My Top Ten Books from 2016

In a way, most of the books on this list are the ones that stuck with me, or surprised me in some way.  What were your favorite books last year?

  1. Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson- This was one I read early on in the year, after the American Library Association Awards were announced.  I was really taken with it – I admit that most of my WWII era reading has focused on the holocaust, or has been somehow centered on the Allied forces, or on Germany.  To read about the horrors that faced the citizens of Leningrad during the war, and also the hope people had in resisting and surviving was highly educational and sometimes inspirational.  Also, using the life of Shostakovich, as well as his work gave a great window into a great deal of Russian history.
  2. Illuminae: The Illuminae Files _01 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristof – This novel was a surprise.  It came in with a Junior Library Guild order, and I just decided to give it a go.  This has a mixed media type of format, and is a sprawling, wonderful science fiction novel.  This starts with the attack of a space colony and sprawls out wonderfully from there – it is the type of novel that has lots of references for fans of science fiction in general – in the same way that Ready Player One has references for gamers and fans of the 80s.  This is one that I keep recommending to students, because I want to talk about it with other people.  If you have read it, what do you think?
  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds – This novel was a Coretta Scott King Honor Award book, and has won several other honors and awards since, which is why I bought it for my high school library.  This is a great novel in that it deals with an incident of police brutality, and the various witnesses, and players in the same incident.  There are several vantage points, and in some ways is reminiscent of the also excellent novel How it Went Down, by Kekla Magoon.   In this case, however, both people involved in the incident survive, although one is badly injured.  A great novel both from a writing standpoint, and a current events standpoint.  I think this would be a great choice to add to a curriculum.
  4. My Name is not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson – This novel I read as part of a project for a class, and it has really stuck with me.  In my history classes growing up, the way that Native American’s were treated seemed to be simplified down to – we made treaties, we broke the treaties, the Native Americans live on reservations.  While I need to do a lot more reading to expand on this lack in my knowledge of history and oppression,  this  particular novel deals with one of the more egregious issues that came out of the treatment of Native Americans and Inuit groups, with the establishment of boarding schools that denigrated tribal languages and history, and in some cases led to children being stolen from their families and sent to school, or even being adopted into other families.  My Name is Not Easy is a useful novel to read to introduce junior high and high school students to this history.
  5. Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince – This graphic novel was different from anything else I have read. I read it as a class assignment as well, but have found myself thinking about it often.  While thankfully there are more and more novels from the viewpoints of people who identify as transgender, this was interesting as the exploration of a woman’s life who identified as a tomboy, an identification that led to many questioning those choices more than being actually interested in her as a person.  Instead of capitulating to gender norms, Liz Prince instead stayed true to herself, and her compelling memoir and artwork are an important piece of work for many students that may feel the same, but struggle to articulate their place.
  6. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes – This novel makes the list because it is so well written, and while the events of the novel are shocking, and reminded me of some aspects of Titus Andronicus by Shakespeare, the titular character is so well drawn that nothing is placed for shock value.  At the start of the novel we meet Minnow Bly – we know that her hands have been amputated by the leader of the cult she escaped from, and we know that something  happened on the cult’s compound, but this novel takes the time to unravel the mysteries clearly and well.  A haunting read.
  7. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby – To be honest, I had head a lot of great things about this novel, but the first time I tried to read it this year I could not get into it.  I abandoned it, and then circled back months later. The second time I really enjoyed the fantasy/magical realism concepts that worked in the novel, as well as the mystery sections.  I think what kept me reading the second time was the mythical core of the novel, of people who have struggles, and are tasked with nearly impossible obstacles, and yet manage to find their way.  Students and adults alike that enjoy questing novels should enjoy this novel as well.
  8. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins – This was on a recommended shelf at Prairie Lights Bookstore, and it was an amazing read.  The man that checked me out the day I bought it was the one that recommended it, and he was passionate about it.  I passed it on to my husband after I read it, and he loved it as well.  This novel is complex and sprawling, about a group of people called librarians – each of whom is in charge of a different catalog.  For instance, the narrator, Caroline, is in charge of language, while David is in charge of war and murder, and others are in charge of other information.  There is a lot going on beneath the surface, and the library is not at all what it seems.  This novel has both deep philosophical questions it is pursuing, and creepy moments, as well as a terrifically good story that makes it hard to put down.
  9. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah  – This was actually a Christmas present from my husband, and he is reading it now.  I enjoy memoirs, although they are not my natural first choice.  What I found amazing and wonderful about this book, was that it was extremely educational about apartheid in general – and Noah does a wonderful job of entertaining the reader in often humorous ways, while  explaining the realities of South Africa both under apartheid, and as apartheid was breaking apart.  Also, he has piqued my interest, and I would really like to read more about South Africa more. A great memoir for fans of the Daily Show, and people that would like to begin their journey in understanding what apartheid was like.
  10. Dead Wake by Erik Larson– This was a Christmas gift from my sister, and I really learned a lot.  When I was in school I remember learning about the Lusitania in a vague way – just, the Lusitania sank, and then it was used as a propaganda tool to enter WWI.  That was about the extent of my knowledge. It turns out, even that gloss of information is not really correct.   Erik Larson is so good at weaving complex strands of narrative together – and he does that so well here – drawing together the doomed ship, the uboat that was coming to sink it, and the complex political machinations going on at the same time.  Even though I knew the outcome, I found myself hoping against hope that the boat would make it.

