The 2016 Book of the Year Honors!

Here is my Book of the Year for 2016, as well as the books I felt deserved special mention.

To see my complete book list for 2016 please click here.

Book of the Year: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
Special Mention: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
Special Mention: Indexing – Reflections by Seanan McGuire
Special Mention: The Fireman by Joe Hill
Special Mention: The Last Star by Rick Yancey
Special Mention: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling and Jack Thorne
Special Mention: On the Beach by Nevil Shute

2016 was a stellar year for books. I was back to some of my best numbers since 2011, and significantly over the count for 2015 (18 books read, 6 books listened to). In 2016 I read 31 novels and listened to 5 for a total of 36. I read 2 non-fiction books as well. Out of the 31 novels read, 12 were digital editions. There were 18 nominees for Book of the Year.

Book of the Year honors for 2016 go to The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi. This is the second time Paolo has received Book of the Year honors. His The Windup Girl won in 2010.

The Water Knife is near-future science fiction where water is a commodity to kill over. The Water Knife is an agent of the state of Nevada, making sure the state retains its access to water no matter what. This means states down river, like Arizona, are becoming wastelands. Since I live in a state (California) going through a drought, it gave me a lot to think about. Though The Water Knife tackles a serious subject, it is also thrilling, at times funny, and a great read. You care about the characters, too. Highly recommended.

Special Mention: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach. We All Looked Up is a YA book that could have easily been Book of the Year. It is the story of a group of high school friends dealing with the end of the world. An asteroid is headed towards earth, there is no way to stop it, no one will survive it. Though it sounds like it would be a downer of a book, it is anything but. Great characters, all trying to decide who they are and how they want to live in the last days. Though very, very different, it reminded me of Ben H. Winters The Last Policeman books, which are also amazing. Highly recommended, and I will definitely read whatever Tommy Wallach does next.

Special Mention: Indexing – Reflections by Seanan McGuire. If you have ever looked at this page before, you know I am a HUGE fan of Seanan McGuire. Seanan writes fantasy under her own name, and horror/sci-fi under her Mira Grant pseudonym. Indexing – Reflections is the sequel to her serialized novel, Indexing. It is a story of a special squad of individuals working to stop the dark parts of fairy tales from becoming dangerous and killing everyone (for example, a Sleeping Beauty can put an entire city to sleep. If no one wakes them up, they will sleep until they starve to death). Think Once Upon a Time meets Fringe. If you have not read Seanan McGuire or Mira Grant, please do. Just fantastic stuff.

Special Mention: The Fireman by Joe Hill. I have liked Joe’s previous novels, but The Fireman is next level. A disease is infecting people, and this disease can cause people to burst into flames suddenly. The collateral damage from that can cause entire cities to burn. The story focuses on a pregnant woman trying to survive as civilization crashes around her. A long book, but a page turner, you get to know and care about the characters. Definitely Joe’s best book, one that could have easily been Book of the Year, and probably would have been if not for The Water Knife.

Special Mention: The Last Star by Rick Yancy. The third and final book of The Fifth Wave Trilogy, it was one of the best written books of the year. Rick definitely commands the language, while still telling a great story. If you saw the movie The Fifth Wave and did not care for it, please give the books a try. All three are great, and a bit darker than the movie or other YA series. I look forward to whatever Rick does next.

Special Mention: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling and Jack Thorne. This is the script to the play, not a novel, though it certainly reads like one. It takes place some time after the epilogue of The Deathly Hallows, where everyone’s kids are at Hogwarts. Absolutely loved it, and wish it were a true novel. If you love Harry Potter, which I do, definitely read Cursed Child.

Special Mention: On the Beach by Nevil Shute. Written by Nevil in 1957, I have watched the 1959 movie many times, as well as the TV miniseries from 2000. However, I had never read the book. This year, I listened to it via Audible and it was fantastic. The movie and miniseries both held true to the book, but there were definitely some changes. In the book, things are much darker, and more people than just young Mary Holmes are experiencing some kind of psychological break. This includes sub commander Towers, who rationally knows everyone in the US is dead, but still imagines his family alive. If he accepts what he knows is true – that they are of course dead – he would lose it. And he still has work to do. As relevant today as it was sixty years ago, the book is a true classic. The narration by Simon Prebble is spot on. A highly recommended book, a highly recommended Audible book.

My 2017 Reading Plan
One thing that I learned – or more accurately what I was reminded of – is how important reading books, especially novels, is to me. It just makes me happier.

In 2017 I want to again aim for around 30 novels read. I also expect to listen to a certain number of books via Audible.

The biggest change for 2017 will be reading of non-fiction books. These are books like Springsteen’s Born to Run, Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality, David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers and Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet. I do not include technical/training books in my non-fiction counts. I find I usually just read the relevant parts of those.

2017 should be another great year for books.

Clade by James Bradley

Clade

Clade by James Bradley is a nominee for my Book of the Year 2016.

Clade is a short book, 189 pages, and might technically be a novella. However, since it was published as a stand-alone piece, I am considering it a novel. Also, I have read 1,000 page books that did not have as much story as Clade does. In that way, Clade reminds me of two favorite books from last year, Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett (208 pages) and Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (192 pages). All three books presented deep, full stories in very few pages.

Clade follows a family and their friends through many years of ecological disasters due to global warming. Jumping years at a time, we get glimpses into their lives. In those glimpses we see the impact of the climate change on the world and on the family. It could almost be the same world as the one in Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife, or at least one parallel to it. Though the world in Clade seems a bit more gone than the one in The Water Knife.

I highly recommend Clade and will definitely keep an eye out for the next book by Mr. Bradley.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Aurora

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson is a nominee for my Book of the Year 2016. And I almost did not read it.

