Tag Archives: Andre Alexis

Best Books 2016

So in 2016 I read a couple hundred books (not including books I didn’t finish, books I reread, literary journals, newspapers, articles, magazines, etc). As usual, it was not nearly enough. Now, I’ve narrowed it down to the twenty books that most made me go “WHOA.” As usual, these were books read in 2016 (so not necessarily only ones published in 2016) and as usual the order is meaningless.

Some things I noted about my overall reading: 52% were written by men and 48% by women. And 39% were authors from the US, while the other 61% were authors from outside the US. I don’t usually break my reading down into statistics, but I thought it would be interesting to see these two in particular.

In a few places, I’ve reviewed or written about the book elsewhere and I’ve included those links.

 

  • The Ballad of Black Tom by: Victor LaValle. I love LaValle. His writing is beautiful and his pacing is stunning. This novella is no different. I reviewed it at Nerds of a Feather and I wrote a column on it at Ploughshares.
  • The Regional Office is Under Attack! by: Manuel Gonzalez. Fun and dizzingly pced and also achingly smart and well written. I reviewed it here!

3-4.) System of Ghosts by: Lindsay Tigue and Blood Song by: Michael Schmeltzer. These were the two best poetry collections I read last year. Each is exquisitely written and the language feels so precise and yet so natural. I wrote about both of these poets at Ploughshares: here and here!

  • Happiness, Like Water by: Chinelo Okperanta. Whoa. That’s what I said after reading the first story in this collection. Okperanta’s writing is so tender and so lyrical.
  • What is Not Yours is Not Yours by: Helen Oyeyemi. Oyeyemi makes me seethe with jealousy, she’s so damn good. These strange stories are wondrous and gorgeous and filled with sharp edges. I reviewed it here!
  • The Underground Railroad by: Colson Whitehead. If you’ve been a reader of this blog, you might know that Whitehead is my favorite author and that I’ve read his other novels over and over and over. This one is just as beautiful and powerful and heartbreaking as the rest. YES AND IT WON THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD AS WAS JUST AND GOOD AND NOW I CAN FINALLY BE QUIET ABOUT HIM NEEDING TO WIN. I reviewed it here!
  • The View from the Cheap Seats by: Neil Gaiman. Gaiman’s essays are as generous as one would imagine they might be and his storytelling makes everything he’s passionate about practically leap off the page. I reviewed it here.
    • Damned if I Do by: Percival Everett and Big Picture by: Percival Everett. One of my goals this year was to read every Everett that I hadn’t yet read. I did and I was not disappointed. WHY IS HE SO FRAKKING GOOD?
  • Where We Go When All We Were is Gone by: Sequoia Nagamatsu. I loved these stories. Each one is a gem. Lovely writing and dazzlingly strange plots.
  • The Tsar of Love and Techno by: Anthony Marra. Another “whoa” after each section. It’s also an interlinked story collection, so come on, it basically showed up at my door with chocolate and a coffee.
  • The Hidden Keys by: Andre Alexis. How do I love Alexis? Let me count the ways: HE IS PERFECT AND I DON’T NEED TO COUNT THE WAYS. This novel is funny, and weird, and wonderfully written, and there were some passages that were so good I thought I might have forgotten how to breathe while reading them. I reviewed it here.
  • Under the Harrow by: Flynn Berry. Smart and well written and talking about women and violence in ways both intelligent and emotionally true.
  • The Calling by: Inger Ash Wolfe. I can’t resist a good mystery. This was a really, really good mystery with sharp, evocative writing, an excellent protagonist, and, FYI, it was made into an actually well done movie (with Topher Grace in it!).
  • The Private Lives of Trees by: Alejandro Zambra. I’ll basically read anything Zambra writes. His writing makes me feel like I’m in a fugue state after I’m done with it. He’s basically just doing magic and putting it on the page somehow.
  • Known and Strange Things by: Teju Cole. What I love about Cole’s writing is that it always surprises me. He thinks about things in a way that makes me rethink them as well. Particularly, I loved his essays on photography.
  • Why Did You Lie? by: Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Even when it’s not top-line Yrsa, she still manages to write a mystery that keeps one so engrossed that “oh look, its one am, and the books done and didn’t I just started reading at ten??”
  • Scholarship in the Digital Age by: Christine L. Borgman. This book is on here for two reasons: one it made me think about scholarship and the collecting of knowledge in new ways (which on its own is a pretty cool thing) and two I think it solved a problem for a novel I’ve been trying to write for over ten years. So I’m now like indebted to this book forever.
  • End of Watch by: Stephen King. I debated including this one. It was solid but it took this series in a direction that I thought was unnecessary. But, ultimately, I think it did right by its protagonists to complete the trilogy and they were damn fine characters.

