All of the Books That Made it to the National Book Awards in 2016

As an avid book reader, I usually try to keep up with a list of the best books of the year to add to my endless reading list. I usually pull ideas from friends and family, and usually anything John or Hank Green suggests we read. But here’s a new idea: we’ve compiled a list of the all the books that were nominated for/won an award, along with a really brief synopses. (We tried to stay spoiler-free.)

This article contains AFFILIATE LINKS. Sounds scary, but it really just means that I get some kick-back change when you buy a product in my article (with NO ADDED COST to you). The internet is a magical place, amirite?

1. The UnderGround Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

This book is set in the Southern US (surprise!), and introduces an assortment of secondary characters in the first few chapters. It tells the story of Cora, a young woman born and raised on plantation as a slave, and her journey towards freedom. She originally lands in South Carolina, and sets up a pretty nice life for herself until she finds that the townspeople are giving information to slave-hunters on new members of the community. So Cora flees, again, in an attempt for freedom. At one point Cora is even caught by a slave-hunter, who carries her with him while he looks for another slave before returning Cora to her slave-owner. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens after that!Get the book HERE.

2. The Throwback Special, by Chris Bachelder

This book features an absorbent tale of a group of young men who gather in the fall to reenact the greatest football players. It doesn’t take long for the media to catch on to their performance, and soon enough the guys are getting dubbed the, “Throwback Special.” The author tells the story with a little witticism and empathy, and introduces a special play for the guys to reenact. This particular move broke bones in the original play, so the men are quite nervous. They stay up all night, discussing life and exploring their souls before they conquer this huge feat. Get the book HERE.

3. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles

After the Civil War, a middle-aged news reader agrees to take a captive of the Kiowa back to her people. As the two travel south thru the country, they grow to trust each other and form a bond like no other, which makes a marked difference on their survival. When they finally do reach the Kiowa, their reunion is a bit strange. Our main character finds himself struggling to abandon this young girl, who neither recognizes nor remembers any of her relatives now. So now, he must face his next challenge: leaving the girl with her family, or taking her with him and being labeled a kidnapper. Get the book HERE.

4. The Association of Small Bombs, by Karan Mahajan

Two brothers, Tushar and Nakul, who are Delhi schoolboys, pick up their families TV at the local repair shop. Their friend Mansoor tags along, the 3 of them totally unknowing that tragedy was about to strike. It wasn’t uncommon for ‘small’ bombs to be dropped in the area, but when the bomb detonates in the middle of the Delhi marketplace, it instantly kills the two brothers. Their parents are devastated, of course, but it furthers devastates Mansoor. While Mansoor blessedly survived the blast, he is now scarred and psychologically battered. As Mansoor grows and matures, he meets up with a colorful array of people, including Ayub. Ayub is described as ‘a fearless young activist whose own allegiances and beliefs are more malleable than Mansoor could imagine.’ Mansoor also meets Shockie, a bomb-maker for the Kashiri. While Shockie knows the dangers of the job, he also holds the independence of Delhi higher than his own life. Get the book HERE.

5. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson

For August, friendship was everything in the 1970’s – that is, until it wasn’t. A normal Brooklyn girl is obsessed with sharing secrets with friends, the world is special and bright and full. But that all changes for August one night as she meets some grown men in a dark alley. Life after that for August gets a bit more complicated; her mother disappears, the world seems to be filled with madness, and her father clings to religion for hope. Walk with August through her journey and discover the ins-and-outs of Brooklyn in the 1970’s. Get the book HERE.

6. What Belongs to You, by Garth Greenwell

It was an unseasonably warm day when an American teacher walks into a public bathroom and meets Mitko and pays him for sex. Mitko is a young hustler that struggles with hunger and loneliness, so he continues to see the teacher. The two form a relationship that soon turns towards bitterness, and each must face their own violent pasts. Get the book HERE.

7. Imagine Me Gone, by Adam Haslett

Margaret’s fiance, John, is depressed in the 1960’s era London, and is hospitalized as a result of the mental illness. Margaret now faces a difficult choice: carry on with her life as if he were never apart of it, which would free her from the heart-ache of it all; or, she can back away from John and what she knows of his terrible condition. This is a story of unforgettable love and faith, with their son Michael at the heart of it all. This has been called the novel that will ‘change how you see the most important people in your life.’Get the book HERE.

8. The Portable Veblen, by Elizabeth McKenzie

This book features an unforgettable look at the way we live now. Set in Palo Alto, this book highlights the clashing of old and new money while also keeping light-hearted and humorous. Veblen is a young woman raised by a hypochondriac mother, and a father that was institutionalized. She has no real career and is an amateur translator. Paul, Veblen’s fiance, is a neurologist whose future holds fame and fortune. And that’s just what his family expects of him, as well. The duo find their engagement on the brink of decaying as they meet each other’s families, and on the way they have an interesting exchange with a charismatic squirrel. Get the book HERE.

9. Sweet Lamb of Heaven, by Lydia Millet

As a blend of a thriller and a psychological horror, this book follows a mother running from her estranged husband. Anna takes her six year old daughter in the night and runs away from her unfaithful and unloving husband. The two girls make it all the way from Alaska to Maine, and are staying in a run down motel. The longer that Anna stays at the hotel, the more suspicious she grows of the other tenants and whether they’re really motel tenants. It doesn’t take long for her husband to find them, and his pursuit quickly moves from creepy to criminal. Get the book HERE.

10. Miss Jane, by Brad Watson

This book tells the story of the authors great-aunt, and explores the life of a one Miss Jane Chisolm. Miss Jane was born in rural Mississippi with a genital birth defect. This defect greatly stands in the way of Miss Jane’s worth through the eyes of society. Based in the early 1900’s, Miss Jane is a chilling and invigorating account of a young woman scorned by societal norms.Get the book HERE.


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