The Year in Books -2015

In the corner of my office there is a milk crate that holds a couple of binders, and another box.  Inside that box is the majority of the reading logs I have kept since I began teaching.  My mentor teacher – who has since gone on to be a librarian as well – showed me her reading summary logs my first year teaching, and I have been keeping those logs myself since then.

I admit, I don’t write everything down, but I try to write about most books I read, especially those I read that might appeal to students.  It has helped me to pull together book talks, refresh my memory on  a book I have read, and writing a little about a book helps me summarize the information into a quick distillation, which is useful for book talks.

Also, as  a result of those notebooks, I have the information to make my list of what I read this year. I know it will join the rest of the end of year lists, but I like the idea of putting that list in one place for now

  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John
  2. Connor Dinner Party by Nathan Hale
  3. DJ Rising by Love Maia
  4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  5. Explorer: The Mystery Boxes Edited by Kazu Kibuishi
  6. Winger by Andrew Smith
  7. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  8. The Moon Moth by Jack Vance
  9. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  10. There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake
  11. Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
  12. Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  13. Brain Camp by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks
  14. And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
  15. The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi
  16. Tower of Treasure by Scott Chantler
  17. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  18. Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle
  19. Essex County Vol. 1- Tales from the Farm by Jeff Lemire
  20. Glory O’ Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
  21. Taking Flight by Michaela DePrince
  22. The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
  23. The Elite by Kiera Cass
  24. The One by Kiera Cass
  25. Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  26. The Mortal Instruments Book Six – City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
  27. Bellwether Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
  28. The Shades of London Book Three – The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson
  29. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  30. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  31. May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
  32. Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl with Ari Benjamin
  33. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  34. This Song will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
  35. Rump by Liesl Shurtliff
  36. Dead to Me by Lisa McMann
  37. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
  38. Hidden by Helen Frost
  39. The Diviners by Libby Bray
  40. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
  41. Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle
  42. Boy 21 by Matthew Quick
  43. Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones
  44. Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
  45. Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon
  46. X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
  47. Countdown by Deborah Wiles
  48. All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin
  49. The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  50. Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  51. The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go
  52. The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
  53. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  54. Confessions by Kanae Minato
  55. Lacy Eye by Jessica Treadway
  56. How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon
  57. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  58. Ghosts of Galena by Dahly Watson
  59. Dune by Frank Herbert
  60. Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans
  61. Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody
  62. This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
  63. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  64. One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard
  65. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  66. This Journal Begins to Rachet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
  67. The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
  68. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
  69. World of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace at Your School by Laura Fleming
  70. Steel heart by Brandon Sanderson
  71. Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson
  72. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  73. Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
  74. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  75. Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus
  76. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
  77. Those who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta
  78. Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
  79. Chomp by Carl Hiassen
  80. Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin
  81. The President has been Shot: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson
  82. See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles
  83. Lock In by John Scalzi
  84. Butter by Erin Jade Lange
  85. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
  86. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
  87. Hidden by Loic Dauvillier
  88. Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods
  89. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullally Hunt
  90. Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
  91. Dark Life by Kat Fells
  92. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  93. Doll Bones by Holly Black
  94. Boy Nothing by Allen Zadoff
  95. Guys Read: True Stories Edited by Jon Scieszka
  96. Wildfire by Elizabeth Starr Hill
  97. Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf
  98. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwambe and Bryan Mealer
  99. The Christmas Killer by Patricia Windsor
  100. Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen
  101. I Don’t Like Koala by Ferrell
  102. It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee
  103. Jim’s Lion by Richard Hoban
  104. And What If I Won’t by Maureen Fergus
  105. Ben Draws Trouble by Matt Davies
  106. Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker
  107. A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmiko
  108. The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
  109. Mikis and the Donkey by Bibi Dumon Tak
  110. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
  111. Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, Alexis Frederick- Frost
  112. Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
  113. Lunch Lady And the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  114. Babymouse: Our Hero by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
  115. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale
  116. Mercury by Hope Larson
  117. I Was Here by Gayle Forman
  118. Say What you Will by Cammie McGovern
  119. Return to Me by Justina Chen
  120. I am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer
  121. Who Was Amelia Earhart by Kate Boehner Jerome
  122. The Journey that Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escapes of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden
  123. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh
  124. Noah Webster and his Words by Jeri Chase Ferris
  125. The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
  126. This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer L. Smith
  127. Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
  128.  The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
  129. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  130. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  131. Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire
  132. The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
  133. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  134. Crooked House by Agatha Christie