Happy Thanksgiving, Dragons! I can’t believe that November is almost over – that means it’s almost the time of the year for all my favorite media outlets publish their best-of-year booklists! The National Book Award has already been announced (shout-out to the incomparable March Book Three for being the first comic to win the NBA), and Kirkus has posted their long lists. My two favorite year-end lists aren’t out yet; keep an eye out in the upcoming weeks for the AV Club’s favorite books of the year and NPR’s Book Concierge (which is my absolute FAVE – it’s more than just a list, it’s also beautifully designed and filterable). In the meantime, here are my personal picks for the best comics and genre fiction of 2016. (Caveat: I chose not to include any sequels on my list, which is the only reason March isn’t on it!)
The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez
Clearly, if there were an award for best title it would go to this collection of short stories. But it’s more than just a great title – the story that bears the same title as the collection is so perfectly heartbreaking that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days after I read it. My other favorite story in the collection was The Aphotic Ghost, a modern science-fairy-tale about a marine biologist and an immortal jellyfish.
The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks
When I recommend this comic to kids, I always tell them that it reminds me of one of my favorite cartoons – Avatar: The Last Airbender. (Comparing books to TV shows and movies almost always works for me when I’m trying to get somebody to read something). The reason I compare the two is that they both delve into surprisingly complex politics for properties aimed at kids, and both do it in a way that doesn’t alienate their audience (I don’t tell kids that though). This isn’t just a great read for kids, it’s just plain great.
Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones
Werewolf stories aren’t usually my thing. I kinda burnt myself out on reading paranormal young adult fiction years ago, but Mongrels totally took me by surprise. First off, it’s not a young adult novel like I made the mistake of assuming (it’s a coming of age novel with werewolves – it seemed like a logical assumption). Secondly, these werewolves fall closer to the body-horror side of the werewolf continuum than the romantic-interest side. I’ll be keeping an eye out for books by Stephen Graham Jones in the future.
Turning Japanese by MariNaomi
In her early 20’s, MariNaomi begins the journey of getting in touch with her Japanese roots after taking a job at a hostess bar for Japanese expats. I love memoir comics, and this was my favorite from 2016; I really liked the frankness of both her writing style and her black and white illustrations.
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
If you like short stories, you’re in luck ‘cause I’ve got TWO on my list. While Hernandez’s collection had some laugh-out-loud moments, Liu’s collection is far more melancholy. One of my favorite stories in this collection, The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species, describes all the different ways that alien lifeforms might record and communicate via written word and really showcases Liu’s capacity for imaginative speculation.
Honorable Mentions: I felt weird including these comics in my “official list” because they originally came out earlier than 2016, but their first collected volumes (trades) weren’t published until 2016.
The Vision by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta
I love The Vision because it reads like the best type of classic Sci Fi. I’m sad that it’s ending, but it sounds like Tom King is off to bigger things (aka Batman).
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
I’ve already gushed about the greatness of Paper Girls. If you liked Stranger Things, go pick this up immediately!
Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
Fantastical steampunk; the real selling feature here (for me) is Takeda’s INCREDIBLE artwork.
What were your favorite 2016 books? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time, find the stories that make you stronger. #WorkOutNerdOut