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

From Deb Caletti to Rebecca Makkai to Lidia Yuknavitch | Six Essential Women Fiction Writers, Jul. 2015, Pt. 1

Caletti, Deb. The Secrets She Keeps. Bantam. Jul. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780345548108. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780345548115. WOMEN’S FICTION
A National Book Award finalist for her YA fiction whose first adult novel was 2013’s bone-rattling CALETTIHe’s Gone, Caletti returns with another adult work featuring three women who gather at their aunt’s now crumbling Nevada “divorce ranch,” where in the 1950s high-society women and Hollywood celebs stayed to secure quickie divorces. Past, present, and the strength of female friendship blend in a work billed for the Kristin Hannah–Liane Moriarty crowd; Caletti persuasively introduced He’s Gone to a standing-room-only crowd at ALA Midwinter a few years back.

Hall, Louisa. Speak. Ecco: HarperCollins. Jul. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780062391193. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062391216. LITERARY
A young Puritan woman traveling to the New World with a husband she doesn’t love. A Jewish refugee and computer scientist reaching out to his distant wife. A traumatized girl who speaks with an intelligent software program. A jailed Silicon Valley whiz kid. And Alan Turing, writing letters to a best friend’s mother. All are trying desperately to communicate, even as the gap between humans and machines echoes the gap between humans themselves. I’m excited about this book because Hall’s debut, The Carriage House, was so memorable. Fingers crossed.

Hashimi, Nadia. When the Moon Is Low. Morrow. Jul. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9780062369574. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062369628. LITERARY/FAMILY LIFE
Hashimi’s parents left Afghanistan in the 1970s, before the Soviet invasion, and she never saw the country until 2002. A strong sense of legacy allows her to write intimately about the country, first in The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, about an ancient custom that allows a girl to be regarded as the family’s son, hence sparing one such girl during the reign of the Taliban, and now in this new novel. Here, when her husband is killed by the Taliban, Fereiba decides that she must flee with her family to her sister in England. They get as far as Greece, where her teenage son makkaidisappears.

Makkai, Rebecca. Music for Wartime: Stories. Viking. Jul. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780525426691. $26.95. SHORT STORIES
Makkai triumphed with her first two novels, The Borrower (starring a librarian!) and The Hundred-Year House. She’s also been anthologized four times in The Best American Short Stories. All of which bodes well for this collection. The stories can’t be easily pigeonholed—in one, a reality show producer gets two contestants to fall in love even as her own love life falters, while in another, a composer records the folk songs in a village that’s about to be destroyed. But they promise to be heartfelt.

Tessaro, Kathleen. Rare Objects. Harper. Jul. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780062357540. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062357564. HISTORICAL FICTION
In 1930s Boston, first-generation Irish immigrant Maeve Fanning is a little too wild for her widowed mother (is it all those men or the bootleg gin?), which leads to an involuntary stay at a psychiatric hospital. Once out, she works at an offbeat antiques shop and encounters the gloriously rich Van der Laar family—including Diana Van der Laar, whom she knows from the hospital. Diana and her charming brother James introduce Maeve to a glittery new world, but all YUKNAVITCHthat glitters is not gold, and soon Maeve is on a mission to save herself. Tessaro spun her own gold with the New York Times best-selling The Perfume Collector and could do it again.

Yuknavitch, Lidia. The Small Backs of Children. Harper. Jul. 2015. 208p. ISBN 9780062383242. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062383266. LITERARY
In war-shattered Eastern Europe, a photographer captures the image of a girl fleeing her home and family as they go up in flames. Because the photographer’s deeply depressed best friend is particularly moved by the photograph, her husband determines to lift her spirits by rescuing the girl and bringing her to America. That’s when the questions start: Who wants what? What’s the story, really? Do post-Communist East and capitalist West even talk the same language? I kept returning to Yuknavitch’s small-press Dora: A Headcase, a fresh and original read, and have her new book high on my much-anticipated list.

Share
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.