Top 10 Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2016 So Far

Hello my darling bookish friends,

This year has been such an eye-opened for me in terms of books. I’d never before sought out new releases, being content to catch up on classics and other previously fully vetted books. But, through a confluence of becoming more involved on Goodreads, starting this blog, figuring out that ARCs exist and that I too, can get them, I fell into the wonderful amazing world of anticipating Tuesdays (because that’s when all new books come out? Who knew Tuesdays could become my new favorite day of the week?!)

So this week’s Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by The Broke and Bookish since 2010, is perfectly themed for me; the prompt: Top Ten Favorite 2016 Releases So Far This Year. Now, I’ve already bought/received ARCs for far more books this year than I’ve actually read, so I’m dividing up this list in half:

  • Top Books of (first half of) 2016 I’ve actually read
  • Top Books of (first half of) 2016 I’ve bought/have and look forward to reading soon

Also, I can’t really stick to the number 10 – as snotty as I used to be about new releases (I was one of those awful people who mostly turned up their nose at “all that new stuff”) – I found, after giving them a chance, that I simply LOVE LOVE LOVE “all that new stuff” so much – so my favorites list for 2016 is overflowing. Here are my top top favorites, but I actually have many others 🙂

I am limiting my 2016 favorites to the first half of the year (end date: May 31, 2016); the list is in order of publication. 

Clicking on the image will take you to GoodReads!
Clicking on the title of the book will take you to my review on this blog (if applicable)


Top Books of (first half of) 2016 I’ve Actually Read

splitfootMr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
Published January 5, 2016
Genres: Literary, Magical Realism, Gothic

I loved this book SO MUCH for opening up my world to part of the US I don’t ever get to experience in my cushy East-Coast perch. And, it’s so beautifully written.


gayyareadathon.jpgJuliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Published January 18th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, LGBTQIA

I only read this book this past weekend although it came out in January – as part of my first read-along ever, #GayYAReadalong. It’s one mindblowing, eye-opening book even for someone my age that I will be reviewing shortly!


girlglass

Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson
Published January 26, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary

The first book I ever pre-ordered, this is the perfect dance book – a beautifully-written historical coming-of-age in NYC, involving a former ballerina. Oh, and there’s mystery too, and two timelines. LOVE!


birdsAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Published January 26, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction Fantasy

I simply loved the message of this book, and its execution for the most part – it’s an inventive, beautifully written story about the eternal human struggle to conquer nature through technology and all the moral implications of that.


losttimeThe Lost Time Accidents by John Wray
Published February 9, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Literary, Epic Head-Trip

Wow, well so I just noticed the ratings on this one are not good on GR at all at the moment; I guess it’s a very niche book- a clever, epic, quirkly different multi-faceted sci-fi exploration of time. But maybe a bit tedious if this isn’t your thing, based on other reviews.


lovecraft.jpgLovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
Published February 16, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction Fantasy, Literary, Historical Fiction

Another brilliant sci-fi/fantasy, this one an inversion of Lovecraft’s often racist and sexist work, a visceral description of experienced racism, and a powerful allegory of institutional racism in the US, set in first half of the 20th century US.


evictedEvicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Published March 1, 2016
Genres: Non-Fiction, Housing Policy, US-History, Oral-History

This is an eye-opening book about the effects of housing policy on poverty in the US, told through the stories of two communities, a mostly black inner-city neighborhood and a mostly white trailer park.


whatisnotWhat Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
Published March 8, 2016
Genres: Literary, Short-Stories

I’m not going to lie, this book went over my head a bit, but still is by far one of the most poetic books I’ve read this year. I also don’t read many short stories (the theme that ties these together is keys of all kinds, physical and metaphorical), so I was lucky to begin with such a beautiful collection.


Never-Open-Desert Diner3The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
Published March 22, 2016
Genres: Literary, Noir, Western, Mystery

I LOVED this book to pieces, mostly because of its atmospheric rendering of a part of the US I’m fascinated by but where I’ve never been (the Utah desert). To someone from DC that’s as far “out there” as you can get in the US, and I was simply swept away into the world Anderson so masterfully creates.


secondhandSecondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich
Published May 16, 2016
Genres: Non-Fiction, Oral History, Eastern Europe, USSR-History

This is my soul-book for the year that I rated as “unlimited stars.” It’s brilliant because Alexievich is brilliant, but it’s also very close to my heart, telling as it does the history of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Ok, so I’m from Romania which was never part of the USSR, but this oral history is as close as I’ve ever gotten to a history of my past.


 Honorable Mentions of 2016 that I’ve Read & Liked a Lot

Clicking on the title of the book will take you to my review on this blog

midnight  cambodianoir  nyexposed  lovecanal


Top Books of (first half of) 2016 I Still Have to Read!!!

