Best Books of 2016 Compilation

Maybe 2016 was an all-out Dumpster Fire for you. Maybe it wasn’t. Either way, you probably missed some great books as the months sped by. I have compiled a resource list to help you choose your next book (a best book) before 2017 takes over and you have to keep up with those.

I have broken them into some categories to make it easier to peruse. Perhaps you like Award winners. Committees form, discuss, celebrate a winner. Man Booker Award winners are usually great books for me because they are often quirky. However, they do not allow Americans to enter, so if you want an American experience, go instead with the PEN or the National Book Award winners. Of course, if you want to give someone new a chance, the Hemingway award is only for debut novelists.

But maybe prizes are meaningless. There are deadlines and politics involved. No problem! I have also compiled a list of “Best of…” from a number of different resources. The typical news outlets that have book reviews like the New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, but also a little less literary, like Harper’s Bazaar. But, if you want to get insider knowledge, there is also Publisher’s Weekly.

imgresOf course, there are a few books that are on every list or almost every list. One is Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad. If you haven’t read it,  put it on the list. In non-fiction, Evicted by Matthew Desmond. imgres-1

But read on, friends. It is the best way to understand the miles of someone else’s shoes.

Award winners:

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Not into the whole content thing?

*Best Book Covers of 2016 according to Paste Magazine

Best of 2016 lists:

 

Best of luck with your To-Read-Next Pile.

 

 

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

 

Mrs. Poe[amazon template=add to cart&asin=B00ADS36DM]Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

I found this book at a used bookstore (one of my favorites, maybe because I used to work there, and my dog got to work there, too), Eagle Eye Books in Decatur, GA.  Doug Robinson (bookstore owner, heavy reader, and all-around nice person) recommended it, so I took a look at that and a few others before I settled on Mrs. Poe.  I also happened to stumble into a group of friends wanting to start a book club, so this is our first selection.  Not only has it gotten excellent reader reviews on Amazon and GoodReads, it is seasonally appropriate with the upcoming Halloween holiday.

My Reading kit: Page Points from Levengers so that I won't damage the pages, two different color post-its, and the best "disposable" ink pen.
My Reading kit: Page Points from Levengers so that I won’t damage the pages, two different color post-its, and the best “disposable” ink pen

Honestly, however, I bought this book in paperback because I wanted to learn from it.  It fits the same historical fiction genre as my novel, The Square Grand, it has a female protagonist, and is set close to the same time period.  The setting is in a different part of the United States than my novel, but given that New York is always ahead of its time, and my setting is slightly forward in time and rural, I figured I could pick up something that might help me out.  Plus I love reading historical fiction.

I am still in the first 100 pages, but I am definitely enjoying myself.  She has used excellent sensory descriptions, most notably the sense of smell to ground our location.  The best example I have read so far is early on.  On page seven she writes,

“The wet had brought out the smell of the smoke rising from the forest of rooftop chimneys as well as the stink of horse manure, rotting garbage, and urine.  It is said that sailors can smell New York City six miles out at sea.”

Now that is a smell–and it also grounds the reader in a time when New York City wasn’t just pavement and taxi cabs.  The next paragraph she uses an impressive extended metaphor that was also very effective:

“Vehicles poured down the thoroughfare before me as if a vein in the city had been opened and it was bleeding conveyances down the bumpy cobblestones.”

The reason why this metaphor is so effective is that it alludes to a common metaphor for large cities like New York: that the city has a “beating heart.”  But Cullen manages to use that metaphor obliquely by referencing a vein.  Also, she used that anatomical structure correctly.  Veins bleed, arteries spurt.  I dislike writing where veins “spurt.”  Veins lack pressure, and therefore, there is no zombie-movie spatter to use as the metaphor for love, or bugs, or whatever.

I am about to go sit on the porch and read some more.