A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson
The Chicago Tribune called this book "a model of concise, efficient storytelling," and I would give that label to everything of Wilson's I've read. This short novel contains more world-building than most books twice its length. It's also a beautiful fantasy meditation on love, loss, and memory. If you're only reading SF/F by and about straight white guys, you are missing out.
The Broken Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy, book 2), N. K. Jemisin
I read most of The Inheritance Trilogy in 2016, plus the first two books in Jemisin's new series, and all of those books were brilliant. For completely subjective reasons, this was my favorite. It is a redemptive story, but not too redemptive, a family story, but a really unexpected and complicated family, a love story, but not quite the love you expect.
The Emperor of Water Clocks, Yusef Komunyakaa
Easily the best book of poetry I read this year, and I read quite a bit. This book is elegant, weighty, and meant to last. It's about myth, memory, and power. I wrote a review of it over at The Drunken Odyssey.
XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century, Campbell McGrath
Another book I reviewed for the Drunken Odyssey blog. McGrath writes one poem for each year of the 20th century. It's pretty brilliant and ambitious.
The Scarlet Albatross (Refugees, book 1), Abigail Hilton
This book is a sort-of sequel to Hilton's wonderful independent fantasy series Cowry Catchers, although it has an all-new cast of characters and a slightly different setting. It's still quite the swash-buckler! Since I'm lucky enough to be besties with the author, I have also read the second book in the series, in which the Albatross cast encounters the Cowry Catchers cast and great mayhem ensues! It seemed mean to list a book you can't read yet on my list of favorites for the year, but Jager Thunder (Refugees, book 2) is so great for the fans. I read it in 3 days, and that was with line editing to save the rest of you from Abbie's spelling.
The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, Catherynne M. Valente
Alice and I have read all Valente's fairyland books like we were savoring the most expensive and delicious chocolates. This is the final in the series, and we loved it. Start at the beginning and enjoy!
Fool's Quest (Fitz and the Fool, book 2), Robin Hobb
Hobb is my favorite fantasy author, hands down, and Fitz is one of my favorite literary characters. This series--the third about Fitz--is killing me, but I love reading this mature version of the character. All his old weaknesses, hurts, and loyalties are still there, but he's more aware of them, more able to correct when he falls prey to them again. I am impatiently awaiting book 3 in 2017!
Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler / The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
I finally read these two classics by science fiction powerhouses/my personal and literary heroes Butler and LeGuin this year. They did not disappoint.