There’s actually a lot more books on this list, but these are the TOP books I still have to read 🙂 Clicking on the image will take you to GoodReads!

saltsea.jpg  suddendeath.jpg   whatlies.jpg  janesteele.jpg

lietree.jpg  mirrorthief.jpg  larose.jpg  dondelillo


Whew!! So many incredibly books in 2016 already! What have been some of your favorites, or which ones are you still looking forward to reading?

Before the Fall – A Fun Summer Read If You Enjoy Thrillers & Mysteries

beforefall

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
First published on May 31, 2016
Grand Central Publishing
Source: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
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“On a foggy summer night, eleven people-ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter-depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs-the painter-and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.” Source: Hachette Book Group.

3heartrating

Review:

Before the Fall captures the spirit of ‘beach reading’ perfectly: it is a feel-good, semi-philosophical, mysterious page-turner about an event that I’m sure horrifies most people: a plane crash. A story that titillates and keeps the reader engaged through an atmosphere saturated with all the known pleasure-pain triggers: the devastation wrecked by tragedy; the ambiguity and uncertainty of love; the thirst for money and power; the journey into finding personal meaning in a chaotic, senseless world. (more…)

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood – The Must-Read (US) Education Book of the Year

whitefolksFor White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Emdin
First published on March 22, 2016
Beacon Press
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
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“Drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America, award-winning educator Christopher Emdin offers a new lens on an approach to teaching and learning in urban schools. Putting forth his theory of Reality Pedagogy, Emdin provides practical tools to unleash the brilliance and eagerness of youth and educators alike—both of whom have been typecast and stymied by outdated modes of thinking about urban education. Lively, accessible, and revelatory, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too is the much-needed antidote to traditional top-down pedagogy and promises to radically reframe the landscape of urban education for the better.” Source: Beacon Press.

5heartrating

Review:

Excellent distillation of urban studies, race-gender oriented critical-theory, and education philosophy applied to the urban classroom, for a non-academic audience.

This book was written for me (and for you, too, especially if you teach or are interested in the education debates). (more…)

The Sky Over Lima – A Poetic & Lyrical Meditation on Writing, Love, and Identity

skyoverlima.jpgThe Sky Over Lima by Juan Gómez Bárcena
First English Translation
by Andrea Rosenberg on May 17, 2016
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

“A retelling of a fantastical true story: two young men seduce Nobel laureate Juan Ramón Jiménez with the words of an imaginary woman and inspire one of his greatest love poems.” Source: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

4starrating

Review:

“Love is a door left ajar. A secret that survives only as long as it is half kept.”

The Sky Over Lima is an evocatively poetic, lyrical retelling of the stranger-than-fiction true story of the two-year correspondence between Spanish Nobel laureate Juan Ramón Jímenez and two young poets (José Gálvez and Carlos Rodríguez) writing as an imaginary woman, Georgina Hübner.

(more…)

The Mastermind – A Gripping & Vivid Portrayal of Life in Guatemala, Based on a Stranger-than-Fiction True Story

mastermind
The Mastermind
 by David Unger
First published on April 5th 2016
Akashic Books
Source: I bought it
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“By all appearances, Guillermo Rosensweig is the epitome of success. He is a member of the Guatemalan elite, runs a successful law practice, has a wife and kids and a string of gorgeous lovers. Then one day he crosses paths with Maryam, a Lebanese beauty with whom he falls desperately in love . . . to the point that when he loses her, he sees no other option than to orchestrate his own death. The Mastermind is based on the bizarre real-life story of Rodrigo Rosenberg, a Guatemalan attorney who, in 2009, planned his own assassination after leaving behind a video accusing Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom of his murder. (In April 2011, the New Yorker published an article by David Grann about Rosenberg which has been optioned by Matt Damon for his directorial debut.) This is a fascinating depiction of modern-day Guatemala and the corrupt, criminal, and threatening reality that permeates its society.” Source: Akashic Books.

4starrating

Review

“Regrettably, if you are currently watching or listening to this message, it’s because I was murdered by President Alvaro Colom…” (Youtube: The Unspeakable Murder of Rodrigo Rosenberg)
(more…)

Binti [the Badass Feminist Heroine] – A Beautifully Written Sci-Fi Novella for Younger Readers

bintiBinti by Nnedi Okorafor
First published on September 22, 2015
Tor Books
Source: I bought it
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“Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself — but first she has to make it there, alive.” Source: Macmillan.

5heartrating

Review

How I wish I had been reading books like Binti growing up instead of Nancy Drew! While the latter firmly serves to reinforce all stereotypes known to humanity (blonde = beautiful perfection; brunette = chubby side-kick; non-white = ….. [non-existent]; materialism = rah, rah! etc and so on)- Binti unapologetically forges her own path, seeks her own meaning, explodes structural barriers sustained by history for generations: she is, in other words, one fully badass feminist heroine I’d want my (hypothetical) young daughter emulating.

