Ah, the #GoodreadsChoiceAwards! It's my favorite award ceremony of the year, and yet I constantly forget that it's coming up.
It's always a pleasant surprise to log into my Goodreads account and see that jazzy banner! The array of categories cover every genre and age group you could possibly imagine, ensuring that no group of literature is deemed more valid than another. Additionally, the nominees themselves are expertly picked. There is always a diverse spread of famous bestsellers, critically-acclaimed hidden gems, established and/or celebrity authors, and debuts. I always end up leaping from the diving board head-first, researching each of the authors, synopses, and publishers... let's just say that my list of library holds usually triples by November.
So, as someone who loves books and adores discussing them with others, it occurred to me that it would be appropriate to share my #Goodreads voting history!
Although some of these decisions felt impossible, I narrowed them down to what I, personally, considered the most deserving. Of course, everyone has different tastes, and our unique personalities and backgrounds influence what stories will resonate with each of us -- and that's the wonderful part! So if you disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. The decisions were difficult this year, and maybe your viewpoint will make me see a specific book or category in a new way.
One caveat: as a personal rule, I only vote in categories in which I have read at least 75% of the nominated titles. That strikes me as most fair to the authors.
(Note: although I didn't vote for it due to that rule, I highly suggest the Science and Technology category's Spying on Whales by Nick Pyenson from Viking Press. Fun fact: I wanted to be a marine biologist as a child!)
Without further adieu, let's commence with my literary civic duty!
Best Science Fiction
✔ The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor Books)
Like many science fiction fans, I was first introduced to Afrofuturism by Octavia Butler, but it was Nnedi Okorafor who truly solidified my love of the genre.
Are you partial to floating blue jellyfish, science-focused worldbuilding with a lean towards solarpunk, living spaceships, and well-written teenage protagonists? Then Binti is the novella trilogy for you! The Night Masquerade is the third installment of the series. This novella was a loving send-off to the world and characters that Okorafor has acclimated us to over the recent years -- but if her massive and diverse array of titles is an indication, there will be many more adventures from her to come.
Definitely read the first two titles first -- once you do, The Night Masquerade won't disappoint.
Best Graphic Novels & Comics
✔ Paper Girls, Vol. 4 by Brian K. Vaughan (Image Comics)
Although I, like every other millennial, scrambled to get a copy of the McElroy brothers' The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins graphic novel (First Second Books), the true winner in my eyes is Paper Girls.
(Fun fact: Vaughan's other graphic novel series, Saga, is yet again nominated against his own Paper Girls! He's a truly prolific author.)
My appreciation of authors' willingness to try weird, bizarre, unique ideas is one of the reasons that I indulge niche subgenres so often, and to my delight, Paper Girls is one of the downright strangest pieces of fiction I've ever read. Very little in the previous volumes of Paper Girls made sense to us thus far as our delightful, rough-and-tough heroines have been whipped about with time travel, 2000s nostalgia, dinosaurs, alien capsules, and sci-fi grandiloquence. At last in volume 4, the answers to our burning questions begin to present themselves -- and trust me: they do not disappoint.
If you've ever thought that the stars of Doctor Who or Stranger Things should be preteen girls on a newspaper route, Paper Girls was written for you.
✔ American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes (Penguin Books LTD)
Although my heart lies in prose, I do try to make it a point to read standout chapbooks. Hayes caught my eye with Lighthead, his 2010 collection, but this collection is on a different level. I'll allow the blurb to speak for itself:
In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country's past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares. Inventive, compassionate, hilarious, melancholy, and bewildered--the wonders of this new collection are irreducible and stunning.
As always with poetry, I find myself at a lack of words to express the effect that Hayes's work had on me. All I can say is that finishing this book felt like my insides had been pulled out through a tiny hole in my chest. This is no coffee table book, no Rupi Kaur -- it will challenge, attack, and perhaps change you.
(Also, this is my favorite book cover out of my picks!)
Best Young Adult Fiction
✔ Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann (Swoon Reads)
Came for the representation, stayed for the adorkableness.
Our ridiculously charming main character, Alice, is black, biromantic, and asexual -- three vastly underrepresented demographics in YA. Though the main themes revolve unapologetically around these qualities, Let's Talk About Love doesn't become shallow or unrelatable to non-black allosexuals; rather, the themes color the narrative in a way that makes it feel as rich and varied as the world around us.
This quick read felt like indulging in a bowl full of Hershey's kisses while curled up in front of a fireplace. Homey, comforting, and beautifully written, I'd recommend Let's Talk About Love to anyone who wants to live the fantasy of dating a library employee. (I'm terribly jealous.)
Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction
✔ Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Balzer + Bray)
This was an incredibly difficult vote to cast! After all, this category is my niche. Not only did it contain the finale to my beloved Illuminae series, it also contained Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, a Balzer + Bray release that inserts zombies into the Civil War with a black female protagonist (and anyone who knows me knows that I love a good dose of Balzer + Bray). I truly think that all three books are equal in quality, but for my own predisposition, the Afrofuturism of Children of Blood and Bone won out.
This fantasy novel is inspired by and lovingly crafted from Nigerian mythology. Don't get me wrong, I will reread a Little Mermaid or Cinderella retelling every day of the week, but I far prefer authors who reach deeper into the human experience to present us with something that isn't derivative, something new. Adeyemi has given as a Young Adult book that is so unlike everything else on the market that it turned around in my mind for weeks after finishing the final page.
Best of the Best
Goodreads really loves to torture me.
Best of the Best is a brand-new category for the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards, in which winners from the past across all years and genres are pitted against each other to discover which acclaimed title is truly king. (Of course, some of these genres really aren't comparable, making this new category oh-so subjective -- but that's another debate!)
First of all, some runners-up. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore (Sourcebooks, Inc.) rivals Lab Girls in my mind as the best nonfiction book of the 2010s; it's a rich, gutting narrative that would be simply tragic not to acknowledge. Likewise, Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner/Simon and Schuster) was the best book I ever read as part of Morningside College's President's Book Club, and I'm not typically a fan of historical fiction. Rebel of the Sands, Alwyn Hamilton's debut with Viking Press, was one of the most deliciously innovative (and underrated) YA releases of 2016. Additionally, this category included the third installment of Magnus Chase, which is simply one of the best written and most diverse middle grade books in terms of gender identity, sexuality, and race.
Also, The Martian by Andy Weir (Crown Publishing) was on the list, and we all know that The Martian is one of my favorite sci-fi books of all time. I'm so sorry to betray you. After all, it should come as no surprise to anyone that my vote for The Best of the Best went to...
✔ The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray)
Balzer + Bray, you've done it again!
If you've visited the homepage of this website, you'll see that The Hate U Give is one of my favorite books of all time. Some books are described as gut-wrenching or heart-wrenching; The Hate U Give is soul-wrenching. I return to most of my favorite books again and again like comfort food, but rarer (and perhaps better for it) are the ones which I can hardly bear to reread, which take mental fortitude and preparation for the journey the author will take me on. Rooted in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, The Hate U Give is a deeply American story of black adolescence, identity, bravery, and justice that is simply unforgettable.
...and that's all, folks! Thank you so much for reading. Books are truly remarkable, and this award program is, in my opinion, a beautiful way to celebrate that.