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The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Librarian in Residence: Best books for adults, 2016

By Jessica Green on December 9, 2016

Jessica Green is a book addict and library card holder since the age of 3. She’s a librarian at the Ottawa Public Library and currently the Apartment613 Librarian-in-Residence, sharing a compendium of literary thoughts and tips.

Here are my picks for what I enjoyed the most from adult books for 2016. It was quite a struggle whittling it down to these twenty-eight books from the over 400 I read so far this year (it’s my main hobby) but these were some of the more entertaining ones I found. The list is a bit long, but when there are trilogies or series on offer, I’ve included all the links!

Be sure to also check out our Librarian-in-Residence’s top picks for children, for teens, and her favourite graphic novels and comics of the year!

uk-uprootedUprooted, by Naomi Novik One of the most brilliant novels I read all year, this follows the story of Agnieszka, who is unexpectedly chosen to serve the local wizard known as the Dragon. Agnieszka has a hard time adapting to life outside her small village but discovers she has a rare talent for magic, but is terribly clumsy at everything else. With the evil Wood taking over villages, she has to partner with the Dragon in order to save her village and ultimately the kingdom.

Rice Noodle Fish – Deep Travels through Japan’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding – This is a perfect title for an armchair traveler, where you follow Goulding as he explores the varied cuisine all over Japan. The photography is excellent and little graphic bits and vignettes are interspersed with the tales, so you can learn about vending machines and bento. I don’t know if I would try to actually visit any of these restaurants portrayed, but what a great way to learn more about a country.

the-relic-master-9781501125751_hrThe Relic Master by Christopher BuckleyDismas is a relic seller in the Holy Roman Empire who has lost his fortune. To gain it back, he convinces his friend Albrecht Durer to fabricate a Shroud of Turin for the grasping Archbishop of Mainz. Once caught with the fraud, Dismas and Durer have to work with mercenaries to steal the actual Shroud from the Duke of Savoy. It’s crazy and funny.

The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers Rosemary Harper is the new crew member on the Wayfarer, a spaceship that makes hyperspace tunnels. She meets a wide range of species and personalities on the ship and life is pretty peaceful there, until the ship is offered a contract that would set them up for life, if they can survive tunneling through war-torn space. The characters are great and the story is well thought out.

91m2exj9golGoatMan or How I Took a Holiday From Being Human by Tom Thwaites After the Toaster Project was a rousing success, Thwaites finds himself feeling stagnant as all his friends are doing grown-up things. Luckily, a research grant comes through for him where he then explores what it will take to become a goat. Through designing prosthetic hooves so Thwaites can trot up and down a mountain side, and looking at goat behaviour and psychology, Thwaites ends up with a successful project. It’s pretty funny, but also very interesting.

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf I knew about von Humboldt from the name of the Humboldt squid but until I read this book, I had little idea that he inspired so many other scientists and writers we revere today. Von Humboldt was the first ecologist who realised that we cannot observe organisms in isolation, but rather as a part of the whole. This is a must read for those interested in ecology, biology and exploration, and is a fantastic biography.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson – This is a different sort of fantasy novel, where politics play a large role in the tale. Baru Cormorant wishes to liberate her people from the Empire of Masks which changed her island life completely. She is found to be a savant in her studies and is sent to another country on the brink of rebellion to fix its issues. Trust is hard to have when everyone has secrets and will stop at nothing to succeed.

419nzut9csl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Born to Walk: the Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act by Dan Rubenstein – This was a finalist in the non-fiction category of the Ottawa Book Awards. Rubenstein offers great analysis of how walking is almost a forgotten element in many things like fitness and city planning, but if it becomes the focus over the emphasis placed on cars, it can improve the health of the person or city. The local elements in the book were also good fun to see.

You Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery by Mamrie Hart23281915Although I wasn’t familiar with Hart’s YouTube channel, which I really must change, I laughed out loud at several tales featured in this book, like topless Tuesday crafting, spending Spring Break at a gay nudist resort, or setting yourself on fire at a Flaming Lips concert. She also features cocktail recipes at the end of the chapters, so I recommend this for your friend who has a love of the ridiculous, and who also enjoys a tipple.

The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino24724583This book describes in detail life on the Rue des Martyrs and many of the characters that live and work on the street. It illustrates very well the push and pull between tradition and modernity, a very French conundrum, which keeps the unique character of the street. I’m adding it to my list of things to find when I next visit Paris.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Anders As children, Patricia and Laurence were friends as they were both social outcasts. Each had different talents though – Laurence built a supercomputer with AI and after being able to speak to birds, Patricia becomes a witch. Years later, they meet again in San Francisco and discover they are on different paths that could possibly collide. It’s a very cool novel and won a Hugo award.

index-1Soviet Bus Stops by Christopher Herwig – After travelling 30,000km and visiting 13 different countries, photographer Christopher Herwig has created this neat little book showing the different looks and art used to create the bus stops located in former Soviet republics. My favourites were the inlaid mosaic ones found in various regions, but the photos make even the geometric ones look good, and bleak as well. A neat gem of a book.

indexThe Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place: The Art of Being Messy by Jennifer McCartney – At this hectic point of the year, I think we all need a good parody of trying to achieve that “perfect” life, as featured in the Japanese tidying up books that have been so popular this year. I leave you with this wisdom from the book: “Books are not clutter, no matter what some book about getting organized may tell you. Literally no one has ever walked into a library and been like, ‘What a f*cking mess’”