2016 was a great year for books. Diversity and unique topics reigned, and new voices rose to the fore. Alex and Derek have pulled together some of their favorite books published this year, and don’t forget to browse through the full list of 2016 books.
Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen
YA weird west with one of the most interesting and engaging protagonists I’ve read. Lila Bowen (pseudonym of Delilah S. Dawson), is always at the top of my recommendations list.
Description: The young man once known as Nettie Lonesome and now called Rhett Walker, is adrift. The events from the Wake of Vultures have shaken him to his core, but his destiny as The Shadow don’t let him wallow for long. A chance encounter pulls him into the orbit of an abusive, murderous warlock who is enslaving shapeshifters to build his own private railroad across the country. He is also chopping off their body parts and using their magical bones for very nefarious purposes. Rhett, with the help of his shapeshifting friends and human allies, must stop the warlock before he kills again. But along the way Rhett discovers more about his true self through deepening friendships and budding romances.
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
Get in on the ground floor of this new YA fantasy series about a sparky queer Latina who has the power to destroy or save the world.
Description: Alex is the middle daughter in a family of brujas, the Latin American version of a witch. Her mother and sisters use magic in their daily lives, but after a traumatic experience with the spirit of her dead aunt and the mysterious disappearance of her father, Alex hates her powers. When a cantos, or spell, to destroy her magic backfires and sends her family to Los Lagos, a sort of bruja purgatory, Alex and a neighborhood brujo teenage boy named Nova descend into the underworld to bring them back.
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
One of my favorite books from this year. I recommend it to just about everyone. It’s witty, clever, frightening, and enlightening, a riotous reworking of a monstrous mythos.
Description: It’s 1954, and Atticus Turner’s Black Chicagoan father, Montrose, goes missing. He, his Uncle George, and childhood friend Letitia head up to rural Massachusetts to the isolated, creepy town of Braithwhite, founded and run by a rich, white family of the same name. Once there, the Braithwhites enact a devious plan for the Turners, one that’s been in the works for centuries. Structured like a collection of short stories, Lovecraft Country tells sprawling, chthonic tales featuring several members of two Black families dealing with the ghost of slavery, real life horrors of Jim Crow, and otherworldly magic.
Midnighter by Steve Orlando
Midnighter is a brutal, bloody, and badass superhero with a bark as big as his bite. This was one of my favorite DC series of the last decade, and I was sad to see it cancelled.
Description: Midnighter is a gay superhuman with super strength, genius intellect, and the ability to predict every possible outcome of a fight before the fight even starts. He is sarcastic, violent, and on the prowl for both his nemesis and a hot date. The man formerly known as Lucas Trent must track down the thief who stole valuable and dangerous technology from the God Garden before he can use it to create a being even more powerful and unstoppable than Midnighter. Not only that, but he must also come to terms with his recent painful breakup with his boyfriend Apollo, another superhero, accept his traumatic past, and learn to accept himself as man he really is rather than who he wishes he was. Dick Grayson makes a few appearances to assist Midnighter in battling his enemies.
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
A Stranger Things-esque story that’s as gorgeous and haunting to look at as it is to read. If you like Brian K. Vaughan, also check out Runaways, Saga, and Y: The Last Man.
Description: It’s dawn the morning after Halloween in 1988, and 12-year-old Erin has just started her newspaper delivery route in her residential neighborhood in Cleveland. Three other girls, Mac, Tiffany, and K.J., team up with her, but what is supposed to be an easy route becomes a life-threatening experience. All of a sudden their neighbors and family members vanish right before their eyes. The girls are caught between two vicious factions of sinister, murderous humanoid beings: one a race of technologically advanced yet linguistically anachronistic adults, the other rebellious teenagers determined to crush the adults’ power hierarchy. They don’t know if the creatures are from an alternate reality or an alternate future, but the fate of the world is in the girls’ hands.
Patsy Walker: A.K.A. Hellcat! by Kate Leth and Brittney L. Williams
A cute, fun, comic full of heart and friendship. This is one of those series I just have to buy by the issue, it’s that good.
Description: Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat, is out of a job and has no place to live. With more Inhumans revealing themselves everyday, Patsy decides to open a temporary employment agency for those who wish to use their powers but not necessarily be superheroes. Meanwhile her childhood frenemy has republished exploitative romance comics about her as a teenage girl and created by Patsy’s mother years before. To achieve her dream of opening a temp agency, shut down the invasive comics, and defeat a powerful nemesis, Patsy must rely on help from friends, humans and superhumans alike.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
A powerful, heartbreaking book about freedom and what that means in a nation that only grants it to a few select groups. It’s a story about life, love, and loss and the fight for what’s right.
Description: Cora is a slave on a Georgia cotton plantation. Life is already hard enough as a slave, but it’s even worse as an outcast from her compatriots. On the cusp of womanhood, she meets Caesar who tells her of the Underground Railroad. They make their daring escape and discover the railroad isn’t just a metaphor but a real underground train delivering fugitive slaves to the north. They stop briefly in South Carolina, staying long enough to discover their haven is really a hell in waiting, then continue north with the vicious slave catcher Ridgeway close at their heels.
The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the politics of race in America by Michael Eric Dyson.
Dyson writes with style, sensitivity, nuance and wit about the nation’s first black president and a nation still so troubled and so divided by its racial history. It’s a powerful read for the final weeks of the Obama presidency.
Description: Explores the politics of race and racism as they relate to Obama’s presidency. Dyson discusses biracialism in the Black power structure, the confrontation between Black exceptionalism and the concept of a “post-racial” America, with mentions of mass incarceration, police brutality, and religion.
Star Trek, the Official Guide to Our Universe: the True Science Behind the Starship Voyages by Andrew Fazekas
Star Trek endures like no other program about the future, having captured the imagination of generations. This wonderfully illustrated book makes all of the scientific premises accessible to the non specialist. “Warp 9, Mr. Crusher.”
Description: Presents an overview of space exploration, alien life, and astronomy based on all of the Star Trek television programs and movies. Includes information on Star Trek characters and episodes, constellations, black holes, stars, dwarf stars, the Enterprise, exoplanets, gas giants, communication devices, gadgets, Jupiter, Mars, nebulae, planets, quasars, Saturn, our solar system, stargazing, and more.
Grunt: the Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach
Written in a conversational and humorous style, this book explores the frustrating, miraculous and embarrassing realities experienced by American soldiers in the field of battle during combat and and in hospitals once wounded. It humanizes and personalizes the realities faced by American soldiers, who have now been at war continuously for 15 years.
Description: Describes the medical issues faced by soldiers, sailors, and wounded veterans, as well as the technology and policies developed to prevent casualties, injury, and death.