I feel terrible that I have been so bad at talking about what I am reading on the blog, because this really has been a terrific year in reading. I’ve been thinking about my favorite reads of the year, and many of them are by debut authors or authors whose works I hadn’t read before. Today’s Top Ten (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) topic, favorite new-to-me authors, gives me a chance to highlight some of the works that may (or may not) make my final 2016 top ten list, but that I loved and would highly recommend anyway.
The Throwback Special, Chris Bachelder. Nominated for a National Book Award, this novel comprised of a series of vignettes of a group of 22 men who meet every year to reenact a famous football play is both funny and melancholy.
The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson. This story of a North Korean orphan who goes to work (putting it mildly) for the state was completely haunting. Deservedly, it won the Pulitzer in 2013.
The Girls, Emma Cline. Every year there’s a much hyped debut release that splits audience opinions right down the middle. This novel, centered around a plot based on a series of killings similar to the Manson murders and the girls involved, worked for me on many levels. I think Cline will be a writer to watch.
All My Puny Sorrows, Miriam Toews. I was all about solid family stories this year, and this one, about a writer trying to keep her sister from ending her life, was as solid, funny, and heartbreaking as they come.
The Fortunes, Peter Ho Davies. Focused on four different periods in American history, Ho tells the story of four Chinese Americans and their families, highlighting the immigrant experience. I happened to be reading this one (which was also nominated for the National Book Award, incidentally) during the election, and it made me sad and afraid all over again.
Our Endless Numbered Days, Claire Fuller. A chilling story of a girl abducted by her father, who tells her the world has ended and carries her away into the woods.
Crow Lake, Mary Lawson. This quiet novel about a group of siblings who lose their parents and try to keep the family together really surprised me. The narrator is unreliable in a completely unexpected, almost refreshing way, and what I expected to be a dark and depressing story is actually rather touching and funny.
Rules of Civility, Amor Towles. I’m a sucker for almost any story about WASPs in New York (sorry, not sorry), but this one is particularly well told. Katey Kontent is a first-generation American who hails from Brooklyn and gets swept up by high-society friends. Part F. Scott Fitzgerald, part Dominick Dunne, this one was difficult to put down.
Head Full of Ghosts, Paul Tremblay. This novel tells the story of a family with a daughter believed to be possessed by the devil who agree to have everything filmed by a reality television crew. The pop-culture references and the sharp style are both big hooks. Even people who don’t typically read horror would enjoy this.
The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. Each member of The Plumb family (WASP: check; New York: check) expects to get a piece of “The Nest,” the family trust fund left behind by their eccentric father. But one sibling has an accident that requires all the money from The Nest to bail him out. This is the story of what happens when all the money’s gone.