It’s that wonderful time of the year, when every blogger makes “Best of the Year” lists. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about which books meant the most to me this year, which books challenged me as a reader, inspired me as a writer, and were the most fun. Because it was so hard to choose a favorite, I divided the books I’d read this year into five categories and picked the best of each category. I’ve read more genres than these five, but most of the categories I read are represented here.
1. Literary – The Goldfinch
Rarely have I felt a character’s pain as deeply as I did reading The Goldfinch. It was almost traumatic, how powerfully I was sucked into Theo’s tragedies and struggles. I’d put the book down and move around like a zombie for a little while before I could step back into the real world. The book also has one of the coolest characters I’ve ever encountered in fiction. When you meet Boris, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
2. Graphic Novel – Batman: The Black Mirror
If I had to sum up Batman: The Black Mirror in one word, it would be “beautiful.” The illustrations are done in expressive brushstrokes, and the use of color to communicate mood and setting is remarkable. In addition, Scott Snyder delivers a wonderful story, as always.
3. Science Fiction/Fantasy – The Windup Girl
If I had to pick one book as my best of the year, it would be The Windup Girl. I’ve written a post on what I’ve learned as a writer from this remarkable book, which only scratches the surface of the ways it’s inspired me. This book made me sit up and say “I want to write science fiction.” (You can see my fledgling efforts here).
Paulo Bacigalupi has created an incredible sense of place in his futuristic Bangkok, and populated it with vibrant characters, each chasing their own morally ambiguous (or sometimes downright evil) agenda. It’s my opinion that Bacigalupi is the prophet of the apocalypse to come, brought on not by nuclear war but by our destruction of the planet. It’s rare I’ve been so immersed in a science fiction or fantasy world, and rarer to find one this colorful and vividly rendered.
4. Non-fiction – Violence: A Writer’s Guide
Violence: A Writer’s Guide is by far the most useful book on writing I’ve read this year. I’m pretty sure if you open my Kindle copy you’ll find I’ve highlighted roughly half the text. Rory Miller has many years of experience and he knows what he’s talking about as he covers not only the basics of how violence works, but also the psychology behind it, and his insights and experiences as a violence professional.
5. Thriller – Blood on Snow
In Blood on Snow, Nesbo has created an incredibly complex and nuanced character and a story that at first seems simple, but turns out to be anything but. The careful interplay of love and violence has been an inspiration for my own work.
Bonus round: Indie Authors
Full disclaimer: these authors are friends of mine, which is why I picked up their books. I kept reading, however, because I thoroughly enjoyed them.
What I love about The Phoenix Embryo by Jeanne Marcella is how unique the fantasy world is. She breaks down traditional notions of sexuality and creates a complex and morally ambiguous religion and society. The main character is vulnerable and endearing, not at all your traditional, stereotypical fantasy hero.
The only thing I love more than a great romance is a great romance with a crime boss in it, and Nikki Belaire has written a swoon-worthy bad boy in Wine and Whiskey. If you love it like I did, the sequel’s already out!
I’m really not a big fan of historical fiction, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Prussian Dispatch. Even though there’s lots of history laced through the story, it’s not boring. The main character is a riot: smart, snarky, and totally capable of taking care of herself and taking care of business.
Here’s for a great year of reading in 2016!