Best Books of 2016 – Reprints!
Once again we kick off the high opera that is the Stevereads Best – and Worst – Books of the Year by checking the state of the book-world’s memory, looking at the strength and variety of its reprints. And as in most recent years, 2016 shows some remarkably healthy results; publishers followed their instincts as often as their profit predictions, and consequently there were really worthwhile reprints all throughout the year. These were the best:
10. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Suzanne (Grove Press) – This 50th anniversary edition of Jacqueline Suzanne’s raucous and deceptively smart novel appears in a snazzy paperback complete with red-edged pages and a new cover design that still manages to evoke the now-iconic cascade of pills that once so outraged a more innocent reading public. And the book is, against all odds, still unbeatable.
9. An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope (Princeton University Press) – How unaccountably strange, the decision of the Powers That Be at Princeton University Press to resurrect this century-old critical edition of Pope’s most infectiously marvelous poem and give it such a lovely new hardcover edition! It’s surely a bit too antiquated to serve as a college text, and surely the general public doesn’t read Pope anymore? But the reasons hardly matter – this is an edition to keep.
8. Stories by John O’Hara (Library of America) – It’s a bittersweet thing to know with certainty how much the inclusion of some of his short stories in the prestigious Library of America would have pleased O’Hara, but there’s nothing bittersweet about hoping, as this volume surely gives warrant to hope, that this great unsung master of the American short story might still be read.
7. The Book of Joe by Vincent Price (Open Road Media) – The famous Hollywood film villain Vincent Price had a soft spot a mile wide for animals, and in this wonderful book he commemorates the weird experience known to dog owners: how one particular dog will come along and alter the axis of your whole world. For Price, Joe was just that kind of dog, and this charming book captures their friendship perfectly.
6. Batman: Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley (DC Comics) – The decision on the part of the folks at DC Comics to re-issue Miller’s epic, industry-resetting story not as a graphic novel but in a four-volume set was inspired: the separate volumes force the reader to pause, to differentiate, and to appreciate the internal strength’s of each of the story’s four chapters. This is the Dark Knight to have.
5. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Penguin Classics) – The Penguin Classics Deluxe series is always impressive, but with this reprint of Golding’s heavy-handed but immortal novel, the series really outdid itself: XX’s artwork – a bloody-mouthed boy on the front and a pig’s head on the back – sets the stark grimness of the novel front and center, making the whole thing so inviting it can survive even an Introduction by Stephen King.
4. Silence by Shusako Endo (translated from the Japanese by William Johnston)(Picador Modern Classics) – Virtually the only reason ever to like reading the words “Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture” is when they occasion the re-appearance of some fine old book the studio considers “source material,” and that was the case with this re-issue of Silence, Endo’s quietly moving historical novel, which now gets a new chance to bring readers to this great author.
3. Collected Millar: The Master at Her Zenith: Vanish in an Instant, Wives and Lovers, Beast in View, An Air That Kills, The Listening Walls (Soho Syndicate) – Every year, I’m happy to report, the publishing world does one or two things that genuinely surprise me. Every year, there are one or two moments when I open a book-package and discover something truly amazing, and that happened in 2016 with this first installment of a gorgeous reprint set of the complete works of the sublimely malicious and controlled Margaret Millar.
2. The Plague and I/Anybody Can Do Anything/Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald (University of Washington Press) – These playful reprint volumes from the University of Washington Press bring back into the light of day all the lesser-known books by the author of The Egg and I, and what a delight it was to relive them all in a row. Any season of reprints that includes so much Betty MacDonald can’t very well go wrong.
1. The Last Hurrah by Edwin O’Connor (University of Chicago Press) – The absolutely winning production of this, the best reprint of 2016 includes a rollicking Introduction by Jack Beatty, an understated, smile-inducing new cover design, and of course the main event, O’Connor’s utterly masterful dark comedy of American politics, which is as funny and insightful today as it was the year it was written.
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