Monday, December 19, 2016

El Jefe's Top Tier Books of 2016

It's that time of year! I love celebrating great books, and whoo boy, did I read some great ones this year.

But it's only that super-special story that captivates me enough to earn a place in my vaunted TOP TIER -- the first out of five carefully curated tiers. 

Books I've read this year: 104
Books that made my Top Tier: 7

It's my privilege to share these seven standouts with you!

Middle Grade


A librarian friend of mine said that he's ordering more and more graphic novels for his branch of the Seattle Public Library, and I'm starting to see why. Graphic novels sometime get pooh-poohed as "not literature," but I think anything that gets kids reading is a good thing.

And some graphic novels are truly standout. Not only is NIMONA hilariously funny, but it features a girl on a quest -- not just a standard, cookie-cutter quest either.

A quick read, but one that stuck with me for many weeks afterward. I bought a copy for my nephew for Christmas, and I think it's going to be a big hit!


I'm usually not a fan of the middle grade "comedy romance" genre, as it tends to be a little too light and sugary for my taste. FLIPPED was anything but that. There are some fantastic characters who learn a ton about people, life, themselves, and more.

Highly recommended for that kid in your life looking for a story and characters that pack a big emotional punch!

Young Adult


A story about a girl with a rare disease? GROAN! AWW, DO I REALLY HAVE TO READ THIS?

Short answer: you do. Long answer: it turns out this book is completely different than what you might think after the first chapter. You have to read it, not because it's a mandatory chore, but because the STORY IS JUST THAT GOOD!


Probably the best book I read this year.

Bardugo uses a world she created for a different series, but it's not necessary to have read that series. Completely new and utterly compelling characters ... plus a HEIST.

And not just any heist! The team of criminals and misfits, all with their singular specialty, must figure out how to breach an unpenetrable fortress, to sneak past flawless security systems, and escape with the one person who could save the world.

Caveat: it ends on a cliffhanger, which usually would push a book out of my Top Tier just on that alone, but the book is so incredible that I made a rare exception.


It took me forever to start this book, because it's so gigantically thick. I could barely lift the darn thing. I mean, it seriously made me think of some 20th century Russian writer composing his epic saga ... in triplicate.

But man oh man was I glad I finally launched in, because I could not put it down after the first chapter. It goes incredibly fast, too, since it's a multimedia(ish) experience, using visuals, data logs, pictures, and much, much more.

Most importantly, the story blew me away. BLEW. ME. AWAY. I rarely ever continue a series after book 1, but I immediately pre-ordered book 2 after finishing.



I love science fiction, and DARK MATTER is one of the best sci-fi novels I've read in a long time. I had no idea what was going on for the longest time, but when all the pieces started falling into place, I was dumbfounded at how expertly the plot was assembled. Hints here, clues there ... the best mystery plots are ones that you think "I should have figured all this out!" And that was definitely the case here.

The technical mumbo-jumbo is a little confusing at times, and that usually annoys me. But in this case, the story, the tugging at the heartstrings, the quest for "home" were all so incredible that I didn't mind.


Finally, a book that is so far out of my bailiwick that I only read it because a good friend of mine so highly recommended it. Ove is a crotchety old fart, one who does things his way, who ain't afraid to cheese anyone and everyone off -- in fact, he derives pleasure out of doing so.

Why did I like him so much, then? I thought about this question all throughout the book, and for a few weeks after I finished. I felt like I had to discuss it with everyone who would listen.

It's a rare book that I re-read, since I try to churn through as much variety as possible, but I'm fairly sure that I'll read this one again. I absolutely adored it.

So there you have it. Happy New Year from the Kidliterati Krewe!

P.S. In case you want more book recs, here are my Top Tier lists from 2015, 2014, and 2013. Enjoy!

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