Our Favorite Reads 2016

Our Favorite Reads 2016Are you ready for our FAVORITE READS OF THE YEAR?  I can’t heeeeeeeeear yooooouuuu!!  ARE YOU READY???

Well, here we go!  :-)  Below you will find the Top 5(ish) reads of 2016 of a lot of the ABC Staff.  Presented alphabetically, of course:  Hans, Iris, JeroenW, Jilles, Jitse, Jouke, Karin, Klaartje, Lynn, Maarten, Marten, Martijn, PeterL, Pleun, RenateSigrid, Simone, Sophie, Sywert, Tiemen, and Tom.

All of them are books that touched us in some significant way this year.  You’ll also find magazines and games among our favorites, and links to ebooks when available.  I hope that many of them will find their way onto your to-read lists!

Like the previous years we also want to know what YOUR favorite reads were this past year.  They don’t have to be books published in 2016, just read in 2016.  Mail your Top 5 (and why you loved them so) + your home address (so we can send you a little thank you)(must be an address in the Netherlands!) to social@abc.nl before 31 December 2016. The post will go live in the second half of January 2017.

HansHans

Belgicum – Stephan Vanfleteren

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War – Lynsey Addario

Fretboard Journal (magazine)

Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC – Andy Partridge 

Against Elections: The Case for Democracy – David van Reybrouck

Ebooks are also available for It’s What I Do and Against Elections.

Belgicum - Stephan VanfleterenIt's What I Do - Lynsey AddarioFretboard JournalComplicated Game - Andy PartridgeAgainst Elections - David van Reybrouck

IrisIris

The Passage series – Justin Cronin (The Passage, The Twelve, and City of Mirrors)
A co-worker suggested wrapping the first part of the series, also called The Passage, as a Blind Book Date (note: that picture on Reddit was taken in ABC Amsterdam :-)). Reading descriptions of the plot got me so excited that I finally decided to pick up the book for myself, and I absolutely LOVED it. I immediately followed it up with part two, called The Twelve, and only had to wait three short months (instead of three years, like those who followed the series from the start) for the final part, The City of Mirrors.
This series is everything I could ever want from a post-apocalyptic tale: it is both the epic “save-the-world-from-doom” narrative AND the personal story of a small group of individuals. There are different timelines, with everything being explained it its own time, and an intricate cast of characters that really carry the story. I almost wish I could go back and start again.

Saint Anything – Sarah Dessen
I’m always claiming that I don’t like contemporary YA, only to find myself immensely enjoying the ones I do read. This particular one is about Sydney, a girl whose family is working through some issues. She befriends a girl in school and quickly finds herself fully immersed in a big, loud family of people who get in each other’s business. The real star of this book, though, is Italian food. I’m serious: make sure you have a big supply of your favourite source of carbs nearby or you WILL go mad from craving pizza so much.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto – Mitch Albom
Confession time: I was first drawn to this book because of its gorgeous cover (and that was only the ARC edition!). As soon as I read in the blurb that it was narrated by Music, I was sold. This story follows the eventful life of prodigy guitarist Frankie Presto, from his difficult childhood in a small Spanish town to his ridiculous musical successes in America and from his drug addiction to his Big Love. It’s clear from Albom’s writing style and knowledge of both the music and musicians in this book that he knows what he’s talking about, which makes the whole thing that much more believable. I absolutely adored this book, and it’s definitely one I’ll be going back to.

Hag-Seed – Margaret Atwood
This book is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, in which Shakespeare’s works are retold by bestselling novelists. Hag-Seed is based on The Tempest, a play I studied in university but honestly didn’t enjoy that much. This book really worked for me, though. It’s cleverly done, with the adaptation of The Tempest as a frame narration for the actual play, which is also in the book, and a lot of puns and plays on names. I’d never read any Atwood before I got my hands on this book, but I’m definitely planning to read more of her works now!

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers
This book has so many things I didn’t know I needed in my life: a multi-racial, multi-gendered cast of human and non-human mavericks, all the inclusivity and acceptance you could possibly hope for, interesting intergalactic destinations, some serious sci-fi action and most importantly, a collection of strong, well-defined characters who are AWESOME. So there. (Honorary shoutout to the sequel / companion novel A Close and Common Orbit, which is quite different but equally awesome.)

