Originally published in: 2016 (North American edition 2017)
What’s it about: This reads like a thought experiment gone very, very right.What would happen in a world where women developed a physical power that men couldn’t match?
What made me pick it up: I think I put this on hold because there was a blurb from Margaret Atwood on the cover. But I’m also just a sucker for speculative work that is (post)apocalyptic and/or dystopian.
My favorite things: Somehow this book is both a very heavy-handed critique of global patriarchy and an electrifying story. The novel is bookended by letters between two writers, Naomi and Neil, whose gendered interactions flip the script in a way that will entertain anyone tired of mansplaining.
Who it’s great for: Fan’s of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Readers looking for unapologetically feminist read that doesn’t sacrifice story for politics.
Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).
Originally published in: 2015
What it’s about: A sci-fi novella about a teen named Binti – the first of her people to attend a prestigious interstellar university and the struggles she faces getting there.
What made me pick it up: I saw John Green mention the next book Binti: Home on Twitter. A highly recommended sci-fi novella? Sign me up!
My favorite things: This 2016 Nebula Award and 2016 Hugo Award winner for best novella has a quick pace and excellent world building. It will keep you entertained through all of its extraterrestrial escapades. I really enjoyed the character of Binti – she’s full of ingenuity and spunk. It ended on just the right note and now I am eagerly awaiting my holding coming in on the next book. Also, shout out to my alma mater where this author currently teaches.
Who it’s great for: Sci-fi fans. Readers who enjoy a strong female protagonist. Anyone looking for a captivating, but quick, read.
Find Binti and Binti: Home at Amazon(affiliate links), or look for them in your local library.
Best Audiobook: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Originally published in: 2011
What it’s about: Wade Watts spends nearly all his time in the immersive virtual world that is the OASIS. He begins to solve the puzzle left by the creator of the world which has stumped players for decades. His progress leads to immediate fame and marks him as a target for other obsessed members of the OASIS.
What made me pick it up: I needed an audiobook STAT – this one was available and had been lost somewhere in my to-read list for a while. I was a few years late to pick this one up-but I loved it so much I immediately sought out Cline’s next book, Armada.
My favorite things: Full disclosure: I don’t really have a lot to say about video games or 80’s pop culture, but I found Cline’s enthusiasm for both infectious and it somehow made me really care about the players in the OASIS. He does a great job of making a puzzle in a virtual world feel urgent and meaningful, and even finds the time for a little virtual romance. Wil Wheaton reads the audiobook and he’s so perfect for it that I wonder if Cline wrote it with him in mind.
Who it’s great for: Fans of video games, from the classics through mmorpgs, and DnD die-hards. 80’s pop culture buffs. Readers looking for an exciting dystopian adventure.
Best Graphic Novel: The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: Set in the same universe as Greenberg’s 2013 debut The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, a storyteller weaves tales for 100 nights to protect her true love from a lecherous man.
What made me pick it up: l loved The Encyclopedia of Early Earth and was excited to see what Greenberg would create next.
My favorite things: “IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORLD AND IT WAS WEIRD.” Greenberg starts off with a bang and doesn’t fail to deliver. Her artistic style is one of my favorites and I’ve found myself flipping through repeatedly to find specific scenes that I loved. This is a kind of adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights/The Arabian Nights that expertly flips the script into a queer feminist retelling. The characters in each tale are as compelling and important as those in the framing story and include several strong women working to overcome dire situations to be independent.
Who it’s great for: Fans of fables and folklore. Readers looking for a collection of stories about love of all kinds. Fans of Audrey Niffenegger’s illustrated works.
Did you come across any graphic novels or audiobooks this year that you can’t stop talking about?
Originally published in: 2015
What it’s about: As it turns out, Zack Lightman’s love of video games isn’t a waste of time. It’s going to help him save the world from an alien invasion.
What made me pick it up: I loved the audiobook for Cline’s 2011 Ready Player One and was excited to see that Wil Wheaton would be the reader for this one as well.
My favorite things: Cline strikes a great balance between poking fun at sci-fi tropes and embracing them. He gives equal importance to the everyday angst-producing experiences of teenage life and the terrifying thrills of trying to save the world. Wil Wheaton is an incredible reader and brings a lot to the audiobook – he’s a perfect fit for the story and I hope he comes back for Cline’s next book!
Who it’s great for: Anyone looking for a funny, adventurous, high-stakes coming of age story. People looking for a lighthearted answer to Ender’s Game. Fans of sci-fi, video games, and teenage drama.
What it’s about: Set in a post-apocalyptic North America where a widespread disease catches children before they ever reach adulthood, a young girl races to find a cure to save her loved ones.
What made me pick it up: The name piqued my attention because, hey, who doesn’t love ice cream? But the new spin on the post-apocalyptic is what actually pushed it to the top of my TBR pile.
My favorite things: Newman writes in an imagined future dialect that was a struggle to work through at first, but as I got used to it I really enjoyed trying to puzzle out the origins of the language. I love the way she imagines how a society of children would boil down and try to embody the values of older generations. And can we talk about the shameless overuse of Instagram filter on the cover image? What is that-Crema? Rise? Charmes? Whatever it is, it perfectly fits the tone of the book.
Who it’s great for: Fans of dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction. Anyone up for a linguistic challenge.