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The Best Reads of 2016 for All Ages

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Loretta, Queen's Square | December 1, 2016

So many fantastic reads, so little time! 2016 has been great year for books!

Do Not Say We Have Nothing, written by Madeline Thien, heads the list by being the winner of both the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the 2016 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, as well as being on the long list for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. This powerful story takes us from present-day Vancouver back to Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s and on to the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The 2016 Canada Reads winner is The Illegal by Laurence Hill, the award-winning author of The Book of Negroes, which was the 2009 choice for our very own One Book, One Community read. The Illegal is the very timely story of a man living outside the law as an immigrant to an unwelcoming country.

The Evergreen Award given by the Ontario Library Association allows adult readers across Ontario to pick the best Canadian fiction or non-fiction title of the year. The 2016 winner is They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson. This compelling memoir tells the story of dealing with the miscellany left behind when her aged parents died.

The winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize was The Sellout by Paul Beatty. The first American writer to win this prize, Beatty has crafted a novel that manages to make the reader both laugh and cringe, often at the same time.

The 2016 winner of the Man Booker International Prize is The Vegetarian by South Korean author Han Kang. This story of an ordinary, even bland, couple living in Seoul suddenly takes a shocking turn.

The 2016 winner of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize is the novel Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains by Yasuko Thanh. Set in 1908 Vietnam, it explores the uneasy rule of the French, and one man’s actions which change his life forever.

Explore the word artistry of Nobel Prize for Literature 2016 winner Bob Dylan in The lyrics, 1961-2012. His music has become the soundtrack for generations.

The Pulitzer Prizes are another source for finding great reads. The 2016 Winner for Fiction is The Sympathizer: A Novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen. This amazing book also won the 2016 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the 2016 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the 2015 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. Told as a flashback, the narrative details the fall of Vietnam in 1975, and the experiences of an exile, who is a Communist spy, in the United States. Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda won the Pulitzer for Drama. Not only does the book contain the complete libretto, it also has interviews with the cast, background on the writing, and some of the history, including the infamous duel. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan won in the Biography Category.  A life-long passion for surfing, coupled with a fearless nature and a talent for writing, resulted in Finnegan becoming a distinguished war reporter and author. Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick won the Prize for non-fiction. An exploration of the rise of radical Islam, this book reads like a thriller, but it is all too real.

Some excellent books for young adults have also been published this year. The Michael L. Printz Award, first given in 2000, is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. The 2016 Medal Winner is Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. This unusual tale is part fantasy, part mystery and part ghost story, but always enthralling.

Goodreads Most Popular Book published in 2016 is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling. This play picks up 19 years after the last Harry Potter book. Harry is now the father of three, two of whom are attending Hogworts. As with the earlier books, there is much magic and intrigue.

A fantastic resource for choosing books for readers of all ages is the Forest of Reading Award winners. These awards involve more than 250,000 Canadian readers who participate every year, either on their own or through their school or public library. Administered by the Ontario Library Association, there are eight reading programs for all ages, and each program consists of popular Canadian fiction and non-fiction titles. As well as the Evergreen Award mentioned above, there are awards for children and young adults. The White Pine Award Winner, for high school aged readers, is The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts. Part science fiction, part romance, part thriller, this is the story of a teen-aged girl dealing with the loss of her best friend and her own ostracization. The Red Maple Award is aimed at 12 to 13 year olds, and this year’s winner is The Dogs by Allan Stratton. This intriguing novel follows Cameron and his mother as they try to stay one step ahead of his abusive father. Or is that really what’s going on? The Silver Birch Awards are for books written for 8 to 12 year olds. This year’s Express Award Winner is The End of the Line by Sharon E. McKay, in which ordinary citizens risk everything to save a young Jewish girl in wartime Holland. The 2016 Silver Birch Non-Fiction Award Winner is Haunted Canada 5: Terrifying True Stories by Joel A. Sutherland. Ghost stories are always popular, and true ones are the best! Finally, the Silver Birch Fiction Award Winner for 2016 is Masterminds by Gordon Korman. This is Korman at his best, thrilling and entertaining, and his fans will appreciate that this is the first of a trilogy.

For the younger set, the Blue Spruce Award is aimed at ages 4 to 7. The 2016 Winner is If Kids Ruled the World by Linda Bailey & David Huyck. This picture book is exactly what every kid dreams of!

Some well-known awards for books for younger readers are the Caldecott Medal for picture books, and the Newbury Medal for the most distinguished American children's book. The 2016 Newbery Medal winner is Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña, a lovely book about a young boy and his grandmother, and the life lessons that she teaches him while riding the bus. The 2016 Caldecott Medal winner is Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick. This charming book is, as you might have guessed, about the true story of Winnie the Pooh!

All of these and many more exciting reads can be borrowed from Idea Exchange. Come in and see what we have to offer.