Books I Read in 2016 & Think You Should Read in 2017

This year, according to Goodreads, I read 110 books. My goals this year were to continue to read more diverse voices and read books on my to-read shelves, instead of buying new ones. By the numbers — 60 (+13% compared to 2015) were written by women, 46 (+19%) drawn by women, 24 (+1%) written or drawn by people of color, and 21 (+8%) written or drawn by queer people. (The latter two categories may be slightly off.) 25 had been sitting on my shelves for at least one year.

Here’s some amazing stuff you should read too:

The Fifth Season1. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)
by N.K. Jemisin

Genre: sci-fi, fantasy, apocalyptical worlds, geology
Recommended for: Those seeking something fresh in sci-fi/fantasy

A pretty amazing storytelling feat about a world where its complete destruction is held off by an oppressed people who can control geology. Jemisin weaves an interesting tale, building a world and incredibly strong characters. I couldn’t put this down, and I don’t want to say much more about the book in case of spoilers. This world is full of women, people of color, and queer people, and this story centers on them, for those looking for stories starring marginalized groups in sci-fi and fantasy.

Monstress2. Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening
by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Genre: fantasy, art deco, magical peoples, cats, post-war, surviving, comics
Recommended for: Those wondering what it means to survive

I’ve been a fan of Liu’s writing for a long time, but Monstress is a comic that has been in my head. This story isn’t easy: content and world building-wise (centered in a fantastical Asia). It features war survivors, slavery, horror, oppression, poverty, death, and many supernatural elements. Liu and Takeda don’t hold your hand. They don’t make the story or the art easy. Not everything is gently explained, justified, or expounded upon.

Born with Teeth3. Born with Teeth
by Kate Mulgrew

Genre: memoirs, acting, career women, family, children
Recommended for: Those wondering what acting life is like or interested in Mulgrew’s journey

Those seeking a story about Mulgrew being Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager will be disappointed. This book barely touches on her career there. (Mulgrew said it was because she didn’t want to gossip, but perhaps didn’t realize how much people want to hear what it was like to be Janeway, not the set gossip.) But those seeking a memoir about the life of a working actress, about what it means to put your career first, you won’t be disappointed. Mulgrew is surprisingly a deft, lyrical writer, making her memoir all the more enjoyable. (Warnings for discussion of rape.)

Lies My Teacher Told Me4. Lies My Teacher Told Me
by James W. Loewen

Genre: history, correcting the white-washed history we learned in school, education
Recommended for: Those who had a terrible history education (aka, if you don’t have an advanced degree in history) so basically all of us

US public education is pretty atrocious, especially when it comes to history. Lowen’s book digs both into some of the most egregious white supremacist crap in history textbooks and into how messed up the process of creating textbooks is. Some of the most powerful chapters feature Loewen breaking down the writing about America’s “heroes” and taking it apart to compare to actual history. Yep, Christopher Columbus was even worse than you thought, and Abe Lincoln, even more awesome.

Alif the Unseen5. Alif the Unseen
by G. Willow Wilson

Genre: urban fantasy, technology, hackers and cyberpunk, genii, Islamic mythology
Recommended for: Those looking for a techno-fantasy story

This Middle Eastern techno fantasy takes an interesting look at Islamic mythology and authoritative states. It’s as much of a coming of age tale as one about freedom and what that means. Alif the Unseen‘s set against an Arab Spring and challenges beliefs about what’s real. And what happens when our modern world runs into ancient beliefs.

Injection Vol 26. Injection, Vol. 2
by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey

Genre: fantasy, cyberpunk, technopagans, investigative stories, misfit geniuses, comics
Recommended for: Those looking for turning tropes upside down

Definitely make sure to check out Vol 1 first, which made my list last year. The story follows five geniuses — the scientist of everything, Sherlock, James Bond, hacker, and Celtic mystic — as they attempted to first save the world and then stop the sentient computer virus they created to save the world. Which means they’re kind of fucked up too.

Lumberjanes Vol 5 & Vol 67. Lumberjanes, Vol. 5: Band Together and Lumberjanes, Vol. 6: Sink or Swim
by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke Allen, Kat Leyh, Carolyn Nowak, and Carey Pietsch

Genre: all-ages, friendship to the max, camps for girls, fantasy, comics
Recommended for: Those wanting a story of a variety of girls who develop deep friendships and use their brains, wits, and brawn

Lumberjanes has consistently been on my recommendations lists. While this book continues, Volumes 5 and 6 play out the end of the arcs from the original series creators and pass it along to the new ones. (Boom owns the Lumberjanes characters.) The most wonderful parts of these books are how in-depth we get to know each of the girls. Here we see them accept their situations and reveal more about themselves.

