The Best Ten Books Lydia Hasn't Talked About Enough This Year

Article by Lydia

The title pretty much says it all: for someone who talks about books for a living (and for fun), I still have not managed to shout about these ten books enough. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be considered socially unacceptable for me to wander the streets, asking if you’d heard the Good News about my current favorite book yet, and in an even more ideal world, I’d have an unlimited supply of these books to press feverishly into your hands.

This world, of course, is not perfect, so here is a list of books (in no particular order) I’d like to shout about that I think make the world a little more ideal.

Him, Me, Muhammad Ali Cover Image
ISBN: 9781941411315
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Sarabande Books - October 11th, 2016


Jarrar switches easily from the brightly whimsical to the painfully real in this collection following Arab and Arab-American women as they struggle through love, lust, and longing. Whether rooted in fable or realism, whether following the journey of an Egyptian woman grieving her father or a woman with mountain goat legs searching for love, these stories hold truth.

Private Citizens: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062399106
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - February 9th, 2016


Knife-blade-sharp social satire with deft characterization (as well as deft caricaturization, if I may), this debut novel set in the Bay Area is the greatest Feel-Bad Read of the year. Deliciously mean-spirited in tone but refreshingly equal-opportunity in scope, Tulathimutte spares no one, eviscerating the self-righteous, the branding-obsessed, the insecure navel-gazer, and the narcissistic in turn. You might end up hating many of the characters you come across in the book, but you'll also find yourself groaning in empathy and—let's be honest—in painful recognition. Mostly, you’ll find yourself laughing and turning page after page.

Another Brooklyn: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062359988
Availability: Backordered
Published: Amistad - August 9th, 2016


The quiet coming-of-age story of four young black women "growing up Girl" in the frenetic, sharp-clawed Brooklyn of the 1970s. With her hazy, dreamlike narrative, her prose clear and resonant as struck crystal, Woodson perfectly evokes four talented girls scrabbling to take hold of their futures, trying to hold onto themselves and each other, filled with fear and despair and hope, so much hope.

Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555977597
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - October 18th, 2016


Equal parts personal essay and writing instruction, THRILL ME breaks away from Percy’s mountain-bear gruff-n-tuff persona to reveal the perfectionist nerd he really is—and writers and readers alike benefit from his generosity in doing so. Written with hilarity and clear-eyed, no-frills insight, THRILL ME is a quick read you’ll come back to again and again.

Cannibal (Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780803290631
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Nebraska Press - September 1st, 2016


A gorgeous, weighty debut collection, CANNIBAL explores Sinclair’s homeland of Jamaica, wrestling with the nation’s fertile land and turbulent history. Both the author’s home and her female body are war-torn, foreign, and post-colonial—the poet is an exile from both.  Evoking THE TEMPEST and Old Testament mythology, these brutal, ravishing poems bring forth a landscape at times raw with anger, at times lush with longing and beauty.

The Other Boy Cover Image
By M. G. Hennessey, Sfe R. Monster (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780062427663
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - September 20th, 2016


A sweet, sometimes painful but ultimately triumphant story about first love, true friendship, and the greatest game ever played: baseball. Shane, a white transgender boy in middle school, has settled into his new school, made the team with his best friend, developed a crush on the cutest girl in his class, and has almost forgiven his dad for his parents’ divorce, but of course things can’t stay simple for long. Though Shane struggles with discrimination, the story stays lighthearted and upbeat without sacrificing realism. THE OTHER BOY is as enjoyable a book as it is important.

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594634635
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Riverhead Books - March 8th, 2016


Helen Oyeyemi may have started her career as the prodigy darling of the literary world, but she’s published her seventh book now and shows no sign of plateauing. Oyeyemi effortlessly injects fantasy into the social and political realities of these stories, loosely centered on the theme of keys and the literal and metaphorical doorways they lead to. Playful and mysterious, often queer and always fun, these are stories you can escape into.

Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062311566
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Ecco - July 5th, 2016


At the time of my writing this, Blair Braverman’s Twitter handle is “Feminist Jack London”—a more perfectly apt description of the contents of her brilliant memoir than I could write myself (but of course I’m going to try). WELCOME TO THE GODDAMN ICE CUBE is ostensibly about the author’s experience learning to race sled dogs in the coldest parts of the world, but like the best of memoirs, it’s about a lot more—it’s about fear, about being the perpetual outsider, about her great longing for the North and her desire to test herself, and we can’t help but hold our breath for her as she throws herself into the dangerous, dark winter to pursue a lifestyle dominated by men. Her story, told with a measured, even voice, is exciting, contemplative, gritty, and so, so real—this a book of a woman’s triumph over the discrimination we all face but in a place most of us will never see.

Du Iz Tak? Cover Image
By Carson Ellis, Carson Ellis (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780763665302
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Candlewick - October 18th, 2016


Yet another gem from my favorite can-do-no-wrong publisher, Candlewick Press. A sweeping drama of life and death played out by fancifully-anthropomorphic insects speaking a non-existent but still understandable language, DU IZ TAK? is an “empires rise, empires fall” tragicomedy for all ages. Seriously: no matter who you’re reading to, you won’t get tired of Carson Ellis’ gorgeous, intricate watercolor illustrations or her simple, perfect story anytime soon. 

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316229296
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Orbit - August 4th, 2015


I admit, including these two books is somewhat of a cheat—first, because I’m using one slot for two books that both deserve awards in their own right, and second, because I have already spent a good part of this year telling everyone I know about this brilliant, un-put-downable series by N.K. Jemisin, but I argue it fits the theme because I truly can't praise her work enough (and besides, it's my top ten list).

There have been many, many books, both recently and not, about the end of the world and what comes after. I have read many of these books, and enjoyed many of these books, but N.K. Jemisin’s brilliant new series managed to do something wonderful—surprise me.

Part fantasy, part prophetic warning of our possible future, THE FIFTH SEASON and its equally sharp sequel THE OBELISK GATE are set in a far-future world, so desiccated and wracked by earthquakes that its people carry emergency “runny-sacks” in anticipation of “fifth seasons,” the environmental aftermath of world-breaking quakes. Ecstatically imaginative in scope, with the most meticulous world-building a sci-fi/ fantasy nerd could ever hope for, this series is a finely-polished mirror for our own broken society, with our history of racism and imperialism, our cavalier disregard for an environment we’ve largely wrecked. Jemisin’s characters are superb, achingly human and each as complicated and angry and imperfect as the last, their battles set against the backdrop of a world in its death-throes, a civilization eating itself from the inside out.

If you only read one more book this year, make it two and make it these.

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