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

Colson Whitehead, Emma Donoghue, & Diana Gabaldon | Audio in Advance September 2016 | Fiction

9780451473707__1467301317_58342Blackwell, Juliet. Letters from Paris. Tantor. ISBN 9781515954934. Read by Xe Sands.
Claire Broussard worked hard to escape her small Louisiana hometown, but now she returns home to care for her ailing grandmother. There, she unearths a beautiful sculpture that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II. At her grandmother’s urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the atelier where the sculpture was created. With the help of a passionate sculptor, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offer insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art. As Claire uncovers the unknown woman’s tragic fate, she begins to discover secrets—and a new love—of her own.

Bradley, Alan. Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d. (Flavia de Luce, Bk. 8). Books on Tape. ISBN 9780449807675. Read by Jayne Entwhistle.
In spite of being ejected from Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Canada, 12-year-old Flavia de Luce is excited to be sailing home to England. But she is greeted with unfortunate news: Her father has fallen ill, and a hospital visit will have to wait while he rests. But with Flavia’s blasted sisters and insufferable cousin underfoot, Buckshaw now seems both too empty—and not empty enough. Only too eager to run an errand for the vicar’s wife, Flavia hops on her trusty bicycle to deliver a message to a reclusive wood-carver. Finding the front door ajar, Flavia enters and stumbles upon the poor man’s body hanging upside down on the back of his bedroom door. 

Butler, Robert Olen. Perfume River. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681683263. Read by Barry Press.
Robert Quinlan is a 70-year-old historian who teaches at a university where his wife, Darla, is also tenured. Their marriage, forged in the fervor of protests against the war in Vietnam, now bears the fractures of time. For Robert and Darla, the cracks remain under the surface, whereas the divisions in Robert’s own family are more apparent: he has almost no relationship with his brother Jimmy, who became estranged from the family as the Vietnam War intensified. Robert and Jimmy’s father, a World War II veteran, is coming to the end of his life, and aftershocks of war ripple across their lives once again, when Jimmy refuses to appear at his father’s bedside. And an unstable homeless man whom Robert at first takes to be a fellow Vietnam veteran turns out to have a deep impact not just on Robert, but on his entire family.

Casey, Anne-Marie. The Real Liddy James. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524703486. Reader TBA.
Forty-four, fit, and fabulous, Liddy James is one of New York’s top divorce attorneys, a bestselling author, and a mother of two. Armed with a ruthless reputation and a capsule wardrobe, she glides through the courtrooms and salons of the Manhattan elite with ease. But when her ex-husband’s new partner Rose announces she’s pregnant, Liddy’s nanny takes flight, the bill for a roof repair looms, and a high-profile divorce case becomes too personal. Following a catastrophic prime-time TV interview, Liddy carts her sons back to Ireland to retrace their family’s history. But marooned in the Celtic countryside things are still far from simple, and Liddy will have to come to terms with much more than a stormy neighbor and an unorthodox wedding if she ever hopes to rediscover the real Liddy James.

Dev, Sonali. A Change of Heart. Blackstone. ISBN 9781504766036. Reader TBA.
Dr. Nikhil “Nic” Joshi had it all—marriage, career, purpose—until, while working for Doctors without Borders in a Mumbai slum, his wife, Jen, discovered a black-market organ-transplant ring. Before she could expose the truth, Jen was killed. Two years later, Nic is a cruise-ship doctor who spends his days treating seasickness and sunburn and his nights in a boozy haze. On one of those blurry evenings, Nic meets a woman who makes a startling claim: she received Jen’s heart in a transplant and has a message for him. Jess Koirala has spent years working her way out of a nightmarish life in Calcutta and into a respectable Bollywood dance troupe. She needs to uncover the secrets Jen risked everything for; but the unforeseen bond that results between her and Nic is both a lifeline and a perilous complication.

813bMYRESYL__1467301372_20152Dinh, Viet. After Disasters. Brilliance. ISBN 9781511365864. Read by Sanjiv Jhaveri.
Ted is a pharmaceutical salesman turned member of the Disaster Assistance Response Team; his colleague Piotr still carries with him the scars of the Bosnia conflict; Andy, a young firefighter, is eager to prove his worth; and Dev, is a doctor on the ground racing against time and dwindling resources. After a devastating earthquake in India, these four men put their lives at risk and fight to impose order on an increasingly chaotic city, where looting and threats of violence become more severe, and they realize the first lives they save might be their own.

