It may seem like cheating, calling the collected poems of Adrienne Rich--who passed away in 2012--the best book of 2016. But I would argue that you would be cheating yourself to overlook it, that in fact we need Adrienne Rich more urgently now than ever. One of the first poets to truly embody the concept that the personal is political, Rich's poetry--and essays--have always been a solace and a guidepost to me ever since I first began to develop a political consciousness. Since the election, I have found myself to be ravenous for her work like never before. Her words will console you, they will rally you, they will feed you, and they will haunt you.
I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled, this isn't a Russian poem,
this is not somewhere else but here, our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.
-from "What Kind of Times Are These" (p.755)
I didn't realize how tired and old-fashioned the drug novel genre was until I encountered the first real 21st version of it. Sharma's voice is original and uncompromising as she infuses her humor into this painful story of addiction.
When attempting to handsell this book I get so into it that I can't help but vomit words that make no cohesive sense, so rather than make a wordy mess all over the floor, I'm going to ask that you trust me as a bookseller and follow at least two out of three steps below:
1. Read the short two page prologue. It'll make you cry.
2. Turn to page 31 and read to page 40, at the very least (you may feel the urge to finish the chapter, which is natural). It'll make you cry. From laughing so damn hard.
3. To reiterate, trust me. I am a professional. I will probably read 20 more new titles in 2016. I can confidently say that The Nix is my favorite this year.
This dazzling debut novel is about Chicago, political upheaval, Norwegian mythology, online gaming and family. But at its core it's about a mother and son, and how we hurt the things we love most.
Above all that, this book is pretty frickin' funny. Nathan Hill, as talented a writer as he is, barely flexes his formidable literary muscles here. Like a 70's era Muhammad Ali, Hill is rope-a-doping readers, promising a knockout of a writing career to come.
What's a poor little fish to do in the big bad ocean? Crack this one open and find out! If a kiddo in your life is the shortest kid around like I was, you won't want to miss this one. This is a seriously cool, beautifully illustrated picture book that really makes its point.
Stories that feature cats always catch my eye, but this one is special. With dreamy illustrations, Kang tells the story of Papillion, a cat that is so fluffy (not fat) that he floats about like a feather. This becomes problematic when he finds himself outside with nothing to keep him from floating high above the treetops. His journey is a delight to be enjoyed by everyone - children and adults alike.
Kathleen Collins was a civil rights activist and pioneering filmmaker who apparently also had the time and talent (during her brief 46 years) to write the never before published short stories collected here. Striking and contemporary feeling, she writes about political activism and love, but also about the personal and underlying emotions, desires, and moral decisions that lead to both. Her writing is beautiful and serious, but also beaming with light. Sometimes experimental, definitely playful, simply lovely.
What do you know about parallel universes? Quantum Superposition? Are you interested in these things? Because if you are (or even if you're not) then Dark Matter is the book for you! This book is smart, high concept science fiction wrapped in a fun and easily digestible adventure novel. Buried in all that adventure and sci-fi are questions about the relationships between choice and identity, happiness and accomplishment, and the possibilities of every potential decision one can make. Oh, and did I mention that this book is set in Chicago? Staff members here have questioned whether or not it is in the Chicago of this universe or another one. Give it a read and weigh in with your thoughts on the matter!
*Disclaimer: Dark Matter never mentions The Berenstein Bears. Wait. Did I talk about that in this universe, or another one? Either way, this is a great book.
This is an exceptionally imaginative mystery that manages to epitomize so many things, making it impossible to focus praise on just one of its triumphs. At face value, it is a high concept thriller, of which there are enough narrative coils to keep you engaged throughout. It is just as well an enthralling work of sci-fi, revealing an alternative history wherein technology's symbiotic relationship to society has advanced human innovation in a disturbing direction. Even deeper lies a glimmer of some kind of horror story - one whose exploratory depiction of human suffering draws unnerving parallels from the reality that lies beyond its pages. At its most ambitious, what Winters has bestowed upon us is an incredibly reflective and edgy speculative tale about the obscurity of managing the idea of identity in a society which hardly has a grip on its own.