"The Underground Railroad" was brilliant. "LaRose" was stunning. "Evicted" should be required reading for all Americans.
These titles, and others, have been at the top of a dazzling array of "Best of 2016" lists — including The Thread's. But every year, there are overlooked gems: Books that we don't get to rave about enough, in my opinion.
The Thread's best of 2016: Fiction | Nonfiction | Young adult | Children's and middle grade | Sci-fi and fantasy | Poetry
Here are five books that deserve a little more of the spotlight.
"What is Not Yours is Not Yours" by Helen Oyeyemi
Helen Oyeyemi's collection of short stories all center around a key of some kind — and the doors they unlock are dark and strange and magical. All of Oyeyemi's work — both her stories and novels — turn fairy tales inside out and upside down and on their heads.
Short story collections are frequently overlooked in favor of longer texts, so here's my shout for the shorties.
"The Natural Way of Things" by Charlotte Wood
This is not an easy book, but it's incredibly timely. Two women wake up in a haze, in a dusty house in the Australian outback. They've been drugged, their possessions are missing, and they've been re-dressed in rough shift dresses reminiscent of pioneer days. A man comes in and asks: "Who's first?"
A story reminiscent of Margaret Atwood unfolds from there, mixing shock and horror and resistance.
"The Transmigration of Bodies" by Yuri Herrera
NPR's John Powers wrote that, in recent years, "there's been an explosion of literary talent" from Mexico.
Yuri Herrera is a part of that. This hard-boiled noir is set in a Mexican city where the streets are abandoned and doors and windows are locked against a plague that has swept through. No one wants to go out — but The Redeemer is summoned by two rival crime families to broker a deal: Each has a body the other one wants. "Transmigration" is a lose-your-whole-afternoon read.
"Problems" by Jade Sharma
The first description I saw for this book was "Girls" meets "Trainspotting."
That holds: The novel follows Maya, a woman keeping her heroin problem under control — until she's not. "Problems" stakes the claim that you don't have to like a narrator to be utterly fascinated by her. It's a raw book that refuses to follow any the path of any addiction story before it.
"Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?" by Kathleen Collins
Kathleen Collins was a groundbreaking African-American filmmaker who died young, at just 46, in 1988. She's an overlooked but deeply influential artist, as poet Elizabeth Alexander relates in the foreword.
This posthumous collection of her short stories offers a rare glimpse at a brilliant mind, meditating on race and family and expectations.
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