2016 Top 16
Sixteen, people! That’s the most ever! I tried and tried and tried to narrow it down, but the books refused to let me ignore them.
Never in my life did I imagine I’d read a novel-length piece of fanfic, and never ever ever did I think said fanfic would end up on my yearly Top 10 list (or Top 16 list, as the case may be). But here we are.
This Star Wars fic (which you can read in its entirely here) gripped me so hard that I dropped everything whenever another chapter came out. It convinced me fic can have a place in my life, and that sometimes my least favourite tropes can win me over.
CARRY ON is an awesome story and a commentary on the YA fantasy landscape. I geek the hell out whenever I think of it, especially when I remember how the magic is powered by cliche. Rainbow Rowell went there, y'all, and I love her for it.
Plus Baz is mine, and always will be.
This one hit me so hard I didn’t even want to talk about it at first. It’s got sailing and queer folks and siblings and magical sports and a character who’ll do anything; ie, it’s kinda my ideal book. I'm beyond excited for the finale, A CONJURING OF LIGHT.
A comprehensive list of things THE RAVEN KING meant to me:
It also helped me find my uber-specific subgenre of choice, which is queer assholes doing dream magic while ghosts lurk around.
I'd like to welcome Blue Sargent to my (Highly Exclusive) List of Favourite Literary Characters, too. She has the distinction of being one of only two list members I've never wanted to punch. Ronan Lynch, a list member of longer standing, does not belong to this tiny subset.
I waffled over whether I wanted to talk about this one, too, and ultimately ended up writing a thing about how I didn’t want to review it. I couldn't tear myself away from it until I'd finished, and I bought my own copy right away; something I almost never do.
I love how this final volume of the Inheritance Trilogy makes it absolutely impossible for anyone to ignore the series' queer backbone, too. You can maybe do it with the first two if you want to be ghastly and deny peoples' genders and sexualities, but there's no out here.
ECHO is and shall remain my number one pick for the modern era. It’s anti-Nazi, anti-racist, and pro-understanding. And it’s the best children’s novel I’ve read in years.
Get the audio if you possibly can. The musical component is phenomenal.
Every year, there’s one book I cannot imagine leaving off the list, no matter how hard I try to wrap my mind around it. This year, it's CHILDREN OF EARTH AND SKY, which is also one of those books that sneaks up on you. One moment, you think you’re regular-strength invested in it; the next, you’re sobbing your heart out because you’re so overcome on the characters’ behalf.
It also works beautifully in conversation with the two-volume Sarantine Mosaic, which is my favourite of Kay’s offerings.
ZOMG NEW FAVOURITE COMIC. It’s about sweet, supportive people who genuinely like one another, and my face hurt after every single volume because I’d spent the whole time grinning my arse off at the lot of them.
Volume 9 is my favourite, but the whole series to date is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.
HALF-BLOOD BLUES is great right from the get-go, but there’s this moment a short ways in that transforms it from really good to OMG WHAT IS THIS BRILLIANCE AND WHERE WILL IT TAKE ME. I’m grateful to my bookish bingo card for giving me the push I needed to finally read it.
Edugyan is the Canadian author I most look forward to reading more from in 2017.
Hello, new favourite romance! This one sounds sooooooo out there, given how one of the heroes is trapped in a snow globe, but it works so fucking well. I’ve been reccing it to everyone since the moment I finished it.
Here’s another huge surprise: an essay collection! I stumbled across the 2016 edition of TELL YOU WHAT while I was checking Scribd for Tina Makareti’s WHERE THE RĒKOHU BONE SINGS. The novel was a no-go, but I discovered she’d contributed to this, sampled it on a whim, and discovered the editors’ tastes are an exact match for my own. The writing’s fabulous, the contributors are diverse, and I welcomed the chance to revisit my beloved country through a literary lens.
Sometimes there’s one book I can’t possibly leave off the list. Sometimes there’s two. Alcalá’s short fiction is fucking transcendent and I wish I had access to more of her work.
I hesitated over whether to include this one, because as much as I loved it I’m ashamed to say I missed many problematic things about it. (You can read about these issues in greater detail on Anjulie Te Pohe’s post about NEVERNIGHT, racism, and author accountability. I’ve also edited my review to include a link to the post.) I did adore it as a love letter to modern fantasy, though, so I’m putting it on my Top 16 with the caveat that I won’t be reccing it as unreservedly as I’d intended to right after I finished it and I'll be thinking about it more critically when I reread it.
