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

Keep Those First Novels Coming: The Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

“We write about our shared past to understand our shared present,” declared Margaret Wrinkle when she was awarded the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize by the Center for Fiction on scallyDecember 11 at New York’s Union League Club. Wrinkle’s award winner, Wash, darkly illuminates the treatment of slaves in America; as a white woman born in the segregated South, she recognizes that history never stops happening and that literature is a terrific tool for bringing us into the minds of others.

The same could be said of all the finalists: Lea Carpenter’s Eleven Days (Knopf), an aching tale about a Navy SEAL son gone missing in the Middle East; Marjorie Celona’s Y (Free Pr.), about a woman’s bittersweet quest to determine why she was abandoned as a child; Christopher Hacker’s wisely entertaining The Morels (Soho), whose protagonist has written a book that upends his relationship with his wife and child; Mitchell S. Jackson’s The Residue Years (Bloomsbury USA), a searing look at race and poverty in America; Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth: Crown), an LJ Best Book that plumbs the depths of despair during Chechnya’s protracted conflict; Kirstin Scott’s Motherlunge (New Issues), a discovery for me about sex, love, motherhood, and sibling rivalry; and Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go (Penguin Pr.), a sparkling tale of family reconciliation in Ghana after a wayward patriarch’s death.

Every one of these novels is well worth reading and every author well worth watching; the Center for Fiction always produces an excellent first fiction list, among its other fine work. A final note to a tremendous evening: the Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Field of Fiction was given to Knopf Vice President, Editorial Director Robin Desser, with a gracious and grateful Edwidge Danticat presenting. Among the revelations from this editor, whose authors range from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and David Guterson to Alan Hollinghurst and Jhumpa Lahiri: she got her first job in publishing because her librarian mother pulled out an ad from Library Journal.

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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.