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

Ginsberg, Macdonald, Seidel, Young | Barbara’s Poetry Picks, Feb. 2016, Pt. 1

Ginsberg, Allen. Wait Till I’m Dead: Uncollected Poems. Grove. Feb. 2016. 464p. ed. by Bill Morgan. ISBN 9780802124531. $22. POETRY
“Rainy night on Union Square, full moon. Want more poems? Wait till I’m dead.” So proclaimed Allen Ginsberg at 3:30 in the morning on August 8, 1990. And now, nearly 20 years after his ginsbergdeath, in the first Ginsberg book since Collected Poems was updated in 2006, here are more poems. Published in obscure journals or found in letters, the 103 chronologically arranged poems included here span Ginsberg’s entire career, from the 1940s through the 1990s, and include notes from the poet himself.  Editor Morgan, who has written extensively on Ginsberg and edited other Ginsberg volumes, offers a contextualizing foreword. With a photograph of the poet opening each section.

Macdonald, Helen. Shaler’s Fish. Atlantic Monthly. Feb. 2016. 78p. ISBN 9780802124630. $22. POETRY
Macdonald claimed the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Costa Book of the Year Award, not to mention New York Times best-selling status, for H Is for Hawk, a meditation on her exorcising grief by training a fierce goshawk named Mabel. Now she writes a monthly nature column for the New York Times T Magazine. Before all that glorious fame, she was a poet, and this first book has never been published in America. Not surprisingly, it probes the natural as well as the human world in vibrant verse, as suggested by these lines: “What is a hand for, but to be held? / It is raining in Georgia it is raining all over the world//…every moment describes some other music/ and I cannot remember banality ever existing.” With a 12-city tour to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Chicago,  Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.

Seidel, Frederick. Widening Income Inequality: Poems. Farrar. Feb. 2016. 160p. ISBN 9780374250843. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780374715076. POETRY
Visually unerring, linguistically sparing, sometimes controversial for his celebration of the privileged life and his magnificent maleness,  a National Book Critics Circle Award winner and Griffin International Poetry Prize short lister, Seidel has created a specific place for himself in American poetry. This rhymed bit of cultural and sexual history ranges from Robespierre to Obamacare and is that unusual thing: a poetry book to be argued about, even by those who don’t always read poetry.

Young, Kevin. Blue Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems, 1995–2015. Knopf. Jan. 2016. Feb. 2016. 608p. ISBN 9780385351508. $30. POETRY
While a student at Harvard, Young joined the Dark Room Collective, a community of African American writers; his first book of poetry, Most Way Home (1995), was selected for the National Poetry Series by Lucille Clifton, while 2003’s Jelly Roll was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Paterson Poetry Prize. This hefty volume, including the best of his work plus uncollected poems, ranges over his 20-year career and would be a good place for those new to his vivid writing.

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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.