Ebooks are also available for The Passage, The Twelve, City of Mirrors, Saint Anything, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, Hag-Seed, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and A Closed and Common Orbit.

The Passage - Justin CroninSaint Anything - Sarah DessenThe Magic Strings of Frankie Pesto - Mitch AlbomHag-Seed - Margaret AtwoodThe Long Way to a Small Angry Planet - Becky Chambers

JeroenW Gift Ideas 2015JeroenW

Arsène Schrauwen – Olivier Schrauwen

The Magician’s Land – Lev Grossman

Saga, vol. 6 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Monstress, vol. 1 – Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

Ebooks are also available for The Magician’s Land, Saga, vol. 6, and Monstress, vol. 1.

Arsène Schrauwen - Olivier SchrauwenThe Magician's Land - Lev GrossmanSaga, Volume 6 - Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona StaplesMonstress, vol. 1 - Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda

JillesJilles, 2015

The Surrender Experiment – Michael Singer
What an amazing experiment. What an amazing book. Very inspiring! I read it for the second time and it is still a book that makes me cry with its deep truths about life and living in a way that makes sense.

Good People – Marcus Sakey
This is a great thriller, but I hate this book. It brings me to all the emotional places I don’t want go to as a human being. Reading it feels like somebody tearing down, bit by bit, the safe foundation which life is built upon. That leaves you with nothing to fall back on! I found out by reading this book that I don’t like this feeling.

Spider Season – John Morgan Wilson (out of print)(but ebook available, see below)
Great last novel about reporter/sleuth Benjamin Justice. Where have all those great gay crime writers like Joseph Hanssen, Michael Nava and John Morgan Wilson gone? Now you can only find crappy print-on-demand stuff that just hasn’t got the standard of the books of these great writers.

Ruler of the Night – David Morrell
A very entertaining last instalment of the De Quicey crime trilogy set in London in 1855. Again very well researched and used as arc of the story. It is hard to go wrong with Morrell.

The Coffin Dancer – Jeffrey Deaver
The first half of the book is a bit repetitive (he uses the same template as in the first book in the series), but when Deaver gets going in the second half, he pulls off some amazing twists you never see coming! Great thriller.

Ebooks are also available for The Surrender Experiment, Good People, Spider Season, and The Coffin Dancer.

The Surrender Experiment - Michael A. SingerGood People - Marcus SakeySpider Season - John Morgan WilsonRuler of the Night - David MorrellThe Coffin Dancer - Jeffery Deaver

Gift Ideas from Jitse, 2015Jitse

The Sandman: Overture – Neil Gaiman, J. H. Williams III and Dave Stewart
I read The Sandman series years ago, and it’s one of the best graphic novel series I’ve encountered. But I never found out why the story started the way it did, until now. The Sandman: Overture tells the story of what happened to Morpheus before Preludes and Nocturnes. Gorgously illustrated in a colourful graphic narrative that goes beyond the usual graphic story telling. It’s like dreaming, only better.

The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil – Ridenour, Al
The Krampus is a horned monster that comes out of the mountains to Austrian villages in early December, and together with Saint Nicolas he visits the homes and admonishes children. Those that have been naughty get beaten with his switch or, worse, get taken in a basket back to his cave in the mountains where they wil be eaten. This book is one of the best to come out on the subject of the old Austrian tradition of the Krampus. After a lot of pop culture referencing it is time to set the record straight. Al Ridenour does this with historical insight and in-depth research. He also talks about the accompanying traditions in the mountains of Central Europe and the new revival in the West, where previously the Krampus did not appear as a tradition.

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know about Global Politics – Tim Marshall
Tim Marshall explains why all global politics are driven by geography. The lay of the land, and its access to oceans and resources, defines the choices policy makers have to make to keep their countries, economies and people secure. He shows, for example, why Russia seeks to keep influence in the former Soviet republics and why it sees Nato’s military base building as encirclement.

Notes from the Shadowed City – Jeffrey Alan Love
A story of a man who finds himself in a mysterious land, in search of magical swords. The illustrations by Jeffrey Alan Love are gorgeous and this is why I picked up this book.

Blood of the Celts: The New Ancestral Story – Jean Manco
I read this book on vacation in France this year, the homeland of the Gauls. Manco clearly describes the history of the Celts, their origins, spread, and revival in the last century. He uses not only historical data but also looks at linguistics and genetics to tell his story.