(more…)

Anticipating June 2016 – New Releases in Books

Hellooo my darling bookish friends,

It is with great joy that I welcome June – yet another month of awesome new releases I look forward to (that, probably, I will still be catching up on in December, seeing how behind I’ve gotten already on all the books bought and received thus far this year). Anyone else with me on that? I know I’m not alone on endless tbr-piles 😉

Also a quick note on teaching and my blog: somehow, I was so much better at keeping up while my students were still at school… Is this the teacher version of senioritis, I wonder? Complete lethargy for the 2.5 weeks I still have to show up but do absolutely nothing but clean up and prep for next year because all my students are gone? (Ah, the joys of teaching seniors…). Anyways, it’s now June 1st, time to recommit, for real this time!

New June Goal: 4+ blog posts per week, and also keeping up with all of your wonderful blogs and updates!

Without further ado, here’s books I’ll have to read (aka ARCs), others I’ve pre-ordered, some I would love to read eventually, and one that I sadly cannot recommend. (more…)

Unlimited Stars for Alexievich: THE Oral History of Eastern-Block Communism & the Transition to Capitalism

secondhandSecondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich
First English Translation
by Bela Shayevich on May 24, 2016
Random House
Source: ARC from Random House via Netgalley
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The magnum opus and latest work from Svetlana Alexievich, the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature—a symphonic oral history about the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a new Russia. In Secondhand Time, Alexievich chronicles the demise of communism. Everyday Russian citizens recount the past thirty years, showing us what life was like during the fall of the Soviet Union and what it’s like to live in the new Russia left in its wake. Through interviews spanning 1991 to 2012, Alexievich takes us behind the propaganda and contrived media accounts, giving us a panoramic portrait of contemporary Russia and Russians who still carry memories of oppression, terror, famine, massacres—but also of pride in their country, hope for the future, and a belief that everyone was working and fighting together to bring about a utopia. Here is an account of life in the aftermath of an idea so powerful it once dominated a third of the world.” Source: Penguin Random House.

5heartrating5heartrating

Review

“We sit atop the ruins of socialism like it’s the aftermath of war.”

UNLIMITED STARS.

One of the best books I’ve ever read. THE most personally touching and relevant book I’ve EVER read. A book that penetrates the soul of my being and explains me to myself.
(more…)

A Foreign Take on a Very Personal Experience – Romania under Ceaușescu’s Dictatorial Regime

foxever

The Fox Was Ever the Hunter by Herta Müller
First English Translation
by Philip Boehm on May 10, 2016
Macmillan
Source: I bought it
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From the winner of the Nobel Prize hailed as the laureate of life under totalitarianism, a haunting early novel of surveillance and paranoia. Romania—the last months of the Ceausescu regime. Adina is a young schoolteacher. Paul is a musician. Clara works in a wire factory. Pavel is Clara’s lover. But one of them works for the secret police and is reporting on the rest of the group.” Source: Macmillan.

2starrating

Review

Perhaps I was expecting a bit much of this book in imagining it would touch my soul in a most profound and resonating way. See, The Fox Was Ever the Hunter is the story of a teacher’s life (1) during the last few year’s of Ceausescu’s communist regime (2; 1980s – place and decade of my birth), and moreover, it’s written by a Romanian, also an emigre (3). Considering that’s 3 for 3, I naively assumed this would somehow be the story of my life, the conundrum of my dual-identity explained, the nostalgia for a horrific yet clearer, more certain time expressed in all its contradictory complexity. (more…)

The World Without Water – Bacigalupi’s Complex Political Dystopian Sci-Fi

waterknifeThe Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
First published on May 26, 2015
Knopf Doubleday
Source: I bought it
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“In the near future, the Colorado River has dwindled to a trickle. Detective, assassin, and spy, Angel Velasquez “cuts” water for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, ensuring that its lush arcology developments can bloom in Las Vegas. When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in Phoenix, Angel is sent south, hunting for answers that seem to evaporate as the heat index soars and the landscape becomes more and more oppressive.

There, he encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist with her own agenda, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas migrant, who dreams of escaping north. As bodies begin to pile up, the three find themselves pawns in a game far bigger and more corrupt than they could have imagined, and when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only truth in the desert is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.” Source: Knopf Doubleday Publishing.

4starrating
Review

The Water Knife starts out SO BRILLIANTLY as a detailed and complex story about local water politics. I am a bit obsessed with politics, and I compulsively follow the most local of stories (well, I’m in DC so local politics here is always fascinating, intersecting as it often does with national politics, and frequently mired in corruption scandals). *Swoon* Definitely a “Love at First Page” kind of book for me! (more…)