 

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Best Books of 2015

Well, hello, Dear Readers,

It is time now for my list of my favorite books that I read in 2015. I read a good amount of books (*by good, I may mean an extremely large number of books). Some were published in 2015 and some were not. The only books I deemed ineligible were ones which I reread in 2015 but had read for the first time in a previous year. I also decided to only select one book per author in cases where I read multiple books by the same author over the course of the year.

The numerical order is (as always) irrelevant. I just really enjoy putting numbers in front of things.

1.) Lock In by: John Scalzi. This book not only does something brilliant with narrative voice and a reader’s perceptions, but also is a clever and fun mystery that also has an extremely brilliant sci-fi premise.

2.) Trigger Warning by: Neil Gaiman. This isn’t my favorite overall Gaiman story collection, but there are some stunning gems in here and, honestly, even just “good” Gaiman is still pretty awesome.

3.) Voices in the Night by: Steven Millhauser. Now, yes, I love Millhauser. I love Millhauser times one million. But, I REALLY loved this collection. Millhauser might be getting even better as a writer, which is somewhat mind blowing that that is even possible.

4.) Ways of Going Home by: Alejandro Zambra. This is a slim book. Yet, it seems like it was overflowing with pages (in a good way). Nine months after reading it, I’m still thinking about how beautiful this book was.

5.) Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of the Afterlife by: Deborah Blum. Yes, this subject matter is to me what catnip is to a cat. However, Blum’s writing makes this also an excellent and compelling read for anyone.

6.)  The Skeleton Road by: Val McDermid. I’d never read McDermid before and went in expecting a good, but maybe light mystery. What I got was an extremely well-written novel about the weight of guilt and the lasting effects of violence.

7.) Ghosts: A Natural History by: Roger Clarke. Enjoyable and expansive. Just what I was looking for.

8.) Unbecoming by: Rebecca Scherm. I have some qualms with the end of this novel, but up to that point this was a brilliant and unsettling character study.

9.) Baba Yaga by: Toby Barlow. This book is perfect. I need say no more.

10.) Finders Keepers and Bazaar of Bad Dreams by: Stephen King. Neither of these Kings were perfect, or even top-King, but each had some parts that were top-King and, dammit, I love Stephen King. So, I’m including both, because together the excellent parts added up to some quality reading.

11.) There’s Something I Want You to Do by: Charles Baxter. Man. Man. This writing was exquisite. One of my favorite collections I’ve read in a long time.

12.) Wallflowers by: Eliza Robertson. If you haven’t read a story by Robertson, I suggest you do so RIGHT NOW. If she’s not on best young writers lists soon, soon, soon, then I will be appalled.

13.) Three Moments of an Explosion by: China Mieville. Let me count the ways I love Mieville. Or, maybe, I shouldn’t because there are thousands. He is all that is perfect.

14.) Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale by: Marina Warner. It is short, but it’s also dense. And, as always with Warner, the writing and scholarship are excellent.

15.) Windows on the World: 50 Writers, 50 Views by: Matteo Pericoli. Just lovely little snapshots into writers.

16.) Wonders of the Invisible World by: Christopher Barzak. Barzak just keeps on impressing me. His writing is lovely and filled with heart in  a way that many writers can’t accomplish without feeling treacly.

17.) Slade House by: David Mitchell. I’ve had Mitchell issues before. But I loved this one: creepy, evocative, and a read in one sitting book.

