Columns > Published on December 5th, 2016

LitReactor Staff Picks: The Best Books of 2016 (part 1)

Another year has come and gone. You know what that means, don't you? Time for a bunch of strangers to tell you what was good! And why should you care what the LitReactor writers think are the best books of the year? Trick question! You shouldn't. But what they have to say might interest you nonetheless, because they are good-looking and knowledgeable and they read like the wind. So for those who care, we submit for your approval/derision some of LitReactor's favorite reads of 2016 (part 1).

Not all of these books were published this year. We figured if someone read a book for the first time in 2016, they deserved the opportunity to crow about it.

Rob Hart - Class Director

'Revolver' by Duane Swierczynski

 A multi-generational narrative that’s simultaneously sweeping and personal. Swierczynski is always good—this is him at his best.

[amazon 0316403237 inline]

'Underground Airlines' by Ben H. Winters

 A high-concept thriller with something to say. At times horrifying and all-too-familiar.

[amazon 0316261246 inline]

'The Widower’s Wife' by Cate Holahan

A tense domestic thriller with an engrossing narrative that weaves back and forth between past and present.

[amazon 1629537659 inline]

'I’ll Tell You in Person' by Chloe Caldwell

Chloe finds the universal in the personal. Each essay is a gem on its own. Together, it’s a fantastic narrative about moving forward through the world.

[amazon 1566894530 inline]

'Dark Matter' by Blake Crouch

The only book this year I started and finished in a single day. Suspense-filled sci-fi madness.

[amazon 1101904224 inline]

Honorable mention: Rough Trade by Todd Robinson, Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye, Stranded by Bracken MacLeod, Red Right Hand by Chris Holm, Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Keith Rawson - Columnist

'I Am Providence' by Nick Mamatas

The world needs more funny in it and I am Providence delivers on the funny. It’s a sharp, biting genre-bender of a novel with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments.

[amazon 1597808350 inline]

'Eileen' by Ottessa Moshfegh

I’ll flat out say it: I think Moshfegh is an asshole. She’s one of those self-hating genre writers who's absolutely awesome at biting the hand that feeds. But personal feelings aside, holy shit, can she write some down and dirty scumbag noir. Eileen is a brilliant crime novel.

[amazon 0143128752 inline]

'You Will Know Me' by Megan Abbott

Speaking of scumbag noir, this novel just made me feel dirty from head-to-toe, but in that good way. Abbott’s mining of suburban grossness just keeps getting better with each novel. A fantastic, obsessive read from start to finish.

[amazon 031623107X inline]

'Mongrels' by Stephen Graham Jones

There weren’t that many novels I read in one sitting this year. Mongrels happened to be one of them. It’s a social realist werewolf novel, and like everything Jones has ever put to paper, it’s daringly original and compulsively readable.

[amazon 0062412698 inline]

'The Underground Railroad' by Colson Whitehead

It’s one of the top five most important American novels of the 21st century. Read it.

[amazon 0385542364 inline]

Gabino Iglesias - Columnist

'Mongrels' by Stephen Graham Jones

This is everything a horror novel should be...and everything a YA novel, a crime novel, and a family saga novel should be. No one does it like Stephen Graham Jones, and this one quickly jumped to the top 5 favorite SGJ novels for me, which is saying a lot.

[amazon 0062412698 inline]

'Patricide' by D. Foy

The absolute best literary novel I read this year. Powerful, smart, gritty. A stunning second novel.

[amazon 0997062908 inline]

'The Heavenly Table' by Donald Ray Pollock

If you insist on having discussions about the great American novel, put this one of your list. A brutal, funny, filthy, violent slice of Americana.

[amazon 0385541295 inline]

'A Collapse of Horses' by Brian Evenson

From surrealism to horror, there's nothing Evenson doesn't do here, and he proves, once again, that he is a master of whichever genre he decides to tackle. Definitely the best collection I read this year.

[amazon 1566894131 inline]

'Albina and the Dog-Men' by Alejandro Jodorowsky

No one writes bizarre imagery as poetically as Jodorowsky. His imagination is a constant explosion of colorful weirdness and his psychomagic is unlike anything else in film or literature. This one is my favorite Jodorowsky so far, and it's a book that demands to be read and imagined.

[amazon 163206054X inline]

Max Booth III - Columnist

While writing this, I tried my best to exclude obvious entries that will probably fall on many other “best of” lists, so immediately that disqualifies Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay, Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock, The Warren by Brian Evenson, The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, and so many others. All great books! (Hell, Mongrels might be my favorite book of the last five years.) But here are some other great ones also worth your time:

'A House at the Bottom of a Lake' by Josh Malerman

From the same author responsible for Bird Box, this novella is a magical addition to Malerman’s growing library of fiction. Two teenagers find a house at the bottom of a lake and investigate. What happens next, you’ll have to find out for yourself.

[amazon 978-1910471012 inline]

'Cyclops Road' by Jeff Strand

I’m a sucker for road trip novels, especially road trip novels that involve slaying a Cyclops, so honestly there was no way for me to hate this book. Hilarious and, on occasion, surprisingly sad.

[amazon 978-1539351696 inline]

'Swift to Chase' by Laird Barron                 

This is, without a doubt, the best story collection I’ve ever read. You need this book in your life. Horror short stories do not get any better than what Laird Barron’s given us here.

[amazon 978-1945373053 inline]

LitReactor Review

'Certain Dark Things' by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

“Vampires, humans, cops, and gangsters collide in the dark streets of Mexico City.” If that doesn’t get you excited in all the right places, I don’t know how to help you.

[amazon 978-1250099082 inline]

LitReacor Review

'We Eat Our Own' by Kea Wilson

If you’ve ever fantasized what Cannibal Holocaust would have been like if Cormac McCarthy wrote it—and let’s be real: who hasn’t conjured such a fantasy?—then this is the book for you.

[amazon 978-1501128318 inline]

LitReactor Review

Peter Derk - Columnist

'Vision Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man' by Tom King

If you combined superhero comics with Breaking Bad or The Shield, this is what you would get.

[amazon 0785196579 inline]

'Mind MGMT vol.6: The Immortals' by Matt Kindt

An ending 3 years in the making and totally worth the wait, Matt Kindt's Mind MGMT is great if you're a fan of something like The Raw Shark Texts. If you haven't started in on this series yet, good news, you can read the whole thing from start to finish.

[amazon 1616557982 inline]

'Spelunky' by Derek Yu

This beautiful, quick book describes the game creation process from start to finish, and though Derek Yu is a game designer by trade, he's a great writer. He makes the tough stuff simple without making you feel talked down to.

[amazon B01CYVHYSS inline]

'But What If We're Wrong? Thinking About The Present As If It Were The Past' by Chuck Klosterman

The most important book I read this year, bar none. Before long, Klosterman has you questioning whether we might be wrong about GRAVITY. But the book isn't really about pointing out things we're wrong about. It's about forcing ourselves to ask the question of whether we might be wrong.

[amazon 9780399184123 inline]

'The Hours I Keep' by Lisa Zimmerman

It's poetry. Great poetry. Buy some poetry for your friends. It's the right thing to do. Available through The Main Street Rag.

Read any of these? Add your Best Of lists to the comments!

About the author

Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor of LitReactor. He is the author of The Paradox Twins (CLASH Books), the story collection Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape, and the parody Kanye West—Reanimator. His short fiction has been published by Vice, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Severed Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Broken River Books, and more. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @jaceycockrobin. More info at and

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