Though we've already named our Best Books of 2016, we all have our personal favorites, and not all of them are from 2016. These are the best books we read this year.

Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation by Alan Burdick

So, this selection highlights a problem I have a lot working at PW: I read books that aren't yet published. I go to a party and people ask, "what are you reading?" and I have to explain the book I am currently loving won't be out for three months. And then I find myself alone, at the bar. I received the galley for Alan Burdick's Why Time Flies in early November, but, uh, couldn't find time for it until last week. And then, time stopped, and I raced through it. A National Book Award finalist in 2005 for his first book, Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion, Burdick (now a staff writer at The New Yorker) is one of the finest science writers at work today, with an uncanny ability explain knotty topics, with humanity, and humor. Alas, this book comes out in a just few weeks, in January, and once you read it, you'll have a better understanding of why waiting a few weeks is a blink of an eye to some, and an eternity for others. —Andrew R. Albanese, senior writer

The Gentleman by Forrest Leo

Mediocre Victorian poet Lionel Savage, the narrator of Leo’s hilarious first novel, has a problem. He doesn’t love his wife, Vivien, whom he has scarcely seen since he married her for her money six months earlier. But when Vivien disappears from a party at their London manor, Lionel realizes that he has inadvertently made a pact with the devil—the gentleman of the title, a polite, mild-mannered sort who prefers to refer to hell as Essex Grove—to get rid of her. Lionel’s efforts to rescue Vivien consume most of this consistently inventive farce, which originated as a play. If you, like me, are a P.G. Wodehouse fan, this is a must read. —Peter Cannon, senior reviews editor

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

An unread copy of Geek Love (in its blinding orange glory) was staring at me from my shelf back in May when I received word that the book’s author had died. I took this as a sign to plunge right in and after only a few pages I started to feel foolish for having not read it sooner. It’s exactly what I look for in a book—weird, funny, and wholly original. A blurb on the back cover calls it “a Fellini movie in ink” (San Francisco Chronicle). The story revolves around the sibling rivalries of a family of mutant-bred circus performers, whose parents experimented with a mix of amphetamine, insecticides, and radioisotopes to create “their own freak show,” in turn providing their children with “an inherent ability to earn a living just by being themselves.” It’s a delightfully bizarre masterpiece, and one I plan to read again soon. —Annie Coreno, reviews editor

The ABCs of Socialism edited by Bhaskar Sunkara, illus. by Phil Wrigglesworth

The RED MENACE is back, baby! Bolsheviks are breeding in your bathrooms; Tankies are trolling you on Twitter. It’s technically still a crime to be a communist in America, but workplaces nationwide are crawling with dirtbag Leftists (Conservatives hate them! Liberals seem to hate them even more!). As technocratic neoliberalism continues to stumble around the globe and leave decimated communities in its wake, it has become increasingly clear that the ideas that got us into this mess are not the ones that will get us out. Socialism or barbarism—that is our collective choice. And for many, if not most, people in the U.S., “socialism” remains a poorly understood bogeyman despite its vital—and largely erased—contributions to American history. Thankfully, the folks at Verso and Jacobin teamed up to produce this powerful brain cleanser. It’s a beautifully illustrated collection of 13 introductory essays on socialist thought regarding such issues as racism, feminism, environmentalism, property, internationalism, work, and fun. The writers dispel many myths and elucidate thorny concepts along the way, and the essays are full of links to original Jacobin articles for further study (and discussion with your friends and family and neighbors!). Together we’re heading into the uncharted waters of a Trump presidency, and we must be better organized to succeed in resisting an array of far-right forces. Beyond that, it’s up to us to create a society that cares for the vulnerable, welcomes the marginalized, and meets peoples’ basic needs so that they may follow where their curiosity and imagination lead them. —Alex Crowley, reviews editor

We Want Everything by Nanni Balestrini, trans. by Matt Holden

Granted, I’m obsessed these days with Italy and Italian literature and Italian TV series, but Balestrini is so special that I have to give him sole credit for breaking that sea of ice in my heart. He writes without punctuation, which at first turned me off, but then pulled me in. His language is so rich and his rendition of social issues is piercing. He’s written about the difficulty of life in the south of Italy, with its nepotism and corruption, but in this book he takes on the north in the '60s—1969 to be exact—and fictionalizes the factory workers strike that resulted in Italy’s “hot autumn” through the eyes of a young worker from the impoverished south. We think of our own country when we think of the upheaval of the '60s, but Europe was roiling as well, and this is a perfect introduction to the times in another place. —Louisa Ermelino, reviews director