An ebook is also available for Prisoners of Geography.

The Sandman: Overture - Neil Gaiman and JH WilliamsThe Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas - Al RidenourPrisoners of Geography - MarshallNotes from the Shadowed City - Jeffrey Alan LoveBlood of the Celts - Jean Manco

Gift Ideas from Jouke 2015Jouke

The Golden Ratio – Mario Livio

Alex’s Adventures in Numberland – Alex Bellos

Empire (magazine)

The Wrong Side of Goodbye – Michael Connelly

Magic: the Gathering (collectible card game)

Ebooks are also available for Alex’s Adventures in Numberland and The Wrong Side of Goodbye.

The Golden Ratio - Mario LivioAlex's Adventures in Numberland - Alex BellosEmpire magazine, Dec. 2016The Wrong Side of Goodbye - Michael ConnellyMagic: The Gathering (Eldritch Moon)

KarinKarin

Sand – Hugh Howey
Author Hugh Howey remains a favorite. Read Sand this year but still need to read Beacon 23 (why did I forget about this about book?). Sand is not as good as the Silo series but good enough to want more.

Orphan Master’s Son – Adam Johnson
Read this 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner. Gripping, scary, horrifying but also hopeful. Read this one with my book club. It made us all want to know more about North Korea and it also seemed that all of a sudden North Korea was all over the news. From the Great Leader’s declaration of stray dogs as superfood (people are actualy starving and so are the dogs so not much food to be had from a stray dog), concentration camps getting bigger (according to Amnesty International) and the Great Leader chucking one of his government officials out of a plane because he dozed off while Kim Jong-Un was speaking.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter
A weird, literary gem about grief that you’ll love or you’ll hate. A father and his two young sons battle with the grief demons and are ‘protected’ by a black crow. It is not like anthing else I have ever read. It is not for everyone but if you love language and know loss, read this novella.

You Have Me to Love (Birk) – Jaap Robben
Hailed as the book of the year in 2014 by Dutch booksellers, this book is also a gem in English. Read the sad story of a Mikael who is living on a small island with his parents. And then his father disappears in the sea. Beautiful!

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Bought the hardcover edition.  Finally read this classic and also watched the black-and-white movie – on Netflix – with the late Gregory Peck. Good discussion with book group. There is a reason why some books become classics.

Total disappointment: I really wanted to read Fellside by M.R. Carey as I loved The Girl with All the Gifts, but just could not get into it.

Ebooks are also available for Sand, The Orphan Master’s Son, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Sand - Hugh HoweyThe Orphan Master's Son - Adam JohnsonGrief is the Thing with Feathers - Max PorterYou Have Me To Love - Jaap RobbenTo Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

ABC logo 2016Klaartje

The High Mountains of Portugal – Yann Martel

The Golem and the Djinni – Helene Wecker

Seeing – José Saramago

The Good People – Hannah Kent

Here I Am – Jonathan Safran Foer

Ebooks are also available for The High Mountains of Portugal, The Golem and the Djinni, Seeing, and Here I Am.

The High Mountains of Portugal - Yann MartelThe Golem and the Djinni - Helen WeckerSeeing - José SaramagoThe Good People - Hannah KentHere I Am - Jonathan Safran Foer

Lynn, interviewed for DutchNews.nl, 2015Lynn

East of Eden – John Steinbeck
Somehow I’d never read this one. Five stars – no, wait, fifty stars!

Nobody’s Fool – Richard Russo
Much funnier than the newer Everybody’s Fool, which was also worthwhile.

The Eldest Daughter Effect – Lisette Schuitemaker and Wies Enthoven
I read this for a book presentation planned by Rick last November, and what a surprise! All kinds of things I thought personal characteristics turn out to be birth order things – I can let up now! The perfect gift for anyone who is or is close to an eldest daughter.

My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
What wisdom and intimacy. The Days of Abandonment (an earlier Ferrante novel) was both darker and brighter.

Catherine the Great and Potemkin – Simon Sebag Montefiore
Fascinating history of love and leadership told like the family drama that it was.

Ebooks available for East of Eden and Catherine the Great and Potemkin.

