Now for something a little more positive!
I tend not to read a lot of new books because I am, if nothing else, happily behind the times, so this will be a list of my favorite books read in 2016, regardless of year published.
In roughly chronological order, my ten* best 2016 reads are:
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. The Iliad as told by Patroclus, Achilles’ best friend, and, in this version of the story, great love. My first book of the year was beautiful and heartbreaking. You can read my review here.
The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan. This is the year Courtney Milan became my new go-to historical romance author. Number three in the Brother Sinister series, this book was by far my favorite. It’s got it all, from a lady scientist to, as I wrote in my review, “safe sex! having children does not define your worth! consent is important! chromosomes! maybe not everyone has to get married! hiding journal articles in a fashion magazine!”
Sex Criminals, Volumes One and Two by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky. Time stopping orgasms, bank robery, and a surprisingly sweet love story. Add in some spectacularly bad sex advice (“LADIES! Looking to blow his mind in bed? Invent a time machine in bed) and useful information about birth control, and you can count me in. Also, I had no idea I was so into birth control in books. Huh. Reviews here and here.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. Science and magic collide in a near-future San Francisco. Plus a really, really great twist on artificial intelligence. I loved this book. I wrote a review here.
The Neapolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante. The story of a friendship between two fiercely intelligent girls in mid-century Naples. Doesn’t sound particularly compelling, does it? But these books are so damn good. I’m incapable of writing intelligently about them, so I only managed a single review.
One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. By reading this book, I found out that Calvin Coolidge had a pet raccoon named Rebecca. That was enough for me. But other people might appreciate Bryson’s humor or the deft way he weaves together disparate threads in American culture into a vivid portrait of a very bizarre time in America/s history. My review is here.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. My first Octavia Butler book (I know, I know, I’m ashamed)! A terrifyingly plausible version of the apocalypse (even before the election of he-who-shall-not-be-named) in which we follow a hyperempath (she literally feels the pain of those around her) as she founds a religion based on the premise “God is Change.” Bonus points for being a California book.
Shrill by Lindy West. This was the year of the feminist memoir for me, and Lindy West’s was my favorite. It was righteous and raw and angry while also being hilarious and highly entertaining. I recommend listening to the audiobook read by the author.
Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger. I was in a bit of a reading rut when I picked up this stand-alone romance novella set in the same steampunk, supernatural world as Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate, Finishing School, and Prudence books. There’s a lady assassin, a hero whose primary sexual interest is pleasing women, and an appearance from my favorite dandy vampire. It’s a slight book, but it was a goddamned delight.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. A mysterious wilderness cut off from the rest of the contingent. A shady government organizations sending in expeditions whose members either come back changed or not at all. Evocative, atmospheric writing that is both nightmarish and utterly compelling. The first in VanderMeer’s Area X series was creepy af and so so good. Here’s a review.
*Yes, there are actually fourteen books on this list, but let’s not quibble over details.