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

I've been looking forward to this ever since I finished reading The Fifth Season, and it exceeded my wildest expectations. Jemisin's work is usually characterized as fantasy, and this series is more accurately described as very-far-future science fiction, but I think of these books as horror, and they hit all of my horror-fan buttons without ever descending to the level of your average gorefest. The first book followed an innocent young girl being brutally taught about the worst aspects of her terrifying world, an arrogant young woman who thinks she knows everything and is completely wrong, and a weary older woman beginning to see how her judgment has been warped by her traumatic experiences. Readers of the trilogy follow a similar path; by the end of The Fifth Season we think we have a handle on what's going on, only to have it all entirely upended in The Obelisk Gate. Jemisin is a tremendously talented writer on every level and she's at the top of her game here. I love books that beat me up and take my lunch money, and this one left me bruised, breathless, and desperate for the final volume. —Rose Fox, senior reviews editor

Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy, trans. by Tim Parks

If you were a big math nerd and you were to graph Fleur Jaeggy’s Sweet Days of Discipline, with “intensity” on the y-axis and “wonder” on the x-axis, it’d be off the charts. Set in a Swiss boarding school, it’s narrated by 14-year-old Eve (“I ate an apple and walked. I was looking for solitude, and perhaps the absolute.”), who becomes obsessed with a new arrival in her isolated life, 15-year-old Frédérique.The novel is eerie and surprising, but because it’s only 101 pages and because Eve is prone to making short, declarative (the y-axis intensity) declarations—“Many of the girls possess diaries. With little brass studs. With keys. They think they possess their lives.”—all these little cracks open up between the sentences, and the reader gets the sense that Eve is eliding something. When you finish, you are immediately compelled to go back to figure out what secrets Eve is hiding in her narration (the x-axis wonder). The setting and mood of suspension will remind readers of The Magic Mountain, and the story is sort of like if you squeezed Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels down to their essence. But, like all great books, it’s really like nothing else. It’s like itself. —Gabe Habash, deputy reviews editor

John Aubrey: My Own Life by Ruth Scurr

The best book I read this year mixes nonfiction and fiction in a—possibly not wholly unique—but unusual and imaginative way. Despite its title, John Aubrey: My Own Life is not by anyone named John Aubrey, but author Ruth Scurr. Aubrey was a 17th-century English historian, amateur scientist, and author remembered for his compilation of short biographies, Brief Lives, and friendships with more famous people like Thomas Hobbes. One thing he was not was a diarist, but Scurr has taken his various published and unpublished writings about himself, edited them into diary-like entries, and assembled the fragments into a chronological narrative. The result reads like a firsthand encounter with history, narrated in a strikingly plain and undemonstrative tone, even as you know that it’s actually a creation original to the 21st century. Throughout the book, Aubrey—via Scurr—is not only recording the then-topical events of his own era, but also looking back at history as he perceived it, investigating Roman ruins and offering one of the first plausible explanations for the building of Stonehenge. In my favorite entry, Aubrey makes note of a new trend in homebuilding: “three new houses with glass are being built. Soon it will be all over the country.”  —Everett Jones, reviews editor

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

The best book I read in 2016 hasn’t been published yet. Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister (Sourcebooks, March 2017) is historical fiction at its best: a seamless mash-up of famous personages, fictional characters, the historical record, and the author’s imagination that deftly places me in another time and place: 1850s-1860s Chicago. In Girl in Disguise, Macallister, the author of another favorite read of mine, The Magician’s Lie, tells the story of Kate Warne, the first woman detective hired by the famed Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Because not much is known about Warne, thanks to Mrs. O’Leary’s cow and the ensuing Fire of 1871, Macallister takes a lot of creative license in recounting Warne’s adventures as a master of disguise and duplicity. But the most incredible exploit recounted in these pages really did happen: Warne protected Abraham Lincoln by accompanying him as he made his way by train to his inauguration through a divided nation and disguising him at one point as an invalid. Stories like this from the historical record provide such rich pickings for novelists: I am always gratified when a someone like Macallister takes full advantage and writes such a rollicking tale. —Claire Kirch, senior correspondent, Midwest

Prince of Cats by Ronald Wimberly

Ron Wimberly. DC/Vertigo, $16.99 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-4012-2068-6

Wimberley’s hip-hop reimagining of Romeo and Juliet through the eyes of Tybalt was a treasure when it first came out in a tiny version four years ago. The remastered, oversized edition that Image released this year gives this book the impact it deserves. Wimberley effortlessly mixes Shakespeare’s verse with modern references and rhymes and the art leaps off the page. It’s the rare recasting that illuminates both the source and the new filter, while giving a side player in world literature a bold new role. While comics have expanded to every topic, it’s still invigorating to see a high concept pulled off so flawlessly. To put it in the most blurbable possible way, it’s Hamilton for comics. —Heidi MacDonald, comics editor

