Jesse Sublett's Top Reads of 2016

Top Books to Cover the Good, the Bad, and the Doomed

A list of memorable lit that includes a philosophical gumshoe, an irredeemable tycoon, and ill-fated whalers

Jesse Sublett's Top Reads of 2016

Ian McGuire's The North Water (Henry Holt and Co.) was electrifying from start to finish – writing on the level of Cormac McCarthy and equally hard-boiled, an instant classic. The officers and men aboard this late 19th century whaling ship are so low as to make the term "motley crew" seem a euphemism, and yet McGuire manages to elicit sympathy for almost every doomed bastard in the group. "Doomed" is an understatement, too. Welcome back, Easy Rawlins! In Charcoal Joe (Doubleday), the great Walter Mosley gives us another story about the African-American crime-solver/philosopher, along with another favorite of mine, Fearless Jones, in post-Watts Los Angeles. I'd hitchhike in a snowstorm to see poet, rapper, and playwright Kate Tempest. This year saw her first novel, The Bricks That Built the Houses (Bloomsbury USA), but I may prefer her book-length poem, Let Them Eat Chaos (Bloomsbury USA), also released this year as a book and music CD. Unless you've got a great excuse, like being in a coma, don't talk to me again until you've read Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau) by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The classicist/poet/performance artist Anne Carson is someone they say is more loved than actually read. Anne says, "Back at you, dude," with Float (Knopf), 22 chapbooks (poetry, essays, and stuff) unbound inside a plastic slipcase. She is so weird! Out of the fart-storm of pomposity and fever of election 2016, TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald (Grand Central Publishing) by Timothy L. O'Brien authoritatively portrays a figure ill-informed, narcissistic, impetuous, deluded, childish, mendacious, racist, abusive, and irredeemable. Much like the man elected to the White House last November. Paul Beatty knocked me out with the first two pages of The Sellout (Picador), winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize, but the next 30 pages made me feel trapped in a stand-up comedy club with an out-of-order restroom. The man is clearly brimming with talent, so I'll give it a rest and try again later.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Top 10s
<i>The Austin Chronicle</i> Top 10 Films of 2018
The Austin Chronicle Top 10 Films of 2018
Our favorite films from our least favorite year

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 28, 2018

Top 10 Local Video Games
Top 10 Local Video Games
A horse-woman of the apocalypse and floppy fighting animals top Austin’s offerings

James Renovitch, Dec. 28, 2018

More Fiction
Bookmarked
Joe O’Connell’s Top Reads of 2017
These three novels and one memoir are all memorable for the ways they plumb the depths and mysteries of memory

Joe O'Connell, Dec. 29, 2017

Bookmarked
Rosalind Faires’ Top Reads of 2017
Uncovering literary gems in areas such as historical fantasy, suburbia melancholia, female-centric speculative fiction, and more

Rosalind Faires, Dec. 29, 2017

More Arts Reviews
Glass Half Full Theatre's <i>Once There Were Six Seasons</i>
Glass Half Full Theatre's Once There Were Six Seasons
Using innovative puppetry, Glass Half Full Theatre dukes it out with climate change in an invigorating way

Laura Jones, April 26, 2019

Rude Mechanicals' <i>Not Every Mountain</i>
Rude Mechanicals' Not Every Mountain
This Rude Mechs performance piece shows us a mountain's lifetime in an hour and makes clear that nothing lasts forever

Trey Gutierrez, April 26, 2019

More by Jesse Sublett
Top Books of 2018 That Make the Past Present
Top Books of 2018 That Make the Past Present
Whether in biography, graphic novel, crime fiction, or retold Greek myths, these books brought history to life

Dec. 28, 2018

Legerdemain Man Ray Anderson
Legerdemain Man Ray Anderson
The fact that magicians around the world revere the magic man of Esther's Follies is no illusion

Nov. 30, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Top 10s, Fiction, Nonfiction, Ian McGuire, The North Water, Walter Moseley, Charcoal Joe, Kate Tempest, The Bricks That Built the Houses, Let Them Eat Chaos, Anne Carson, Float, Ta-Nehesi Coates, Between the World and Me, Timothy L. O'Brien, TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald, Paul Beatty, The Sellout

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle