NYWC’s Favorite Reads of 2016


NY Writers Coalition staff, workshop leaders & volunteers picked some of their favorite novels, poems, & short stories they’ve read this year. Keep reading to get some inspiration on what to check out next time you go to the library or bookstore:

Charles Austin
Christodora: A Novel by Tim Murphy.

Walking the Dog by Elizabeth Swados

Kate Baldus
The Mother by Yvvette Edwards

“set in contemporary London, the story centers around a murder trial of a teen who was stabbed to death after school.Told in a close first person POV the book recounts the grief of the murdered boy’s mom as she attends the trial and learns more about a relationship her son had that connected him to the boy who stabbed him. It’s a moving, timely and well-told novel.”

Barry Blitstein
LaRose by Louise Erdrich

“deep insight into women, men, adolescents, children and animals.”

Ashley Calloway-Blatch
The Mothers by Britt Bennett

“I completely devoured it on a long flight back to New York. The writing is crisp, the characters well-developed, and though the book rarely leaves the Southern California town in which it’s based, you get completely pulled into the story. It is a thoughtful reflection on the beauty of love and friendship, and the things that even those virtues can’t conquer.”

Shanté Cozier
Raymond’s Run by Toni Cade Bombara

“her storytelling is amazing. From the very first line, her use of vernacular is stellar!” (Collection: Gorilla, My Love).

The Last Heat of Summer by Percival Everett

“I am guided though several trap doors and then suddenly into the blinding light. His way of reasoning is unusual and exciting.” (Collection: Damned If I Do).

The Art of Drinking Tea by Nin Andrews

“each line pulls me into the next, yet each line is surprisingly different from the former. And the end is even more refreshing than I could have imagined.”

Won’t You Celebrate With Me by Lucille Clifton 

“my official anthem.”

Ann Marie Cunningham
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

“Danler’s ability to write about food — and sex, too! — is mouthwatering. This book will make you hungry, and will let you know what goes on behind the scenes in a high-end restaurant.”

Ghost Songs by Regina McBride

“as a teen, McBride lost both her parents to suicide within weeks of each other. In her memoir, in which the language draws on her roots as a poet, she never blames her parents. Stunning work on a taboo subject.”

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt.

Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

Timothy DuWhite
Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link.

Kill the Sister by Shira Erlichman

Daisy Flores
The Vegetarian by Han Kang

“a disturbing look at how one’s choices affect others. Kang’s imagery is so rich that it aids in intensifying how unsettling the story is.”

Rose Gorman 
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

“at first I wanted to re-read Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry for a bit of inspiration in my own writing, but was reminded that little Cassie Logan was one of my favorite characters when I was kid! #1000BlackGirlBooks”

Frank Haberle
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

“getting past the horrors of the first chapter is a challenge, and there were plenty more forthcoming; it is hard to imagine people being so cruel and horrible to other people, anywhere, at any time in history. I’ve rarely found myself rooting so hard for somebody to make it to safety, and find the bright side of humanity, as I did for Cora.”

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

“an amazing, compelling british coming-of-age orphan story in which the protagonist gets emotionally crushed repeatedly before finding something worth asking for. Beautifully written and captures late-Victorian England in the years before the devastation of World War I.”

Derek Loosvelt
Notes on My Dunce Cap by Jesse Ball

“this book by the poet and novelist Jesse Ball is not a collection of poems or a novel but a book about his experiences teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dunce Cap includes Ball’s thoughts on the teacher-student relationship, recommendations for teachers, and syllabi of his past classes. The final chapter, ‘A Final Note on Quiet,’ is my favorite (and I think it very much applies to leading NYWC workshops). Here’s an excerpt: ‘Figuring out the difference between when a quiet class is thinking and when they have given up and are just waiting for the next thing, it is a difficult skill. I’m sure no one gets it quite right. But as a general rule people tend to call a halt to silence too early’.”

Alison Lowenstein
How to Write Like Tolstoy: A Journey into the Minds of Our Greatest Writers by Richard Cohen

“isn’t a writer’s guide, it’s a charming and witty book of essays by editor, publisher, and writer. Any reader would love the anecdotes within the book, and will walk away with a deeper understanding of storytelling. A must-read for any storyteller and story lover.”

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

“the latest in the Canadian mystery writer’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. The thoughtful prose, memorable characters as well as the sophisticated story makes this one of Louise Penny’s best books. Although it’s a part of a series, the book could be read on its own.”

Jessica McCoy
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

“I think it was published a couple years ago, but I read it this year. It’s a combination of a biography on William Moulton Marston and a history on the development of the Wonder Woman character. I’m a big Wonder Woman fan, and it was cool to learn about who inspired the character, as well as the political and social issues of the day, and to learn about the man who created her. William Moulton Marston invented the lie detector, and it’s an interesting parallel with her ‘lasso of truth’.”

Melody Nixon
Queer History, Queer Now. (Apogee Journal’s online blog Perigee, 28 June 2016) curated by Cecca Ochoa & Alejandro Varela

“a portfolio of queer voices of color presented in response to the Orlando shooting, in the year that needs these voices most.”

Erin Nugent
Abarat by Clive Barker

“I love his unique approach to fantasy and gothic horror, as well as his art style and original poems.”

Chris Prioleau
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

“I did it! I read the thing!”

The Girls by Emma Cline

“a great book about female friendship and relationships.”

Ariel Shalev
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

“it was a fascinating and informative read that is more relevant now than ever. Highly recommended!”

Melissa Tombro
Nonstop Metropolis by Rebecca Solnit

“amazing essays from a huge range of perspectives about NYC including a fabulous map renaming of stops on the NYC subway for the amazing women who helped make this city great!”

Aaron Zimmerman
Trance by Debora Lidov

“innovative poems, some in the form of case notes, made by a social worker in the neo-natal ICU who is simultaneously undergoing cancer treatment. Beautiful, dizzying poetry unlike anything else you’ll ever read.