East of Eden - John SteinbeckNobody's Fool - Richard RussoThe Eldest Daughter Effect - Lisette Schuitemaker and Wies EnthovenMy Brilliant FriendCatherine the Great and Potemkin - Simon Sebag Montefiore

Gift Ideas Maarten 2015Maarten

It was a bad year, for me, and in general, and that seems to be reflected in the books I’ve read this year, both in quantity and quality. So here are a few titles that díd make an impression, because of the style – fiction – or the contents – non-fiction – , or, of course, both. In no particular order:

Noodlanding – Kira Wuck
A collection of 12 short stories that are slightly absurdist and quite disturbing at times. Wuck makes it look so easy, writing these kind of stories, with a simple, dry style, but this is quite difficult to pull off.

De laatste roker – W.F. Hermans
Another collection of stories, by the great Dutch writer WFH, spanning many decades. Sometimes surreal, sometimes more ‘autobiographical’, in sharp, clear language, each story forces you to finish it. No boring moments here.

Sherlock Holmes in Orbit – various (out of print)
One of the ‘not-too-many’ Sherlock Holmes-related books I’ve read this year. A fun collection of Holmes parodies, spoofs, and pastiches, most of them in a science fiction or horror setting. Quite good, considering all the crap that’s out there these days. (Another fun one is the richly illustrated Playmobil Hound of the Baskervilles…)

One of my fields of interest is space. (Well, duh… everything is part of that! We’re all in it! What I mean of course is astronomy and space travel and such.) Two examples of this year: Meteorite. Nature and Culture by Maria Golia, a well-produced book about a lot of aspects of meteorites: a history of the scientific research of these pieces of other worlds, from early superstitions to geology to the dangers they might pose; their place is myths, religion and literature; the (sometimes murky) trade of space rocks, and much more, and all richly illustrated. And: Mensen op Mars by Joris van Casteren, an examination, journalism-style, of the unrealistic plans of the people behind the MarsOne project, to send people to Mars on a one-way trip, financed by a big-brother-style TV program. Without mocking anyone, and by showing all the naïve confidence and amateuristic shortcomings of the believers in the MarsOne project, Van Casteren leaves it to the reader to judge, but nudges that same reader with his slightly ironic style into an obvious direction.

To finish the top-‘5’ one title about another one of my fields of interest, the history of the natural sciences/curiosities/collections and such: Object Lessons: The Visualisation of Nineteenth-Century Life Sciences by George Loudon. A big, beautiful, and richly illustrated book about Loudon’s personal collection of all kinds of objects, prints, and books from the world of 19th century scientific research. Way out of my league price-wise, these objects are very desirable, so thankfully I can now see them and read interesting facts about them in this book.

An ebook is also available for Meteorite.

Noodlanding - Kira WuckDe laatste roker - W. F. HermansSherlock Holmes in Orbit - Mike Resnick et alMeteorite: Nature and Culture - Maria GoliaMensen op Mars - Joris van CasterenObject Lessons - George Loudon

MartenMarten

The Habsburg Empire: A New History – Pieter M. Judson
A rewarding read about an often overlooked, largely forgotten and mostly misunderstood piece of European history. The author paints a somewhat rosy picture of the Habsburg Empire, pointing out how it was one of the first European states with official equality in the eyes of the law for all its citizens (man or woman, Non-Catholics and Jews), primary education for everyone, and centralization and rationalization of government. All well before the (French) revolution(s). He also makes a persuasive case for a new understanding of the role of nationalism in Central European history. Generally well, if not always consistently, written. For everyone who’s interested in Middle and East European history of the nineteenth century.

Prisoners of Geography – Tim Marshall
Doom and gloom for the future humankind if the author of this book is to be believed… and believe him is what you do after reading this very informative book which reads like a newspaper article. Great book to reread a chapter of when a particular part of the planet is in the news. Especially eye-opening on the parts about China and the Arctic.

The Fall of the Ottomans – Eugene Rogan
A detailed and vividly written account of the final years of the Ottoman Empire. The Fall Of The Ottomans is, from the three books I’ve read on the subject (I’ve also read A Peace To End All Peace by David Fromkin and The Ottoman Endgame by Sean McMeekin), by far the best. Every now and again he loses his ‘Ottoman perspective’ for the British (he’s American) but I think there are few books as pleasurable to read that are also as richly detailed and meticulously researched as this.

