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 over 36 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  

More Top 10s
Steve Davis’ Top 10 Films of 2017
Steve Davis’ Top 10 Films of 2017

Steve Davis, Dec. 29, 2017

Kimberley Jones’ Top 10 Films of 2017
Kimberley Jones’ Top 10 Films of 2017

Kimberley Jones, Dec. 29, 2017

More Fiction
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

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
Ground Floor Theatre's <i>White Rabbit Red Rabbit</i>
Ground Floor Theatre's White Rabbit Red Rabbit
In Nassim Soleimanpour's play, what happens is as much a surprise for the actor as for the audience

Wayne Alan Brenner, March 23, 2018

“Julie Libersat: Paved Paradise” at W&TW
“Julie Libersat: Paved Paradise” at W&TW
This interactive solo exhibition may have you looking at malls in a very different way

Robert Faires, March 23, 2018

More by Jesse Sublett
Margaret Moser Tribute: Jesse Sublett
Jesse Sublett
When the Queen calls, you come

June 30, 2017

One for the Books
Jesse Sublett's Top Reads of 2015
The Theater of War leads a list that reminds us how ancient lessons about war continue to ring true today

Jan. 1, 2016


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

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

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