Donoghue, Emma. The Wonder. Hachette Audio. ISBN 978-1478911753. Reader TBA.
An English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle—a girl said to have survived without food for months—soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life. Tourists flock to the cabin of 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Doughty, Louise. Black Water. Brilliance. ISBN 9781511394215. Reader TBA.
John Harper is in hiding in a remote hut on a tropical island. As he lies awake at night, listening to the rain on the roof, he believes his life may be in danger. But he is less afraid of what is going to happen than of what he’s already done. In a local town, he meets Rita, a woman with her own tragic history. They begin an affair, but can they offer each other redemption? Moving among Europe during the Cold War, Civil Rights–era California, and Indonesia during the massacres of 1965 and the subsequent military dictatorship, Doughty explores some of the darkest events of recent history through the story of one troubled man.

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Here I Am. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427275899. Reader TBA.
Unfolding over three tumultuous weeks in present-day Washington DC, this is the story of a fracturing family in a moment of crisis. As Jacob and Julia and their three sons are forced to confront the distances between the lives they think they want and the lives they are living, a catastrophic earthquake sets in motion a pan-Arab invasion of Israel. At stake is the very meaning of home—and the fundamental question of how much life one can bear.

Gabaldon, Diana. Virgins: An Outlander Short. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501924927. Read by Allan Scott-Douglas.
Mourning the death of his father and gravely injured at the hands of the English, Jamie Fraser is running with a band of mercenaries in the French countryside, where he reconnects with his old friend Ian Murray. Both are nursing wounds; both have good reason to stay out of Scotland; and both are still virgins, despite several opportunities to remedy that deplorable situation with ladies of easy virtue. But Jamie’s love life becomes infinitely more complicated—and dangerous—when fate brings the young men into the service of Dr. Hasdi, a Jewish gentleman who hires them to escort two priceless treasures to Paris.

Hedlund, Jody. Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace. Blackstone. ISBN 9781504758260. Reader TBA.
Hedlund brings the real story of “Amazing Grace” to page in the love story of John Newton and Polly Catlett. John fell in love with Polly at first sight. But she was unable to return the affections of the aimless, worldly young man and her father ordered John away from her. Not long after, John is pressed into serving in the navy. After four years away, John is called back to England on family matters, even though he is heavily, blindly involved in the slave trade and has no desire to return. On the treacherous voyage, in the midst of a terrible storm, John finally experiences salvation and begins moving toward crusading against slavery. Back at home, John must work hard to convince Polly that he is a changed man and worthy of her.

9780385349741__1467301422_14337Hiaasen, Carl. Razor Girl. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780385392969. Read by John Rubinstein.
When Lane Coolman’s car is bashed from behind on the road to the Florida Keys, what appears to be an ordinary accident is anything but. Behind the wheel of the other car is Merry Mansfield—the eponymous Razor Girl—and the crash scam is only the beginning of events that spiral crazily out of control. Andrew Yancy, formerly Detective Yancy, was busted down to the Key West roach patrol after accosting his then-lover’s husband with a DustBuster. Yancy believes that if he can singlehandedly solve a high-profile murder, he’ll get his detective badge back. That the Razor Girl may be the key to Yancy’s future will be as surprising as anything else he encounters along the way—including the giant Gambian rats that are livening up his restaurant inspections.

Kay, Guy Gavriel. Children of Earth and Sky. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501905780. Read by Simon Vance.
From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa come a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy. The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif. As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world.

Lafferty, Linda. The Girl Who Fought Napoleon. Brilliance. ISBN 9781522640004. Read by Kathleen Gati.
Tsar Alexander I and a courageous girl named Nadezhda Durova join forces against Napoleon. It’s 1803, and an adolescent Nadya is determined not to follow in her overbearing Ukrainian mother’s footsteps. She’s a horsewoman, not a housewife. When Tsar Paul is assassinated in St. Petersburg and a reluctant and naive Alexander is crowned emperor, Nadya runs away from home and joins the Russian cavalry in the war against Napoleon. Disguised as a boy and riding her spirited stallion, Alcides, Nadya rises in the ranks, even as her father begs the tsar to find his daughter and send her home. Both Nadya and Alexander defy expectations—she as a heroic fighter and he as a spiritual seeker—while the battles of Austerlitz, Friedland, Borodino, and Smolensk rage on.

