Top Five Books of 2016

As a reviewer I tend to be drawn towards international literature and works from small presses. My top five books of the year are all works that challenge conventional, linear notions of storytelling: a murder mystery that begins with the guilty party; the history of a country told through shifting comic styles. These books stretched my imagination — and my worldview.

“The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” by Sonny Liew

Renowned artist Liew creates an extensive comic archive by a fictional artist that depicts both the history of Singapore and the evolution of comic art. A breathtaking historical work.

“The Heart” by Maylis de Kerangal

One thing happens in this book: a heart is taken out of one body, and placed into another. But author de Kerangal takes this everyday miracle to a level of the sublime by weaving together the stories behind every hand that touches the heart on its journey.

“The Hour of the Wolf” by Hakan Nesser

A murder mystery told, in part, though the eyes of the guilty party, Nesser’s gripping crime novel is filled with suspense, moral quandary, and just the right amount of humor.

“So Much for that Winter” by Dorthe Nors

In two novellas about life after a breakup, Danish author Nors uses unconventional storytelling methods to demonstrate how modern life has both veered from tradition and become constrained by archaic conventions.

“The Bulgarian Truck” by Dumitru Tsepeneag

A quasi meta work about a man writing a book called “The Bulgarian Truck,” Tsepeneag’s work is a firm example of oneirism literature, a moment founded by the author in response to the stark narrative restrictions placed by Ceausescu. A work of imaginative rebellion.

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