More Kiwi lit, and another amazing romance! I want to give it to Alana from SAGA1 because it’s about these two people who connect in all these gloriously everyday ways and I think she'd be totally into that. Like, they talk about books, and make friendship bracelets, and have family suppers, and it’s really normal but never boring. It’s super-duper awesome and I want more people to have it in their life.
I hadn’t read a Star Wars book since I was fifteen or so and my dear friend was obsessed with the Han Solo Trilogy, but someone (I want to say it was Anton?) told me BLOODLINE was the best Star Wars novel they’d ever read, and I needed to spend a Scribd audio credit, and the next thing I knew I was enthralled. The book gave me a chance to reconnect with beloved characters, meet some amazing new ones, and meditate on the role of government.
I strongly encourage you to get the audiobook, if you possibly can. The recent Star Wars audios are like radio plays with sound effects, scores, and narrators who perform every character with such verve you’ll believe they’re a full cast rather than one super-talented person.
My reading style is “really fucking picky and also deeply suspicious,” so I almost never love books straight from the first line. And yet it took me only twelve words to fall in love with SIMON, which was everything my nineteen-year-old self wanted THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER to be.
The complete works of Annabeth Albert, who became my favourite romance writer this year with her #gaymers, Portland Heat, and Perfect Harmony series. I can't wait to read what she puts out in 2017!
And Now, Stats
Y’all may recall I got grumpy about stats near the end of 2015. After minimal debate, I decided to track nothing beyond my spreadsheet’s built-in variables (modified slightly for my personal biases) in 2016.
I read 385 books and 100,189 pages in 2016.
Sort of. Y’see, I also read somewhere between 600 and 700 individual X-Men issues, and I got all *shrug* about counting them since so many of the early issues and story arcs aren’t readily available as trade collections. After an early attempt to count every twenty-five issues as one book2, I decided not to bother tabulating the 452 issues of UNCANNY X-MEN and 150+ issues of X-MEN, NEW X-MEN, X-TREME X-MEN, and various miniseries and short-lived series I got through last year.
It ain’t like my reading list needs any padding, y’know?
That 385-book total does include lots of non-mutant trade collections, of course. I don’t count individual issues as books because that’d be cheating. Likewise, I counted my serials by season, not by episode.
267 of those books were by people of marginalized genders. That’s 69% books by women and genderqueer or genderfluid folks.
222 were by POC for a total of 58% non-white writers and artists.
181 were comics for a total of 47%. A bit of a dip from last year, when I read 263 comics. We can probably tie that to my X-Men focus and my decision not to count those books.
210 books were by non-Americans for a total of 55%.
124 books were fantasy.
98 were general fiction.
89 were science fiction.
34 were romance.
24 were nonfiction (a small jump! I’m terrible at reading nonfiction).
11 were pure historical fiction (ie, not historical fantasy).
5 were crime fiction.
I didn’t track any other genres and marketing categories because spreadsheet.
I got 204 books from the library, 77 from Scribd, 33 from new bookstores (including digital venues), 28 from Marvel Unlimited (not including X-titles), 26 from NetGalley, and 17 from used bookstores and charity book sales.
And that’s everything I tracked.
Commentary and Goals and Stuff
My big reading goal for 2016 was to read whatever the fuck I wanted (profanity 100% necessary). I occasionally strayed from this goal as I felt pressured to get to review copies and spend Scribd credits before they expired, but for the most part I read everything I could within the limits of my reading speed.
I also wanted to read more prose fiction by POC as comics accounted for a huge percentage of my 2015 reading list’s diverse content. I did that, and discovered some amazing new authors in the process. As previously stated, I’m excited to read the rest of Esi Edugyan’s books in 2017, and I look forward to new stuff from Rebekah Weatherspoon, N.K. Jemisin, Sonali Dev, and many others.
I want to keep reading whatever the fuck I want to in 2017, with an especial emphasis on queer stuff and Canadian authors. (I even sacrificed the Comics column of my spreadsheet to make space for a Queer tracking option.) And I want to read all the X-Men comics without worrying about tallying them up.
Because it actually feels pretty good to have one area of my reading life I don’t quantify.
How did your reading go in 2016?
- I know those of y’all who’ve known me for a while are wondering where the hell SAGA is this year. It’s my favourite, so I get totally anxious about catching up on it and I didn’t manage to read Volume 6 in 2016. Stay tuned to learn whether it’s one of my top picks for 2017.
- When a comic hasn’t been officially collected, I usually count every six issues as one book. I initially thought I’d up that to 25 with the X-Men comics because I was writing my commentary posts every twenty-five issues, but I kept forgetting to count page numbers and make note of creators and I almost died of boredom at the very thought of figuring all that out after the fact. So I shrugged and decided to let the stats fly free in the wind.