Sleepwalkers – Christopher Clark
I haven’t read many books on the First World War but it would surprise me if this is not one of the very best. Sleepwalkers examines the machinations at the top of the decision-making process of each individual belligerent power in the period running up to the First World War. The book is not for people who like a clear black-and-white depiction of history or those looking for stories of sacrifice and heroism. Although Sleepwalkers is really a joy to read, it remains a 700+ page history book. It’s not for everyone.

Towards The Flame and Russia Against Napoleon – Dominic Lieven
Lieven’s access to the Russian archives makes his books stand out. He chronicles history from the all-too-often-neglected Russian perspective. Of the two, Russia Against Napoleon is a more clear-cut military history; it offers a completely new understanding of a mostly familiar history. Towards The Flame is more of an addition to the other great books that have come out on the subject of the First World War (Sleepwalkers to name one). A book well worth reading, but the policy decisions and inner workings of Russia’s political caste at the turn of the century make this not quite as exciting a read as the great war against Napoleon.

The Habsburg Empire - Pieter M. JudsonPrisoners of Geography - MarshallThe Fall of the Ottomans - Eugene RoganSleepwalkers - Christopher ClarkTowards the Flame - Dominic LievenRussia Against Napoleon - Dominic Lieven

MartijnMartijn

Most of the books I read this year consist of a few series:

I reread the entire Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (series starts with Storm Front).  Still my favorite fantasy series ever.  Even better the second time around.  Humor, action, loads of imagination and some folks to care about.

The Cormoran Strike books by Robert Galbraith (series starts with The Cuckoo’s Calling). Really enjoyable. Old-fashioned detective work. Well written, good main character, London.  Better with each instalment.

Still reading the Walt Longmire westerns by Craig Johnson (series starts with The Cold Dish) and all of Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher books. Although Lee has had a few misses, Make Me and Night School (although very different) are both solid Reachers. And Walt Longmire just feels like family.

The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia are very gritty and action-packed (series starts with Hard Magic). Humans develop superpowers in the 1920s and ’30s. A group of them (good) fights another group (evil) with actual (and sometimes alternative) history as a backdrop. Fun!

And finally, Orphan X by Greg Hurwitz. Modern, fast thriller. You guessed it, I like action and this was a great little book.  Tense and reads like a movie.

Ebooks are also available for Storm Front, The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Cold Dish, Make Me, and Orphan X.

Storm Front - Jim ButcherThe Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith a.k.a. J. K. RowlingThe Cold Dish - Craig JohnsonMake Me - Lee ChildNight School - Lee ChildHard Magic - Larry CorreiaOrphan X - Greg Hurwitz

PeterL, Crime Fiction buyer at ABC AmsterdamPeterL

As Meat Loves Salt – Maria McCann

A Place of Execution – Val McDermid

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson

Her Every Fear – Peter Swanson

The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware

Ebooks are also available for As Meat Loves Salt, A Place of Execution, The Kind Worth Killing, and The Woman in Cabin 10.

PeterL Top 5 2016

Pleun, Crime Fiction buyer at ABC AmsterdamPleun

My Not So Perfect Life – Sophie Kinsella
I was fortunate enough to read this before it comes out in Feburary 2017. It’s a standalone and to be honest I think Kinsella is best in her standalone titles. It’s fun and cute and you will race through the pages!

In a Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware
Loved this book about a writer who gets invited to a long lost friend’s hen party in the woods. Fast en intelligent. Ruth’s Ware other book The Woman in Cabin 10 is also a great holiday read!

Room – Emma Donoghue 
I never read books when there is a major hype around them, but this one was always on my to-read list. I finally picked it up and was so impressed. What a wonderful writer and what a special book this is.

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson
My favorite thriller this year. So full of plots and turns that you can hardly keep up with them. The ending is amazing, very rare to find these days in a thriller. A must-read!

Noisy Farm – Tiger Tales
My one year-old loves this book! It’s a combination of a touch and sound book of her favorite farm animals.

Ebooks are also available for In a Dark Dark Wood, Room, and The Kind Worth Killing.

My Not So Perfect Life - Sophie KinsellaIn a Dark Dark Wood - Ruth WareRoom - Emma DonoghueThe Kind Worth Killing - Peter SwansonNoisy Farm - Tiger Tales

Gift Ideas from RenateRenate

The Lottery and Other Stories – Shirley Jackson
I read this short story collection in a cabin in the woods in Drenthe. Crystal clear prose that sends shivers up your spine. Mrs. Jackson rules.

