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Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 BOOKSELLER TOP TENS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here they are! Our Top Ten favorite books of the year, now with bonus Seward Park lists! Remember, I don't limit these lists to books published in 2016, but all books must have been read in 2016.

Usually, when I compile this post, there are some clear favorites. Last year our obvious winner was Between the World and Me, with eight total votes. But this year our highest ranking book was Trevor Noah's Born a Crime, with only four votes. Not to imply that this year's books are only fair to middling, just that we had a lot more books with two and three votes, instead of any landslide victors. So while we couldn't solidly agree on one or two favorites, we sort of loosely settled on a whole slew of champions. And that means more options for you!

In light of our lack of focus, I give you our Fabulous, Fantastic, Fifteen Favorites of 2016!

Check out our individual top ten list below for more of our favorite reads of 2016!

Chelsea at Lake Forest Park
Robert at Lake Forest Park

Underground Airlines by Ben Winters
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Nutshell by Ian McEwan

The Evening Road by Laird Hunt
Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Mark at Ravenna
Rich at Seward Park
Naomi at Seward Park
Ashley at Lake Forest Park
Adam at Lake Forest Park
Alex at Ravenna
Avery at Seward Park
Wes at Seward Park
Deborah at Lake Forest Park
Kalani at Lake Forest Park
  • My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard - I had long been curious about attempting to read this worldwide phenomenon and finally gave it a shot this year. It was perhaps one of the more frustrating books I’ve ever read, and yet it sits atop my top ten list… This is the great conundrum of Knausgaard. The painstaking detail of his writing is like a drug. The middle 100-pages details a single scene in which a 16-year old Knausgaard sneaks beer to a New Year’s Party... For most of the time, I actually hated reading this book. Upon completing it this summer I fell in a funk and stopped reading anything for about a month. And yet, I’m still hypnotized by the writing and find myself anxiously awaiting Book 2, which is already sitting on my nightstand. 
  • A Contrived World by Jung Young-moon - Oddly reminiscent of the Knausgaard My Struggle books in that the entirety of the “novel” details the actual inner-monologue of the author as he travels to San Francisco to write a meaningless anti-novel. This is a bizarre read that has me seriously concerned about the sanity of Mr. Jung Young-moon.
  • Drown by Junot Diaz - This year marked the 20th anniversary of Junot Diaz’s famous debut, a fact I kept seeing on social media for some reason, which is why I strangely felt pressure to finally read it all the way through. This collection of stories will surely stand the test of time and be read with awe 20 years from now. Coming-of-age stories don’t get much better than this one. 
  • Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin - I read quite a bit of James Baldwin this year, so he couldn’t possibly be left off any list of mine. When we think of Baldwin, we don’t typically think of his short fiction, but these stories are absolutely brilliant. The middle two stories “Previous Condition” and “Sonny’s Blues” are perfect and should be taught in schools. 
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah - It’s truly a shame that Trevor Noah might just have to live in the shadow of Jon Stewart for the duration of his comedic career because his path to getting in that host’s chair is unbelievable. Noah shares his powerful story of growing up mixed in apartheid South Africa. In discussing his beautiful and complicated relationship with his mother, it’s hard not to get teary-eyed. 
  • Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon by Ed Caesar - I’ve always found the endurance sports to be underrated, but after reading this book, I’m more convinced than ever that long-distant runners are superhuman and that the major marathons should be televised events that everyone should watch. The early review of this book as “Hoop Dreams for runners” is as good as anything I can say about it. I’m just amazed that within our lifetime, we are going to see a human being run 26.2 miles in under two hours! 
  • Difficult Women by Roxane Gay - Many of these collected stories detail sexual trauma, a subject Roxane Gay has personally discussed in the past. Needless to say, this collection makes for an uncomfortable read. Each story additionally explores themes of motherhood, gender, class, and race all while detailing intricate, difficult women. Roxane Gay is an incredible writer for being able to pack such an emotional punch in each of these short stories. This is a deeply powerful collection of short fiction at its very best. 
  • Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar - After missing out on the performance of this play at the Seattle Rep last year I decided to read it. This 2013 Drama Pulitzer Prize winner had the most heartrending conclusion of anything I read this year. Post 9/11 Muslim-Americans need more stories like this told. Quite similar to the David Mamet play “Race,” but far superior in that the playwright, Ayad Akhtar, can actually write meaningfully about race first-hand. 
  • Out of the Line of Fire by Mark Henshaw - This brilliant work of metafiction has everything - unreliable narrators, exotic world locations, sex, drugs, murder, family secrets, and a bunch of philosophy!?! Fans of Italo Calvino will love this book (just read the first two pages to get hooked). This hidden Australian classic was an absolutely great reading experience for me and I look to reread this someday. 
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders - This book comes out early in 2017 and it will get a lot of attention, be a bestseller, and likely win a bunch of acclaim and awards and all that. It will deserve all the praise it gets. 
Patti at Ravenna
Courtney at Lake Forest Park
  • Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah - The ending made tears and snot flow from my face holes. In a good way.
  • Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West - Lindy is my BFF now so I am a little obligated to include her.
  • The Girls by Emma Cline - I'm pretty sure that given the promise of friendship I def would join a cult. So I get it.
  • Night Sky With Exit Wounds  by Ocean Vuong - UGH. Just ugh. So good it made me want to barf.
  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine - It's a hard read but an absoltely necessary one. Forget Huck Finn, this should be required reading.
  • When We Rise by Cleve Jones: My Life in the Movement - A reminder that our place at the table is not secure, and that we are still a distinct community that has come far, but also has far to go.
  • Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin - Every time I think about this book I get heart pains and I feel like crying. SO GOOD!
  • Meat Cake Bible by Dame Darcy - There's a charcter named Stregapez who speaks by dispensing Pez like tablets through a bloody hole in her throat.
