Best Books of 2016
This month each of our critics have highlighted some of their favorite books from this year. From those posts on the Run Spot Run blog, we’re pleased to present a Top 5 for 2016, with one selection from each of us.
“Greenwell’s debut novel What Belongs To You tells the story of an American ex-pat teaching in Bulgaria and his love affair with a local hustler named Mitko. Despite its decidedly foreign situation (both geographically so, and for some, sexually), there is a mirror here for everyone: Greenwell pares away specificity from this seemingly unrelatable story to reveal an achingly reflective emotional core. He shows how universal the heart is, in all its swells and fractures, and the empathy he elicits is staggering. Protagonists Mitko and the novel’s narrator are rendered so finely that the pain we feel for their heartache is real. And, if we know that pain so well, maybe it’s not theirs, but something that belongs to all of us.”
“If you love memoirs, you’ll love Lab Girl. If love science writing, you’ll love Lab Girl. If you love nonfiction at all… well, you get the point. Lab Girl is my favorite book of the the year. It is, hands down, one of the best memoirs I’ve read in recent years. Largely the story of Hope Jahren’s entry into science (biology) and her life in the lab, the memoir is packed with a scientist’s curiosity with a poet’s love of language. It is a joy to read.”
Smoke by Dan Vyleta (selected by Nancy Basile)
“Dan Vyleta’s Smoke is an altogether unique and individual book. I’ve never read anything like it. It’s set in late 19th Century England, but in an alternate world, where sins are manifested by smoke. Meaning, if you have a sinful thought or emotion, you smoke. As it turns out, of course, it’s not as simple as that. The story is so well written, and the world so well realized, I can’t believe we’re not hearing more about it.”
“Loner is a precise snapshot of a college freshman seeking to climb the social ladder by attaining the elusive target of his lust. As protagonist David’s schemes and pretexts grow more elaborate, you’ll laugh uncomfortably as you are forced to confront an often-silenced but very prevalent problem across college campuses nationwide. By inserting the reader into the perspective a sexual assailant, this novel provides interesting insight into a character archetype that is elsewhere often portrayed only two-dimensionally.”
“My choice for the best book of the year is The Risen by Ron Rash, author of Serena. Yes, he is Southern and, yes, this novel is set in his beloved mountains of Western North Carolina, but its themes are universal. Read the first 128 words and you will be compelled to finish this dark exploration of one family, and a murder mystery that ends with two twists and an unexpected turn. You might also want to check out his Poems — he was a highly regarded poet before his novels dazzled.”
Happy holidays to everyone and we’ll see you in 2017 for another great year.