Best Books of 2016

2016 had a great many books that thrilled me, and others that delighted. The rest of the year I could have done without —  so many deaths and a horribly long election and a range of backlash to terrify anyone.

For those interested, these are the best books I read in 2016, though not all were published in 2016.

Best Series:

March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and artist Nate Powell (March: Book One, March: Book Two, March: Book Three)

Best Photography:

Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe, Rob Sheppard

Best Memoir:

Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio

Best Children’s Book:

Science Verse by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

Best Young Adult Fiction:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Best Short Story Collection: (I only read 3 and these 2 tied)

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall (this one has remained on my mind more than expected)

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

Best Jane Austen Fiction: (this is a three-way tie)

A Moment Forever by Cat Gardiner

Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes by Ginger Monette

The Courtship of Edward Gardiner by Nicole Clarkston

Best Poetry: (another tie)

Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Obliterations by Heather Aimee O’Neill and Jessica Piazza

Best Fiction: (a three-way tie)

The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond

This is the Story of You by Beth Kephart

What books were your favorites this year?

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond

Source: the author
Hardcover, 320 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond is an expedition that leaves you feeling the biting cold as it burns the skin and takes the breath away from naturalists like Deb Gardner. Antarctica is a deeply mysterious place, one that travelers may have on their bucket list because they can see icebergs cleaving and wildlife free from human interruption. This environment, however, is not forgiving and many times those who travel there — even for research — can lose parts of themselves or their lives even if they are highly trained.

“The end of the world, the beginning of everything.” (pg. 14 ARC)

Raymond has crafted a novel that takes the harshness of the frozen wasteland and reweaves it into a place of solace for Gardner, a researcher whose family life is not close-knit and who feels closer to the penguins she observes than to people. Her narrative shifts backwards and forwards in time, sometimes a few months and sometimes by a few decades, but readers never leave Deb’s world view. She pushes you to care for the animals and their world, even as it crumbles around them and even as a researcher she is polluting its pristine nature. The dichotomy of her work is never lost on the reader — learn more about their environment and the effects of humanity upon it by being there and observing but through the act of observing, you disrupt the natural way of things (even if only for a few months).

“I feel his proximity like an electric current, a frayed wire, loose and dangerous.” (pg. 93 ARC)

The stakes become even higher when Deb finds that she feels more at home with fellow naturalist Keller Sullivan, a man who knew little until she reluctantly trained him. The nature of their work separates them more than it brings them together, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a mere romance. There are deeper layers — the surface slush must be swept aside.

“But nature has a way of surprising us, of overpowering us, of reminding us that, no matter what we believe and no matter how hard we try, we’re not in control after all.” (pg. 140 ARC)

Sometimes the last continent may be a return to the one you abandoned long ago. My Last Continent by Midge Raymond is engaging and deeply moving. It’s message is clear; we are not so far evolved from our animal brethren and even if we were, we all still need the same planet to build families and to survive.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Midge Raymond is the author of the novel My Last Continent and the award-winning short-story collection Forgetting English. Her writing has appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, Poets & Writers, and many other publications.

Midge worked in publishing in New York before moving to Boston, where she taught communication writing at Boston University for six years. She has taught creative writing at Boston’s Grub Street Writers, Seattle’s Richard Hugo House, and San Diego Writers, Ink. She has also published two books for writers, Everyday Writing and Everyday Book Marketing.

Midge lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is co-founder of the boutique publisher Ashland Creek Press.

Mailbox Monday #366

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond from the author for review.

It is only at the end of the world—among the glacial mountains, cleaving icebergs, and frigid waters of Antarctica—where Deb Gardner and Keller Sullivan feel at home. For the few blissful weeks they spend each year studying the habits of emperor and Adélie penguins, Deb and Keller can escape the frustrations and sorrows of their separate lives and find solace in their work and in each other. But Antarctica, like their fleeting romance, is tenuous, imperiled by the world to the north.

A new travel and research season has just begun, and Deb and Keller are ready to play tour guide to the passengers on the small expedition ship that ferries them to their research destination. But this year, Keller fails to appear on board. Then, shortly into the journey, Deb’s ship receives an emergency signal from the Australis, a cruise liner that has hit desperate trouble in the ice-choked waters of the Southern Ocean. Soon Deb’s role will change from researcher to rescuer; among the crew of that sinking ship, Deb learns, is Keller.

Cecil’s Pride: The True Story of a Lion King by Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, and Isabella Hatkoff, photographs by Brent Stapelkamp from Anna.

Known as the King of Beasts, the lion has always been a symbol of strength and courage. But there was one real lion that earned the title of Lion King. He was known simply by name: Cecil. News of his tragic death spread across the globe like wildfire, raising questions to an unprecedented level about our relationship to our animals and our planet.

Cecil’s Pride is a tale of resilience and responsibility–a triumph out of tragedy. Discover Cecil’s struggle as a young lion to survive, his rise to power, and his extraordinary alliance with Jericho, his former arch-rival. Cecil is gone, but his legacy lives on. The world knows the story of how Cecil died. This is the story of how he lived.

Complete with stunning photographs by Brent Stapelkamp, a photographer and lion researcher with the Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Research Unit that has tracked Cecil and his pride for nine years.

National Geographic Kids Chapters: Rascally Rabbits!: And More True Stories of Animals Behaving Badly by Aline Alexander Newman for review from Media Masters Publicity.

These bunnies may look adorable, but there’s more than meets the eye! In Rascally Rabbits, meet some rabbits that cause nothing but trouble, a rescue pup who will eat ANYTHING, and a sneaky bear with a taste for treats. Readers won’t stop laughing as they read these hilarious–and completely true!–stories. Filled with engaging photos, fast facts, and fascinating sidebars, readers won’t want to put this book down.

What did you receive?