BookNet Canada staff picks: Our favourite books of 2016

We've seen the "best of" lists flying around the internet this month and we got so excited that we had to create our own. Here are recommendations from BookNet Canada staff for the books we read and loved in 2016.

Zalina, Marketing & Communications Manager

Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie by Anne Martinetti and Guillaume Lebeau

As soon as I heard there was a graphic novel autobiography about Agatha Christie, I immediately put a hold on it at the library. I love the idea of using the graphic novel format (thumbs up) to illustrate the life and adventures of the Queen of Whodunnit (double thumbs up). The art is lovely, the story it tells is full of pathos and admiration for this legendary mystery novelist and badass feminist icon, and it even has a bit of fantastical flair. Plus, it's only one in a series of graphic novels about famous artists from Self Made Hero, including Picasso and Van Gogh, so there are more to enjoy (or gift) when you're done.

Mickey, Financial Administrator

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter

It’s a sensual, feminist, magical realist (is it ever), circus romp through Victorian England and Siberia in 1899 at the dawning of the 20th century. It covers every base from anarchism, to prostitution, to psychedelic shamanism by a Valkyrie-like woman with wings! As usual with Angela Carter, it's not for the squeamish, but it is funny and amazing.

Jackie, Director of Product Development

Literary fiction pick: Mischling by Affinity Konar

A devastating account of the twins research conducted by the sadistic sociopath, Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. Told from the perspective of both twins in alternating chapters, the story warps and wefts the tale of each into a beautiful, terrible tapestry of the horrors of the camp to separate and subdue the twins' connection. This book has stayed with me like no other book this year and is written so beautifully and deftly by its author that it's hard to believe this is a debut. Did I mention devastating?

Children's book pick: Little Red by Bethan Woollvin

With an illustrated style reminiscent of The Three Robbers, Little Red is the retelling of the classic fairy tale with a triumphant Red wearing a wolf suit by the end of it. Wonderful, bold, and humorous illustrations support a girl-power story of triumph over grandma-eating bullies.

Noah, President & CEO

The Princeling of Nanjing by Ian Hamilton 🇨🇦

I can't believe this came out way back in January! That means I've been waiting almost a full year for Ian Hamilton's next instalment in the Ava Lee series. All of the Ava Lee books are a delightful mix of international travel, forensic accounting, food porn, and a little bit of ass-kicking. Once again Hamilton has Ava doing all of these things in The Princeling of Nanjing, and doing them well. If you haven't read any of the books in the series go back and start with the first and, if you are waiting for the next instalment along with me, you only need to wait a few more weeks — the next book in the series, The Couturier of Milan, is due in January.  

Carol, CataList Product Manager

We’re All in This Together by Amy Jones 🇨🇦

Having spent some formative years growing up in northern Ontario, this romp of a book caught my attention when it appeared among the Loan Stars June 2016 Top Picks. Set in Thunder Bay, this is the story of a family with a flair for the dramatic (and all that entails in the internet era), of the people who you never really leave behind, and of finding your way forward when nothing goes as planned. In turns poignant and laugh-out-loud hilarious, this was my favourite summer read of the year.

Tim, Project Manager & Retail Liaison

A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I may have been the last person on Earth to hear about My Struggle by Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard. While waiting for a bus home one night, I found myself browsing through a bookstore, picked Volume 1 off the shelf, opened to a beautiful, compelling description of death, and couldn't stop reading. It's hard to believe that you can get drawn into a 600-page autobiographical novel but the number of times I found myself thinking "I know exactly what you're saying" was amazing. With Volume 2 complete, I only have 5,000 more pages to go! 

Pamela, Director of Customer Relations

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 🇨🇦

Dark, gripping, quiet, and yet compelling, this dystopian novel examines life before and after a pandemic that kills more than 99% of the world’s population, following the lives of several characters both before and after the outbreak. This really isn’t “just another dystopian novel” — it has so much more to offer. It's beautifully written and my favourite book this year. 

Tom, Bibliographic Manager

Pastoral by André Alexis 🇨🇦

I re-read André Alexis' Pastoral, the first novel in the cycle that includes Fifteen Dogs and The Hidden Keys, and remained blown away by its humour and use of language. I can't quite get over seeing "lawn" and "yard" used appropriately and meaningfully in a single paragraph — sparse, simple description that surprises. While I'm looking forward to reading The Hidden Keys over the holidays and have to reserve judgement on it, Pastoral is one of my favourite books. 

Ainsley, Marketing Associate

Adult pick: You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

I read this book of essays in a day while waiting to not get picked for jury duty. It's the perfect book to read if you don't want to be chosen for jury duty — just be the weird woman laughing to herself in the corner. As a comedy writer, Klein has hilarious takes on all sorts of topics. I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with her take on baths — yes, they are gross! But she also has interesting, and feminist-leaning, takes on femininity, infertility, relationships, and Oprah and Gayle. 

Picture book pick: King Baby by Kate Beaton 🇨🇦

Kate Beaton's picture books are just as fun for the adults reading them as they are for the children being read to. King Baby is an adorable, sometimes demanding, sometimes benevolent tyrant. The book is funny, true, and it would make a great gift for any little one whose parents you like — after all, they will be the ones reading this again and again.

Lauren, Office Manager

The Only Rule Is It Has to Work by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

This is the story of two baseball nerds, with a podcast and a fondness for statistics, who took an opportunity to join the operations side of an independent minor league team with the goal of building a team entirely on the strength of their statistical and analytical know-how — letting the numbers direct the players they acquire, the game day lineup, and even challenge the traditional infield/outfield split. As the summer progresses, the duo's assumptions (and decisions) are challenged, and minor league independent ball may be changed forever.

Kitty, Research Intern

Notes from a Feminist Killjoy by Erin Wunker 🇨🇦

A great combination of memoir, feminist thought, and literary criticism. The pop culture references make difficult concepts easier to comprehend, and Wunker provides a great space for the reader to think (and learn) along with her. It's a great reminder for those who have lots of experience with feminism and feminist theory, and a great introduction for those who may not.