Our Favorite Books of 2016

View the full list of books in our new catalog. Library staff members share their best reading experiences of the past year.

 Clare Hollander, Central Youth Services Manager

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet is my favorite book of 2016. With her use of collage and ephemera, Sweet uses E.B. White’s own words to help tell his story. The book is a lovely tribute to White, who gave us the kids’ classics Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. Many of the book’s individual, two-page spreads stand alone, and you can open it up at random and feel as if you dove into a clear pool, you’re so immersed. It’s really quite beautiful. (Juvenile Biography)

Rachel Fair, Finance Purchasing Assistant

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman was almost too realistic. There were plenty of times when I had to put the book down and walk away because it was so emotionally intense. (Fiction)

American Girls by Alison Umminger. Unlike other books that have attempted to incorporate history, this didn’t come across as stale. When I was finished, I had a deep story I enjoyed, as well as new facts that I didn’t know before. (YA Fiction)

Heather Harrison, Executive Services Administrative Assistant

Paper: Paging Through History by Mark Kurlansky was so interesting and relevant! I love how Kurlansky made the connection between technology and paper from the very beginning. It was loaded with interesting little details that I’d never thought about. (Nonfiction)

Pug Man’s 3 Wishes by Sebastian Meschenmoser is a hilarious picture book. The illustrations are fantastic. My kids and I were blown away and couldn’t stop laughing. (Picture Book)

How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball is a gritty, unique novel that YAs will love. Great girl protagonist. Her final manifesto was worth the wait. This was my favorite read of the summer. (Fiction)

Ian Hrabe, Waldo Branch Teen Library Associate

The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder, narrated by RC Bray. You might not expect a compelling work of fiction from the story of a group of middle-aged men who get together once a year to reenact the 1985 Monday Night Football game in which Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann had his leg shattered by New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. But Chris Bachelder’s novel – shortlisted for a National Book Award – is a poignant and hilarious examination of modern masculinity and way more engrossing than the premise suggests. Audiobook narrator R.C. Bray does a mighty job handling the voices of the 22 different characters, and this was by far my favorite book to listen to during my work commute in 2016. (Audiobook/Fiction)

Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld, illustrated by Joe Sumner. This outstanding graphic novel chronicles the author’s childhood summers in Australia and her fear of and fascination with sharks. I read a ton of graphic novels, and this wasn’t one of the highly vaunted ones I was looking forward to this year. But it was by far my favorite from 2016. The storytelling is subtle and deeply moving, and Joe Sumner’s art is a brilliant blend of cartooning and photorealistic renderings of sharks that lurk within the pages. This is one of my new go-to recommendations for graphic novel evangelism. (Graphic Novel/Memoir)

The Haters by Jesse Andrews is the follow-up to his masterful debut Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. It doesn’t quite reach the emotional depths of that novel (I didn’t openly weep when this one was over) but it does continue to showcase Andrews’ electric prose and gifted sense of comic timing. The Haters chronicles the adventures of three band camp runaways who form their own band on the fly and set out to go on tour across the United States before their parents find them. It’s full of heart and (incredibly lewd) humor that makes for good reading even if you fall outside of the book’s target demographic. (YA Fiction)

Peggy Farney, Outreach Library Technical Assistant

The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports by Jeff Passan is a searing look at the rehab pitchers undergo after Tommy John surgery. Parents of youngsters playing baseball should read this since over half of such operations are being performed on teenagers. (Sports Nonfiction)

John Keogh, Digital Librarian

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is hands down my favorite book of the year, the one I’m telling everyone to read. Several people had recommended it to me, saying it’s original and mind-blowing. I’ll admit: At first, I wasn't sure what they were talking about. This is a multiverse/alternate reality story, an exceptionally well-done multiverse story – much better than most – with interesting characters, high stakes, and a driven plot. The multiverse concept is pretty standard in science fiction, not really original, but then I got to the twist .... (Science Fiction)

The Dark Side by Anthony O'Neill is unmitigated fun, a rollicking science fiction/detective noir blend with a delightfully snide sense of humor. It boasts first-class world building, a main character you want to root for, and genuinely sinister villain. It also gives you an ending you don't quite expect. (Science Fiction)

The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey is the start of a new series from Kadrey, more slapstick and ridiculous than his Sandman Slim series. Imagine that Carl Hiaasen and Kinky Friedman had written Good Omens instead of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. (Science Fiction)

Angela Carroll, North-East Senior Library Technical Assistant

Trashed by Derf Backderf is a dirty tale, but someone’s gotta tell it. Using the graphic novel format, Backderf perfectly describes the life of a trash collector (you can almost smell the garbage) and the crazy things people throw away. A grimy, funny, kind of tasteless but very informative story about the history and current state of refuse. (Graphic Novel)

