The Best Books I Read in 2016

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I read 27 books in 2016, and I liked almost all of them. I introduced myself to some new authors, and got cozy with some of my favorites. So here are my six favorite that I read in 2016 in no particular order.

'The Crimson Campaign' by Brian McClellan
In a fantasy world with similar technology to the 1600 or 1700s, McClellan weaves a terrific tale of political and military intrigue. His magic system is fun, particularly the powder mages who use gun powder as a sort of drug to fuel superhuman abilities. But while a cool magic system is good, characters and plot are better. McClellan throws in enough twists to keep you guessing, but no so much as to confuse you. And his characters jump off the page and have become etched in my mind. The second in the Powder Mage trilogy, I think it's his best. What I Learned About Storytelling: Make your characters distinct. 

'The Hobbit' by J.R.R. Tolkien
One of my favorite books of all time. Reread it with my oldest daughter, and I still love it. Bilbo Baggins is the best. It's nothing like modern fantasy -- its language wanders, and its narrator commentates at times. It's the book that helped me fall in love with fantasy, and it's as good reading through the tenth time as it was the first. What I Learned About Storytelling: Linear, modern storytelling isn't always the best.

'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L'Engle
Continuing my theme of childhood favorites, I hadn't read 'A Wrinkle in Time' since I was a teenager. L'Engle did such an amazing job with characters, writing powerful girls and women when what wasn't very common at all. And from the first words to the last, the story and its mystery wrap you up and won't let go. What I Learned About Storytelling: The most compelling protagonists have huge flaws.

'Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH' by Robert C. O'Brien
My third childhood favorite. I only read this book once as a child, and I also loved the movie (though their stories are quite different). Listening to this as an audiobook was awesome. O'Brien weaves a truly fascinating science fiction tale about what makes a creature sentient and intelligent. What I Learned About Storytelling: Flashbacks work when you do them well.

'Leviathan Wakes' by S.A. Corey
The first in series set in our solar systems years in the future, I'd heard a lot about this. It is the source material for the popular Expanse television series. When a friend recommended it, I picked it up and couldn't put it down. Told from the perspective of two men orbiting the same events, the authors (it's actually two people) do a phenomenal job of keeping both story lines compelling. Not only did it rise to the hype, it exceeded it. What I Learned About Storytelling: Put interesting characters in crazy, no-win situations, and they will shine.

'Ghost Talkers' by Mary Robinette Kowal
I've read several of the author's books and enjoyed them all, but none as much as this one. Set in an alternate World War I, it revolves around a medium serving in the British army's Spirit Corps. This story twists and turns form beginning to end. It's a paranormal/fantasy war story, mixed with romance and thriller elements. If that sounds cool, it's because it is. Mary is a master of tight storytelling, and the only disappointment I had with this book was that she has no current plans to continue writing in this universe. What I Learned About Writing: Emotional conflict is even more compelling than physical conflict.