For those of you who heard me make allusion to a book award that I was involved with, I can finally actually talk about it! The winners for the 2016 Mass Book Awards have been announced!
This was loads of fun, if a bit chaotic. I read a lot, but I read for several book clubs as well as review copies furnished by publishers... on top of any personal reading I want to do. Shoehorning in a box of 12 books to read over about two months was plausible but required me to actually schedule reading. Also, since I can't have one crazy thing in my life this also overlapped almost perfectly with the two month period from putting in an offer on a house to closing, as well as moving from part-time to full-time at my library.
I took part along with several others as judges for Adult Fiction, with the purpose of whittling down the long list (the 12 finalists) to one Winner and three Honors. Some of the books were very easy to eliminate from the running, others took some dithering. The winner stood out to all of us.
I do want to stress that just because I don't think highly of a book doesn't mean it's bad, just not for me. Every book on the list already made it through a screening and narrowing down process, and we had to pull apart and rate them. They all have their merits.
And now, the books and some thoughts from me on them.
A Head Full of Ghosts / Paul Tremblay (WINNER)
I didn't think I was going to like this book. All three of us went into it with some trepidation, none of us were particularly into Horror, and everything about this book from the cover, to the synopsis, to the praise from other authors, said we were holding a horror novel in our hands.
And we loved it.
A Head Full of Ghosts isn't a book where the horror is a monster that goes bump in the night or a murderous villain in the dark. Rather we get a self-aware book that exposes the horror genre while revealing itself. The horror here is in misunderstanding and maltreatment of mental illness and in the exploitation of celebrity culture. Don't go in with preconceptions of what the story is, let it show you.
Only the Strong / Jabari Asim (Honors)
I only fell in love with two books out of the twelve, and this was one of them. Asim delivers masterful use of language and flawless shifting between narratives and narrators as the story comes full circle. Read this book.
Honey From the Lion / Matthew Neill Null (Honors)
This book didn't work for me as a novel, but it definitely worked for the other to judges. And even if I couldn't get into the book doesn't mean that it can't appreciate the craft of it. Historical fiction tangled up in post-Civil War economics and environmentalism.
The Muralist / B. A. Shapiro (Honors)
Eminently readable and excellent as a book club pick. The Muralist searches for the life of an artist in the center of the Abstract Expressionism movement. A descendant seeking proof of a family legend and a young woman seeking to save her family from the Holocaust. The story treats famous figures with a balance of respect and familiarity, and is very relateable to the ongoing discussions around immigration and refugees.
The Secret Chord / Geraldine Brooks (Long List)
The Rumor / Elin Hilderbrand (Long List)
A Marriage of Opposites / Alice Hoffman (Long List)
Bird / Noy Holland (Long List)
On Hurricane Island / Ellen Meeropol (Long List)
The Last Bookaneer / Matthew Pearl (Long List)
Honeydew / Edith Pearlman (Long List)
Find Me / Laura Van Den Berg (Long List)