What a rough year 2016 was—the countless deaths of our favorite authors, actors, and musicians; wars at home and abroad; Brexit; not to mention our own mind-boggling political election. We still have books, though, and thank goodness for that. I read all over the literary map for work, school, and pleasure, and have come up with ten novels, broken into three categories, that sustained me this year:
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf, 2016): I listened to Gyasi’s novel via audiobook before I knew about the book’s hype and Gyasi’s growing fan base. Dani Hedlund featured Gyasi’s novel in F(r)iction #5, where I am a junior editor. However, I was reading Homegoing before I knew about the feature. The novel’s characters and strong voice drew me in immediately. The way Gyasi manages time and multiple generations is also rather wonderful.
2. The Gloaming by Melanie Finn (Two Dollar Radio, 2016): I reviewed this novel for F(r)Online, but a pleasant consequence of this task was finding a new author I deeply admire. Frankly, Finn’s a genius, and her prose is meticulously rendered. The characters feel alive, and the plot gave me more than a few hefty surprises. It’s an exhilarating ride, and I’ve been recommending it to my peers in my MFA program at Creighton University. But it’s not solely a great novel for writers; readers who love literary thrillers, or a story that takes risks, will find this book fascinating as well.
3. Strange as this Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake (Shoemaker & Hoard/Counterpoint 2007): I reread this novel in order to interview Pancake for Change Seven, and I was reminded how tragically beautiful it is. It’s also still relevant for the political climate today. Most readers will appreciate the memorable characters in Pancake’s novel. Moreover, her writing gives the reader a valuable lens through which to view life in West Virginia and Appalachia.
4. The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon (Riverhead Books, 2008): This is a novel I read for class, which I both loved and hated. While unapologetically offensive at times, the prose and the story were so compelling that I couldn’t put it down. It just proves that sometimes the best books make us the most uncomfortable. But, of course, this novel is more than “all of that,” and you should definitely find out why.
5. Pas de Deux by Wynter S.K. (CreateSpace, 2016): Full disclosure — this is a friend’s book. However, this one makes my favorite list because Wynter has the peculiar ability to make someone as unromantic as I am enjoy the genre. This is truly no small accomplishment. It’s not that I think romance novels are of a lesser value because I don’t. But I’m not the romantic type by nature, so I find many romance stories—whether categorized in that way or not—to be uninteresting. Wynter’s writing, however, is both gripping and enjoyable.
Young Adult Novels
6. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, 2015): I listened to the audiobook of Ruby’s novel and fell in love. I read and enjoy many YA books, but in terms of craft and story, Bone Gap is one of my favorites. Ruby knows how to write genuine emotion into her characters that is immensely satisfying. Her story, employing elements of magical realism, creates a sense of wonder in the reader. It’s a lovely read and definitely worth the buy.
7. The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien (Roaring Brook Press/Square Fish, 2014): This novel, which is part of a series, is a really fun first installment. I picked up the book out of curiosity and enjoyed O’Brien’s storytelling abilities very much. The twist on the surveillance science fiction trope was well done. If you’re looking for something fun and absorbing, read this.
8. The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters (Amulet Books, 2014): I first read this novel for pleasure and then again for class. While my classmates had mixed reactions, it remains one of my favorite young adult novels. The story is creepy and powerful, and I love how the main character grows into her defiance.
Middle Grade Novels
9. The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth (Algonquin Young Readers, 2014): I chose the audiobook version of this novel on a whim because I’m a sucker for dystopia and post-apocalyptic literature. I’m glad I took the time to listen. Unsworth takes an important topic, child abuse, and presents it in a way that cuts to the heart of the issue without sacrificing artistic expression. This was my first acquaintance with Unsworth’s prose, and I was happy to be exposed to it.
10. The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson (Delacorte, 2014): Another on-a-whim audiobook choice, The Mark of the Dragonfly is one of those books that will be known for its cool settings. The World of Solace is a fascinating fantasy-land. My favorite part: the Meteor Fields. There’s some great action in this book, too. It’s a really fun read.
LeeAnn Adams writes under the pen name L. N. Holmes. Her work has been featured in F(r)iction, Germ Magazine, Good Morning, Garbanzo Literary Journal, Salt Magazine, and other publications. Currently, she is learning from Mary Helen Stefaniak, Brent Spencer, David Mullins, and Susan Aizenberg while earning her MFA at Creighton University. Learn more.
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