I wanted to do something a little different than a "Best Books of the Year" post, since I read so many fabulous books. Instead, I picked the 16 things I am most glad I read in 2016, and limited myself to a sentence explaining why.
Honorable mention to the outstanding things I read that were continuations of series I love: The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island by Dana Alison Levy (Family Fletcher series); Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Imperial Radch series); I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Speaking From Among the Bones, "The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse", and The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, all by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce series); The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemison (Inheritance trilogy); Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Vorkospigan Saga series); Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (Chalion series); plus comics-- Rat Queens, Saga, Gunnerkrigg Court, Stand Still Stay Silent. I'm glad I read them all, but I wanted the official list to be new discoveries.
So, in no particular order, but divided by category, and including books in a series as one item:
1) Doll Bones by Holly Black, for deftly using a quest story structure and atmospheric horror to explore the fraught transition between childhood and adolescence, and for assuring kids that no matter what some adults may try to tell you, you do not need to give up your imagination and love of stories in order to grow up.
2) The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, for launching a whole new series in one of my favorite fictional worlds, and for making a fallen god such a delightful narrator.
3) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, for achieving the near-impossible: a novel that riffs off Harry Potter while still being very much its own thing, that blithely pretends that it's the last book of a long-running series, and that portrays a male/male romance that echoes the best moments of slash fanfiction but rises above its more problematic tropes.
4) Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, for fearlessly pulling off a narrative style that could have come off as gimmicky, and for using it to craft a story that is at once a thrill-a-minute Sci-Fi/Horror/YA Romance festival-of-awesome and a searing indictment of corporate crime.
5) The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. I: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson, for being a slavery story unlike any I've ever read before, set in a college in Colonial Boston.
6) The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, for laying the usual YA dystopian cards on the table in the first third of the story, and then tossing them all in the air for a game of trope-subverting 52 pick-up.
7) The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily Lily Blue, and The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, for being the most refreshingly original series, YA or otherwise, I've read in a long time.
8) Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, for a gritty, dark Fantasy city I believed in utterly and would go back to in a heartbeat, and a diverse, flawed cast I rooted for even while they were making bad choices.
9) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, for being simply the most beautiful book I read this year.
10) Among Others by Jo Walton, for challenging my ideas of what a successful story has to be and do, and for introducing me to Walton as a writer.
11) Wrapt in Crystal and Heart of Gold by Sharon Shinn, for the wonderful sinking-into-a-warm-bath sensation of reading a book that feels like it was written just for me.
12) A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, for reminding me of the simple truth that every person I meet has depths about which I know nothing, but must have faith are there.
13) "Kindred Spirits" by Rainbow Rowell, for being perhaps the only romantic short story in existence that includes both Star Wars puns and a running joke about the heroine having peed in a cup in an alley.
14) After Man: A Zoology of the Future by Dougal Dixon, for being everything I remember from when I used to flip through my boyfriend's copy in 1988, and for still inspiring the same awe and wonder in me nearly 30 years later.
15) One Summer by Bill Bryson, for reminding me that the U.S. has overcome hatred and survived incompetent leaders before, and that although it sometimes doesn't feel like it, we have made progress in the last 90 years toward a more just and noble society.
16) Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu, for being just an utter delight that illustrates the power of sports to build bonds between people without much else in common-- and maybe even to help build a better world that embraces diversity.