Monday, December 19, 2016

Best (Audio-)books of 2016

It was The Archers that hooked me, the Odyssey Award kept me listening for production errors, now I can't get in the car without "something good to listen to..." I wanted to share some of the audiobooks I particularly enjoyed this year.

Author, Author

Toni Morrison is not the only one to light up her own audiobooks. This year, I was particularly besotted with Tim Federle's The Great American Whatever, as warm and funny as you would expect, and M.T. Anderson's Symphony for City of the Dead. All that Russian! And fun, if a different sort of fun... the author definitely gets some latitude.

The Year of the Thriller

Thrillers demand particular skills from narrators. The talented Imogen Church reads both of Ruth Ware's novels, The Woman in Cabin 10 and In a Dark, Dark Wood, doing an excellent job with a diverse cast of characters, in addition to the mounting suspense.

Georgia Maguire builds the tension minute-by-minute in Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris...

There's a full cast for The Widow by Fiona Barton.

Penelope Rawlins and Dugaid Bruce-Lockhart alternate in two nail-biters by Gilly Macmillan, What She Knew and The Perfect Girl.

And in nonfiction, but it seems to apply: Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker, read by Sean Pratt. Interesting and sympathetic take on Craig's list escort disappearances.

Simon Vance

Did you read his Audiofie interview with Alan Moore? The man's a treasure! The first Simon Vance I ever listened to was People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman by Richard Lloyd Parry, but I got completely into it, enough to listen through twice, even picked up a  few Japanese phrases. I liked Vance enough to tackle The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher and the much-better The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: The Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale. I loved his version of The Little Stranger by Sarah Watters, and missed his tones almost, but not quite enough to listen to some of the Ian Fleming in our public library's Overdrive account.

I bought the 47 hours of his complete Sherlock Holmes...stay tuned.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Best Books of 2016

I read so many things NOT on this list this year, some rather hush-hush. Let's just say, I am particularly proud of our Amelia E. Walden Award Winner, All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. What a tour de force! But I decided to just leave out all other YA for that reason.

Some of my other favorites...

Politically Incorrect

The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver (2016)

I read this just before the election. Like Glory O'Brien, it's looking strangely prophetic. Say what you will about Shriver's indictment of identity politics, but I class her with Philip Roth or Alan Warner for pure virtuoso talent. She nailed the "pull-the-ladders-up-after-ourselves" ethos informing my own generation.

The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang (2016)

Another economic novel, this one about the over-confidence of an immigrant Chinese cosmetics tycoon fallen on hard times and his children and the navigate life on the skids.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty (2016)

It made me gasp and laugh and tear up, in quick succession, its irreverence a delight, and Beatty's unchecked ping-ponging between esoteric associations is a joy to behold.

Not that I didn't enjoy the Joanna Trollope and Curtis Sittenfeld (Eligible) efforts, but Charlotte Bronte is relatively unmined, and the Korean-American take it irresistible. This one was an Alex title.


If there is one genre I know inside and out, it's women's fiction. And I love, love, love the decidedly creepy tone of the minute. While 2016 will forever be The Year I Discovered Sophie Hannah, and not from those Agatha Christie sequels of late, there are quite a few good thrillers in the wake of Gone Girl and Girl on a Train. I myself can't wait for a revival of the gothic. See also Ruth Ware.

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood (2014)

A thriller set in the worst sort of rooming house, where streetwise three women nonetheless come together and form their own sort of family. I've read all the Marwood this year, but this is my favorite.

Girl in the Dark by Marion Pauw (2016)

Translated from the Dutch. Our protagonist discovers she has an older brother she has never met. Her mother is one of the most original and chillingly drawn character I've ever encountered.

What the Nanny Saw by Fiona Neill (2012)

Neill may be best known for her satire, Yummy Mummy, but this bird's-eye view of the 2008 banking crisis rivals Capital.


American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Life of Teenage Girls by Nancy Jo Sales (2016)

Ethnography about the wild west that is social media.

Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret and Extraordinary Lives by Helen O'Neill (2006)

The jaw-dropping story of a flamboyant Australian textile designer whose life and murder proved stranger than fiction.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West (2016)

If you're a Lindy West fan, you don't need particulars.

Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee (2016)

A gripping first-person narrative about life in one of the world's most fascinating places.

Because I'm not writing about YA this time, and leaving out my Alabama authors, this year's one has more titles written specifically for adults than past years (below), if it matters. And I am scraping together another list, Best (Audio-)books of 2016, to follow soon.