Best of 2016: Books

This month I’m reviewing the Best Of 2016.

Everyone loves lists come year’s end, and although 2016 as been a fucking nightmare, there were some great works that came out this year. I’ll be doing a Best Of TV, Best Of Movies, Best Of Music, and today’s Best Of Books.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to comment here or harangue me over on Twitter or on my Facebook page.


Every year I set this goal–read 365 books. That’s right, finish a book a day for a year. I don’t succeed, but this isn’t one of those tasks that’s meant to be achieved, it’s rather an accomplishment to attempt. 

Rather than create a Best Of for poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or what have you, I’m making one list covering all genres. Over at the Chicago Review of Books, you’ll find some quality lists covering some exceptional fiction. But like my Best Of Music, I’m going to keep this list to 12 (or thereabouts) in no order.

1. Death by Video Game: Danger, Pleasure, and Obsession on the Virtual Frontline 
Simon Parkin 
Melville House


Nation Books

The best or one of the best nonfiction books of the year. Smith is an astute and bold cultural critic during a time when such voices are sorely needed. I wrote a review essay of it earlier this year though you’ll certainly be able to find better, more nuanced takes on it.


3. Eleven Hours 
Pamela Erens 
Tin House


Erens has been a writer I’ve loved for ages. If you’re not familiar with her work, I can recommend it highly enough. Her first novel (or novella), The Understory, is a fascinating story of desperation and her novel before this, The Virgins, is a novel that pushes American literature into a more sophisticated yet accessible orbit.

4. ISIS: A History 
Fawaz A. Gerges 
Princeton University Press


5. Last Sext 
Melissa Broder 
Tin House Books

Broder is one of my favorite poets writing right now. Her wit, technique, and gift for metaphor makes her one of the best American poets. This poetry collection is dark, fun, sexy, and depressing and ought to be read alongside her essay collection So Sad Today.


6. The Beyonce Effect: Essays on Sexuality, Race and Feminism
Adrienne Trier-Bieniek, editor


7.  Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape 
Jessica Luther
Edge of Sports

Luther’s writes a reasoned and reasonable investigation into the college football and how exactly it cultivates a culture of rape. She then asks how college football can be rectified and makes some practical, pragmatic, and possible suggestions. It’s readable and compelling.


8. Wonderland 
Samuel Ligon
Lost Horse Press

A very slim collection of short short stories each accompanied by a beautiful work of collage art is a charming read. I’ve written about it here.


9. Shutter Vol. 3 & Vol. 4
Joe Keatinge, Leila del Duca



10. Beautiful Ape Girl Baby
Heather Fowler
Pink Narcissus Press

Fowler crafts with her fiction a very unique brand of magical realism. She has the remarkable gift for writing comedy as well as biting satire that’s sexy and aggressive. Yet at no point does Fowler lose her love of beautiful words.

book cover

11. How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design 
Katherine Isbister
The MIT Press


12. The Unfinished World & Other Stories
Amber Sparks

These speculative fiction stories are “equal parts fairy tale, steampunk, magical realism, myth, fantasy, and allegory, as well as grim realism, sly satire, and finely wrought character studies.

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Worth Mentioning:

Emma Bolden
Noctuary Press

Joanna C. Valente 
Sundress Publications/Agape Editions

Caseyrenee Lopez

Potomac Books 

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America
Nancy Isenberg


If you liked this article, then consider supporting me via my Patreon site. Even a small pledge helps.

This article was made possible thanks to support from my patrons:

Rachel Racicot 

Tyler Whitesides 

Patrick Casey

Nathaniel E. Baker

4 thoughts on “Best of 2016: Books

  1. I still haven’t read Eleven Hours, which is unforgivable because I did a workshop with Erens several years ago. She’s a lovely person, and I’m thrilled to see her getting so many accolades.

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