Now is the time of year when we’re supposed to look back on everything that happened and celebrate the best of it. This has been a particularly challenging task this year, because, well, there’s little about 2016 which immediately springs to mind as being all that great. And yet, despite all the atrocious things that have transpired on the world’s stage, it’s hard to deny that there has, at least, been lots of good stuff to read.
This year saw the release of blockbuster novels by literary lions like Colson Whitehead (The Underground Railroad), Michael Chabon (Moonglow), and Zadie Smith (Swing Time), all of which are remarkable accomplishments, with Whitehead’s, in particular, standing out for its lyrical and profound writing, and the degree to which his novel doesn’t just feel wanted at this present time, but actually needed.
Beyond those huge titles, however, came an abundance of releases from authors who aren’t household names (yet). This year boasted an impressive roster of debut or otherwise early-in-their-career writers who blew us away with their narrative strength, sharp wit, and profound empathy; there were also exemplary collections of short fiction, which reinvigorated the form for me, proving once and for all that doorstop-sized novels are certainly not an indication of quality. There were excellent nonfiction works, with notable entries in the field of biography, history, Sontagian essay, and, yes, advice. As it turned out, 2016 has been a year in which there’s something for everybody—at least there is if that person loves to read. And isn’t that everybody?