An Untamed State8. An Untamed State
by Roxane Gay

Genre: thriller (kind of), trauma fiction, stories set in Haiti, generational, intersectional identities
Recommended for: Those who’ve been looking for some fictional Literature on this list

An Untamed State is brutal, hard to read, and harder to put down. The main character Mireille seems to have everything: love, family, and a career. Until she’s visiting her family in Haiti, is kidnapped, and her father refuses to pay the ransom. Trigger warnings for brutality, kidnapping, rape, and PTSD.

Spider's Revenge9. Spider’s Revenge (Elemental Assassin, #5)
by Jennifer Estep

Genre: urban fantasy, romance, superpowers, unlikable female protagonists, assassins
Recommended for: Those seeking an escape

The Elemental Assassin books, which follow the life of an assassin Gin, vary in quality, but the fifth book is a huge payoff in the series. Rarely do books end in such a satisfying way. (In fact, I kind of wish the series stopped here as the next books have not been as great.) Gin’s unlikeability means that I intensely like her. Even if she’s a little overly lucky and has superpowers.

Midnighter Vol 1 & Vol 210. Midnighter, Vol. 1 and Midnighter, Vol. 2
by Steve Orlando, Aco, Stephen Mooney, David Messina, Hugo Petrus, and Alec Morgan

Genre: superheroes, kind of, comics, unapologetically queer, lots of violence
Recommended for: Those wanting to know what adult comics about superheroes look like

Some books take me a while to really fall in love, and this run of Midnighter I never wanted to end. If you haven’t read any comics with Wildstorm characters, that’s okay. Orlando does a swift introduction to this universe. I have to give DC comics major kudos for putting a queer writer on a book with a queer character. It makes all the difference.

And bonus: 12 more books that I also loved this year.

Princeless Vol 1
Princeless, Vol. 1: Save Yourself
by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin

Genre: all-ages, medieval fantasy, princesses who save themselves, fuck gender and race stereotypes, comics
Recommended for: Anyone who wants a great, all-ages story that crushes the white supremacist patriarchy via princess tales
Mockingbird Vol 1 & Vol 2
Mockingbird, Vol. 1: I Can Explain and Mockingbird, Vol. 2: My Feminist Agenda
by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, and Ibrahim Moustafa

Genre: superheroes, super spies, science, unreliable narrations, comics
Recommended for: Those who are unsure comic books can have interesting structures
DC Comics: Bombshells Vol 2
DC Comics: Bombshells, Vol. 2: Allies
by Marguerite Bennett, Laura Braga, Sandy Jarrell, Marguerite Sauvage, and Mirka Andolfo

Genre: superheroes punching nazis, comics, women heroes
Recommended for: Those who need some heroes in their lives, who are ladies in fun costumes and punching nazis
Pretty Deadly Vol 2 The Bear
Pretty Deadly, Vol. 2: The Bear
by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

Genre: mythology, WWI, comics
Recommended for: Those who love mythology and want to see a take on the universe through the eyes of reapers
Ms Marvel Vol 5 Super Famous
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous
by G. Willow Wilson, Nico Leon, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Adrian Alphona

Genre: young adult, superheroes, multicultural societies, comics
Recommended for: Those who want to see their superheroes living in this world
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume 4 I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It
by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

Genre: young adult, coming of age, squirrels who like nuts and kicking butts, word play, comics
Recommended for: Those who want to laugh along with their comics
The Hearing Trumpet
The Hearing Trumpet
by Leonora Carrington

Genre: surrealism, Literature, art, old ladies
Recommended for: Those who believe 92-year-old women can have their own stories at the end of the world
by Liz Prince

Genre: all-ages, breaking the gender mold, autobiographical, comics
Recommended for: Those who’ve longed to break out of the gender mold or learn about why you might want to
Black Magick Vol 1 Awakening
Black Magick, Vol. 1: Awakening
by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott

Genre: magic, urban fantasy, paganism, detectives, comics
Recommended for: Those looking for detectives who also play with magic and are older than they seem
Rat Queens Vol 3 Demons
Rat Queens, Vol. 3: Demons
by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tess Fowler

Genre: D&D, fantasy, lady friendships, comics
Recommended for: Those needing an escape into a fantasy land with four lady friends
Giant Days Vol 2 & Vol 4
Giant Days, Vol. 2 and Giant Days Vol. 4
by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, and Max Sarin

Genre: college tales, friendships, comics
Recommended for: Those who want to remember their college years (Volume 3 is worthwhile too)
Sunstone Vol 2
Sunstone, Vol. 2
by Stjepan Šejić

Genre: romcom, bdsm, adults only, comics
Recommended for: Those looking for a romcom with some bdsm

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