It's that time of year again. It is time for readers to cast their votes for the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. For me, this is one of three November events that makes it my second favorite month of the year. Not only do I enjoy casting my votes for my favorite books, but I also love to see which ones made it onto this blog, while also discovering new books to read and possibly blog about in the future.
The ultimate winners of the Goodreads Choice Awards will be chosen by you, the readers. So be sure to make your vote count.
For the category of Best Fiction, I easily and without hesitation vote for Shelter by Jung Yun. This book asks the question of what obligation do we have to family members who used to abuse us? When it comes down to it, do we owe anything to the people who made our lives miserable now that they really need us? Yun explores this questions openly, without holding back, and I recommend this book to pretty much everyone.
Best Historical Fiction always seems to be a category I swing and miss on, but this year there are three Door Stop Novels to choose from. First there is Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, a story that follows two branches of the same family line, stemming from one woman from 18th century Ghana. While one of the family lines experiences slavery firsthand in the New World, the other still was not immune to the effects of the peculiar institution, even as descendants are well-off and privileged in Africa. Then there is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, which follows a runaway slave as she uses the historical escape route, here presented as an actual railroad that runs underground, and moves from state to state in an attempt to not fall into the hands of her former owners. My guess is that this will be the ultimate winner for this category, but at least for this first round, I will be voting for Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. Despite my attempts to stay away from books that deal with World War II, I found myself reading this one, and I absolutely loved it. But both Homegoing and The Underground Railroad are great too, so really any of these would deserve to win.
I believe for the first time ever, I have read a book that has been nominated for the Best Fantasy category. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders is a wonderfully imaginative book about outcasts Patricia and Laurence and the epic battle between science and magic. The book makes the reader wonder if these two will come together to save humanity, of effectively aid in tearing it apart. I am not expecting this book to win though, especially as it will be going up against Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling.
I am so pleased to see that the final book in Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's The Long Earth series made it into the nominees for Best Science Fiction. The Long Cosmos finishes out the series that has followed Joshua Valiente as he travels across the Long Earth, and then even further into other places unknown. Of course, the ending of the series was made even sadder due to Pratchett's death in 2015. So again, I am glad to see this book here and am delighted to vote for it.
I had a feeling that the book in my most recent blog entry would make it into the Best Horror category. The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison is just that good, and that terrifying. The Gardener is all at once a kidnapper, serial killer, and serial rapists, who of course has also convinced himself that he is saving his victims from something. If you're looking for a good horror story that simultaneously will show just how messed up humanity can be, this is the story for you.
For Best Nonfiction, I have decided to do a write-in vote for Rebecca Traister's All the Single Ladies. This book looks into the growing trend of women deciding to not only get married later in life (if at all) but also have kids later in life. This shift has set off many changes in American culture that few saw coming, and I found the information Traister presented to be both fascinating and informative.
For Best Memoir & Autobiography, I did enjoy A Thousand Naked Strangers by Kevin Hazzard, a memoir in which Hazzard chronicles his time as an EMT in Atlanta. But I think I will actually be voting for The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner, a heartbreaking and emotional tale about life in a polygamist cult and what it took to break free.
Well what do you know...Traister's All the Single Ladies has been nominated for Best History & Biography (an interesting place to have it, I think), along with Skip Hollandsworth's The Midnight Assassin, a book that talks in detail about the country's first serial killer in Austin, Texas. Even though I already gave it a write-in vote, I do believe I will be sticking with All the Single Ladies for this category as well.
And of course Patience by Daniel Clowes (of Ghost World fame) is nominated for Best Graphic Novel. Of. Course....it is really good though, and it absolutely gets my vote.
Lilac Girls makes another appearance in the Best Debut Goodreads Author category. But my vote will be going to The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. Poor Dillard Early, Jr, or Dill, can't seem to win for losing. If people aren't avoiding him because of the crimes of his father, then their blaming him, saying he should have been the one to take the fall. It's a different take on small-town life that almost anyone could relate to. Also nominated is Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue, which follows immigrants from Cameroon as they attempt to make it in New York City. Both of these books will have blog posts coming out about them later this month.
The Serpent King shows up again in my always favorite category of Best Young Adult Fiction. And honestly, I would almost put it in a tie with Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, with the latter coming out on top, but only barely. Both novels have the story shift between different characters with each new chapter, but Sepetys tells the story of four teenagers, all from different countries and with different motives, as they struggle to survive World War II, and end up boarding the ultimately doomed ship of the Wilhelm Gustloff. I am always a sucker for the way Sepetys tells a story, so I will be voting for her.
And there you have it. For this year's awards, there is a record 15 total Door Stop Novels that have been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award, with a few of them nominated in multiple categories. Naturally, I hope my favorites take home the final prize, as I am sure you are too. But that can only happen if we vote in all three rounds, with this first opening round closing on Sunday, November 6th.