Top 15 Fiction Books for 2016: Guest Post by Sandy Ho
Reading fiction is where and how I derive my energy.
There is something centering about getting absorbed into a story, and 2016 has been a year where feeling grounded has been a strategy for survival: whether escaping from headlines, or “to-do” lists.
Over the past few years I’ve made an intentional effort to not read consecutive books about the same place, or the same types of people, or by authors of similar identities. I read to gain perspective because as much as it is a way to pass the time, it’s also an enjoyable way, for lack of a better phrase, to exercise the heart and mind.
So my reading isn’t driven by any one particular agenda, and the presence of disability doesn’t make or break my decision to read a book. Since I don’t “read for disability” when disability does come up, it’s typically a refreshing surprise! I’ll admit I’m a picky reader, and many times the “latest book everyone else” is reading will be one that I can’t stand (Sorry… Gone Girl). This means that the majority of my selection choices are based off of browsing for hours at the library or the neighborhood indie bookstore.
Below is a list of Top 15 Fiction Books whose stories have stuck with me between all of the outrage and heartbreak that 2016 has witnessed. I figure if these stories have lingered in my mind throughout a cacophonous year it’s probably a pretty significant story in someway!
(These are not listed in any particular order. * = presence of disabled character in the story.)
1.) A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers *
Read If You – dream about living on another planet and pursue social justice with a passion.
Gift to the person – who loves sci-fi, doesn’t matter if they’re a Trekkie or a Star Wars fan!
2.) Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Read If You – enjoy winter and murder stories; takes place in the 1800’s, based off of the actual woman who was the last person publicly executed in Iceland.
Gift to the person – who is a lover of nature and history.
3.) God Help the Child by Toni Morrison *
Read If You – don’t have time to sink into something long-winded: a blue-black skinned girl is born to a light-skinned mother, how one treats the other will not only impact just these characters.
Gift to the person – who has been going through tough times with their family or relatives.
4.) Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffman
Read If You – want to know what magic lies in the swamplands of Florida besides the story of a runaway teen, and a kidnapped baby.
Gift to the person – well-balanced between the ground beneath their feet, and the clouds.
5.) Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See by Juliann Garey *
Read If You – want an atypical adventure story as a bipolar man retells his world travels while getting electroshock treatments.
Gift to the person – who is the eccentric happy-go-lucky type.
6.) Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Read If You – would like to meet 3 no bullshit women you’ll wonder where they’ve been all your life; Montego Bay setting is a minor perk next to their radiance.
Gift to the person – who is vivacious and is always going to ‘do their own thing’
7.) Frog by Mo Yan
Read If You – are curious about how a single social policy in communist China winds it way to impact marriages – abortions – midwifery – national loyalties.
Gift to the person – up on the latest international conflict.
8.) Infinite Home by Kathleen Alcott *
Read If You – need a reminder that family is also composed of the people you choose.
Gift to the person – who is your “ride or die,” or someone you’d like to tell “I’m here for you.”
9.) Mislaid by Nell Zink
Read If You – would be humored by a more absurd plot than whatever Trump is tweeting; beginning in the 60’s this is packed with witty commentary on sexual orientation and race relations.
Gift to the person – who has been a free-thinker since Nixon.
10.) Oil on Water by Helon Habila
Read If You – want to explore the Nigerian Delta from the perspective of two journalists whose mission is to report the story, and find the wife of a British oil exec.
Gift to the person – consistently reading the news.
11.) About Grace by Anthony Doerr
Read If You – want to learn more about snowflakes, or wonder what it would be like to see, and then escape the future.
Gift to the person – in your family who would do anything to save all of you.
12.) The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger *
Read If You – want your heartstrings pulled, and wish winter could fly by as quickly as these 500+ pages surely will.
Gift to the person – newly in-love, not the “so like, I have a crush”-way but that committed-for-life kind.
13.) Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Read If You – want a structure of a story as impressionable as the way slavery ricochets thru this family tree, and becomes anchored to the spaces of each generation.
Gift to the person – burnt out from mobilizing around racially driven conflict that has happened, and that will come.
14.) A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara *
Read If You – want to be pushed to the extremes: wincing psychological trauma, and cheer on (be jealous of? be frustrated by?) complex prodigious bonds of friendship.
Gift to the person – you are certain without a doubt has a backbone of steel, and is fiery with warmth in the cockles of their heart.
15.) The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Read If You – like me, never read this in school, or read it in school but you’d probably appreciate it outside the classroom even more now.
Gift to the person – just moved to the United States, or an anxious young person beginning a new lifestyle.
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Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.