The Loney – Andrew Michael Hurley
I guess I’ve been in a horror mood this year (odd and worrying, since I was also pregnant), but in any case: The Loney is a well-written horror novel that reminds me of good old Shirley Jackson, covering themes such as religion and communities and witchcraft. Includes a scary ending.

Rebecca – Daphne DuMaurier
Read it while I was about five months pregnant, and vacationing in a tent! (Tip: don’t ever do this, unless you never want to get up from your airbed and just lie there and listen to crazy birds, which is, of course, not bad at all.) Great suspense novel with a heroine that annoyed me at times, but I forgave her in the end.

The Girls – Emma Cline
I was mostly curious about the novel everyone was talking about, but also attracted to its subject-matter: the late 60s, a girl coming of age, a Charles Manson-like figure, and, in the end, some murders. As a novel as a whole, I was a little bit disappointed, but Cline’s style and way of phrasing things is simply very very good.

De ontdekking van de wereld – Clarice Lispector
Beautiful edition of Lispector’s columns and essays and other pieces of writing. Already a fan of her novels, I wasn’t worried about whether I’d enjoy this or not. Her style reflects the woman she was (I think): crazy, sensitive, glamourous, and straight to the point.

Ebooks are also available for The Lottery and Other Stories, The Loney, Rebecca, and The Girls.

The Lottery and Other Stories - Shirley JacksonThe Loney - Andrew Michael HurleyRebecca - Daphne du MaurierThe Girls - Emma ClineDe ontdekking van de wereld - Clarice Lispector

SigridSigrid

Last Night – James Salter
Great stories that I’ve read one story a day, because otherwise I would mix up the characters/storylines. Loved them and especially the last story haunted me for days. Such sublime storytelling, very slowly the plot unfolds.

A Breath of Life: Pulsations – Clarice Lispector & Johnny Lorenz (translator)
The first book I’ve read by Lispector. Loved the way she uses language to evoke feelings you never knew you had. And it stirred up thoughts in me about a realm that most authors leave untouched.

My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout
It’s December and for some the month to read about dysfunctional families (am reading The Portable Veblen now). But I actually read this last January and really liked it. The simplicity of the story and dialogue brings across what families are about.

Pax – Sara Pennypacker
I used to love children’s books and read lots even as an adult, but it had been a while. The cover of this beautiful book (drawing by Jon Klassen) attracted me and I heard good things about it so I gave it a try. I enjoyed this sometimes sad story about having the courage to walk your own path in life.

The Spiritual Mysteries of Blood: Its Power to Transform Body, Mind, and Spirit – Christopher Vasey
I like naturopath Vasey’s vision of the connection between the material world and the spirit. His ideas are grounded in a good knowledge of the body’s physiology and he was inspired by In the Light of Truth by Abd-Ru-Shin. The book gave me lots of food for thought.

Ebooks are also available for Last Night, My Name is Lucy Barton, and Pax.

Sigrid Top 5 2016

Simone 2016Simone

Someone – Alice McDermott
A lovely, intricate, delicate novel detailing the life of a woman, from her early childhood to her twilight years. Her observations are very poignant, and because of the main character’s failing eyesight, various situations are wonderfully described in terms of light and shadow. I’m very impressed with McDermott’s ability to describe a life so effectively and with so much detail. I can’t wait to try another one of her novels.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old) – Hendrik Groen
What a great read: both charming, funny and moving, this description of a man living in a home for the elderly leaves you with a smile and a tear. Translated from the Dutch by Hester Velmans, it reads exceptionally well in English, and is bound to be a bestseller worldwide. You cannot ignore this debut sensation.

A Separation – Katie Kitamura
This new title is written in a unique style: no quotation marks are used for dialogue, which requires special attention to the language, and makes it a refreshing read. A young woman, about to divorce her husband, is requested by his parents to look for him when he is missing in Greece. This is Kitamura’s third book, and a very promising one because of her appealing style of writing.

Sycamore Row – John Grisham
In some way a follow-up to A Time To Kill, this tale set in the rural south is a well-paced novel, keeping you at the edge of your seat while the story of a man’s final testament keeps a whole town in great suspense and upheaval. Why on earth does his black maid inherit a fortune? The unravelling of the mystery is fascinating and written in classic Grisham style, which never disappoints.

