As humanity tries to put this festering wound of a year behind us, you are going to see a lot of “Best of 2016” (and “Worst of 2016”) lists floating around. But none, I promise you, is quite like the Peabody Library’s Best of 2016 List. We asked our staff to share with us–and you–their favorite books, films, albums, or other Library materials that they encountered this year. The response was so terrific that we’ll be running a weekly series for your enjoyment.
And, just a note, the rules were that the media had to be consumed in 2016 (books read, films viewed, albums heard, etc.), but that doesn’t mean that they were made in 2016. There are some classics on this list, as well as plenty of new material, so you can see all the phenomenal finds the Library has to offer year round!
…There were a few books on a number of people’s ‘Best Of’ Lists this year, so here is a special final edition of our series that covers the “Best of the Best”!
From the Upstairs Office, the Reference Desk, and the Classics Book Group:
Three Comrades by Erich Maria Remarque
“I wasn’t expecting the romantic beauty that this post WWI Germany set book delivered. All I knew going into this title was that the author wrote All Quiet on the Western Front, so I was expecting a “guy” book. In the end, it was a love book, but a messy love book with no false notes. The male friendships were as well developed as the romantic plot line, if not more so, and they make the book something truly special.”
“This novel drove home the real, lasting, and indelible impact that the First World War had on those who fought in it. But, more than that, it is a stunning book about friendship, about a place, and about a time that Remarque knew was dying, even as he wrote the book. Having read All Quiet on the Western Front, I knew Remarque the modernist soldier-writer. But this Remarque was funny and earnest and insightful, and this book is one that I won’t soon forget.”
The year is 1928. On the outskirts of a large German city, three young men are earning a thin and precarious living. Fully armed young storm troopers swagger in the streets. Restlessness, poverty, and violence are everywhere. For these three, friendship is the only refuge from the chaos around them. Then the youngest of them falls in love, and brings into the group a young woman who will become a comrade as well, as they are all tested in ways they can have never imagined.
Written with the same overwhelming simplicity and directness that made All Quiet on the Western Front a classic, Three Comrades portrays the greatness of the human spirit, manifested through characters who must find the inner resources to live in a world they did not make, but must endure.
From the Upstairs Offices, the Reference Desk, and the South Branch:
The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman
“My love for Gaiman knows no bounds, but listening to his collected nonfiction was a particular treat. He’s thoughtful, insightful and honestly, this collection is worth it just to hear him talk about libraries in his own voice.”
An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.
An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.
Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.
From the Reference Desk, and Patron Recommendation:
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
“Tremblay’s love of the horror genre drew me into this book (and taught me a great deal, too!), but it is his power to tell a story, to twist a narrative, and most of all, to make me doubt everything I believed to be true, cannot be adequately described. This book scared me, awed me, and rendered me incapable of functioning when I was done, as I tried to fully grasp the implications of those final eighty pages or so.”
A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends psychological suspense and supernatural horror…The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.
To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.
Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.
The Romance Garden Top Picks:
A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
“First time novelist Amanda Bouchet has given the gift of a completely addictive fantasy romance to genre fans everywhere. A Promise of Fire is the first book of Bouchet’s The Kingmaker Chronicles, and based on the Orange Rose Contest and Paranormal Golden Pen wins, Romance Writers of America thinks it’s pretty great too. In addition to a very well developed cast of characters- Griffin’s family in particular- the world Bouchet creates is believable and well-built. The plotting is also first-rate, making it very difficult to find a good place to put this book down. If you like fantasy and you like romance, like me, you’ll be wonderfully glad you picked it up… until you remember that A Promise of Fire is Bouchet’s first book, and you have to wait until January 2017 for The Kingmaker Chronicles Book 2: Breath of Fire.”
The Fixer by Helenkay DimonThis is not a man who “takes what he wants”, like so many other heroes whose privileges are used to justify their horrible behavior. This is a romance of equals who respect each other and value each other’s talents and input, and of two people who aren’t used to making interpersonal connections, which adds an utterly charming artlessness and humanity to both characters. The mystery element of the plot is strong and interesting as well, but for me, this book was about shattering genre conventions, readers’ expectations, and telling a story about a strong, healthy, and honest relationship that was as meaningful as it was engaging.”