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.
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
2. Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education
Mychal Denzel Smith
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
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
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.
7. Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape
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.
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.
10. Beautiful Ape Girl Baby
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.
12. The Unfinished World & Other Stories
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.“
Joanna C. Valente
Sundress Publications/Agape Editions
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