters are so unique and relatable; I felt like I was in high school alongside them. There are plenty of creepy twists and turns—as you would expect in a book about the daughter of a psychic and a quest to find an undead king—but The Raven King wrapped everything up very nicely. I was sad I read through the series so quickly. I didn’t want to let the characters go! Clearly, I can talk about these books forever. I’m excited to start Maggie Stiefvater’s other series, The Wolves of Mercy Falls, in 2017! —Amanda

Cometh the Hour

The release of Cometh the Hour inspired me to read all books in Jeffrey Archer‘s Clifton Chronicles. Over the course of two weeks, I finished all six. After reading several nonfiction books, and perhaps a more dense fiction book or two, the Clifton Chronicles were a perfect way to sprint through some great storytelling. It was particularly fulfilling to finish one book on a perfect cliffhanger and download the next in the series to keep the story moving, all while sitting on a beach. Jeffrey Archer’s book Kane and Abel is one of my all-time favorite fiction titles and the Clifton Chronicles closely follows, especially book six, Cometh the Hour. That said, I didn’t enjoy the seventh and final installment in the series. Still, it didn’t diminish the quality of the storytelling in the first six. My recommendation is to read the first six and then the prologue and last few chapters of book seven to tie up the loose ends and close out the story.  I’ve read many books this year, but the Clifton Chronicles are the ones I will remember, simply for the joy of reading a great story. —Doug

Kings Rising

When three of your favorite authors recommend a series, you listen up. C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy kicks off when the heir to the Akielos throne, Damen, is betrayed by his brother and shipped off to serve a rival prince, Laurent. Damen must keep his identity hidden if he wants to stay alive, meaning Laurent doesn’t realize he’s falling for Akielos’ believed-to-be-dead prince. I’d never read a slow-burning romance like this one. Seriously, Laurent and Damen didn’t even kiss in the first book because they hate the sight of each other. In this world of political intrigue and betrayal, they struggle to trust each other—keeping tensions high throughout the entire series. If you’re looking for a quickie, find it elsewhere. If you want to be sucked into well-written, character-driven romance between two heroes who should not fall in love but do anyway, this is for you. —Kelly

Before the Fall

I had to pick up Before the Fall when I saw the author, Noah Hawley, is also the executive producer, writer, and showrunner for Fargo—a show my husband and I can’t get enough of. Before the Fall is similar to Fargo, in a dark and odd sort of way. It’s clear Hawley is a very talented writer. I was hooked from the first chapter, which details a deadly plane crash that leaves the main character, Scott, stranded in the freezing Atlantic ocean with a little boy who does not belong to him. Scott isn’t exactly a likable character, but by the end of the story you’re rooting for him. I highly recommend anyone looking for a really intense and fantastically written thriller. —Amanda

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