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
This new star on the horizon is impressing readers with every new novel. This one is no exception. You enter the lives of several characters in a small town, and page by page, their lives are more intertwined than they can possibly imagine. The short statements at the end of the chapters, which are police statements made at the end of the whole story, add a real element of suspense while reading and makes you want to unravel all the mysteries and deceptions.

Ebooks are also available for Someone, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old, Sycamore Row, and Big Little Lies.

Someone - Alice McDermottThe Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old - Hendrik GroenA Separation - Katie KitamuraSycamore Row - John GrishamBig Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

Gift Ideas from Sophie, 2015Sophie

How to be a Woman – Caitlin Moran
This book will not be to everyone’s taste, but oh boy was it to mine!  I haven’t laughed this much, nor this loudly, in many, many, many books.  Moran pokes at all the bits that make being a woman (my apologies, a STRIDENT FEMINIST) so tricky in this day and age, from coping with your changing body as a teen to navigating the wedding minefields to dealing with the many forms of sexism.  I loved it.  I also want to recommend every other book I read for the Our Shared Shelf book club.  They were all hugely interesting (if not all brilliant).  Besides How to be a Woman I was particularly struck by The Argonauts and The Color Purple.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit – Becky Chambers
They are shelved with science fiction, but these were the most humane books I read all year.  They were odes to the power of friendship, and building your own family, and accepting beings not like you, and doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.  Books with a big heart.  Gentler, bookish versions of the TV series Firefly.

Pogingen iets van het leven te maken (The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old) – Hendrik Groen
I would be in fits of giggles one moment and then think “oh you poor dear” on the next page.  This old pensioner’s diary paints a very recognizable slice of Dutch society (one we will all be a part of sooner or later).  I hope I’m half as feisty and determined as Hendrik to enjoy every day that’s given me.  I read the Dutch edition, but Simone tells me the English translation is also excellent.

The Cormoran Strike books (The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, Career of Evil) – Robert “J. K. Rowling” Galbraith
Great series about private detective Cormoran Strike and his resilient secretary/partner-in-detecting Robin.  Rowling knows how to tell a story and can effectively characterize someone with a single observation.  I was also genuinely flummoxed at the end of Career of Evil, with the great reveal (‘oh! it’s YOU!’), and usually I can see them coming from a little ways off!  I also really enjoy the bond that grows between Cormoran and Robin throughout the books. As Martijn also noted, they get better with each instalment.

Utopia for Realists (Gratis geld voor iedereen) – Rutger Bregman
A book crammed to the gills with grand and idealistic thoughts and concepts and plans that will kick the shins of many a stodgy (couch) politician.  But you know what?  This world needs a bit of dreaming.  2016 has been rough, and that things need to change is something everyone can agree on.  Why not with a free basic income for all, to name one idea this book is passionate about?  I read the English edition, which has been taken off publisher De Correspondent’s site since the international rights were sold this past Frankfurt Book Fair (it is now slated for international release in March 2017) but we still have a few copies left in stock!

This Must Be The Place – Maggie O’Farrell
Do I need to give any other reason than that it’s the new book by Maggie O’Farrell?  If you knew me well you’d know that was reason enough.  :-)  But since most people don’t, I’ll tell you that she has written another beautiful mosaic about love, relationships, (mis)communication, timing, and so much more, with a main character that ranks among my favorite O’Farrell characters. She experiments with different styles and elements (i.e. one chapter is ‘told’ through the items in an auction catalogue, another mirrors the thoughts of the speaker quite exactly, etc.), something I can always appreciate in an author, too.  And her signature poetical writing shines throughout it all. I loved it.

Ebooks are also available for How to be a Woman, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, A Closed and Common Orbit, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old, The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, Career of Evil, and This Must Be the Place.

How To Be a Woman - Caitlin MoranThe Long Way to a Small Angry Planet - Becky ChambersA Closed and Common Orbit - Becky ChambersThe Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old - Hendrik GroenThe Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith a.k.a. J. K. RowlingUtopia for Realists - Rutger BregmanThis Must Be The Place - Maggie O'Farrell

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Pandemic Legacy (board game)
Voted the best board game of 2016 by pretty much everybody, this is an amazingly fun co-operative game that changes over the course of the year depending on how well, or how bad you did. Sometimes frustratingly hard but immensely rewarding when you manage to win.

