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

Short Takes | July 2013

Behrens, Ken & Cameron Cox. Peterson Reference Guide to Seawatching: Eastern Waterbirds in Flight. Houghton Harcourt. (Peterson Reference Guides). Sept. 2013. 448p. photogs. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780547237398. $35. REF

Why should hawks get all the attention? That’s the bird call from these fervid fans of migrating eastern waterbirds, from geese to gulls to loons, in their new tracking guide modeled after the seminal Hawks in Flight ( LJ 3/1/88). Following an introduction to define their scope, the authors present a celebratory 500-page section of species accounts, on average two pages each, complete with black-and-white identification photos and migration maps. The latter demonstrate waterbirds’ travels beyond the coast to the Great Lakes, the Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico, and inland lakes and rivers. An index and bibliography are also provided. VERDICT A handy tool for seabird spotters.

Diabetes in America: A Geographic & Demographic Analysis of an Epidemic. Grey House. Health in America. 2013. 1300p. photogs. maps. ed. by Laura Mars. ISBN 9781619251724. pap. $350. ebk. ISBN 9781619251731 REF

In this first title in its planned “Health in America” series with this publisher, the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF), draws from its National Health Index database to offer compelling statistical profiles about the incidence and cost of diabetes on the national, state, and congressional-district level. Diabetes was chosen as the Forum’s inaugural topic since the condition, which has continued to have a disproportional impact on minorities, has reached epidemic proportions in this country and worldwide. This book is clearly intended as an advocacy tool, with key legislative contact information also listed in each profile. VERDICT An important and accessible reference about a health issue of national concern.

Gray, John. Baila! A Bibliographic Guide to Afro-Latin Dance Musics from Mambo to Salsa. African Diaspora. (Black Music Reference). 2013. 678p. ISBN 9780984413423. $124.95. REF

A comprehensive survey of the literature on Afro-Latin dance music known as musica bailable is the focus of this fourth volume in the series. Gray (Director, Black Arts Research Ctr., author of ten previous bibliographies, e.g., Fire Music ) offers annotated entries on general works, studies of specific genres (rhumba, mambo, salsa, etc.), musical instruments (maracas, timbales, bongos, etc.), and country/regions of origin and practice (Cuba, Chile, Australia, etc.), as well as listings of key biographical figures. All entries are fully annotated, cross-referenced, and indexed. VERDICT A critical compendium for Afro-Latin dance researchers and enthusiasts.

Lloyd, John & Others. 1,227 Quite Interesting Facts to Blow Your Socks Off. Norton. Sept. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780393241037. $15.95. REF

The authors of this fun-facts roundup are affiliated with the BBC quiz panel show QI (Quite Interesting), which has inspired several tie-ins already, including The Book of General Ignorance ( LJ 8/07) and The Second Book of General Ignorance , ( LJ 9/15/11), the latter employing a question-and-answer format to address such burning topics as how to milk a yak. As its title suggests, this new work is less structured in approach, although an index helps to discover such nuggets as “Mushrooms are more closely related to humans than [to] plants.” No source material is cited for these quite interesting facts, but perhaps that’s not quite the point. VERDICT Amusing fodder for trivia nuts.

Romero Salvadó, Francisco J. Historical Dictionary of the Spanish Civil War. Scarecrow. (Historical Dictionaries of War, Revolution, & Civil Unrest). 2013. 411p. illus. maps. bibliog. ISBN 9780810857841. $115; ebk. ISBN 9780810880092. REF

The Spanish Civil War has been subject to many interpretations, both romantic and revisionist. This title seeks to “avoid taking sides,” as series editor Woronoff puts it, and applies its just-the-facts format of chronology and A–Z cross-referenced entries on people, places, and things to this “most unique and peculiar event in modern history.” Title editor Romero Salvadó provides insightful context in his introductory essay, noting that “genuine academic analysis” was not even possible until the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. A bibliography is also provided, including mention of seminal works in this area by Paul Preston.VERDICT A solid reference work on a fascinating historical event.

Shelley, Fred M. Nation Shapes: The Story Behind the World’s Borders. ABC-CLIO. 2013. 636p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781610691055. $100. REF

While clearly marked on maps, the borders of the world’s countries are the source of much shifting and conflict. In this new reference work, Shelley (geography, Univ. of Oklahoma) details these boundary issues via country profiles organized under the world’s seven major regions: Europe, the Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southwest Asia and North Africa, East and Central Asia, South and Southeast Asia, and Australia and Oceania. In each regional section, an overview is followed by country entries detailing historical context and contemporary matters, with an overall index and bibliography provided. VERDICT A perceptive guide to geopolitical history and disputes.—Judy Quinn, formerly with Library Journal