Many years ago, Mr. Robinson wrote the Mars Trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars). They were fantastic. I read a few of his other books, which I enjoyed, but in 2013 I read his book 2312. It won the Nebula Award, so many many people really enjoyed that book. I will just say that I did not enjoy that book. I was really put off by it, and did not decide to read Aurora until almost seven months after its release.

The main factor for reading Aurora was Locus Magazine’s 2015 Year in Review issue. Multiple reviewers all said almost the same exact thing when writing about Aurora:

“It may be the science fiction book of the year!”

I have always trusted Locus Magazine and took a chance on Aurora. I am very glad I did. Aurora is about a generation space ship, near the end of its 170-plus year journey to another solar system. The story is told mostly through the eyes of one family and the ship’s AI (which works way better than I thought it would). Mr. Robinson captures the challenges of generational space travel, the ship needed to make the journey, and the conflicts that can arise.

In some ways Aurora reminds me of Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. However, other than some very high-level similarities (generation ships), they are very different books. If you read one you will not be disappointed if you read the other.

I highly recommend Aurora. I will also continue to read Mr. Robinson moving forward.

Wolfhound Century

Last night I finished reading Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins.

Wolfhound Century appears to take place in an alternate universe version of the Soviet Union, filtered through the New Weird of China Mieville (read Perdiso Street Station. Seriously.). It is dark fantasy mixed with Cold Was era police procedural.

The main character is Lom, a cop with issues, but a cop who gets results. We travel with Lom to another city for his investigation into a terrorist. In his investigation he comes across corrupt cops, giants, stone-like dog monsters, news of a fallen angel and things ever more bizarre. Though I do not read much fantasy, I really enjoyed Wolfhound Century. A good, solid and imaginative read.

Note that this is book one of a trilogy. Book 2, Truth and Fear, is already out. I plan on reading it and the 3rd book as well.

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi is my first nominee for Book of the Year 2016.

Mr. Bacigalupi’s last few books have been YA. This is his first adult novel since The Windup Girl, which I also highly recommend.

The Water Knife is set in the near future where the southwestern states wage a cold – and sometimes hot – war over water rights. It is a pre-apocalyptic world, and these are the first steps to the end.

The three main characters are a journalist, a refugee and an operative who show us different aspects of the world in this time. As always, I try to avoid spoilers here, so all I will say is that The Water Knife is as much as thriller as it is a warning of what realistically could happen. Great book, highly recommended.

Chimera by Mira Grant

The first book I finished reading in 2016 is Chimera by Mira Grant (pen name of Seanan McGuire). It was the third and final book in the Parasitology trilogy.

The main character is Sal, formerly Sally, who had been in a terrible car accident. A medical tapeworm was implanted to try to save her. Sally was actually gone, and the person known as Sal was the tapeworm driving the body. This is actually a minor spoiler from the first book. As the series continues, the tapeworms start to take over more bodies, but unlike the success that is Sal, they are more like The Walking Dead. The series tackles what is a person, as well as different concepts of identity.

I enjoined the series including this final book. If you have not read Mira (or Seanan) I would recommend the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant. It is fantastic. I also very highly recommend Imdexing, which she released under Seanan McGuire.

2015 Book of the Year!

As is my New Year tradition, today I select which book I read in the past year as my Book of the Year. This is a book that I read for the first time in that year, though the book did not need to be published in that year. Though the number of books I read this year was down from last year, it was still stellar.

My 2015 Book of the Year is lluminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff! A fantastic book, see my The Reading and Listening Lists Featuring My Selections for Book of The Year page for my thoughts on it. The page also includes my 2015 reading and listening lists, the new Non-Fiction reading list, as well as the other nominees for Book of the Year in 2015.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Sevenevs

I just finished reading Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. Like many of his books, it is big, almost 900 pages. Though long, it moves fast. The story begins with the destruction of the moon. It is soon realized that the debris from the moon will begin to slam into the earth, destroying everything on the surface. With less than two years to survive, the human race does everything it can to try and establish a way to survive in space. It will be thousands of years before anyone will be able to return to the surface.

Interesting characters, great action sequences, science that seems to be based on reality, Seveneves is definitely a nominee for my Book of the Year. Highly recommended.

Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett

Elysium

Over the weekend I read Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett (no relation to the Neill Blomkamp movie). It was fantastic and definitely a Book of the Year Nominee.

I read a review of it in this month’s Locus Magazine and it sounded interesting. First of all, the characters seemed to shift names and genders. For example, within one chapter Antoine may become Antoinette all of a sudden, then back again. Sometimes when a writer tries this it comes off as a gimmick at best, very annoying at worse. However, in the hands of Ms. Brissett it is something very cool and relevant to the story.

I try to avoid spoilers when talking about books, but I will give an overview. The book follows characters – perhaps sets of characters – as the earth lurches then tumbles into a post-apocalyptic disaster. Is it war, a bio weapon? Is it nature? Is it aliens? Not going to say, but the resolution is pretty perfect.

Elysium is only about two hundred pages, so while it is a fast read, it feels like you’ve experienced a lot with these characters in this world. Available on Kindle and in paperback, I highly recommend it.

Non-Fiction Reading and Listening List Added

This year I am adding The Non-Fiction Reading and Listening List to my reading list. In the past I have given special mention to non-fiction books, but I have never kept a full list.

The Non-Fiction Reading and Listening List will include books I am defining as ones with a focused narrative. This include autobiographies and biographies, history books about a specific time or event (not just a list of dates) and books around specific current events, such as “Flash Boys”. It may also include books with a unifying subject though not a true narrative such as “The Tipping Point”, but that is still pending.

Also, the books on the Non-Fiction Reading and Listening List will not be eligible for Book of the Year, which is awarded to novels only. Any notable non-fiction books will receive a Special Mention at the end of the year.