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

Best Books 2012: Poetry

Greenbaum, Jessica. The Two Yvonnes. Princeton Univ. (Series of Contemporary Poets). ISBN 9780691156620. $29.95; pap. ISBN 9780691156637. $12.95.
While Greenbaum finds it “odd that just one key/ let me in my front door/ and into my life every day,” her fluidly, even propulsively written second collection is itself a splendid key to everyday experience. (LJ 10/1/12)

Hong, Cathy Park. Engine Empire. Norton. ISBN 9780393082845. $24.95; eISBN 9780393239263.
Hong’s jazzy, jagged lines run through three different but surprisingly parallel worlds: a wittily rendered Wild West (“O boomtown’s got lots of sordor”), a contemporary Chinese city (“Shangdu, My Artful Boomtown!”), and a far-future megalopolis (“Recall the frontier inside us”). (LJ 4/1/12)

Powell, D.A. Useless Landscape; or, A Guide for Boys. Graywolf. ISBN 9781555976057. $22.
Powell’s assured fifth collection, centered on California’s agricultural Central Valley, effectively integrates social and historical reflection with an adolescent’s sexual awakening (“I had a man that pressed me down/ into the soil. I was that man. I was that town”).

Shaughnessy, Brenda. Our Andromeda. Copper Canyon. ISBN 9781556594106. pap. $16.
Shaughnessy lets rip fast, emotionally furious yet (as ever) supremely crafted poems that define harrowing aspects of her own motherhood while bringing us along as she reimagines the world: “We’ve only just ­arrived here,/ rightly, whirling and weeping,/ freely, breathing, brightly born.”

Vap, Sarah. Arco Iris. Saturnalia, dist. by Univ. Pr. of New England. ISBN 9780983368649. pap. $15.
Vap’s long-lined, liquid, pithily delivered poetry takes us on a real journey—“the continent spread apart then the continent condensed around us”—while reminding us that the past is always there (“We will never stop the ghosts wailed”). ­Astonishing.

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Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.