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

Reading Carrie Fisher | In the Bookroom

Actress/author Carrie Fisher died in Los Angeles on December 27, four days after suffering a medical emergency on a flight from London following the European leg of her book tour for her latest memoir, The Princess Diarist. Many of the subsequent obituaries focused on Fisher’s Hollywood career, most notably her iconic roles as Princess Leia Organa in the original “Star Wars” trilogy and as a rebel general in The Force Awakens. But Hugo Award winner John Scalzi’s eulogy in the Los Angeles Times offers a lovely appreciation of Fisher’s literary talents as screenplay doctor, novelist, and memoir writer, noting that her legacy not only includes her film work but also “her written words—cutting, clever, observant, self-aware and unbowed.”

To celebrate Fisher as a writer, I have gone back into Library Journal‘s Book Verdict vault and pulled up our reviews of her novels and memoirs. For librarians, these would make a nice display counterpoint to DVDs of  the actress’s films and stage performances. [HBO is rebroadcasting her autobiographical show Wishful Drinking on New Year’s Day, and the cable channel’s upcoming documentary about Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, will be airing on January 7, 2017.]

In a sad twist (that would be unbelievable if written in a novel), Reynolds died of a stroke on December 28, the day after her daughter’s death. The star of such classic films as Singin’ in the Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown also wrote two memoirs, Debbie: My Life and the darker Unsinkable, which pair well with Fisher’s own autobiographies.

Postcards from the Edge

Reviewed on August 15, 1987

97806716244151The thing about having it all is, it should include having the ability to have it all,” says actress Suzanne Vale, the main character in Fisher’s stylish first novel. In five vignettes Vale enters a drug rehab clinic, has a nonrelationship with a producer, gets a part in a film, has a “nervous pit stop,” and finally finds happiness in a real relationship. Actress Fisher (Star Wars; Hannah and Her Sisters) knows all too well the Hollywood she describes, with a voice detached yet full of insight. A memorable sequence in the title story features a drug experience that is both frightening and funny. Fisher has a talent for creating interesting situations and believable characters. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates.—Susan Avallone, Library Journal

 

Surrender the Pink

Reviewed on July 1, 1990

97806716664081

The five connected vignettes of actress Fisher’s first novel, Postcards from the Edge (LJ 8/87), exhibited greater coherence and stronger plot than this rambling, talky second novel. Here, Dinah Kaufman, soap opera writer/producer, works through her divorce from her longtime companion/husband, playwright Rudy Gendler. Despite some very funny bits (especially one with Mama, a Sag Harbor psychic), the “process” still seems interminable. By novel’s end, the reader may feel like Blaine MacDonald, one of Kaufman’s soap opera characters, who says on his deathbed, “You know, one of the things I’m looking forward to most about dying? . . . I won’t have to talk about relationships anymore.” A disappointment, but readers of Postcards will probably request this. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/90; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates.]— Francine Fialkoff, Library Journal

Delusions of Grandma

Reviewed on March 1, 1994

97806717322711With tongue in cheek, Fisher delivers another of her seriocomic novels (Postcards from the Edge, LJ 8/87; Surrender the Pink, LJ 7/90) that seem to mirror her various lives: Hollywood brat, actress, screenwriter. Add mother to the mix, and you have her latest plot, about a screenwriter whose love affair coincides with a friend’s dying of AIDS and who finds herself pregnant after the affair ends. The narrative combines letters (not too many) to her unborn daughter (she is convinced she is having a girl) with introspective monologs and dialogs with friends. (As Cora/Carrie notes, she has her friends, her talking, and her work—where is there room for a man?) The novel is full of the throwaway one-liners for which Fisher is known, both in her films and her writing, and perhaps that’s the problem with it: it is ultimately a book one can read and forget as quickly as a one-liner. Only for fans. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/1/93.]Francine Fialkoff, Library Journal

The Best Awful

Reviewed on January 1, 2004

97806848091371Actress and writer Fisher follows the vein of substance abuse among the Hollywood elite that she began in Postcards from the Edge. Reintroduced here is her lead character from that novel, the sharp, wise-cracking minor celebrity Suzanne Vale, who moves from recovery to psychosis and back again. The excuses that she gives for her problems range from her husband’s leaving her for a man to having famously self-absorbed parents. True to the cliché that the apple never falls far from the tree, Suzanne repeats her own story of childhood neglect with her small daughter, Honey. Afflicted with bipolar disorder and fed up with her life, Suzanne irresponsibly decides to raise her manic self by quitting her medications. Thus begins her starkly depicted downward spiral into madness. After a lark in Tijuana with a tattoo artist and an overdose of pills, she lands in a mental hospital. Despite the tawdry subject matter, wit and humor abound, making this novel recommended for all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/02.]—Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC

Wishful Drinking

Starred Review on June 1, 2009  |  Audio

97807435971731In this hilarious memoir, actress/author Fisher (www.carriefisher.com) relates the stressful events of her roller-coaster life. Describing herself as the product of “Hollywood in-breeding” (her parents are actors Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds), she goes on to discuss her childhood, her shot to stardom at 19 through her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, recounts her rocky romantic relationships, and her struggle with drug addiction and mental illness. Fisher’s conversational, laugh-out-loud delivery combined with her no-holds-barred honesty strongly recommend this title for all. [The S. & S. hc, published in December 2008, was a New York Times best seller; the S. & S. pb will go on sale in October 2009.—Ed.]—Phillip Oliver, Univ. of North Alabama Lib., Florence

Shockaholic

Starred Review on February 15, 2012  |  Audio

I51kleychv1l1n this follow-up to Wishful Drinking, Fisher writes about what it means to be thought of as self-absorbed, to have famous parents who parted notoriously, how it feels to have electroshock therapy, and making peace with the past that includes living with Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, and Elizabeth Taylor. Being Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy; waking up next to her dead, gay best friend; and enduring various other adventures that it’s hard to believe could have happened to anyone else. Her reading is pitch-perfect: acerbic, revealing, vulnerable, and hilarious. VERDICT Fisher is seriously funny, and this memoir is recommended for all listeners interested in pop culture and celebrity autobiographies.—Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence

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Wilda Williams About Wilda Williams

Wilda "Willy" Williams (wwilliams@mediasourceinc.com) is LJ's Fiction Editor. She specializes in popular fiction and edits the Mystery, Science Fiction, Christian Fiction, and Word on Street Lit columns.

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