  • Boy Erased by Gerard Conley - It really is outstanding how compassionate and understanding someone could be after being forced through conversion therapy. A gem of a person.
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson - I want to be married to this book for 60+ years and then die minutes apart from each other holding hands.
Eric at Seward Park
Wendy at Lake Forest Park
Stephen at Lake Forest Park
Best Comics of 2016
  • Mooncop by Tom Gauld - This funny and poignant vision technological alienation follows the last cop on a moonbase that’s being automated one job at a time.
  • Patience by Daniel Clowes - A deceptively rich and emotional charged mash-up of pulp influences by a true comics master.
  • Rolling Blackouts by Sarah Glidden - A fascinating and timely book of comics journalism that focuses on the human toll of the violence in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
  • Jacob Bladders and the State of the Art by Roman Muradov - An experimental exercise, a satire on the illustration business, an act of conscious malice against its own reader: Muradov’s weird and funny little book is all this and more.
  • Laid Waste by Julia Gfrörer - A dark and tragic fantasy about immortality and death in the plague-infested countryside of medieval France.
  • Disquiet by Noah van Sciver - A diverse and enjoyable collection of short works by the creator of Fante Bukowski.
  • Panther by Brecht Evens - A surreal, visually inventive exploration of grief and childhood imagination in which a young girl is visited at night by a shape-shifting talking panther.
  • The Greatest of Marlys by Lynda Barry - An overdue reprinting of Lynda Barry’s hilarious and touching strips about an irrepressible girl named Marlys and her family.
  • Soft City by Hariton Pushwagner - Daily life becomes a deranged nightmare in this rediscovered comic from the 1970’s by a Norwegian pop artist.
  • Sequential Drawings by Richard McGuire - After reinventing comics with the remarkable Here, Richard McGuire does the same for spot illustrations with these smart, minimalist series
Christina at Ravenna
Erin at Lake Forest Park
Jason at Lake Forest Park
James at Ravenna
Patti at Lake Forest Park
JP at Ravenna
Michelle at Seward Park
Sam at Lake Forest Park
  • The Life-Writer by David Constantine - This tender and wrenching novel – about a literary biographer piecing together the story of her late husband's early life and first love – absolutely floored me.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik - I don't read fantasy. I don't. But after some weeks of a friend urging me to do so, I picked up Uprooted, and for the next three days or so, I had a very hard time putting it down. 
  • All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews - I'm kind of ashamed that it took me so long to read this quiet, brilliant tragicomic novel. Don't be like me: read it sooner rather than later. A minute, loving examination of grief, depression, and family.
  • Half Wild by Robin MacArthur - I read a lot of really, really strong debut story collections this year, but Robin MacArthur's interconnected stories of rural Vermonters stood out – it's masterful in its execution, distinct in its voice, and powerful in its depictions of generations upon generations, all living on the edge of something.
  • The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker - The story is poignant, devastating, and ultimately uplifting, but it's Heather Tucker's almost unbelievable grasp of language and voice that makes The Clay Girl one of the best novels I read in 2016.
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders - Okay, this one isn't really fair, because it won't be released until February, but I got my hands on an advance copy of George Saunders' first novel this summer, and I'm still having trouble really describing it, except to say that it is unconventional, funny, sad, complex, brilliant – in other words, exactly what I've come to expect from Saunders -  and that, in that way I can only describe as Saunders-esque, it presents concepts you thought you understood (fatherhood, death, leadership, history), and proceeds to examine them from a vantage point that you did not know existed. I can't wait until it's on our shelves.
  • Welcome Thieves by Sean Beaudoin - Beaudoin's first adult short story collection is smart, a little twisted, and funny as hell – especially when you realize you recognize all of your friends and maybe yourself within its pages.
  • A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli - Three German soldiers, stationed in Poland during World War Two, wrestle with their own morals in this poignant, brutal little novel. A Meal In Winter is understated, gorgeously written, and immensely human.
  • Invisible Man, Got The Whole World Watching by Michael Denzel Smith - Probably the most important and illuminating work of non-fiction I read this year.
  • Cabo De Gata by Eugen Ruge - You know those novels where nothing seems to really happen, and then you get to the end and you realize that you may (or may not) have been reading about something really fundamentally important? 
Halley at Ravenna
Garrett at Seward Park
Jane at Lake Forest Park
Lish from Lake Forest Park
  • Giant Days Vol 1-3 by John Allison - One of the most enjoyable comics I've read in a long time.
  • City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong - I also really enjoyed her YA book The Missing this year.
  • Marked in the Flesh by Anne Bishop- this continues to be one of my favorite series. The covers are...not great, but the story is.
  • Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold- certianily not a new series, but new to me this year, and I'm trying to catch up! Young Miles collects several of the first Miles Vorkosigan books.
  • Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev. A warm, touching (without being sappy) story matched with adorable illustrations by Taeeun Yoo.
  • Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews. Again, one of my favorites series that also tends to have the worst covers. They're better than they used to be, though.
  • Goldie Vance Vol 1 by Hope Larson. A charming and bright new comic for lovers of Nancy Drew.
  • Jackaby by William Ritter. Again, not a new book, but I finally got around to it this year. A dash of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, this whimsical series is smart, funny and entertaining.
  • Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. If this book doesn't have you by the end of the Poisoner's Feast, then I'm not sure we can be book friends.
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A short, witty, brillaint piece. The kind of book you want to hand out to everyone you know and make them read it. (Her TED talk on the danger of the single story is also worth your time. You can find it online.)
  • BONUS BOOK: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. The only reason this book isn't on my list (Six of Crows certainly was last year.) is because I just started it and couldn't add it yet. But this duology is AMAZING.
Dana at Ravenna
Anje at Seward Park

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