More Best Books of 2016 Lists

The King County Library System’s five top books of 2016

The King County Library System, one of the largest public library systems in America with a lot of avid readers among its patrons, has released its list of the five most popular books of 2016. The library measures popularity by the number of holds placed on a title.

King County Best Books: Librarians’ Choices

The top four entries in this listing are for the current year:

  • Best Books 2016 — Teen
  • Best Books 2016 — Kids
  • Best Books 2016 — Nonfiction
  • Best Books 2016 — Fiction

And, in case you missed the entries for previous years, there are links for those here as well.

The best books of 2016, from our critics

A list from book reviewers for The Seattle Times, divided into fiction and nonfiction sections.

The 10 Best Books of 2016

The editors of The New York Times Book Review offer their choices as the year’s 10 best books, five fiction and five nonfiction.

Notable Children’s Books of 2016

The best in picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction, selected by the children’s books editor of The New York Times Book Review.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Books You Can Read in One Day

The countdown to year’s end has begun. If you’re behind on your reading challenge for 2016 or just want to pad your statistics, here are some books you can easily read in a day or less.

Fiction

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Dubliners by James Joyce

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Of the Farm by John Updike

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club by Virginia Ironside

A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Where Are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark

Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer

Child of God by Cormac McCarthy

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, translated by Sora Kim-Russell

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick

The Plains by Gerald Murnane

The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson

Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West

The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal

Not to Disturb by Muriel Spark

Nonfiction

Slow Reading by John Miedema

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

The Ancient Art of Tea by Warren Peltier

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Days on the Road: Crossing the Plains in 1865 by Sarah Raymond Herndon

The Tao of Psychology by Jean Shinoda Bolen

Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle by C.G. Jung, trans. R.F.C. Hull

Writing in an Age of Silence by Sara Paretsky

Comfort: A Journey Through Grief by Ann Hood

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art by Joyce Carol Oates

Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson

In Addition

19 Wonderful Short Books and Stories to Read Now

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

They’re Back: Best Books of the Year Lists

The best books of the year lists seem to appear earlier and earlier every year. Here’s a first look at some of the offerings.

100 Notable Books of 2016

The New York Times announces its choices in the following categories:

  • Fiction & Poetry
  • Nonfiction
BAFFLING OMISSIONS FROM THE NY TIMES’ 100 NOTABLE BOOKS LIST

Emily Temple isn’t satisfied with the New York Times list because it omits several books that she thinks it should include. She offers her list of notable omissions here.

Best books of 2016 – part one

A list from The Guardian, in which “writers choose their best reads of 2016.” Selections include fiction, poetry, and nonfiction.

Best books of 2016 – part two

A companion to (or, rather, a continuation of) the entry above.

Best Philosophy Books of 2016

Philosophy raises fundamental questions about the world around us and how we should live our lives. Fortunately, a range of popular books now available mean you too can grapple with some of these issues. Philosopher and author Nigel Warburton picks his favourite philosophy books of 2016.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

For Your Halloween Entertainment

Here are a couple of articles full of suggestions from The Seattle Times:

  1. What’s on your Halloween reading list?
  2. What to watch on TV this Halloween weekend

14 Spectacular Reads From Oprah’s Book Club

Oprah Winfrey started her book club in 1996 and, for the last twenty years, millions of books have been sold and read because of her recommendations and her dedication to promoting brilliant writers. Here are just some of the bestselling, award-winning, and truly life-changing books that she has selected for her book club.

Source: 14 Spectacular Reads From Oprah’s Book Club

Last Week’s Links

How Stephen King Made Pop Culture Weird

If you’ve ever been to Austin, TX, you’ve seen the bumper stickers: “Keep Austin Weird.” Even my new hometown of Tacoma, WA, likes to call itself weird, as does Portland, OR, in the photo above.

Lincoln Michel explains that these are not isolated occurrences:

If you haven’t heard, “weird” is back in style. From hit TV shows like Stranger Things and True Detective (season one only, please) to best-selling novels like Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy and George R.R. Martin’s weirder-than-the-show A Song of Ice and Fire, pop culture is getting increasingly strange. Odd beasts, dark tunnels, and writhing tentacles are cool again. And, in the wake of his 69th birthday, it seems time to celebrate the person who is the most responsible for weirding up pop culture: Stephen King.

He singles out King because “Plenty of authors write books that are equally dark, weird, and genre-bending, but few have King’s impact on pop culture.” This article caught my eye because one of my recent reads was King’s 11/22/63, a time-travel alternate-history romance (“genre-bending,” although “genre-blending” would be more accurate) that kept me spellbound.

