Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we all talk about a bookish topic and have fun making lists. It’s a few days until I close the book on 2016, but we’re close enough that I’m happy to call my reads of the year…
I was generous with my 5 star awards this year (in part because I was refusing to dish out half stars), with 6 books achieving top marks in 2016. However, 2 of these were re-reads (The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Fellowship of the Ring), so they won’t get a spot on the Top Ten. I’m choosing to play fast and loose – my blog, my total lack of rules – so the remaining 4 will only consume 3 spots. Bear with me, it makes sense. Promise.
That said, there have also been more abandons this year (4 after significant effort), especially in the second half of the year. Plus there were 5 reads that I completed grudgingly, along with 2 further reads that only achieved 3 stars because there were no half stars on offer (but downgrading to 2 stars would have been unfair).
So I guess it’s fair to say that 2016 has had its highs and lows, but with 47 (as of Dec 11) reads scoring 4 stars or more, I can’t call it a disappointment.
Enough procrastination – on to the Top Ten! In no particular order:
The Fox’s Tower & Other Tales – Yoon Ha Lee
Yoon Ha Lee rocketed to the top of my Authors To Keep An Eye On with his gorgeous collection of flash fiction, which comfortably embraces the literary and the mythological in bite-size nuggets. I compared it to a box of truffles: wonderful while it lasted. The foxes may have started as a joke, but they stole my heart (but then, that’s what fox spirits do).
Temeraire – Naomi Novik
Earning several 5 star ratings, these tales of the Napoleonic Wars with dragons delighted me for their focus on friendship, loyalty and arguing with authority. I may have zoned out for the military bits, but I adore the epic bromance, feisty sass and character development. Yes I consider Will’s wardrobe character development. It’s important, dammit.
The Riverside books – Ellen Kushner (& Delia Sherman)
This was the year I read passionate stories of unwise choices and vicious social politics, with chocolate. The flamboyantly bisexual answer to Dangerous Liaisons – with 100% more fencing – was a sure-fire hit, as was a sequel that gave me a young lady pushed into defying conventions. With magic and academics rounding out the trilogy, consider me a fangirl for life (and now there’s Tremontaine, so I’m set).
False Hearts – Laura Lam
I heard Laura Lam read from a gripping, unpleasant scene halfway through and had to know more (yes folks, that’s how you reel me in). She melted my heart on the first page and kept me up far too late with the twisty plot and intricate world-building.
Ninefox Gambit – Yoon Ha Lee
My most-recommended book of the year was a shoe-in for this list and makes Yoon Ha Lee my Author of the Year. Ninefox Gambit is notable for how much Lee implies rather tells: world-shattering tech is suggested with a few well-chosen words, and the dystopian galaxy is breathed into life through asides. I called it a natural heir to the Culture. I stand by that.
Certain Dark Things – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Just when I thought paranormal romance had killed the vampire novel, Silvia Moreno-Garcia proves the genre still has teeth. Expect cleverly-applied vampire mythos in a vicious story of feuding clans as the feathered daughter of an Aztec family takes the fight to a sulky, overprivileged scion of a European line. Don’t trip over the subtext, just enjoy the evocative prose.
Like A Boss – Adam Rakunas
I think this is one of those rarities – a sequel I like even better than the original. Padma’s victory comes with strings attached as Adam Rakunas explores the dark side of Union politics. More screwball noir, but I was genuinely surprised and touched by how the story developed.
The Best of Apex Magazine (Vol 1) – Lesley Conner & Jason Sizemore (eds.)
As a slush reader for the magazine I may be biased, but I loved this collection that showcased the heights Apex achieves. Sure, I didn’t love every story, but those I did absolutely destroyed me with their inventiveness and dark magic. The second half of the collection in particular was devastatingly good. Ursula Vernon, Liz Argall, Amal El-Mohtar, Ian Tregillis – I’m looking at you.
Fractured Europe – Dave Hutchinson
In a Europe shattered into micro-states, the greatest threat may come from beyond the known borders. An irresistible mix of spy thriller, speculative fiction and sly commentary, with a twisty narrative to keep you guessing. I fell in love with Dave Hutchinson’s dogged chef protagonist Rudi, and will happily stick along for the ride.
And my read of the year:
A Closed and Common Orbit – Becky Chambers
While it may not be the book I’ve recommended the most, this heart-warming sequel is my Book of the Year. It is a quieter, more introspective read than The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, with more nuanced world-building and big, meaty themes that were handled with Chambers’s typical respect. All the feels, people. All the feels.
What were your favourite reads this past year?