Tuesday, January 10, 2017

This One Goes to 11: Favorite Books Read in 2016

As a follow-up to my Books Read, 2016 list, here's a list of my favorite 11 books in two categories read last year, in no particular order. 


  • Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (An excellent weird horror tale that has some similarities to the first season of True Detective, though the novel was written before the TV show aired.)
  • Chalice by Robin McKinley (A dreamy fantasy story of beekeeping, love,  and fire worship.)
  • Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier (The start of Marillier's Blackthorn and Grim series. At times dark, it is ultimately an inspiring story about the main characters' struggle to overcome their tragic pasts.)
  • The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen (One of the earliest weird horror stories, and one that writers such as H.P Lovecraft acknowledged as an influence.)
  • Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins by Emma Donoghue (Classic fairy tales beautifully retold, often with a feminist twist or two.)
  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker (A heart-wrenching book about a boy forced to abandon his pet fox. Also very powerful in its anti-war sentiment.)
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (Another book by Beukes. Brilliantly combines the serial killer and time travel genres. Kudos to Lauren Beukes for not romanticizing the killer and for humanizing his victims.)
  • Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (This also has a True Detective, season one vibe, but with some Wes Anderson overtones as well. Really.)
  • A Wild Swan and Other Tales by Michael Cunningham (And another book featuring witty, well-written takes on classic fairy tales and supernatural stories. His version of "The Monkey's Paw" is especially good.)
  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (And yet another retelling of a fairy tale. This one is a novel based on the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses.)
  • The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits: Stories by Emma Donoghue (More Donoghue brilliance. All of the stories in this volume are inspired by obscure historical events. It's one of the most mind-blowing story collections I've ever read.)
  • Aikido Exercises for Teaching and Training by C.M. Shifflett (One of the best, most informative martial arts books I've ever read. And I don't even practice Aikido.)
  • Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh (Is it possible for a book to ooze compassion? If so, this one does.)
  • Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies  by Hadley Freeman (A witty analysis of several classic films from the '80s. Fun and informative.)
  • The Magic of Conflict by Thomas Crum (Nice examination of various non-aggressive ways to approach and resolve conflict.)
  • The Other Nietzsche by Joan Stambaugh (One of best books on the controversial German scholar I've read. Stambaugh explores the idea of "Nietzsche the poet mystic.")
  • Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy (Unlike many self-help books, Cuddy describes scientifically-proven ways to better yourself and be more confident.)
  • The Secret Teachers of the Western World by Gary Lachman (A strange, fascinating history of the role of esoterics and mystics in Western civilization. Trivia note: Lachman was a founding member of Blondie.)
  • Slavery Inc: The Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking by Lydia Cacho (Powerful book about an important subject. You can read my review here.)
  • What Makes You Not a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse (Wry and rather sarcastic yet both informative and entertaining. I can’t think of another book about Buddhism that I could describe as “bitchy.” I discuss some of the concepts here.)
  • When Buddhists Attack: The Curious Relationship Between Zen and the Martial Arts by Jeffrey K. Mann (Fascinating story of the relationship between Zen and the warrior class in Japan. Dispels many myths, and shows how a peaceful philosophy can be warped and perverted for nationalistic purposes.)
  • The Zen Way to the Martial Arts by Taisen Deshimaru (A classic tome on the deeper philosophical aspects of traditional martial arts.)
(My list of favorite books read in 2015 can be found here.)

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