Bookseller Picks: What to Read in 2016

Bookseller picks 2016 - web slide

Our booksellers have been reading and reading and reading many of the new books hitting our shelves at BookPeople next year. We’ve compiled this list of our top picks of what to read in the first half of 2016. But wait – there’s more! We couldn’t fit every single book we’re excited about into one blog post. There are a lot of books out there, y’all. A lot of them. We put together an extended list over on our website, bookpeople.com. View the extended list right over here

All books are available to pre-order via bookpeople.com!

Thanks for supporting your local, independent bookstore as you read your way through 2016. Happy New Year and Happy Reading, y’all!

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of A Fist by Sunil Yapa
On Sale 1/12/16

Colum McCann, author of the National Book Award winner Let the Great World Spin: “A symphony of a novel. Sunil Yapa inhabits the skins of characters vastly different to himself: a riot cop in Seattle, a punk activist, a disillusioned world traveler and a high-level diplomat, among others. Through it all Yapa showcases a raw and rare talent. This is a protest novel which finds, at its core, a deep and abiding regard for the music of what happens. In the contemporary tradition of Aleksandar Hemon and Phillipp Meyer, with echoes of Michael Ondaatje and Arundhati Roy, Yapa strives forward with a literary molotov cocktail to light up the dark.”

 

 

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
On Sale 1/19/16

Merrilee: “This book is as awesome as every other Bill Bryson book I’ve read (and I’ve read all of them). Coming back from his recent hits Home and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, he returns to the travelogue, in this case describing his experiences traveling around England to every place he and his wife ever lived. Part of it is stereotypical hilarious Bryson commentary on foolish things and part of it is his nostalgic look back to when he first came to Britain almost 40 years ago. I enjoyed The Road to Little Dribbling just as much as every other Bill Bryson book I’ve ever read. He’s still hilarious. Things might have changed around him, but Bryson hasn’t changed. He’s still awesome.”

 

The Unfinished World: and Other Stories by Amber Sparks
On Sale 1/25/16

Julie W.: “Fans of Kelly Link, Amelia Gray and Karen Russell, this is the story collection to pick up this year. Sparks’s stories are strange, dark and completely unexpected. A janitor in space; orphaned siblings who grieve through the art of taxidermy; siblings who bond over fantastic hate; the worlds Sparks erects are thrilling and dangerous. There is nothing predictable on these pages, though you can be sure of this: every single story will stick with you.”

 

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
On Sale 1/25/16

Amy: “This novel follows Truman Capote’s rise in the literary world through the memories of the “Swans”, a group of Manhattan women in the 1950s who brought him into high culture that inspired much of his work, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I like the way the novel is built around these women and their stories. You get a sense of how little they understood about themselves in the face of a society that told them who they were. Capote exploits this and their friendship, divulging their deepest secrets in his fiction and ultimately leading to his own demise, as he becomes obsessed with that world of glitz, glam and high culture. This is the perfect book for anyone who likes a mix of history and fiction.”

 

A Friend of Mr. Lincoln: A Novel by Stephen Harrigan
On Sale 2/2/16  I  BookPeople Event 2/3/16

From Austinite Stephen Harrigan, author of the beloved novel The Gates of the Alamo, comes a historical novel about President Lincoln. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review: “Bestselling author Harrigan’s 10th book, after 2011’s Remember Ben Clayton, is superb historical fiction focusing on the period 1832–1861, from Lincoln’s early years as a tireless circuit-riding lawyer and Illinois state legislator to his election as the 16th president. Lincoln’s fictional friend here is Cage Weatherby, a struggling poet who first meets Lincoln on a bloody battleground during the Black Hawk War of 1832…The two men are close confidantes, but a surprising murder trial, a stunning development in a courtroom, an astonishing betrayal, and Cage’s painfully emphatic argument that Lincoln should not marry ambitious and vindictive Mary Todd strain their relationship. Still, Harrigan’s standout novel shows the endurance of friendship, and historical fans will find much to savor.”

 

Beasts & Children: Stories by Amy Parker
On Sale 2/2/16

Raul: “Parker’s collection of tales delve into the somewhat disorganized worlds of three families from different social and economic backgrounds, revealing a dark beauty about what family really means. From the antics of children to the fevered state of adulthood, the characters in the stories vary in range and intensity: a brother who grows up locked to a past he never experienced; a pair of sisters so utterly opposite and yet the same; immigrants looking for something more significant than what life has dealt them. All these tales are told in Parker’s exquisite prose. Her talent makes these stories shine with the hope that life can be better when we try to do the right thing by those who know us best.”

