Old and New Favorites: The Last Top Ten of 2016

giphy-1It’s the last Tuesday of 2016. This is one of those moments where many of us are simultaneously looking back and looking forward, and as we’ve been looking back at what we’ve read, watched, and listened to in the last 52 weeks, we’ve come up with our final top ten list of 2016. Below you will find books items from our collection that our staff discovered this year. Some are recent publications, Others are items that have been around long before 2016, but we’ve come to love them just this year. We hope that you have enjoyed all kinds of satisfying discoveries at the Orem Library during 2016, and we hope to continue to bring you the information you want and need as a new year begins. Happy New Year!

The Elementalscontent-chilifresh by Michael McDowell is a Southern Gothic horror novel so precisely paced and vividly written that during a chapter describing the oppressive heat of a Southern summer, I actually forgot I was sitting in my frigid house (I keep a low thermostat) and found myself coming up with ways to cool off. It’s the story of an old-money family vacationing on a tiny island with three identical Victorian houses, one of which is methodically and inexplicably being swallowed up by sand dunes (spoiler alert: it’s because of spirits!!). It’s really and truly creepy, with several choice shudder-inducing images.

Annie on my Mind, an acknowledged classic in its genre, has long been on my to-read list. I’ve put it off for years because I had this idea that it might be pedantic and dated. Instead, I was delighted to find a warm, eloquent YA novel about two young women falling in love in NYC in the late 70s. The girls are inevitably beset by prejudice and oppression but this does not overshadow their pure and driving love for each other. This is a romance that will resonate with many readers, regardless of age, gender, or orientation.

content-chilifreshDuring Orem Reads this year, I was introduced to Wilkie Collins.  I read The Woman in White for the first time and absolutely fell in love with Collins’ writing and storytelling! I guess saying that I “read” it would be somewhat untrue as I actually listened to the book on cd in our collection.  The Woman in White is filled with all sorts of characters, each with a different part to play.  There are 11 narrators throughout the book that help move the story along through their perspective. Collins’ descriptive writing brings the main characters to life. Listening to the book which used 2 men and 2 women to tell the story was a real treat.  Since I chose this book for my book group, I actually listened to it twice.  The second time was better than the first! Since I already knew the story, I paid more attention to the little details and nuances and there are many!  This book was published in 1860, so may not meet the criteria for your blog post, but if you like a good mystery….this is it!  (Just as an aside: most critics agree that The Moonstone is Collins best work, but he disagrees.  His will indicated that his tombstone should read: “In memory of Wilkie Collins, author of The Woman in White and other works of fiction.”)

This year I stumbled across the restored edition of Sylvia Plath’s magnum opus, Ariel. I’ve loved her poetry for more than three decades, but reacquainting myself with this version of the book—with the poems arranged in the order she selected before her death, unlike the original edition that was organized by her husband Ted Hughes—has reminded me of just how good her poetry is. (“What am I/that these late mouths should cry open/in a forst of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers!”) Which has, in turn, sent me searching for other poets to love. The OPL has a fantastic poetry section!

Summerlost by Ally Condie: I read this book this summer and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone wanting to get lost in a short but excellent summer-themed novel. It’s about a girl named Cedar who moves with her brother Miles and her mother to a town in southern Utah for the summer, one year after her father and brother Ben died in a car accident. She becomes involved in the theater “Summerlost” festival (fans of the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City: you MUST read this book) taking place in the town and is quickly wrapped up in the relationships, histories, and adventures around her. It’s a heartfelt, sweet, touching story that feels incredibly realistic and authentic, especially the character of Cedar. I really got caught up in the story and was surprised just how much I became invested in the characters’ struggles. I will be keeping an eye out for everything she writes from now on.   

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: The story of Cora, a slave on a Georgia plantation, as she tries desperately to find freedom. Her journey weaves together the stories of brutality and bravery that stretch from the beginning of slavery in America to modern day injustices. While this book is sad and heartbreaking, I loved it because it is not without hope and courage. Cora has an unbeatable will to live freely and she is helped along the way by people who risk their lives to help her.

Noah Hawley’s  latest book Before the Fall begins with a plane crash. The rest of the book is a one by one examination of the crew as well as the passengers on board. The story also follows Scott Burroughs, a painter, and four-year-old JJ, sole heir to his father’s media empire, who are the only survivors of the crash. These two must band together amidst a growing media frenzy as the authorities desperately try to find out what, or who, really brought the plane down. Noah Hawley is the writer of one of my favorite TV shows, Fargo. So, when I heard he wrote a new novel I knew I had to read it. Hawley did not disappoint. I was hooked from the beginning and I couldn’t stop reading until I finally figured out what really happened!

David Mitchell’s Slade Housecontent-chilifresh, is a fun, creepy, and fresh take on the classic haunted house tale.  Seemingly a collection of stories, the book documents, in chronological order, the history of mysterious disappearances surrounding the titular house, and the efforts of family and friends over several decades to locate their missing loved ones.  But nothing is as it seems, and there are plenty of traps and surprises in store for characters and readers.

 Scientists, writers and philosophers have long been fascinated with questions of extraterrestrial life, and the impact its discovery would have on humanity.  Many have also pondered the implications of communication with life beyond our solar system, and what the consequences of this communication would be.  Liu Cixin explores these questions among the backdrop of China’s turbulent Cultural Revolution in The 3 Body Problem.  Part Chinese history, part examination of the implications of alien communications, The Three-Body Problem is a smart and thrilling foray into cultural collisions, both those between earth cultures, as well as between humans and the inhabitants of other planets.

Neal Stephenson is one of sci-fi’s most exciting writers, and nowhere are his ideas and content-chilifreshhumor so timely as in Snow Crash.  Perhaps the first “cyberpunk” novel, Snowcrash explores a fragmented future America, ruled by organized crime, business franchises and megachurches.  Following the exploits of Hero Protagonist, pizza delivery man, hacker and world’s greatest swordsman, this novel is a thrilling adventure through virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and dysfunctional, suburban America.

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