Star Wars Destiny (collectible card game)
Of course my favourite 2016 list is lacking without at least one (or two) Star Wars titles. This combination dice and card game is a fun and quick two player duelling game. The dice add a bit of a random factor which makes it an exciting game, combined with great art on the cards itself.

Last Days of New Paris – China Miéville
This book is weird. Then again, that’s not that unexpected from a Miéville title. Quickly becoming one of my favourite authors, Miéville spins a weird, confusing, strange tale of a city being hit by a S-Bomb (literally a surrealist bomb). The story follows a resistance fighter using surrealist art brought to life to fight the Nazis and, of course, the forces of hell. This book starts weird, stays weird, and is great fun the entire time.

Paper: Paging Through History – Mark Kurlansky
After writing about the history and impact of Cod and Salt Kurlansky now turns to paper. A fascinating history about all the uses and the importance of paper. You will definitely learn an unexpected thing or two! Kurlansky thinks that paper will outlast us all. Lets hope!

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel – James Luceno
I couldn’t leave this off the list. Set just before the new Rogue One movie this is a great start to the story. A must-read for all Star Wars fans.

An ebook is also available for Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel.

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Tiemen (right) and Brian McClellan and Joe Hill, DCC2016Tiemen

Ninefox Gambit – Yoon Ha Lee
For fans of Ancillary Justice the debut novel Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee is a must-read. The first chapter is perhaps slightly baffling, but once you get used to the logic of the extraordinary universe Lee created you are in for one hell of a ride. Space opera with intrigue within intrigue, a set of interesting characters and a rather morbid but endearing humor.

Wall of Storms – Ken Liu
Game of Thrones meets Wuxia. The second part in the Dandelion Dynasty series by Ken Liu. If part one The Grace of Kings was terrific, the second part The Wall of Storms is brilliant. Great worldbuilding, court intrigue and some really nifty technological/linguistic expositions.

Rise of the Robots – Martin Ford
An interesting if somewhat scary non-fiction book that discusses the ongoing process and impact of automatization and robotization on our society. Long story short, we the people probably won’t have a job anymore in the future.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz
A lyrical coming-of-age story. Two boys meet during summer break and what follows is a wonderful story of friendship blooming into something beautiful.

Power of the Dog – Don Winslow
For everyone who loved Breaking Bad. This novel depicts the rise and fall of a Mexican drug cartel seen through the eyes of  a diverse cast of drugs dealers, DEA agents, hitmen and hookers. Winslow really knows how to write a suspenseful story that with Mexico as background at certain times reads like Game of Thrones meets The Godfather.

Other books worth mentioning are: Infomocracy by Malka Ann Older, United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan and The Summer Dragon by Todd Lockwood.

Ebooks are also available for Ninefox Gambit, The Rise of the Robots, The Power of the Dog, Infomocracy, All the Birds in the Sky, Six of Crows, and Promise of Blood.

Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha LeeThe Wall of Storms - Ken LiuThe Rise of the Robots - Martin FordAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire SáenzThe Power of the Dog - Don Winslow

Tom, Travel Guides buyer at ABC The HagueTom

Xenophobe’s Guide to the French – Nick Yapp and Michel Syrett
Xenophobe guides give you an introduction to the customs and etiquette of the people living in a certain country. They are funny and informative at the same time.

Xenophobe’s Guide to the Dutch – Rodney Bolt
Always interesting to read foreigners’ opinions about the Dutch …

Living in France (magazine)
I like to read this magazine in preparation for my trips to France. It has interesting articles on French cities, regions and villages and on living in this beautiful country. It offers a lot of tips for both travelers and expats living in France.

Tapas: Classic Small Dishes from Spain – Elisabeth Luard
A great cookbook that makes your mouth water just by leafing through the recipes.

Taal: het grote avontuur – Hans Joachim Störig
This book – in Dutch, not available in English, as far as I know – looks like it’s an introduction for linguistics students. It offers, among others, a short overview of all language families and the most important languages spoken today. An enjoyable and interesting read.

Ebooks are also available for Xenophobe’s Guide to the French and Xenophobe’s Guide to the Dutch.

Xenophobe's Guide to the French - Nick Yapp and Michel SyrettXenophobe's Guide to the Dutch - Rodney BoltLiving in France magazineTapas - Elisabeth LuardTaal: het grote avontuur - Hans Jochim Störig