 

Arcadia by Iain Pears
On Sale 2/9/10

Raul: “Known primarily as a writer of wonderfully detailed and exciting mysteries, Pears breaks away from familiar territory to bring us a marvelous tale dealing with time travel and trans-dimensional travel that is riveting and so much fun to read! When Professor Henry Lytten creates his Anteworld stories, much like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, he does so for his own entertainment, but when Rosalind, a teen age neighbor who looks after Lytten’s cat, steps through a mysterious door in his cellar and finds herself in the fictional world he has created, it begins to have a life of its own. In the far future, a scientist has created a machine to travel through time and which her employer will try use to make itself wealthy. She will encounter Lytten in this past and have a part to play in its future – if it has one. Great characters and witty dialogues help drive the story that is easily my favorite read of 2016 so far.”

 

Every Anxious Wave by Mo Daviau
On Sale 2/9/16  I  BookPeople Event 2/10/16

Julie W.: “This is a totally fun, page-turning romp through indie rock and the implications of time travel. Perfect for fans of Chuck Klosterman, High Fidelity, and anyone who has a nostalgic heart for musicians like Elliot Smith. In a world where wormholes appear in closets and time travel is as easy as texting, the endearing characters in Daviau’s story present very real points to ponder: if you could go back and change your whole life, where would start, and would you do it? I enjoyed every minute of this book. Highly recommended for music lovers, romantics and anyone who enjoys a good, engaging read.”

 

Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige by Danny Alexander
On Sale 3/1/16

From our friends at University of Texas Press comes a book about the career of one of the most prominent female hip-hop musicians of our time, Mary J. Blige. Craig Werner, author of A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America, says, “Danny Alexander’s soulful, beautifully written book unravels the mystery of how a struggling young woman from Yonkers earned a place beside Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and Aretha Franklin in the pantheon of African American song. Necessary reading for anyone interested in African American music, American culture, or the challenge of being human in a cold and heartless world.”

 

Madonnaland: And Other Detours into Fame and Fandom by Alina Simone
On Sale 3/1/16

Yet another must-read music title from University of Texas Press to add to your 2016 reading list. Ukranian singer Alina Simone set out to write a story about Madonna; what she came away with is a story about fandom, superstardom, and all of the quirky, not-so-well lit avenues of celebrity. Amanda Palmer calls it, “A profound and hilarious stream-of-consciousness funfair ride through the postmodern theme park of super fans, celebrity, taste, and capitalism.” This is a book not only for Madonna fans, but for fans of pop music and people fascinated by America’s obsession with celebrity in general.

 

Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta
On Sale 3/8/16

Kaitlyn: Innocents and Others is a bold and sensual book about art and ego and friendship. It follows Meadow and Carrie, best friends who grow up to be successful filmmakers (of very different varieties) and one of their odd and tragic subjects.Throw in phone phreaking, proto-catfishing, fan fiction and an affair with Orson Welles. Spiotta takes all of this and uses the language and history of film for an exploration of sight and sound, reality and illusion.”

 

The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar
On Sale 3/15/16

Raul: “”In 2013 Sophia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria introduced us to new world described with such poetic verve that is has since become a living classic of fantasy fiction. With her new book, The Winged Histories, Samatar’s great storytelling talent and wickedly beautiful prose takes us to an Olondria wracked by war. Despite this bloody and turbulent time, four women will have their voices resonate above the fray. Their stories and the stories they tell themselves are vivid portraits of women willing to challenge the conventional and fighting in myriad ways to be remembered. Samatar’s creative use of a section titled “A Common History” unites the voices of these women to unrelated yet connected people or events which adds an emotive depth to the story. She also includes a richly imagined mythology that is shared by the characters, a scintillating vein of ideas bringing such beauty and darkness, but that helps us understand unearthly changes need to be embraced, despite our fears, in order to be truly free.

 

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
On Sale 3/22/16  I  BookPeople Event 3/22/15

Adam Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master’s Son: “Like a Russian novel set in India, Karan Mahajan’s Association of Small Bombs has the sweep, wisdom and sensibility of the old masters. Here the humor of Bulgakov and the heart of Pasternak deliver an exploded-view of a small bomb that goes off in a minor market in a corner of South Delhi. Like shrapnel, themes of suffering, dislocation and redemption radiate from the blast, and none will be spared Mahajan’s piercing gaze. Urgent and masterful, this novel shows us how bystander, bomber, victim, and survivor will forever share a patch of scorched ground.”

 

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith
On Sale 5/5/16  

Raul: “An exquisite narrative told by a master storyteller, Smith is at the top of his game in this story about art and the people who live and work with it. In the 17th century, a woman paints a beautiful landscape that helps her exorcise her emotional torment. In the 1950’s, a lowly art restorer is hired to copy the painting for a mysterious benefactor. After the turn of the century, the art restorer has become a curator at a prestigious museum in Sydney – an exhibition of De Vos paintings is coming and her forgery is at the forefront. What carries this story so well is the great depth that Smith manages to get with the characters. Each character, though spread across time, is a vivid portrait with many layers for the reader to appreciate. The best novel Smith has put out so far. As a longtime fan, I am proud and pleased by the work.”

