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I hesitate to say it, but the one word that characterizes my best books of 2016 list is "serious." These books aren't grim and they're certainly not dull, but collectively they're serious about tackling big, sometimes difficult subjects — and they're also distinguished by seriously good writing. Here are 10 that you shouldn't miss.

The BOTS Act of 2016 is now on its way to President Obama's desk, after both houses of Congress approved the legislation that seeks to widen access to online ticket sales and foil scalpers who try to corner the market.

The ban applies to ticket sales for any public event that can be attended by 200 or more people; it targets software that routinely defeats attempts by venues to try to limit the number of tickets one buyer can purchase.

I first got to taste Blue Seal ice cream 13 years ago. I was 24 years old and teaching English in a tiny mountain town called Furukawa, which means "Old River." One weekend, some Canadian friends and I flew to Okinawa, Japan's southern-most island.Once we arrived in downtown Naha, Okinawa's capital city, my friends decided to dine at a steakhouse. And as the only vegetarian in the group, I was on my own. As I wandered down Kokusai-dori, or International Street, I saw the welcoming orange and blue entrance of a Blue Seal ice cream shop.

President-elect Donald Trump's latest Twitter target is a local union official who questioned the billionaire's account of how many jobs he saved at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis.

Trump has previously used social media to browbeat companies that move jobs offshore as well as entertainers whose acts he finds tiresome.

On Wednesday, Trump took aim at Chuck Jones, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1999.

Trump wrote on Twitter that Jones "has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!"

The surprise find of smallpox DNA in a child mummy from the 17th century could help scientists start to trace the mysterious history of this notorious virus.

Smallpox currently only exists in secure freezers, after a global vaccination campaign eradicated the virus in the late 1970s. But much about this killer remains unknown, including its origins.

In 2015, Lida Xing was visiting a market in northern Myanmar when a salesman brought out a piece of amber about the size of a pink rubber eraser. Inside, he could see a couple of ancient ants and a fuzzy brown tuft that the salesman said was a plant.

As soon as Xing saw it, he knew it wasn't a plant. It was the delicate, feathered tail of a tiny dinosaur.

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Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

The question caused a storm on social media last week: Would a giraffe wear a tie at the top or the bottom of its neck?

To Donald Trump, one of President Obama's major failings was his refusal to identify "radical Islam" specifically as America's top adversary.

"Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead this country," Trump told a crowd in Ohio in August. "Anyone who cannot condemn the hatred, oppression and violence of radical Islam lacks the moral clarity to serve as our president."

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck about 100 miles off the Northern California coast on Thursday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the earthquake, originally reported to have a magnitude of 6.8, wasn't powerful enough to generate a destructive tsunami. No damage or injuries were reported.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

There are plenty of recent stories involving white police officers who have shot and killed black men, including some who are on trial for those shootings. Then there's the case of a white cop who did not shoot a black man holding a gun — and it may have cost him his job.

It started with a 911 call for help in Weirton, W.Va., on May 6 at 2:51 a.m. An emergency dispatcher in turn put out a call for an officer.

"Had a female stating they needed someone right now. She sounded hysterical," the dispatcher said. "Hung up the phone, will not answer on call back."

Giraffes are dying at an alarming rate and could face extinction if the trend doesn't reverse, according to a new conservation report on animal populations worldwide.

The report was released by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which maintains the so-called Red List of species threatened with extinction.

Husband-and-wife duo Carl and Angel Larsen own their own film production company in St Cloud, Minn. They get calls to make commercials and film live events, and they want to start filming weddings.

But they don't want to work for any same-sex couples.

They believe marriage should be between one man and one woman. The problem is, Minnesota law forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, and they could face heavy penalties if they turn away same-sex couples who want to hire them.

REBROADCAST: Mohsin Hamid

9 hours ago

Mohsin Hamid has lived in Pakistan, the U.S. and Britain. His fiction and nonfiction explores the contradictions and complexities of globalization.

His works include the essay collection “Discontent and its Civilizations” and the novels “How to Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia” and “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”

We spoke to Hamid live at Literary Arts in downtown Portland last spring.

After 14 years in Congress, U.S. Rep. John Kline will retire this January at the end of his seventh term.

The Republican congressman represented Minnesota's 2nd District just south of the Twin Cities.

Over the course of his career he has been a staunch advocate of gun rights and charter schools and a staunch opponent of tax increases.

A decorated Marine, he served on the Armed Services Committee and was chair of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. He spoke with MPR's Cathy Wurzer, reflecting on his time in Congress.

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