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

Special Edition: What BEA Read | What We’re Reading

So dear readers and LJ blog-watchers, you might have heard of a little event called Book Expo America that went on last week? And perhaps you heard tell of a few parties and corollary events going on in New York at the same time? Well, welcome to the post-BEA version of “What We’re Reading,” where I randomly assail strangers (waiting in line to see an author or panel; digging for change at the food court; signing their own books at the Freedom to Read Foundation’s 45th anniversary party; stopping to check their smart phones on the way to the next lecture—you get it, right? No one is safe!) and ask them what they’re reading! So let’s begin, in chronological (sorta) and alphabetical (kinda) order. Next week, my colleagues at LJ/School Library Journal will tell you about their great BEA finds. In the meantime, here’s what BEA was reading!

What Speed Daters Really Like

Librarian-themed events were quite popular at BEA, and when we spotted a long line of librarians waiting to enter a “speed dating” book event, we pounced.

HillermanMarcia Cook, Wayne Senior Center Program Coordinator in Wayne, PA, told us how Tony Hillerman’s daughter Anne Hillerman is continuing her late father’s “Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito” series with Rock with Wings (Harper).

iRead Book Tours coordinator Laura Fabiani has already read 90 books this year (just by May!). Most recent and recommended on her list is The Storyteller of Marrakesh (Norton) by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya.

Princeton Public Library (NJ) Readers Services Librarian Kristin Friberg helms a book group at her branch; she was happy to report that Laura Dave’s Eight Hundred Grapes (S. & S.) was a welcome break from the two “harrowing” titles the book club had previously read and discussed.

Lynn Gardner of the Bristol, CT, Public Library stood up for graphic novels with her vote for Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far-Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth (Image Comics) by Kurtis J. Wiebe (text) & Roc Upchurch & Stjepan Šejić (illus), saying that is was was a “lot of fun” and good “female-centric reading.”

hausfrauBaltimore County Public Library’s Lori Hench, who contributes to the BCPL’s “Between the Covers” blog, liked reading The Turner House (Houghton Harcourt), Angela Flournoy’s Detroit-set debut; Kate White’s thriller The Wrong Man (Harper); and Hausfrau (Random) by Jill Alexander Essbaum.

Though it’s not her usual cup of tea, Katherine Manion of the City of Urbandale (IA) Library picked up a copy of Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time (Ballantine) at the airport and was already halfway through it. “She’s a good writer, she conveys emotions well,” Manion noted.

Karen Muller from the Main Library in Hillsboro, OR, said that Paula McLain’s historical fiction The Paris Wife (Ballantine) was one of her favorite reads, so she was going to try the author’s July 2015 title based on the life of adventuress/aviatrix Beryl Markham, Circling the Sun (Ballantine).

Karen Shah of Pittsburgh’s Northland Public Library recommended two historical reads: Erik Larson’s nonfiction Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (Crown) and Steve Berry’s novel The Patriot Threat (Minotaur: St. Martin’s), his tenth “Cotton Malone” title.

heaberlinNorton, MA Public Library librarian Amanda Viana went all reader-advisory on us about an upcoming book from Ballantine, Black-Eyed Susans: A Novel of Suspense by Julia Heaberlin, saying it was like early, pre–Gone Girl Gillian Flynn. Heaberlin’s title is due out in Aug. 2015.

Ruth Vontell of the Bristol, CT, Public Library had a trio of varied titles to recommend: the historical novel (and book one of a trilogy) The Midwife’s Revolt (Lake Union) by Jodi Daynard; urban-lit title Kiss the Ring (Touchstone) by Meesha Mink; and a fictionalized biography of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Melanie Benjamin’s The Aviator’s Wife (Delacorte).

YA and LGBTQ fiction author (How To Repair a Mechanical Heart, We Won’t Feel a Thing) J.C. Lillis was dressed so brightly and funkily that we had to stop her on the way to a panel and ask what she’s reading. She raved about YA author A.S. King’s upcoming (Sept. 2015) I Crawl Through It and recent Ask the Passengers, both from Little, Brown. Another favorite is Karelia Stetz-Waters, whose title Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before (Ooligan Pr.), Lillis deems “true” and “lyrical.”

Emboldened by our success with accosting people, we sat down in the food court next to John Barry, who works with Clark Worldwide Transportation, a company that moves books and periodicals around the globe. We told him we work with a John Berry and asked Mr. Barry what he is reading. He enjoyed David Nasaw’s The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (Penguin Pr.), about the political paterfamilias Joe. He liked that the book was basically a “history of the 20th century”; he disliked the high pricetag ($49.95). Librarians take heed!

The Pre–Shout ‘n Share Crowd

furiouslyhappySpeaking of accosting, we only had a few moments to spare before this year’s “Shout ‘n Share” panel, moderated by LJ Fiction Editor Wilda Williams, began, but we grabbed a couple good ones, all nonfiction—interesting, no?