A theory of creepiness

If you’ve been hanging out around Notes in the Margin for a while, you’ve heard me say that I don’t read books about zombies, vampires, or werewolves. Even though I know these unnatural beings can be potent metaphors for contemporary life, I just don’t like them.

But, until I came across this article, I had never examined my revulsion with these creatures until I came across this article, which made me realize I dislike zombies, vampires, and werewolves because of their creepiness:

creepiness – Unheimlichkeit, as Sigmund Freud called it – definitely stands apart from other kinds of fear. Human beings have been preoccupied with creepy beings such as monsters and demons since the beginning of recorded history, and probably long before. Even today in the developed world where science has banished the nightmarish beings that kept our ancestors awake at night, zombies, vampires and other menacing entities retain their grip on the human imagination in tales of horror, one of the most popular genres in film and TV.

In this article David Livingstone Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of New England and director of the Human Nature Project, examines psychological theories in looking to answer the question “Why the enduring fascination with creepiness?”

Bending Mind and Time: 6 of the Best Time Travel Books

11_22_63I’ve always been fascinated by the use of time travel as a literary device. Matt Staggs begins this brief article with a look at the new book Time Travel: A History by James Gleick, a scientist’s look at representations of time travel in popular culture and science. Staggs then discusses five of the best known novels featuring time travel:

  1. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (1895)
  2. Kindred by Octavia Butler (1979)
  3. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
  4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991)
  5. 11/22/63 by Stephen King (2011)

He concludes:

In the absence of the real thing, novels function as time machines in their own right, allowing us to look at what was, and what may yet be, at a safe distance.

RELENTLESSLY RELEVANT: The Dangerous Legacy of Henry James

I’ve long thought that, with the possible exception of “The Turn of the Screw,” the works of Henry James shouldn’t be studied until graduate school. James’s insight into the human psyche is so subtly complex that only people with a lot of life experience can understand and appreciate it.

Paula Marantz Cohen, Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University, uses the recent issuance of a stamp honoring Henry James by the U.S. Postal Service as a springboard for this article. Cohen sees James’s “dense and difficult” late writing — The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, and The Golden Bowl, all written between 1902 and 1904 — as a bridge from the Victorian era into modernity (the age of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf) and then, further, into our age of postmodernism:

His superficial kinship was with European modernists like James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf. Late James is often opaque, … and opaqueness was a hallmark of the modernist rejection of facile realism.

There is an indeterminacy with respect to truth that his later work supports in such an aggressive way that it becomes a worldview. Words, normally meant to communicate, are deployed more as obstacles to communication than as facilitators to it. The fragmented nature of his dialogue leaves meaning unresolved between characters (he describes them as continually “hanging fire”).

Cohen writes that James’s characters “were always trying to make the most out of situations and see the best in people through their imaginative flexibility — to salvage meaning to some positive, creative end.” However, she laments, in academia this process became subverted into giving truth “purely provisional meaning based on what the speaker wants to relay and the listener/reader wants to hear.” The result “betrays the ideals of [James’s] moral imagination. And yet his great later writing can be seen as its precursor.”

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

13 Banned Books That Will Always Have a Place on Our Shelves

Off the Shelf celebrates Banned Book Week with a list of inspiring books that have been banned throughout literary history, including “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel. Visit BannedBooks.org and ALA.org for more information.

Source: 13 Banned Books That Will Always Have a Place on Our Shelves

This list contains some books challenged in recent years, not just the same classics that are perennially challenged. How many of these banned books have you read? I’ve read six.

September is National Translation Month (NTM) — Celebrating Writing in Translation

Celebrating Writing in Translation

Language is a way to express the human experience, yet it also presents communication barriers. With the efforts of accomplished translators, however, those barriers can be overcome to foster artistic unity across linguistic boundaries.

Source: National Translation Month (NTM) — Celebrating Writing in Translation

Last Week’s Literary Links

10 Best Whodunits

I love a good mystery! Here mystery novelist John Verdon (his latest book is Wolf Lake, featuring NYPD homicide detective Dave Gurney) offers a list of “ten remarkable works, each of which has a special appeal to my whodunit mentality”:Cover: The Crossing by Michael Connelly

  1. Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
  2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  3. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. The Galton Case by Ross Macdonald
  5. On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill
  6. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré
  7. Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith
  8. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
  9. Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason
  10. The Crossing by Michael Connelly

I love that he has included literary classics as well as classic mysteries. And since I’ve only read four of these books (numbers 1,2, 8, and 10), I have yet some more titles to add to my TBR list.

