2016 was a hard year for feminists, humanists, and our troubled, struggling, divided world in general. The news was depressing and incessant. Facebook was worse. So I turned off the noise whenever possible and sought refuge in books that transported me to wonderfully different and remote places. Which is too say, that I spent a lot of time off-world. Accordingly, my greatest hits list for this year is a selection of books that take the reader far away from the buzzfeed of the here and now. In spite of the fact that they all explore the ubiquitous contemporary problems of inequality, suffering, and the damage that self-serving politics do to societies, these books nevertheless proved a great salve for my weary mind. The best kind of science fiction not only opens our minds to other ways of seeing, thinking, living, and relating; it changes the very way that we feel. There is nothing that renews the spirit quite like getting Very Far Away sometimes.
Emma Newman: Planetfall (Ace/Roc, Nov 2015) One troubled woman’s account of the perils of following ideology to the end of the galaxy.
Carolyn Ives Gilman: Dark Orbit (Tor/Macmillan, 2015) First contact, literally in the dark, great stuff for stretching the imagination.
Lily Brooks-Dalton: Good Morning Midnight (Random House, 2016) Loneliness and the human need to connect, even when there’s nobody else out there.
Cixin Liu: The Three-Body Problem (Tor, 201) The cultural revolution meets a metaphysical first encounter story.
(Our own) L Timmel Duchamp: The Waterdancer’s World (Aqueduct Press 2016) An array of formidable women shape the destiny of a very unlikely planet colony.
And luckily for me as I head into the winter reading season, some of these great books already have sequels (or companions). Look for After Atlas by Emma Newman and books two and three of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past series—The Dark Forest and Death’s End—by Cixin Liu.
For a full year’s supply of great recommendations you can check out the whole Aqueduct End-of-year review series — The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2016 — at Ambling Along the Aqueduct.