 

Alice & Oliver by Charles Bock
On Sale 5/5/16

Julie W.: “This compulsively readable novel about a couple facing cancer covers the hardship and heart of the fight in intimate detail. This is a personal story and an honest look at the strain of serious illness on an otherwise perfect marriage. Set in the period just before the internet takes over everyone’s lives, when payphones and newspaper classifieds are still integral parts of city living, Alice and Oliver are recognizable urbanites whose hip, artistic homestead with their brand new baby daughter is shaken to the ground by Alice’s life-threatening diagnosis. This novel does not read like a Hallmark movie; it reads like real life. Bock manages to make the ins and outs of medical insurance conversations and hospital confrontations riveting reading. If you loved his previous novel, Beautiful Children, you’ll definitely want to pick up Alice & Oliver.”

 

fellside

Fellside by M. R. Carey
On Sale 4/5/16

Joe T.: Orange is the New Black meets Ghost in this follow-up to M. R. Carey’s 2014 novel The Girl With All the Gifts. Like his previous novel. I read this one in little over a day and was completely immersed in the narrative. I don’t want to give anything away but if you thought Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption was way too lacking in supernatural events, then this is the book for you.”

 

The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales
On Sale 4/12/16

This is the first novel from former Austinite Manuel Gonzales, author of the highly recommended story collection, The Miniature Wife! Karen Russell, bestselling author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove, says, “Manuel Gonzales’ debut novel comes charging out of the starting gate at full bore–actually, that earthbound cliche does The Regional Office is Under Attack! a disservice. This book is a winged creation, and absolutely marvelous. Gonzales keeps turning the kaleidoscope to reveal the strangest, darkest, and most beautiful dimensions of human love, and the conversion of mechanical fury into living strength.”

Zero K by Don DeLillo
On Sale 5/10/16

A new novel from Don DeLillo. A new novel from Don DeLillo. A new novel from Don DeLillo. HAPPY 2016! Publisher’s Weekly already gave Zero K a starred review: “Among DeLillo’s finest work… DeLillo sneaks a heartbreaking story of a son attempting to reconnect with his father into his thought-provoking novel.”

 

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
On Sale 5/24/16

It’s finally (almost) here! The third and final installment in the series that began with the phenomenal bestsellers The Passage and The Twelve will be on our shelves right in time for your summer reading list! This is THE post-apocalyptic book to bring to Barton Springs, the beach, the backyard – wherever the warm weather finds you diving into an all-consuming story of a world gone under. We loved the first two books in the series and have been waiting, waiting, waiting to find out how it all ends. You have just enough time to revisit The Passage and The Twelve before diving into this one. The City of Mirrors promises to be one of the biggest books of the summer.

 

SMOKE

Smoke: A Novel by Dan Vyleta
On Sale 5/24/16

Joe T.: “Dan Vylenta’s Smoke is a fantastic piece of world building that brought to mind Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, but he channels Dickens instead of C. S. Lewis. I loved this book!”

Raul: “”Imagine a world where your every bad feeling and malicious thought manifests itself in a stream of smoke that emits from all your body; a world where morality is clear: aristocracy does not smoke thus it is good and right for them to rule. Two students in this world will discover a secret that will place them both in great danger from the powers that be; in the course of a few weeks, they will face the possibility that everything they have known is false. In the throes of conspiracy and secrets, they will have a chance to save the world or destroy it. Very reminiscent of the writing of Charles Dickens, this story will bring you into gaslight England that you will recognize, but one that has an darker ambiance.”

Infomocracy by Malka Ann Older
On Sale 7/7/16

“Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Charles Stross’s Singularity Sky, and television’s The West Wing collide in this debut novel by Malka Older. The world has been divided into micro-democracies with populations of 100,000 each and every 10 years these “franchises” vote on their leadership and the party that won the most “centenals” becomes the ruling party. What will people do to ensure that their party stays in power or that that their party comes into power? Malka Older delivers a novel that puts the “political” in “science fiction.”

 

the girls

The Girls: A Novel by Emma Cline
On Sale 6/14/16

This is the debut novel to watch this summer. Emma Cline’s The Girls is one of the most buzzed-about books of 2016. Set in northern California in the late 1960s, it tells the story of two girls drawn into a cult and its charismatic leader. Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit From the Goon Squad, says, ““Emma Cline’s first novel positively hums with fresh, startling, luminous prose. The Girls announces the arrival of a thrilling new voice in American fiction.” You’ll be hearing plenty about this novel – keep an eye out for it.

View the Extended List of Books To Look For in 2016!

5 thoughts on “Bookseller Picks: What to Read in 2016

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