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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Six Colors Staff

Our favorite books of the year

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Dan and Jason read a lot. And both of them keep running into people who say they hear us praising books, and then they go and read them! This is a great responsibility, and not one we take lightly. Here are 14 books we loved this year.

The Fifth Season/The Obelisk Gate

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season and its sequel The Obelisk Gate were two of the best books I read this year. (They are part of a trilogy—the third book will be released in the summer of 2017.) Jemisin won the Hugo Award for best Science Fiction novel of the year for The Fifth Season, and rightfully so. It’s a story with three different threads, depicting a world plagued by disasters. Powerful telekenetic people called Orogenes can silence the earthquakes that constantly threaten another apocalypse, but they are feared and hated by the general public. Meanwhile, in the sky, enormous gemstones float along, seemingly indifferent to it all. It’s a great story from a spectacularly talented writer and I can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy. (iBooks)—JS

A Darker Shade of Magic/A Gathering of Shadows

V.E. Schwab’s story of multiple worlds—Red London, Grey London, and White London—follows the Traveler Kell, one of the few who can walk between worlds, and the thief Delilah Bard. Oh, and the creepy evil that is trying to kill them, of course. Fun, romantic, and full of magic and mystery, the first two books of Schwab’s trilogy were among the best fantasy I read this past year, and I’m eagerly awaiting the final installment. (iBooks)—DM

Ahead of the Curve

I am a nerd of many kinds: computers, science fiction, and yes… baseball. Brian Kenny’s Ahead of the Curve is an excellent, clear explanation of our modern understanding of the game and the new, rational measurements and statistics that surround it. Kenny, an MLB Network anchor, does a great job of explaining why understanding “sabermetrics” and other new ways of looking at baseball doesn’t mean you lose your appreciation of the game and its players. Far from it! He does a great job of arguing for abandoning certain traditions that make managers and players behave irrationally (the assigning of wins and saves to pitchers, for example) and suggests ways the game may change dramatically in the years ahead. In these cold months of No Baseball, read Kenny’s book and dream of warm baseball futures. (iBooks)—JS

City of Blades

While I enjoyed Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs, its sequel, City of Blades, roped me in from the get go and wouldn’t let go. Retired General Turyin Mulgahesh is asked to find a missing secret agent in the remote city of Voortyashtan, but she gets more than she’s bargained for when she stumbles across something left behind by a long-dead god. Turyin’s one of my favorite main characters in a recent book, and the world that Bennett has created is fascinating. (iBooks)—DM


Daniel O’Malley’s novel The Rook was one of the highlights of 2012 for me. It’s about a secret division of the British government that’s full of people with magical powers, but it’s much more X-Men than Harry Potter. The sequel, Stiletto came out this year, and while it’s not as good as the first book, it’s still really good. I enjoy the fact that O’Malley made some interesting choices about where to go next with the series—namely, that the main character from the first book is not the main character of this book, though she’s still an important factor in the story. (iBooks)—JS

Waypoint Kangaroo

Curtis Chen’s debut sci-fi novel focuses on the spy codenamed Kangaroo—so called because he possesses the unique ability to open up a interdimensional portal, which can be used for a variety of different things. Including keeping your drinks cold. Kangaroo is sent by his boss on a vacation cruise to Mars, but when two passengers turn up dead, he ends up getting involved in something far more sinister. It’s a snappy and funny read, chockablock with spy action and suspense. (Full disclosure: Chen is represented by my literary agent.) (iBooks)—DM


I don’t read a lot of fantasy novels and yet I loved Uprooted by Naomi Novik. So did a lot of other people—it won the Nebula Award for best Science Fiction or Fantasy novel of the year, and was nominated for the Hugo Award, too. Novik’s well known for a series of books about dragons that I’ve never read, but this book isn’t about dragons. Instead, it’s about a bitter wizard discovering that his young ward is talented in ways that he couldn’t have possibly imagined. The villains are bureaucracy, politics, and a sentient forest that’s trying to consume the village the protagonist grew up in. I loved it. (iBooks)—JS

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

Part grammar handbook, part memoir, this volume from former New Yorker copyeditor Mary Norris is hugely entertaining, especially for those of a literary bent. Not only does Norris discuss the finer points of punctuation, pronouns, and pencils, but she also doles out delightful tales of her time at one of America’s preeminent literary institutions. Much more irreverent than I expected, and a must read for anybody who really loves language. (iBooks)—DM

A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

If you like Star Trek and Firefly and other stories of a fun collection of personalities having adventures on a spaceship, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is for you. There’s a reason I liken this novel to those TV series: It reads more like a season of a TV series than a traditional novel. There are lots of different episodes in different places, as the crew moves from planet to planet. There’s also an overarching story arc that comes to a climax at the end, of course. It’s a peculiar little novel, but it was a really fun read and I found myself thinking about the characters months later. (iBooks)—JS

The Etymologicon

Speaking of language, I also have high praise for Mark Forsyth’s book delving into the history and evolution of words. This is a book for anybody who’s ever wondered about the origins of some of the peculiar words and phrases that crop up in the English language, from “a game of chicken” to “pants.” I particularly enjoy the way he divvies them up into bite-size chunks that are easy to read in a sitting, and which amazingly seem to segue one into the next. The result? It’s a hard book to put down. Just don’t try to pronounce the title. (iBooks)—DM

Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard

What a weird book Lawrence M. Schoen’s Barsk is. At first glance it’s a fantasy book about a world where intelligent elephants interact with various other intelligent animal species. At second glance, it’s a science fiction novel about space stations and a secret history of the galaxy. At third glance, it’s a slightly psychedelic story about time-traveling vision prophecy elephants? Oh, and the main characters are pretty awesome elephant people. It’s weird, it’s fun, and it’s worth a read. (iBooks)—JS

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

I discovered Tom Standage’s A History of the World in 6 Glasses this year, and it’s a delightful walk through human history as told through beverages: beer, wine, distilled alcohol, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola. Those beverages help Standage tell a story about the roots of human civilization all the way through today’s globally industrial era. If you enjoy stories about how technological advancement changes the path of history, consider this one about how drinks do the same. (iBooks)—JS

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