LJ Best Books 2016

A jury of our peers discussed, debated, disagreed, and finally declared LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles. VISIT THE WEBSITE

A biohazard that's good for you

It arrived in a clear plastic wrapper, as if the contents would contaminate my fingers. "WTF?" I wondered as I sorted through my mountain of health and medicine galleys. I've seen a lot of gimmicks in my day—whoopee cushions, cookies, and disgustingly racist figurines—but this biohazard gag was working for me. The cover, depicting the author behind an ostensibly locked door in a hospital setting, drew me in further. Then I did what every first-time writer wants a book review editor to do, though I rarely have the time or inclination, and started to read the book. That's right: I stopped dead in the middle of a mad-dash, slightly overdue assigning frenzy and read. At my desk. At three in the afternoon on a Tuesday. And here's the kicker—I didn't fall asleep. In My Pet Virus: The True Story of a Rebel Without a Cure (October, Tarcher), Shawn Decker doesn't display the heady language of a Nick Flynn (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City), but he's got an addictive voice nonetheless. His memoir of growing up a hemophiliac with HIV lacks all the self-pity and self-loathing many readers would expect. Humor is the glue that holds this too-brief twist on the coming-of-age story together. For more on Decker, don't miss LJ's annual Editors' Picks cover story in the September 1 issue, where you can also get the scoop on Roger Woolhouse's Locke: A Biography (Cambridge), Wangari Maathai's Unbowed: A Memoir (Knopf), J.M. Ledgard's Giraffe (Penguin Press), HélèneGrimaud's Wild Harmonies: A Life of Music and Wolves (Riverhead), and Marcus Samuelsson's The Soul of a New Cuisine (Wiley).—Heather McCormack