Where Lit-Fic and Horror Converge: Ten Literary Chillers

While researching horror literature I came across this article by writer Christopher Shultz. Shultz addresses the snobbish discrimination between literary fiction and genre fiction (such as horror) to end up with a chronological list of 10 novels and short stories that use horror elements (dark subject matter, entities of a sinister and often supernatural nature, a sense of dread and terror) while also achieving standard criteria of literary fiction (complex characters, existential questions, and elegant prose):

  1. ‘Frankenstein, Or The Modern Prometheus’ by Mary Shelley
  2. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
  3. “The Demon Lover” by Elizabeth Bowen
  4. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
  5. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates
  6. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ by Ira Levin
  7. “The Companion” by Ramsey Campbell
  8. “The Paperhanger” by William Gay
  9. ‘Black Moon’ by Kenneth Calhoun
  10. ‘The Fever’ by Megan Abbot

I usually avoid horror, so I’ve only read three of these (numbers 1,2, and 4; and I’ve seen the film Rosemary’s Baby, if that counts). From Shultz’s descriptions I’m also thinking of adding numbers 5 and 10 to my TBR list.

SIX WRITERS ON THE GENIUS OF MARCEL PROUST

In honor of Marcel Proust’s 145th birthday on July 10, six current authors comment on why his work remains so important today. Contributing authors are Siri Hustvedt, Francine Prose, Edmund White, André Aciman, Aleksandar Hemon, and Daniel Mendelsohn.

The Failure of Language and A Dream of the West: An Interview with Bonnie Nadzam

Bryan Hurt interviews his friend Bonnie Nadzam, whom he describes as “someone who felt a dis-ease with conventional fiction and who sought to experiment and push against the boundaries of expectation and form.”

Nadzam is the author of two novels, Lamb (2011) and Lions (2016). Here are some of her statements about how and why she writes:

knowing a character is as complex a process as knowing myself. Both seem to involve a process of patience and observation, and of allowing space for unexpected things/motivations/behaviors to arise.

with Lions in particular, I did try to make the reader a character in this story, to the extent that the reader is tracking signs and assembling and telling stories alongside everyone else in the book. And everyone is mistaken; and also, by the end, everyone is also peculiarly exactly right.

I can’t just write fiction as though language were functioning and reliable. I also, however, don’t want to write heady philosophical fiction. So that means experimenting to find ways to drop into stories that are as unreliable as the language in which they’re written.

I suppose when I write fiction, it’s because there’s something I feel the need to express that I can’t get at intellectually.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Literary Findings from Around the Web

Liane Moriarty’s Favorite Books with Sudden Life-Changing Moments

truly madly guiltyIn Liane Moriarty’s seventh novel, Truly Madly Guilty, something terrible occurs at “an ordinary neighborhood barbecue in an ordinary neighborhood backyard.” It’s something so profound and unsettling, it seems to rewire the six adults and three children present; will any of them be able to recover the relative peace they enjoyed before? As the life-changing event is processed, friendships and marriages are tested and the adults are racked with guilt and regret. Moriarty is known for her compelling, tightly woven stories of the darkness that can lurk behind the apparently ordinary, the suspenseful secrets, catty rivalry, domestic dysfunction, and the shocking event that changes everything.

I’ve read only one of the five novels on her list. And I haven’t yet read any of Moriarty’s own novels. I need to put these books on my TBR list.

Was Philip K. Dick a Madman or a Mystic?

Even if you haven’t read any of Philip K. Dick’s books, you’ve probably come in contact with his work through movies or, to a lesser extent, television: Minority Report, The Man in the High Castle, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Screamers, The Adjustment Bureau.

Much of Dick’s visionary content followed an experience in which he believed that a spiritual force had unlocked his consciousness and given him access to esoteric knowledge. In this article Kyle Arnold, a psychologist at Coney Island Hospital, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and author of The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick, describes this experience and how it affected the author and his work.

New Data Analysis Suggests Only Six Book Plots Exist

“There’s nothing new under the sun,” the saying goes. If you’ve ever felt this while reading a novel, you’ll be interested in this article.

Researchers from the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont in Burlington used sentiment analysis—or analysis of emotion in a string of words—to map the plot of over 1,700 works of fiction. By looking at how the emotional tone of a story changes from moment to moment, the researchers could see the overall emotional arc of the stories.

They found that there were six main ones:

Fall-rise-fall, like Oedipus Rex
Rise and then a fall, like what happens to most villains
Fall and then a rise, like what happens to most superheroes
Steady fall, like in Romeo and Juliet
Steady rise, like in a rags-to-riches story
Rise-fall-rise, like in Cinderella

Read the entire article to see the main grains of salt with which you should take these results.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown