You guys 2016 is almost over and I’m proud to say I read more books than I can count this year! Here are some of my favorites that actually came out this year. You should read all of them and then talk to me about how great you think they are. Or fight me if you don’t like them.
The Obelisk Gate
Easily the best thing I read this year. What I love about excellent fantasy is falling into a world that is super different from mine but still makes sense. In this case, N.K. Jemisin has created an earth that is pissed off at humanity and taking out its revenge with gnarly seismic activity; and certain humans have (possibly evolved?) the ability to respond by diverting the shakes and even by using geologic energy as a weapon. I love the powerful and imperfect main character, Essun, and the cool way we’ve gotten to know her (both here and in The Fifth Season, the first in the series). This second in the series shows us more about Nassun, Essun’s daughter, who is young but looks to be just as powerful as her mom. Just like the first one, the story is epic and engrossing and sometimes sad but ultimately super satisfying. I can’t wait for the next installment.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
This one took me a whiiiiiiiile to get into. Time moves super duper fast in the beginning and there is this scene on the Hogwart’s Express that just… why? Anyway, I walked away from the script for MONTHS. But I am truly a die hard fan and anything from the Potterverse deserves at least a couple of chances from me. So.
I’m so glad I came back to it! Harry and his friends are all grown up but still endearing. I would have liked to get to know the next generation better, but since it’s many years crammed into one stage show there’s not enough time. The way this script shows the relationships between kids and their parents was really moving – Basically, even if you saved the magical world from the Dark Lord, at least one of your kids is bound to think you’re annoying. I really hope I get to see it performed somewhere live someday!
The Tower of the Swallow
I’m actually not quite finished with this one but I love it so much. To me this whole series is gold. It reminds me of how great it is when authors play around with some of the beloved “high fantasy” tropes established in classics like The Lord of the Rings. The Witcher for whom this series is named, for example, is like what you would get if Aragorn, instead of being inherently magical (and let’s be real — BORING!), was a regular orphan who became a highly trained badass fighter. And had flings with feminist sorceresses. And was best friends with a lecherous bard…
Anyway, as the series has continued, The Witcher himself has become just one of several important (and awesome) characters, many of them as badass as The Witcher himself and also ladies, which is fun. This book mostly follows Ciri, The Witcher’s now-teenaged apprentice, who also happens to be the heir to a warrior queen and the subject of a mysterious elven prophecy. If the title sounds familiar, the novels were the basis of a popular video game that I will probably never play.
Midnight Taxi Tango
They call this “urban fantasy” which I gather means that magical stuff happens within an otherwise normal, contemporary city. I call it a page-turner starring a half-dead dude named Carlos who works as an agent for the Council of the Dead and Kia, his sassy teen girl sidekick. This book is the second in the Bone Street Rumba series, and I feel like it’s much creepier than the previous one. (Honestly, if you have a roach phobia do not read it.) Usually any type of horror is not for me, but these characters are people I want to spend time with in real life (especially Reza, who reminds me of a favorite auntie). Plus there is this cool mystery thread of who the heck Carlos was in life and why he became a half-dead agent. Anyway all this makes it a really engrossing and delightful read. (Related: so far I have loved everything I’ve been lucky enough to come across by Daniel Jose Older. Shadowshaper is among my favorite books ever.)
The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories
One of the greatest pastimes of my teens and 20s was going to see shows. Birthdays, road trips and visits to friends far away would be planned around seeing my very favorite bands, including NOFX. I loved the energy, the oddly introverted nature of this social activity and of course, the music. Heavily amplified music and huge crowds of people aren’t so much my jam these days, but this book reminded me of that part of my life in a good way. Even though I can still sing the catalog, I was never the type of fan to read all the interviews or keep up with whatever might have been going on with the bands’ lives outside of the music, so I learned a lot about the members that I didn’t know before. I also dug how since they formed the band when they were basically kids, reading it lets you see how the guys grew up. This one was extra special in audio format because most of the chapters are read by the band members, except for the ones that are read by special guests like (swoon) Jello Biafra.
The Japanese Lover
Okay so this one actually came out in 2015, but it was December so I’m counting it. Plus, it’s sooooo good. I love these broad sweeping romantic stories, but I also love the California of this book, the way the characters all have a very specific ethnic identity, and how loving Allende is with all the elderly people we meet in the story. Even though this type of story is definitely my jam and the author has been on my “to read” list for years, this was my first time reading anything by her.
Also, if I have to go to a home when I’m old, I hope it’s just like the one in this book.
So as I review this list I realize that all these are books I listened to and didn’t actually read on the page. I guess I really am an audiobook junkie. The bonus of this is that my walks across town, laundromat time, mundane chores around the house, etc. can be spent on books. The drawback is that sometimes I start listening to a book and I’m so turned off by the reader that I give it up even though I’m interested in the story (Looking at you, Game of Thrones).