Moore, Graham. The Last Days of Night. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780735284562. Reader TBA.
New York, 1888. A young lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. His client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country? The task facing Cravath is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal—private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J.P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown attorney shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs.

Owen, Nikki. Subject 375. (The Project Trilogy, Bk. 1). Blackstone. ISBN 9781504666879. Read by January LaVoy.
Plastic surgeon Dr. Maria Martinez has Asperger’s. Convicted of killing a priest, she is alone in prison and has no memory of the murder. DNA evidence places Maria at the scene of the crime, yet she claims she’s innocent. Then she starts to remember. As Maria gets closer to the truth, she is drawn into a web of international intrigue and must fight not only to clear her name but to remain alive.

51TO9XyiWLL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200___1467301474_26610Ray, Shann. American Copper. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501915000. Read by Richard Poe.
As Evelynne Lowry, the daughter of a copper baron, comes of age in early 20th century Montana, the lives of horses dovetail with the lives of people and her own quest for womanhood becomes inextricably intertwined with the future of two men who face nearly insurmountable losses—a lonely bull rider named Zion from the Montana highline, and a Cheyenne team roper named William Black Kettle, the descendant of peace chiefs. An epic that runs from the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 to the ore and industry of the 1930s, it also explores the genocidal colonization of the Cheyenne, the rise of big copper, and the unrelenting ascent of dominant culture.

Richman, Alyson. The Velvet Hours. Blackstone. ISBN 9781504742450. Reader TBA.
An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian had cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. 

Riley, Lucinda. The Angel Tree. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501928697. Read by Julia Barrie.
Thirty years have passed since Greta left Marchmont Hall, a grand and beautiful house nestled in the hills of rural Monmouthshire. But when she returns to the Hall for Christmas, at the invitation of her old friend David Marchmont, she has no recollection of her past association with it, the result of a tragic accident that has blanked out more than two decades of her life. Then, during a walk through the wintry landscape, she stumbles across a grave in the woods, and the weathered inscription on the headstone tells her that a little boy is buried here. The poignant discovery strikes a chord in Greta’s mind and soon ignites a quest to rediscover her lost memories. 

Snoekstra, Anna. Only Daughter. Blackstone. ISBN 9781504749251. Reader TBA.
In 2003, sixteen-year-old Rebecca Winter disappeared. She’d been enjoying her summer break: working at a fast-food restaurant, crushing on an older boy, and shoplifting with her best friend. Mysteriously ominous things began to happen—blood in the bed, periods of blackouts, a feeling of being watched—though Bec remained oblivious of what was to come. Eleven years later she is replaced. A young woman, desperate after being arrested, claims to be the decade-missing Bec. Soon the impostor is living Bec’s life, but Bec’s welcoming family and enthusiastic friends are not quite as they seem. As the impostor dodges the detective investigating her case, she begins to delve into the life of the real Bec Winter—and soon realizes that whoever took Bec is still at large, and that she is in imminent danger.

Towles, Amor. A Gentleman in Moscow. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780735288546. Read by Nicholas Guy Smith.
When, in 1922, Count Alexander Rosto is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

28250841__1467301526_54234Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780735285590. Reader TBA.
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead’s conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

Wilson, Kea. We Eat Our Own. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681682389. Read by Robert Fass.
In this work inspired by a true story from the annals of 1970s Italian horror film,  a nameless, struggling actor in 1970s New York gets the call that an enigmatic director wants him for an art film set in the Amazon, he doesn’t hesitate: he flies to South America, no questions asked. He quickly realizes he’s made a mistake. He’s replacing another actor who quit after seeing the script—a script the director now claims doesn’t exist. The movie is over budget. The production team seems headed for a breakdown. It’s so humid that the celluloid film disintegrates. But what the actor doesn’t realize is that the greatest threat might be the town itself, and the mysterious shadow economy that powers this remote jungle outpost. 

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Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (sklose@mediasourceinc.com, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.

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