Best books of 2016: Adult fiction and graphic novels

By the Everett Public Library staff

Another year is coming to a close and here at the library that means just one thing: the annual staff favorites list! Our dedicated staff have picked their favorite books, music and film of 2016 and presented it to you in a handy list, tailor made for getting great gift ideas this holiday season. Here at the blog, we will be publishing a different part of the list each day this week so you can see it in all its glory. For a full listing, definitely check out the Library Newsletter.

Today we bring you the staff picks for adult fiction and graphic novels. Enjoy!

Adult fiction

“Heroes of the Frontier” by Dave Eggers

Josie is on the run with her children. She’s left her husband, her failing dental practice, and the rest of her Ohio town to explore Alaska in a rickety RV.

With his trademark insight, humor, and pathos, Dave Eggers explores this woman’s truly heroic adventure, all the while exploring the concept of heroism in general. Brilliant, unpretentious, and highly readable. —Alan’s pick

“The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware

When travel journalist Lo Blacklock is invited on a boutique luxury cruise around the Norwegian fjords, it seems like a dream job. But the trip takes a nightmarish turn when she wakes in the middle of the night to hear a body being thrown overboard.

Brit Ruth Ware has crafted her second gripping, dark thriller in the Christie tradition. This page-turner toys with the classic plot of “the woman no one would believe” with incredible language and fun twists. Also a terrific, unabridged audiobook. —Alan’s pick

“They May Not Mean To, But They Do” by Cathleen Schine

When Joy Bergman’s husband dies, her children are shocked that she doesn’t agree with their ideas for her. The book’s title is from a Philip Larkin poem, and this funny and compassionate look at the Bergman family brings Larkin’s poem to life.

Schine captures the reality of aging, as well as how difficult it is for families to communicate — even when they love each other. —Eileen’s pick

“Barkskins” by Annie Proulx

Spanning hundreds of years, this ambitious work tells the often brutal story of the Canadian and New England lumber industry and all those whom it enriched or displaced.

Annie Proulx’s writing never ceases to thrill me. The weaving together of the stories of multiple characters and the reader’s gradual realization of the impact one person’s fate can have on future generations is simply amazing. —Elizabeth’s pick

“Pond” by Claire-Louise Bennett

Very hard to describe, “Pond” is made up of connected short stories: musings on both the beauty and the hassles of everyday things, the tiresomeness of town life and the meddling of neighbors, laziness, broken things, and the gorgeousness of fruit.

Why is this so good? It’s just beautifully written and I couldn’t put it down. I felt like I was completely in the narrator’s mind, and her observations on life, nature, never failed to keep me entertained. —Elizabeth’s pick

“An Unattractive Vampire” by Jim McDoniel

After a 300-year slumber, vampire Yuric Bile wakes to a world where the modern undead are beautiful, young and hiding in plain sight on TV shows. With help from two humans, he decides to track down and show the glamorous undead how a real monster behaves.

Mingling darkness and humor, this debut fantasy fiction is original, mighty in its depiction of cultural differences, and mostly very funny. —Joyce’s pick

“Before the Wind” by Jim Lynch

Growing up on Puget Sound, the Johannssen family has sailing in their blood, but the oldest brother, Josh, is left puzzling over what caused his siblings to flee, one to Africa, the other to points unknown as a fugitive and pirate.

If you love Puget Sound or sailing, you’ll love Lynch’s latest novel. —Leslie’s pick

“Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly

Set during World War II, we have the stories of three very different women in separate locations being told simultaneously.

The characters were very endearing. —Linda’s pick

“What was Mine” by Helen Klein Ross

One lie leads to another until 20 years later when the truth comes out and carefully guarded secrets are unraveled. In one impulsive moment multiple lives become altered. When shock and tragedy strike people manage to move on with their lives others choose to live in the lie all of which takes a toll.

An intriguing read and expose of the human psyche. —Margo’s pick

“My Name is Lucy Barton” by Elizabeth Strout

Lucy doesn’t come from much; growing up poor has left scars and caused division. Lucy is lonely and vulnerable, missing her family, confined to the hospital for nine weeks, and then her mother unexpectedly shows up.

