Here are my favorite books of 2016. These are all ones I gave five stars to on Goodreads, and unlike last year’s list which was dominated by realistic fiction, this one is almost wholly speculative.
The list is in alphabetical order and I’ve split it into middle grade and YA, though some are more borderline than others, particularly both Hardinge books..
Though my actual paying job has meant that I haven’t been able to read and blog as much as in the past, I’m planning to keep going with at least a weekly post.
Happy reading in 2017!
As I Descended by Robin Talley
The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne Jones
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
A Taste for Monsters by Matthew J. Kirby
Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon
The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Drowned City written and illustrated by Don Brown
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier
The Wooden Prince by John Claude Bemis
The Cybils finalists were announced on Saturday, and you can peruse them all here. These shortlisted books will now be read by the second-round judges, and the winners will be announced on Valentine’s Day. Just a reminder that the criteria used for selection are kid appeal and literary merit, so you know you’re on safe ground with recommending these books for kids (unlike a certain other set of awards, due to be announced next Monday, January 11, which only looks at literary merit and, consequently, often selects some snoozers, thus enabling adults to torture kids by insisting they read these books as they’ve won a prize).
The shortlist for the category that I’m judging, Elementary and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction, is as follows:
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Caste Hangnail by Ursula Vernon
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson
The Fog Diver by Joel Ross
Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall
Moon Rising by Tui T. Sutherland
I’ve only read and blogged about Mars Evacuees, which I liked very much, so I’ll have my head down for the next few weeks reading and discussing. It’s always a great opportunity for me to read titles I might not otherwise come across, so I’m excited to get started.
After last year’s KidLitCon, I checked the books I’d read that year to assess how diversely I’d been reading. I felt I’d been doing OK, but could do better and set myself the objective of actively looking out for books with more diverse characters this year. So how have I done?
Well, again the answer is I’d did OK, definitely better than last year but still room for improvement.
Firstly, thanks to Goodreads for sending me my 2015 in Books – it made my task so much easier! I have recorded 87 books this year and I looked at whether the main characters or support characters (important, not just background) were diverse. Here are my stats – note that I have only recorded each book once, no double dipping!
Racial/cultural diversity: 21 books with main characters, and 9 with support characters.
GLBQT: 4 books with main characters and 2 with support (showing the sad demise of the gay best friend for the white girl in my reading this year).
Mental or physical challenges: 5 books with main characters and 4 with support.
This gives a total of 45 books with a diverse main or support character – just over half the books I read.
I think some of this is because I read a lot more YA books this year, and also I did actively try to read more broadly. Overall, I feel it’s a decent proportion and I would like to keep that up, maybe even increase it over the next year.
I’m deliberately calling these books ‘favorites’ rather than ‘best’, because I think what I enjoy reading is not necessarily going to be in the running for medals. My criterion is that I gave the book 5 stars on Goodreads. I thought I was being less profligate with my stars this year – I was very influenced by this article – but it turns out I have far more top-rated books this year than last (15 versus 9). Maybe I’m just choosing more appealing books to read?
Anyway, here’s this year’s list. Compared to last year’s there’s a lot less speculative fiction, and a lot more YA realistic fiction. I think this is probably more to do with what I’ve been interested in this year rather than a seismic shift in the market. They are in alphabetical order by title as it was too much work to rank them
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (realistic fiction)
Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert (realistic fiction)
The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner (realistic fiction)
The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming (nonfiction)
Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin (nonfiction)
A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith (realistic fiction)
The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond (realistic fiction)
What We Left Behind by Robin Talley (realistic fiction)
X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon (historical fiction/bio)
Boys Don’t Knit (in Public) by T. S. Easton (realistic fiction)
The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell (speculative fiction)
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (realistic fiction)
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (speculative fiction)
Moonpenny Island by Trisha Springstubb (realistic fiction)
The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold (speculative fiction)
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones (speculative fiction)
Happy reading in 2016!
Once again I’m thrilled to have been selected as a judge for the Cybils – the awards for children’s and YA literature selected by book bloggers. For the fourth year, I will be joining some other fab bloggers to look at elementary and middle grade speculative fiction.
In my previous stints, we chose The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy, The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen and The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham – all excellent and highly entertaining reads.
The Cybil awards look at both literary merit and reader appeal, which (I think) gives them a leg up on the higher profile awards like the Newbery, which don’t have to take readers into account. Which, again in my opinion, is why they’ve sometimes ended up with some duffers that no kid would ever willingly read.
Anyway, the Cybils are currently in the nominations phase, which is followed by the panelist stage, in which some mighty speed-reading bloggers whittle the enormous list of nominations down to a manageable number. Then between January 1 and the middle of February, we judges read and pontificate, before selecting a winner!
Me and Patrick Ness.
It’s the first anniversary of bibliobrit – a year in which I have written 106 posts and reviewed over 100 books. Rummaging through the stats of my blog, here are some first year facts:
Most popular posts
- I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is by far the most read review. I meet Ms. Nelson recently at the ALA conference and she was quite charming. She is very excited about the upcoming movie of this novel, though I have to say I have my concerns.
- The Perfect Letter by Chris Harrison is the gift that keeps on bringing people to my blog. They don’t usually stay for very long though.
- Wild Rover No More by L. A. Meyer is the last book in a hugely popular and well-loved series, though bibliobrit readers often appear to be looking for spoilers.
Least popular posts
Here’s your opportunity to go back and read them. They’re really not that bad, and they’re about books that are really good.
- She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick is a terrific book by an author who always delivers something thoughtful.
- The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier is a cracking good fantasy/horror story. It did bubble around the edges of Newbery discussions too, though is perhaps a bit too genre for that award.
- Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith is a funny, raunchy scifi thriller that won a Printz honor.
So, let’s cut the cake and pop the cork! and here’s to a second year of bibliobrit. Feel free to let me know if there’s anything you like or don’t like about the blog, and if there’s some books you think I should add to my TBR pile.
The Cybils are now into the second round of judging, which is where I swing into action! Along with four other judges, I will be evaluating seven titles in the Elementary and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category. Here are our finalists, of which, you’ll note, I’ve only blogged about Boys of Blur:
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
The Swallow by Charis Cotter
Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry
Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins
Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson
The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell
I’m looking forward to getting stuck into reading and discussing these books with my fellows, but can’t blog about any of them until our decision is announced on February 14th.
So, to keep you entertained while that’s going on, I’ll post some older reviews and maybe slip in a few new ones if I have time.