Um, yeah, about that title. I am aware that 2016 has been gone for almost 2 months. (How? When did this happen?) Also, most of these books didn’t come out in 2016 – 2016 is when I read them. Regardless, it’s never too late to recommend a good book.
In keeping with recommendations, I’m mainly telling you why I liked the book – if you want to know about the plot, there are plenty of other places for that. And, bonus, at the end I’m dis-recommending 3 books that were duds for me.
One more thing: the book titles are Amazon affiliate links. While of course I would appreciate you buying through those links, if you can find these books in your local library and/or bookstore, that’s even better.
Imperial Radch Trilogy, Anne Leckie
This was by far my favorite book (ok, 3 books) of the year. By genre I would have to call it a space opera, but don’t let that turn you off. It’s about artificial intelligence and what defines personhood and so much more.
Deathless, Catherynne Valente
A retelling of Russian fairytales about Koschei the Deathless. Weird and morbid – can you even call it a fairytale if it isn’t? Lush, descriptive writing that really immerses you in the fairytale feel.
Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang
You might recognize the titular “Story of Your Life” without knowing it – the movie Arrival was based on it. (And from what I remember, actually followed the book plot fairly closely – high five, movie!) This is the standout story in the book, in my opinion, but the rest are worth reading too.
The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
What I loved most about this book was that it had the feel of magical realism, yet everything in it could happen in an ordinary reality. In keeping with its genre, the plot is bizarre and mysterious, but not so twisted that you close the book wondering what the heck just happened (looking at you, One Hundred Years of Solitude).
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, Bradley Beaulieu
I’m a sucker for fantasy stories with unique settings. That’s why I bought this book, but the story doesn’t disappoint, either.
Ink and Bone, Rachel Caine
The concept for this book is irresistible to a book lover – the library of Alexandria survived, and is now the gatekeeper for all knowledge. There were actually quite a few things I didn’t like about this book – the plot moves a bit too fast, some convenient deus ex machina happens occasionally – but the concept was intriguing enough to keep me interested.
Rising Strong, Brene Brown
Turns out that all the people saying you should read Brene Brown are not wrong. This book also helped crystallize why “everyone is doing the best they can” really bothers me, but that might be a topic for another day.
How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg
Because who doesn’t want to be right all the time? Kidding. This book is actually about how to think about math and statistics – I promise it’s more interesting than it sounds, and you don’t have to actually do any calculating.
But What if We’re Wrong, Chuck Klosterman
I like books about being wrong, apparently. This book asks what if we’re wrong about big, defining concepts – like gravity or democracy. It’s about society-defining paradigm shifts – can we know if they’re going to happen?
Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Anders Ericsson
What makes an expert and how do you get there? It boils down to deliberate practice – key word “deliberate”. This book expounds that concept and explains how you can use it to get better at anything – whether you aspire to be a true expert or not.
Infinite Jest: I am not one of those people who never quits a book, because life is too short to read something you hate. I quit this book. Apart from the meandering, convoluted story – which I expected going into it – I found the main setting (an elite boys’ tennis school) incredibly boring.
The Alchemist: I didn’t quit this one, but only because it was short. And because I kept expecting there to be more to the “moral of the story”. I don’t at all understand why this book is so popular.
The Martian: This was an entertaining read, so not a complete dud. But the writing was meh (<– clearly I’m an erudite book critic), and the main character’s narration grated on me after a few chapters.