This is not necessarily a list of best 2016 releases, but books I read in 2016. I noticed, looking through my 2016 books on Goodreads, that of the single-author books I’ve read, most of them are written by women aside from a few non-fiction books. Comics are a different story, but I did see quite a few female artists and some writers.
Unfortunately, I did not read as diversely as I could have this year. Next year I plan to read more books by POC and LGBTQ authors. I also didn’t read much “literary” fiction but few regrets there.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Mcguire
I’ve been pretty impressed and intrigued by Tor.com’s novella offerings, and didn’t get to nearly enough of them this year. Every Heart a Doorway is special though, because I love portal fantasies and their tropes and this book takes them and does something new. My only problem with this book is that it’s TOO SHORT. Luckily there’s a prequel/sequel coming out next year, and more after that. Seanan Mcguire kind of became one of my favorite authors this year, but not just because of this book…
The October Daye Series by Seanan Mcguire
I’m only four books in but this series is beautiful and heart-breaking. It will ruin your life, but I’m going to tell you to read it. The series pulls from fairy lore and combines that with an urban fantasy plotline. October Daye was cursed and turned into a fish, and she lived in a pond for over a decade. Finally out of the pond, the world has moved on without her, and she wants nothing to do with Faerie. Until she gets cursed again and has to figure out who killed her friend. And that’s just the first book.
The Six-gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher
Weird Western goodness, with some great characters and fun world-building. This author has a few more books that are definitely going on my to-read list. I had a thing for Westerns this year, but more on that later.
All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear
I still can’t decide exactly how I feel about this book. I loved it but also hated parts of it. I also read the sequel but it’s not on this list because I didn’t like it quite as much. The author combines elements of fantasy, science fiction, and Norse myth. It’s a compelling world, with some complicated and interesting characters. But one of them gets kind of annoying in the second book, which is basically one whole long therapy/intervention session with all of the characters trying to get him to get his shit together…it’s weird. Well, both of the books are weird, but All the Windwracked Stars worked better for me.
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne Valente
A novella retelling Snow White in the Old West. Valente brings her characteristically gorgeous prose and nuanced characterization to this classic tale. IT ALSO HAS ILLUSTRATIONS. And yeah, there’s a trend here, because I had a Dark Tower hangover from last year.
Flight by Sherman Alexie
One of those books that broke my heart and made me laugh, Sherman Alexie has a weird knack for that (see: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian). It’s hard to summarize this book in a way that will entice anyone to read it but it’s good.
What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
I often try out a writer’s short fiction or poetry to see if I might like their novel-length work, and this author’s novels are definitely going on my to-read list…oh wait I already added them to my Goodreads TBR months ago. Most of the stories connect in some way, with characters appearing in multiple stories. They range from mostly realistic to fantastic.
Monstress Volume 1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
I discovered Image Comics last year with Saga and Rat Queens but I think I like Monstress best. It’s a steam-punky Asian inspired setting and I’m in love with pretty much everything about it. Even the villains, who are evil nun-witches. The art is gorgeous, and the anime influence may be a little off-putting to some but you’re missing out if you skip it.
The Wicked and the Divine Volumes 1-4 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Another title from Image Comics, The Wicked and the Divine has an awesome premise—every ninety years, twelve gods are reincarnated as young people and die within two years. The plot is full of twists and turns, and every volume manages to end on a cliffhanger, and they’re not just cheap cliffhangers either because almost every one of them shifts the story massively.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volumes 1-2 by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
This comic has actually made me laugh out loud, and in a year full of miserable twists it was a colorful, fun read. Dedicated Marvel fans might get a kick out of all the little references to and digs at Marvel canon.
Black Panther Volume 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
The first volume of this new series is really promising, and it was a pleasant surprise that many of the major characters are women. On the other hand, I had no idea that it actually builds on other Black Panther stories and I needed to read those first. But I guess I should expect that in comics by now…
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I wish I wrote this book holy cow. I had mixed feelings about Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. The second half of the first book and the whole second book are really good, but the rest is…not great. But I’m glad I picked up this book because the characters and plot are a lot richer. I actually have the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, sitting on my shelf but I’m afraid to read it because someone is gonna die and I’m also kind of worried it won’t live up to this one.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
This book came out some years ago, and it’s been described as a Nigerian version of Harry Potter but in some ways it’s better. The ending feels rushed, but the whole book is full of really original world-building and the magic is really cool. The sequel is coming out in 2017 and I’m pretty excited about it.
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
This book was very, very hyped up before and after it came out, and I approached it with wariness. But I think I needed a dose of girl-power high fantasy nostalgia this year. The romance is kind of annoying but it doesn’t feature much. I also appreciated that the book didn’t pay lip service to girls being best friends, that the two main female characters actually support and depend upon each other. There isn’t any visible sexism in this world, either, which was immensely refreshing this year…
The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
PEOPLE TRAIN SEA MONSTERS TO FIGHT PIRATES.
READ THIS BOOK.
(I actually could have done with less pirates and more sea monsters in this book but holy shit it was great and the sequel also looks great).