I’ll get this out of the way. These are just books I read this year: a collection of fiction from various genres as well as a dash of non-fiction. Were they published in 2016? Likely not. But they’re great books and they deserve more attention (and sales). In any case, this is my list of the best books of 2016…insofar that I read them all in 2016.
#5: The Listeners, by Leni Zumas
The Listeners contains some of my favorite prose from this year. As I mentioned in my Goodreads review, “Zumas has razored into existence a beautiful grotesquery of the English language.” It’s a tangled tale, a literary experiment, and a horrorshow of a ride. It does occasionally veer into over-heightened prose, and the ending leaves something to be desired, but it’s a gorgeous work of sharp and painful art and worth every minute I spent reading it.
You can get it at Amazon.com and I recommend that you do.
#4: Ritualistic Human Sacrifice, by C. V. Hunt
C. V. Hunt continues to be one of my favorite authors of dark fiction. Ritualistic Human Sacrifice is a great example of why: it’s a wild, insane ride that rushes by at a rollercoaster speed and has little regard for what is or isn’t socially acceptable. It’s grotesque, horrific, and hilariously transgressive. I was, by turns, laughing, grimacing, and shuddering. Hunt has perfectly balanced horror with humor…provided you have a particularly dark and transgressive kind of humor.
Pick it up at Amazon.com and buckle up, because it’s a bumpy ride.
#3: Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun, by A. J. Somerset
Non-fiction. A moderate view of gun culture in the United States and Canada. Arms is a dissection of cultural mores, historical trends, media, and even ballistic science–all in the service of trying to find sanity in a maddening debate. Deeply informative and incredibly well-researched.
I always post links to buy things on Amazon.com because I assume that’s where the majority of people reading this will do their shopping.
#2: The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle
Man…this was an amazing novella. Just amazing. Victor LaValle is an incredibly talented author. He’s an amazing linguist, a dazzling player of the English instrument, with punched-up and tight-wound prose that is at once haltingly beautiful and rapid-fire. If you haven’t read The Devil in Silver, for example, you should do that immediately. In The Ballad of Black Tom, LaValle’s talent with prose is heightened and practiced and a perfect homage to Lovecraft’s work. Where Lovecraft’s paragraphs tended to bloat, however, LaValle trims off all the fat and leaves nothing unnecessary.
I noticed, this past couple years, that there’s been a tremendous wave of cosmic horror authors trying to work to confront and combat Lovecraft’s misogyny, racism, and anti-semitism…of all these efforts, I believe LaValle’s was the most successful.
Purchase it on Amazon.com literally as soon as you can.
#1: The Nameless Dark, by T. E. Grau
T. E. Grau’s story collection The Nameless Dark is everything I like about cosmic horror and most things I like about fiction in general. Grau’s prose is lyrical and rich and extremely readable. The stories cross genres and time periods and Grau is easily at home in all of them, weaving haunting and sometimes horrifying tales with believable (if not necessarily always likable) characters and doing it all with some of the most gorgeous prose I’ve ever happened upon. Thrilling, harrowing, and entrancing, these tales are worth a very close read. Perhaps several.
Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan
Get in Trouble, by Kelly Link
Welcome to Nightvale, by Joseph Fink