18.) Fifteen Dogs by: Andre Alexis. Alexis writes so beautifully that I often feel intensely jealous. And then I just feel happy that I get to read his work. Warning: I’m not someone who cries during reading (except for rare moments. JK Rowling, YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID), but I had to put this book down several times because I was actually shaking from how heartbreaking some of it is.

19.) Half an Inch of Water by: Percival Everett. Everett’s writing always shines and in these short stories that shine comes through even more. Lovely.

20.) The Buried Giant by: Kazuo Ishiguro. I debated including this title. It was wonderfully written (which shouldn’t be a surprise with Ishiguro at the helm) but it was by no means my favorite of his works. It’s flawed, in many ways, and yet, months later I continue to go back to some of the ideas and images.

 

And here’s to a hopefully equally brilliant 2016 in books!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Best Books of 2014

Well, hello, Dear Readers, (whoa, “dear” is “read” spelled backwards! A coincidence?? I think not!). I just remembered that I haven’t yet put up my best books of 2014 list yet! I read a “some” (*laugh of pure insanity*) books in 2014 and have come up with a list of my 15 favorites. Some were published in 2014 and some were not. The only books I deemed ineligible were ones which I reread in 2014 but had read for the first time in a previous year. I also decided to only select one book per author in cases where I read multiple books by the same author over the course of the year.

The numerical order is (as always) irrelevant. I just really enjoy putting numbers in front of things.

1.) Before and Afterlives by: Christopher Barzak. This collection of short stories didn’t have a single flawed one in the bunch. Each story was beautifully written—Barzak’s use of language always stuns me—and the stories were sometimes funny, often heartbreaking, and always perfect.

2.) The Gamal by: Ciaran Collins. The voice of this novel stayed with me long after I finished reading it. Collins does a brilliant job with a truly memorable character.

3.) Visitation Street by: Ivy Pochoda. Tense and evocative. The neighborhood of this mystery came so fully to life in Pochoda’s writing that the reader truly feels as if they are involved in the story.

4.) All the Light We Cannot See by: Anthony Doerr. I had mixed feelings after reading this book (preferring other Doerr works), but the more I thought about it the more I was impressed with Doerr’s precision of language and the complex webs of the novel.

5.) Bird Box by: Josh Malerman. One of the most original horror concepts I’ve read in years. The fact that Malerman also writes with great skill and makes the reader care deeply about his characters makes this a pretty fantastic debut novel.

6.) Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert by: Michael Krondl. Not only is this books filled with delicious and delightful facts about dessert (which is basically I’d have asked for), but his writing is also compelling and the descriptions are lovely.

7.) Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books by: Wendy Lesser.  I feel like the title says it all. I love books about reading and Lesser writes wonderfully. Enough said.

8.) Siege 13 by: Tamas Dobozy. Each story in this collection feels like it’s been chiseled to its absolute purest, most perfect state. What a stunning group!

9.) Elizabeth is Missing by: Emma Healey. Save for an epilogue that I felt took away slightly from the beauty of the ending, this was a skillfully written book—sorrowful in just the right ways, an elegy for the still living.

10.) Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by: Diana Wynne Jones. Because DWJ forever.

11.) Station Eleven by: Emily St. John Mandel. Mandel is fast becoming a favorite author and this book further pushed me into fangirl mode. Mandel does dazzling things with the apocalypse—making it thoroughly original.

12.) The Cold Song by: Linn Ullmann. Gorgeous prose and a tightly wound story makes this a striking read.

13.) At Night, We Walk in Circles by: Daniel Alarcon. Lovely writing and a strangely layered story.

14.) Pastoral by: Andre Alexis. Alexis tackles faith and the natural world, writing about both with a tender humor and precisely lovely prose.

15.) The Silkworm by: Robert Galbraith and Mr Mercedes by: Stephen King. Yes, a bit of a cheat on my part. Yet, I feel these two connected in my head. In both cases, they are writers not necessarily known for the genre tackling more traditional detective novels. And, in both cases, the results are thoroughly enjoyable.

 

And, already looking ahead to 2015’s list, there are new books coming out this year by some of my absolute favorite authors: Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Kazuo Ishiguro, Andre Alexis, Daniel O’ Malley, and more. EXCITEMENT!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized