As humanity prepares to bid farewell to this blow-upon-a-bruise of a year, 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!
From the Circulation Desk
The Nightingale, by Kristen Hannah
“Very different from your typical World War II novels. Can’t put it down and it will make you cry.”
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France… but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another. Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can… completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real — and deadly — consequences. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France.
From the South Branch:
Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
“This wasn’t necessarily a book I would have picked for myself, but I heard raves about it and am so glad I read it. Believe me when I tell you, you don’t need to be a fan of opera to enjoy this book. It’s gorgeously written with complex characters and an engrossing plot. The 500+ pages flew by and somehow, I was still eager for more when I was done.”
Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singers’ chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all. As she mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation, and political intrigue.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
“Like The Last Days of Jack Sparks and The Loney, this book kept me thinking about it long after I had finished the text. A well-done horror novel that takes advantage of the terrifying qualities of that-which-you-can’t-see making this a suspenseful, chilling work that encourages your imagination to take you to places no text can go.”
In Bird Box, brilliantly imaginative debut author Josh Malerman captures an apocalyptic near-future world, where a mother and her two small children must make their way down a river, blindfolded. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them — but is it man, animal, or monster? Within these tracks, Malerman, a professional musician, discusses his love of horror and invokes an ethereal and atmospheric experience in an homage to Orson Welles à la War of the Worlds.
From the Reference Desk
The City’s Son by Tom Pollock
“Quite possibly one of the most imaginative, stunning, heart-wrenching, thought-provoking books I have ever read. Pollock’s imagination breathes life into every facet of London’s streets, parks, fields, technology, smells, and structures, creating a world that is dizzyingly vibrant, and infinitely wondrous. The core message of the book, about respecting and defending difference, about loving without reservation, about being who you are, was done in a way that was simply unforgettable. I cried at the gym over this one, and still went back for more.”
Hidden under the surface of everyday London is a city of monsters and miracles, where wild train spirits stampede over the tracks and glass-skinned dancers with glowing veins light the streets.
When a devastating betrayal drives her from her home, graffiti artist Beth Bradley stumbles into the secret city, where she meets Filius Viae, London’s ragged crown prince, just when he needs someone most. An ancient enemy has returned to the darkness under St. Paul’s Cathedral, bent on reigniting a centuries-old war, and Beth and Fil find themselves in a desperate race through a bizarre urban wonderland, searching for a way to save the city they both love.