Elizabeth Hansen, Central Customer Services Night and Weekend Supervisor

Somethingtofoodabout by Questlove has an awesome cover, beautiful photos, funny footnotes, and interesting interviews. This book by the drummer and co-frontman of the hip hop band The Roots is about food, but it is told through the mind of a musician. (Food Nonfiction)

Ron Freeman, Plaza Library Children’s Librarian

The Best Man by Richard Peck is a funny, moving novel that opens with 6-year-old Archer Magill – in ripped, muddy, too-tight shorts – serving as a ring bearer in a stranger’s wedding and ends with a much more dignified, sixth-grade Archer serving as best man at his uncle’s wedding. In between, the youth has both hilarious and poignant experiences as he finds his own voice – helped by four strong male role models, two of whom happen to be gay. (Juvenile Fiction)

The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero by Patricia McCormick is the true story of a young man born to a large German family of privilege and the sacrifices he makes as he grapples with issues of faith, conformity, non-violence, and fighting evil. (Juvenile Biography)

Teresa Bolton, Central Library Manager of Operations

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari is hands down my favorite book this year, and you have to get the audio version. Ansari narrates, and his ad-lib comments made me laugh out loud. He stops several times to ask listeners how they could be so lazy that they can’t actually read a book. He goes on tour around the country to do stand-up comedy with a sociologist. He asks people about their dating experiences, even borrowing their phones to see their profiles and text interactions. It’s amazing how many women receive the same series of texts that merely consist of “hey,” “hey how’s it going” and (my favorite) “hey, baby what’s up?” If you want a very funny book that confirms “it’s not you” (it’s all the men), take a listen! (Audiobook Humor)

Kaite Stover, Director of Readers’ Services

The Revenge of Analog by David Sax perfectly articulates why people still crave holding a book, blowing the dust off a vinyl record, and shaking the dice before buying Park Place or Marvin Gardens. Despite all the technology in our lives, reality is still here. Go experience some, and remember why you like it. (Nonfiction)

NOTE: David Sax visited the Library in December 2016; if you missed his presentation, you can stream the audio from his presentation!
Listen now >

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead just won the National Book Award for Fiction. It’s the gut-wrenching story of Cora, a runaway slave, and how her life isn’t so perfect after she escapes the Randall plantation. This book is riveting and ferocious, and it’s true. A welcome addition to modern literature and a classic that speaks to humanity. (Fiction)

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to The World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton will make even the most sedentary armchair traveler get up and go outside looking for the World’s Quietest Room in Minneapolis or House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin. (We trust all you Kansas Citians know about Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence and the Stone Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas.) (Travel)

Haley Lips, Collection Development Specialist

You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris has writing that is beautiful, concise, and comes from a place of deep mourning and encouragement to move forward (Leiris’ wife Helene was killed in the 2015 terrorism attack at Paris’ Bataclan theater). A moving memoir of courage in the face of terrorism. (Memoir)

Andy Dandino, Public Affairs Art Director

Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens by Steve Olson. What a fascinating account of Mount St. Helens’ violent eruption in 1980. The book offers staggering accounts of the explosion and its aftermath and gives readers a ringside seat for the arguments between public and private interests. Olson provides historical context for the St. Helens incident by providing a compelling backstory on the formation of the national parks system, the birth of the conservation movement, and the rise, fall, and lasting influence of the logging industry throughout the ages. At times an engaging history lesson, a case study of the pitfalls of government bureaucracy, and a cautionary tale of unchecked capitalism, the book offers a vivid portrait of nature’s incredible destructive power and our complicated relationship with the natural world. (Nature Nonfiction)

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman. Known for his rich fantasy writing and creative storytelling, Gaiman turns to the real world in this collection of nonfiction writings, essays, and speeches. Admitting that over the course of his career he “backed awkwardly away from journalism because I wanted the freedom to make things up,” he touches on a range of topics and musings that vary in tone. Gaiman shares entertaining and informative anecdotes from his career, including a rare opportunity to conduct a phone interview with musician Lou Reed (who was a notoriously difficult and curmudgeonly interviewee). Other samples in the collection include a serious, sobering piece Gaiman wrote about an experience with Syrian refugees; his notable 2012 “Make Good Art” commencement speech; and a number of pop-culture love letters, such as a section dedicated to Doctor Who. (Creative Nonfiction)
Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation's Leaders by Brady Carlson. What happens posthumously to a POTUS? In a style that is conversational and engaging, Carlson approaches his subject with a mix of humor and respect. How does America hail its past chiefs? Part informative history lesson and part travel writing, Carlson cops to being somewhat of a morbid tourist for this sightseeing genre, writing from the perspective of a history-nerd superfan, which makes the book all the more endearing. Notable highlights include Jackie Kennedy’s work in creating the “Camelot” metaphor following JFK’s assassination; the use of an animatronic LBJ at the Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas; and a semi-local angle that features the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival in Marshfield, Missouri, where relatives and descendants of past presidents gather to celebrate their heritage. (Historical Nonfiction)

  View the full list of books in our new catalog.