From secret survival skills to Broadway revolutions, 2016 has been a good year for the written word. Here are our staff’s favorite books of the year — more recommendations for your growing to-be-read pile.

Happy reading!

greenislandGREEN ISLAND by Shawna Yang Ryan

Recommended by Mats C.

Reading Green Island was both a breeze and a gale. In Ryan’s able hands the string of events of every chapter flew by smoothly. Sometimes, you would stop, to marvel at the emotional resonance of a lyrical description.

I remember Green Island as an achievement in writing, a technical and artistic juggernaut, another feather in Ryan’s cap. But I sincerely hope that people will remember it for the education, albeit foreign, it has provided of the atrocities of martial law and dictatorship.

Read the complete review here.

 

thegeneTHE GENE by Siddharta Mukherjee

Recommended by Ish V.

It is always appreciated when hard science is made accessible to readers whose familiarity with science basically consists of a few college credits. Through detailed history and personal anecdotes, Mukherjee helps us understand the key discoveries in genetics and what this holds for the future of humans—especially as we progress in being able to control our genetic information.

The science can sometimes to be a bit overwhelming, but the writing is clear and beautiful. For those wanting to get into science reading, this might be a good place to start.

 

wearetheantsWE ARE THE ANTS by Shaun David Hutchinson

Recommended by Rakkel B.

A teenage boy named Henry Denton is repeatedly abducted by aliens and is given the choice to press a button and save the world from explosive obliteration. The choice seems simple but life isn’t giving Henry much reason to be a hero. We Are the Ants is told from the perspective of a person who has been rendered pessimistic due to his immediate surroundings and experiences. Because of that, nothing is sugarcoated and we get brutal honesty. Although there’s a lot of negativity in the text, it is eventually balanced out by the characters’ redeeming moments, and each one is perfectly timed.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming novel this isn’t exactly it, but if you’re not afraid of braving a storm to see a rainbow, this won’t disappoint.

 

hamiltomeHAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION by Jeremy McCarter and Lin-Manuel Miranda

Recommended by Hannah B.

The Hamiltome is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s a libretto, a history book, a photo album, and an arm chair trip to Broadway and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s mind, all wrapped up in a beautiful—and surprisingly light!—deckle edged hardcover. I finished it in a weekend, with the soundtrack playing as I read every word of the lyrics I have memorized by heart, pausing once in a while for Lin’s annotations. Reading those and Jeremy McCarter’s essays is a creative experience in itself. Learning about the things that inspired him, whether it’s a song or a person’s voice or a biography picked up at an airport, somehow inspired me to create as well. And that’s why it’s the gift that keeps on giving: it’s a work of art that moves you to make art, the spark that lights up a dormant candle, or the fuel added to a flame that’s already burning bright.

 

thegirls

 THE GIRLS by Emma Cline

Recommended by Cat A.

Fourteen-year-old Evie Boyd, the voice behind Emma Cline’s The Girls, invites readers to dip their toes into a pool of hippie vibrations, adolescent abandon, and a summer of violence. Prepare to forget the fact that The Girls is Emma Cline’s debut novel; her words will transport and shock.

It’s clear that The Girls isn’t just about Evie and her fellow female cult members. It’s a portrait depicting the sharp angles of every teenaged girl’s heart, and Emma Cline is its faithful photographer.

Read the full review here.

 

DARK MATTERdarkmatter by Blake Crouch

Recommended by Ilia U.

The concept of multiple universes is now par for the course in science fiction but Crouch uses this familiar trope to explore human individuality and identity. What is it about our lives, ourselves, that make them ours? Is it our DNA, our choices, or our contexts? As the best pieces of science fiction do, Dark Matter becomes a catalyst for the reader to reflect on the human condition. It might not have enough science for the hardcore sci-fi readers, but it sure has enough heart and humanist optimism to maybe tip the scales to its favor.

Read the full review here.

 

SMARTER FASTER BETTERsmarterfasterbetter by Charles Duhigg

Recommended by Joana L.

Must read for anyone looking to be their optimal self, both in their personal life and at work. Smarter Faster Better provides scientific insights on how to maximize productivity using real life examples of successful people. Perfect for start-of-the-year reading.

 

 

 

kitchensKITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST by J. Ryan Stradal

Recommended by Hannah B.

Food, growing up, many stories rolling into one—these are the things I love about Stradal’s novel, which was released in paperback this year. The cover was what initially drew me to the book, but I stayed for more than that. As I saw Eva Thorvald’s life through the eyes of others, I realized just how much of an impact one person can make in another’s life—whether it’s good or bad is another story. If there’s anything I learned (or relearned) after reading this novel, it’s the power of perseverance, of grace amidst animosity, and of a unique kind of love that’s reserved for family and food and yourself.

 

STILL LIFE WITH TORNADOstilllife by A.S. King

Recommended by Ilia U.

At first, the novel reads like an unripened memoir from a whiny teenager with illusions of artistic prowess. But you start anchoring on Sarah as she finds herself lost in the remembrance of how truly broken her family is. Still Life with Tornado is a heartbreaking story of facing your life’s truth and unexpectedly finding haven. It’s the best piece of fiction I’ve read all year.

 

 

100100 DEADLY SKILLS: SURVIVAL EDITION by Clint Emerson

Recommended by Allan B.

With practical tips and details illustrations, this a useful manual for skills ranging from making a fire to evading attackers. Who knows you might find yourself lost in a forest, stranded on an island, or in a siege during a zombie apocalypse? These are interesting times we live in—best to be prepared!

 

 

 

egoEGO IS THE ENEMY by Ryan Holiday

Recommended by Loraine S.

Modern, urban life is designed to highlight ourselves and pamper our narcissistic tendencies. It’s refreshing to read real-life examples of how successful people throughout history managed to conquer their egos and achieve greatness.

 

 

 

THE TYPEthetype by Sarah Kay

Recommended by Hannah B.

The Type is one of my favorites from Sarah Kay, and seeing it with the gorgeous illustrations of Sophia Janowitz only adds to my love for this poem. It has been and continues to be a constant source of comfort and strength, something I can always turn to when I have nothing or no one else.

 

 

 

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