The genuineness with which Strout writes is familiar and comforting. I find myself coming to care deeply for her characters. The past catches up with the present in this tender heartfelt story of life and death, pain and sorrow. —Margo’s pick

“Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist” by Sunil Yapa

This book is set against the backdrop of the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. Sunil Yapa invokes empathy and consideration for all sides involved.

Yapa’s plot builds substantially, as the violence in the protests escalates, and his characters’ flaws are revealed with superb timing. —Sarah’s pick

“The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead

A fellow slave encourages Cora to run away, and they head north on a functional underground railroad, complete with tracks and cars.

Whitehead details the terrors of slavery and recounts this brutal piece of American history. —Sarah’s pick

“An Unrestored Woman” by Shobha Rao

In 1947, the Indian subcontinent was partitioned into two countries, India and Pakistan. This collection of stories examines how this political decision forces a mass migration of humanity and how little control a person may have over his/her own destiny.

Months after finishing this collection of short stories, I found myself thinking about the characters and how they managed to survive and adapt to their new circumstances. The characters are well developed and often connected from story to story. —Teri’s pick

Adult graphic novels

“Faith 01: Hollywood and Vine” by Jody Houser

When she’s not typing up listicles about cat videos, Faith makes a secret transformation to patrol the night as the City of Angels’ own leading superhero — the sky-soaring Zephyr.

A superhero comic series for people who hate superhero comics, Faith is a body-positive series where size is never mentioned, but we can see our large heroine wear normal clothes and live a life free of fat-shaming. And she kicks butt! —Carol’s pick

“Adulthood is a Myth: a ‘Sarah Scribbles’ Collection” by Sarah Andersen

Confronts head-on the horrors, anxiety, and awkwardness of modern adult life.

I hadn’t heard of Sarah Andersen until I cataloged this book. Now I can’t stop reading everything she’s ever written. Her comics are highly relatable to any millennial, woman, or person in the world. It’s also a fast read. —Carol’s pick

“Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 4” by Ed Piskor

Piskor continues his work telling the “origin stories” of hip hop’s most important artists and of the genre itself. This book covers 1984-85 and has a large focus on the Def Jam record label.

The large format, rough paper, and muted colors make reading about 80s hip hop feel closer than the 30 years that separate it from the present. Every book in this series is worth a read, yet each stands on its own equally well. —Zac’s pick

“Faster than Light” by Brian Haberlin

Human beings have finally discovered how to travel faster than the speed of light. This book, with the help of an iOS/Android companion app, tells the story of the first crew to venture deep into our universe.

Unlike what you might see on “Star Trek,” the technology in this sci-fi title feels a little clunky, which adds a layer of suspense to the storytelling. —Zac’s pick

“Dark Night: a True Batman Story” by Paul Dini

Author Paul Dini tells his personal story of physical and psychological recovery after being seriously beaten while walking home.

I grew up watching the animated Batman cartoons that Dini created in the ’90s. It’s fascinating to see how those fictional characters became very real players in the author’s personal struggles. —Zac’s pick

“Goodnight Punpun” by Inio Asano

This manga centers around Onodera Punpun (drawn as a mostly formless bird to project a neutral character) as he grows up in a very dysfunctional family.

There’s much complexity in Punpun’s family situation, and this manga does not hesitate to show the darker side of life and dabble in very serious topics. It is at once a heavy and delightful read. —Zac’s pick

“We Stand on Guard” by Brian K. Vaughan

In a dystopian future, Canada has been attacked by its aggressive neighbors to the south. One group of Canadian citizens dares to defy the American invaders.

The book’s premise drew me in, and it works really well in this short, one-volume format. Overall, it was the gritty art style (a little reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Robocop) that kept me fully engaged to the end. —Zac’s pick

Be sure to visit A Reading Life for more reviews and news of all things happening at the Everett Public Library.

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