Best books of 2016

Shelby Wasil|Staff Artist
Shelby Wasil|Staff Artist
Shelby Wasil|Staff Artist

The Midnight Assassin – Sean Ray

It’s 1885 and the Texan town of Austin is on the verge of reinventing itself, turning into a diamond in the West. But then, the unthinkable happens. A serial killer has begun breaking into homes and murdering servant girls. And not just any serial killer: America’s first serial killer.

This non-fiction book by Texan journalist Skip Hollandsworth is a positively spellbinding tale, mixing narrative style with a factual history, presenting a compelling true story. Fans of the book “The Devil in the White City” will feel right at home with “The Midnight Assassin.”

Perhaps the most admirable aspect of the book is Hollandsworth’s courage in facing the ugly side of American history. The serial killer, popularly known as the Servant Girl Annihilator, targeted only African-Americans at first, leading to minimal police response. Hollandsworth analyzes this racist past in detail, rather than sweeping it under the rug. In a section that will definitely resonate with modern-day readers, he examines the replacement of serial killers with mass shooters in public consciousness of fear.

I read “The Midnight Assassin” over the course of a beach vacation. Anything that can rip me away from the water and boardwalk that long is certainly an accomplishment in literature.

Bitch Planet – Zachary Landau

I only just read this a few weeks ago, but I was floored by just how good the first volume of this series is. Unapologetic in its message, “Bitch Planet” is the perfect release valve for the frustrated feminist who is too tired of the discourse and just want to watch women be unquestionably amazing. The characters are immediately likable in their campiness (the hologram that watches over the prisoners on the titular planet being a particular favorite of mine in how she dramatically changes in appearance and tone). The premise, as ridiculous as it is, demonstrates an understanding of the social complexities surrounding our hyper-masculine and patriarch-worshipping society in a wholly compelling way.

Something is Rotten in Fettig – Nicole Prieto

This Swiftian satire by Duquesne alumnus Jere Krakoff features an outrageous cast of characters confronting the fallacies of the criminal justice system. Leopold Plotkin is an unassuming kosher butcher just trying to live according to his family’s bleak expectations. But he is soon embroiled in a bizarre national controversy involving mud, a window and excellent butchery skills. With only a few friends and allies at his back, and both the system and court of public opinion strongly against him, Plotkin’s only hope is to obtain an unlikely acquittal from a crime designed for him to be accused of breaking.

Krakoff’s writing and drawings are precise, humorous jabs at every conceivable facet and absurdity in the legal world. From poorly funded public defenders to bureaucratic Big Law firms, Krakoff leaves no stone unturned or un-mocked. The work is split into several digestible chapters, each featuring an exaggerated drawing of relevant characters. It is a quick, enjoyable read that anyone contemplating a legal career may want to pick up. But future readers beware: The only major drawback to the work is how uncomfortable it is guaranteed to make you feel — both at how often Plotkin is unjustly abused and how effortlessly Krakoff’s satire mirrors our own world.


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