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

It feels a bit like cheating to select my favorite novel by perhaps the greatest living American fiction writer—Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison—as the best book I read this year, but it also seems thematically appropriate. This is a year, after all, that found Marvel's Luke Cage reading Ralph Ellison in a Harlem barbershop on Netflix and increased activism from movements like #BlackLivesMatter in the face of police violence against African-Americans. Returning to the novel for the first time since college, I read this tale of a young African-American man's attempt to comprehend the inherited memory of his heritage in the era of Emmett Till in a harrowing light—one that reminded me that our country's problems, and the misdirected backlash against them, are frighteningly old and painfully constant. Yet in the face of these plagues, Morrison offers hope in the form of the protagonist's aunt, an old woman of great dignity and spiritual depth. "I wish I'd a knowed more people," she tells her nephew in a moment of great darkness. "I would of loved 'em all." It is a code America would do well to honor. —John Maher, assistant news editor

A Beam of Light by Andrea Camilleri, trans. by Stephen Sartarelli

Sometimes you just want to escape, if only for a few hours. Every year—usually on vacation, away or at home—I read the Andrea Camilleri book in the Inspector Montalbano Mystery series that Penguin published that season. Each time, I know what I’m getting: it’s familiar; it’s like a palate cleanser before some other intense literary adventure. But A Beam of Light is different, and may be Camilleri’s most reflective and moving installment to date. He weaves together threads from several previous novels, including xenophobia, illegal immigration, arms trafficking—and regarding Inspector Montalbano himself, there’s infidelity, and a heartbreaking story of adoption… the book’s true beam of light. It may not be the best book I read this year, but it certainly left a surprisingly lasting impression. —Mark Rotella, senior editor

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

This spring I read Maggie Nelson's Bluets during a trip to the beach, and then read it again on the way back. The slim book is structured as a meditation on the color blue, but it reads like an exercise of catharsis for Nelson as she gets over a lost love. Structured as propositions (in the philosophical sense) the book's 240 numbered sections range from a couple pages to a single sentence. Nelson's broken relationship and the details of her life emerge slowly through a litany of facts and anecdotes about the color blue. We learn about lapis lazuli mines in Afghanistan, where the precious stones have been mined for millennia, and Stéphane Mallarmé's obsession with l'Azur (it turns out, many artists have fixated on the color). But we also learn about the paralytic friend Nelson helps care for whose "condition has bestowed upon her the quality of an oracle," and about Nelson's ex-lover who wore a light blue shirt the last time they saw each other and how he would wear the shirt later with his new lover. The brilliance of Bluets is Nelson's ability to move freely from whimsy, to confession, to deep erudition, and back again to whimsy. Read it and then read it again. There are a lot of hidden gems (aquamarine gems) in this tiny book. —Seth Satterlee, reviews editor

The North Water by Ian McGuire

Wow, what a horrifically bleak book. I mean, it’s a whaling novel set in the mid 19th century, and so you know it’s not going to be a real giggle fest, but just in case there were any doubts, the story begins with a really bad dude named Drax raping and murdering a boy with all the emotion you or I’d expend using an ATM. Then Drax hops aboard the Volunteer, a whaling vessel sent on a doomed expedition to the arctic that doubles as a redemption quest for Patrick, a disgraced surgeon hooked on opium. Drax and Patrick do not get along. People are killed. Whales are flensed. Polar bears are abused. It is a savage, nasty, and yet beautiful book, the kind of thing you might expect from William Gay if he ever hit the high seas. —Jonathan Segura, executive editor

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

Published in 2014, this book had been on my to-read list for a while. When I recently pulled the galley from my hoard of books (yes, I’ve had it for that long), I had no idea the ride that awaited me. While I’m not a big fan of horror movies, I like it in my books just fine, and a horror story with Japanese elements is just icing on the cake. The opening scene reads like you’re watching a J-horror movie and it only gets better from there. The narrator of the book, Okiku, is an onryuu, a Japanese spirit of vengeance. Her particular wheelhouse is child murderers. She gets mixed up with a boy named Tarquin when she realizes that a dangerous spirit is attached to him. I really enjoyed the disjointed narration style and the cultural aspects that get mixed in throughout the novel. A sequel came out in 2015 and I can’t wait to read it! —Drucilla Shultz, assistant editor

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I am reading The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood's groundbreaking 1985 dystopian novel about a near-future world in which environmental degradation and war have turned America into a repressive, deeply classist state. Most women have also been rendered infertile, threatening a population crisis. The government's solution is the Handmaids, a breeder class, valued only for their wombs. Atwood reveals this dark world to us through the eyes of one Handmaid, Offred, who, as Trump's inauguration looms, has more to tell us than, perhaps, we'd like to hear. —Craig Morgan Teicher, director of digital operations