As she works with teens and young adults, Ashley Chasse of Boston College really got to apply the knowledge gleaned from So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (Riverhead) by Jon Ronson. She is also stoked to read the latest memoir from Jenny Lawson (aka the Bloggess), Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, which is due out from Flatiron in Sept. 2015.

Freelance sports journalist Bill Fields had several nonfiction choices: he recently finished David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers (S.&S.) about aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur, and Erik Larson’s Dead Wake (Crown). On his TBR list is New York Times sports columnist Bill Pennington’s Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius (Houghton Harcourt), which released in Apr. 2015.

Diane L. Mohr of the DC Public Library had enough time to wax eloquent about Elizabeth Alexander’s memoir, The Light of the World (Grand Central).

New Rochelle (NY) Public Library’s Annick Rodriguez also talked up a good memoir: Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape (Morrow) by Jenna Miscavige Hill with Lisa Pulitzer. The author’s uncle was one of the founding fathers of Scientology and Rodriguez said that made the book especially riveting.

Diversity Rules!

tinypretty The people spilling out of the “We Need Diverse Books” panel were excited to share their WWRs (and praise the good work of School Library Journal’s Executive Editor Kathy Ishizuka and Reviews Senior Editor Shelley Diaz).

Jenn Baker, We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) Social Media Manager, just began reading Michelle Alexander’s 2009 nonfiction titled The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New Pr.). “I have a feeling I’ll be pissed when I’m done reading it,” she said.

Author and Cake Literary doyenne Sona Charaipotra (Tiny Pretty Things with coauthor Dhonielle J. Clayton; see Lamar Giles’s WWR below) is transfixed by Marieke Nijkamp’s This Is Where It Ends, a YA about a school shooting coming out in Jan. 2016 from Sourcebooks Fire.

WNDB’s VP of Communication Lamar Giles was excited about reading Tiny Pretty Things (HarperTeen) by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle J. Clayton, which examines the ugly underbelly of life and learning at a Manhattan ballet academy.

novikuprootedThe blogger and budding author known as Kaye M. (Watercolor Moods) also had big love for Tiny Pretty Things, and much admiration for Naomi Novik’s stand-alone, Uprooted (Del Rey), which she said was feminist.

Author and blogger Shveta Thakrar likes Carrie Ryan’s Daughter of Deep Silence (Dutton) and Renee Ahdieh’s reimagining of the Arabian Nights fables, The Wrath and the Dawn (Putnam).

Author and illustrator Stephanie Ruble enjoys the work of illustrators especially, such as Vanessa Brantley-Newton, who worked with Thelma Lynne Godin on The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen (Lee Low), and Sara Ogilvie, who illustrated Anna Kemp’s Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes (S.&S.). Another kids’ book author/illustrator whose work Ruble enjoys is Debbie Ridpath Ohi (Where Are My Books?, S.&S.)

Wine, Manhattanhenge…and Books

After BEA proper ended (and before some sturdier folk braved BookCon), we attended a 45th-anniversary celebration of the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) at the beautiful Scholastic Atrium. Authors Jeff Smith (Bone), David Levithan (Boy Meets Boy, Another Day), and Carolyn Mackler (The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things) all spoke and signed copies of their books; wine and snacks were served; and Manhattanhenge happened ‘round about when the party ended. Here’s what a few attendees were reading:

H Is for HawkMichael Giordano, Event Planner, Scholastic Books: “The Dresden Files” series by Jim Butcher (Roc)

Jeff Golick, freelance editor: Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine (Vintage); Delicious Foods (Little, Brown) by James Hannaham (“Crack cocaine is a character in it”)

Barbara Jones, Executive Director, FTRF: loves the “fabulous” works by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and just reread (“I do this every year!”) Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

David Levithan, author: H Is for Hawk (Jonathan Cape) by Helen Macdonald; The Porcupine of Truth (Arthur A. Levine) by Bill Konigsberg

Carolyn Mackler, author: Judy Blume’s first adult novel in 17 years, In the Unlikely Event (Knopf)

Monster.myersMiles, a ten-year-old attendee in a cool fedora: Walter Dean Myers’s Monster (HarperCollins)

Daniel José Older, musician and author (“Bone Street Rumba” urban fantasy series; “ghost noir” debut Salsa Nocturna: Stories): More Happy Than Not (Soho Teen) by Adam Silvera; Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down (Holt) (“courageous and beautiful,” according to Older)

Kate Phillips, International House: Mary Roach’s Gulp (Norton); The Song of Achilles (Bloomsbury) by Madeline Miller

Jeff Smith, cartoonist and author: The Beatles’ Let It Be (33⅓ #12) by Steve Matteo (Bloomsbury Academic); The Secret History of Star Wars (Legacy) by Michael Kaminski; Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung and others (Jung’s last work, published by many, including Dell in 1968); and Kate Beaton’s The Princess and the Pony (Arthur A. Levine)

Rachel Smith, Sesame Workshop: The One (HarperTeen) by Kiera Cass, book three in author’s “The Selection” series

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Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email: efrench@mediasourceinc.com, Twitter: @lizefrench