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Ben Babcock

Best Books of 2016

Oh hey, it’s a new year.

I usually do a round-up of my best 10 (and worst 10) books of the year and post it as a list. I’m fairly proud of the lists area of my site, but I also have ambitions to do a little overhauling this year, so the lists might be evaporating—hopefully temporarily. I’m going to keep it simple and simply blog about my year of reading.

Also, I’m not going to try to rank my favourite books from 2016 like I usually do. This can be a fun exercise, because it really makes me think about why I enjoyed a book so much. Nevertheless, I would prefer to speak in general about more books. I had a good reading year! I met my goal of 156 books (which is based on a theoretical average of 3 books per week, kind of the most comfortable number I can achieve)—though, to be fair, a chunk of those were Animomrphs. I had fewer 5-star ratings this year than in 2015, 1 more 4-star rating, and 1 more DNF. I also had fewer 3-star ratings and more 2-star ratings. That doesn’t sound promising, I know. However, I think qualitatively there are more books I enjoyed this year to which I gave higher ratings.

I’m going to steal an idea from Lucy the Reader’s best books video and categorize my best books list. So, without further ado…

Banging Book Club

This was the inaugural year for a book club run by three YouTubers I like. Lucy Moon, Leena Norms, and Hannah Witton chose 12 books about sex, gender, and sexuality. They recorded monthly podcasts and discussed the books on Twitter. I very much enjoyed participating in the Banging Book Club. I won’t name specific books right now, because they show up later.

Young Adult Fiction

Without a doubt, YA dominates my 5-star reads in 2016. I am not opposed to this. One of my goals last year was to continue reading more YA, because I want to stay hip with the kids. No, seriously: as a teacher, it behoves me to read what teenagers might read so I can recommend books and remind myself of the issues they face. More than that, I don’t think we should label YA as something only adolescents and young adults need read. Adults benefit from reading YA too.

Courtney Summers made it on to my list last year with Cracked Up to Be, and she is back this year with All the Rage. This was the Banging Book Club’s pick for April 2016, but I would have read it this year anyway. Summers is one of my favourite YA authors. Also, she is so awesome at Twitter, and I have had many good conversations with her about our mutual fandom of Supernatural. Read my review.

Code Name Verity was one of my favourite books of 2013, and I finally bought and read Elizabeth Wein’s sequel, Rose Under Fire. I don’t want to pit the two books against each other; you should read both. I was a little surprised how much I loved this book, and I don’t know why. It is great, especially if you want less contemporary YA and more historical YA. Read my review.

I read two amazing books by Louise O’Neill this year. The first was her second novel, Asking For It, the very first read for the Banging Book Club. The second was her first novel (see what I did there), Only Ever Yours. O’Neill is unapologetic about writing feminist tragedies, and I love it. These are books that will tear you up and rebuild you as a better, stronger person ready to fight against the world’s injustice and oppression of women.

After hearing so much about her, I finally read something by Holly Bourne. I read Am I Normal Yet?, the first book in her Spinster Club trilogy. So strong was my faith in booktubers raving about this Holly Bourne person that I ordered all of her books in one fell swoop from Book Depository. I was not disappointed by my first choice, and I started off 2017 by reading Soulmates, her debut novel.

Although I didn’t give it 5 stars, Flannery deserves a mention here, because of all the YA books I read this year, this might be the one I’d most like to teach to young adults. Lisa Moore’s story about this messed-up but brilliant teenager is so strong, so interesting, that it would make a great class novel study. [Read my review.[(https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1632007712)

Finally, I want to highlight Conviction, by Kelly Loy Gilbert. Not only is this a fantastic novel, but it’s a YA novel with a male protagonist. Much of my YA reading has been predominantly about girls, mostly because women are underrepresented in media in general, and I want to make sure I educate myself about the struggles and issues that young women encounter growing up. Nevertheless, I also want to have recommendations under my hat for books that boys might identify with. Now, there is nothing to stop boys from identifying with female protagonists—but I also think Conviction deals with very pressing issues of toxic masculinity that a boy is going to recognize and have complex thoughts and opinions about. Read my review.

Non-Fiction

There are two types of non-fiction books, broadly, that interest me: science/history stuff, and social justice stuff. Or, you know, a great mixture of these! This year, the latter category really topped my charts.

One of my most-anticipated books of 2016 was Indigenous Writes, a collection of essays from Chelsea Vowel. She’s a Métis blogger and activist trained in law and education. I started following her on Twitter early in the year after hearing her on the Canadaland Commons podcast, and I got very excited when I learned about her book. My professional life at the moment revolves around education adult Indigenous learners, and as a settler, I’m not the best qualified to do this. This is book is essential reading for teachers and highly recommended for everyone else in Canada. Read my review.

The V-Word: True Stories about First-Time Sex is really special, for it’s young adult non-fiction. That’s an important but often overlooked area. This is an open, honest, non-judgmental and diverse set of anecdotal essays that will reassure, educate, and help people—particularly teenagers—who are asking questions like “am I normal?” and “am I ready?”. We need more books like this. Read my review.

Another book I hotly anticipated: Trainwreck, by Sady Doyle. As with Vowel, above, Doyle is someone I’ve followed on Twitter. I have enjoyed her writing across many platforms. She is a voice in feminism worth listening to, and her book is so good. Read my review.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

This genre remains my first love.

Laurie Penny published a new novella, Everything Belongs to the Future. It’s about as insightful and moving as I would expect from the author of Unspeakable Things. And, I mean, it’s a novella—even if you complain you don’t have time to read, surely you could finish this!

Surprisingly, I only gave one SF&F book 5 stars this year: Arcadia, by Iain Pears. This inexplicable event is compounded by the fact that this is a “literary” SF book of sorts—meta-fictional, even. I cannot help or excuse any of that except to say that it is brilliant and I adore it. Read my review.

I treated myself to Charles Stross’ The Bloodline Feud, which is the first in his omnibus relaunch of the Merchant Princes series. It’s worldwalking science fiction but with an emphasis on the economic aspect of journeying between worlds. It is not for everyone, but if you are looking for science fiction that really analyzes the worldbuilding behind the story—and you don’t mind lectures in economics while you’re at it—this will work for you. A friend solicited a recommendation from me (note: do not do this unless you are prepared), and after he found out there were more books, he replied, “Fuck you, now I’m invested in a series.” I can pick ’em. Read my review.

Oh, weird, I just realized that my other science fiction obsession this year, Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War series, also focuses heavily on the economic side of things. Huh. You can read my review of the first book, Trading in Danger; I also read its sequel. I’m savouring these rather than devouring them all at once.

A series I did devour pretty much all at once? The Linesman books from S.K. Dunstall. Here's my review of Linesman, and I quickly read its sequel, then basically twiddled my thumbs and read other books until the newest one came out in November. It’s just fantastic storytelling and the first time I have been excited about space opera in a long time.

What’s Next?

I was going to talk about my reading goals for 2017, but frankly, I’m exhausted. If you read this entire post, you must be too. That post will be for another day.

About Me

I’m a 27-year-old math and English teacher back in Canada after two years teaching in England. In my free time, I read books! When I’m not reading, I’m writing, coding, or knitting.

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About this site

I started coding websites, in bad HTML on Geocities, in 2004 in a fit of whimsy. Since then I’ve learned PHP/MySQL, coded my own blog software, and rebuilt this site several times. With the exception of the blog, it’s currently running on the exquisite Symphony CMS. This website is hosted by HawkHost

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