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

Cara Hoffman, George Saunders, & Salman Rushdie | Audio in Advance February 2017 | Fiction

da70c_rushofblood__1481292315_95086Billingham, Mark. Rush of Blood. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681684130. Read by Toby Longworth.
Three British couples meet around the pool on their Florida holiday and become fast friends. But on Easter Sunday, the last day of their vacation, tragedy strikes: the 14-year-old daughter of an American vacationer goes missing, and her body is later found floating in the mangroves. When the shocked couples return home to the U.K., they remain in contact, and over the course of three increasingly fraught dinner parties they come to know one another better. But they don’t always like what they find. Buried beneath these apparently normal exteriors are some unusual kinks and unpleasant vices. Then, a second girl goes missing, in Kent—not far from where any of the couples lives. Could it be that one of these six has a secret far darker than anybody can imagine?

Blackwell, Elizabeth. In the Shadow of Lakecrest. Brilliance. ISBN 9781536609288. Read by Teri Clark Linden.
The year is 1928. Kate Moore is looking for a way out of the poverty and violence of her childhood. When a chance encounter on a transatlantic ocean liner brings her face-to-face with the handsome heir to a Chicago fortune, she thinks she may have found her escape—as long as she can keep her past concealed. After exchanging wedding vows, Kate quickly discovers that something isn’t quite right with her husband—or her new family. As Mrs. Matthew Lemont, she must contend with her husband’s disturbing past, his domineering mother, and his overly close sister. Isolated at Lakecrest, the sprawling, secluded Lemont estate, she searches desperately for clues to Matthew’s terrors, which she suspects stem from the mysterious disappearance of his aunt years before. As Kate stumbles deeper into a menacing maze of family secrets, she begins to question everyone’s sanity—especially her own.

Blaedel, Sara. The Lost Woman. Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781478945888. Read by Christine Lakin.
A housewife is the target of a shocking, methodical killing. Shot with a hunting rifle through her kitchen window, the woman is dead before she hits the ground. Though murdered in England, it turns out that the woman, Sofie Parker, is a Danish citizen—one who’s been missing for almost two decades—so Louise Rick is called on to the case. Then the police discover that the woman, Sophie, had been reported missing 18 years ago by none other than Eik, Louise Rick’s police colleague and lover. Impulsive as ever, Eik rushes to England, and ends up in jail on suspicion of Sofie’s murder. Unsettled by the connection, and sick with worry for Eik, it falls to Louise to find the killer in what will become her most controversial case yet.

Boyce, Trudy Nan. Old Bones. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524735296. Read by Rebecca Lowman.
During a vigil calling for police reform, students from Spelman College, a historically black women’s institution, are assaulted by rifle fire from a passing vehicle. On her way to interview witnesses, Detective Sarah “Salt” Alt confronts the fleeing vehicle of the suspects, but they get away. While other detectives take the lead on the Spelman murders, Salt is tasked to investigate the case of a recently discovered decomposed body. When she combs through the missing-persons reports, it becomes clear the victim is a girl Salt took into custody two years before, and Salt feels a grave responsibility to learn the truth about how the girl died. But before she can pursue any leads, Salt is called onto emergency riot detail—in the wake of the assault on the Spelman students, Atlanta has reached the boiling point.

Carey, Lisa. The Stolen Child. Blackstone. ISBN 9781470827083. Reader TBA.
May 1959. From one side of St. Brigid’s Island, the mountains of Connemara can be glimpsed on the distant mainland; from the other, the Atlantic stretches as far as the eye can see. This remote settlement, without electricity or even a harbor, has scarcely altered since its namesake saint set up a convent of stone huts centuries ago. Those who live there, including sisters Rose and Emer, are hardy and resourceful, dependent on the sea and each other for survival. Despite the island’s natural beauty, it is a place that people move away from, not to—until an outspoken American, also named Brigid, arrives to claim her late uncle’s cottage. Brigid has come for more than an inheritance. She’s seeking a secret holy well that’s rumored to grant miracles. As months pass and Brigid carves out a place on the island and in the sisters’ lives, a complicated web of betrayal, fear, and desire culminates in one shocking night that will change the island, and its inhabitants, forever.

519mq6t42il__1481292424_97415Carosella, Amalia. Daughter of a Thousand Years. Brilliance. ISBN 9781531868260. Read by Mary Robinette Kowal.
Greenland, AD 1000: More than her fiery hair marks Freydís as the daughter of Erik the Red; her hot temper and fierce pride are as formidable as her Viking father’s. And so, too, is her devotion to the great god Thor, which puts her at odds with those in power—including her own brother, the zealous Leif Eriksson. Determined to forge her own path, she defies her family’s fury and clings to her dream of sailing away to live on her own terms, with or without the support of her husband. New Hampshire: Like her Icelandic ancestors, history professor Emma Moretti is a passionate defender of Norse mythology. But in a small town steeped in traditional values, her cultural beliefs could jeopardize both her academic career and her congressman father’s reelection. Torn between public expectation and personal identity, family and faith, she must choose which to honor and which to abandon.

Ellis, Janet. The Butcher’s Hook. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501944321. Reader TBA.
London, summer 1763. At 19, Anne Jaccob is awakened to the possibility of joy when she meets Fub, the butcher’s apprentice, and begins to imagine a life of passion with him. The only daughter of well-to-do parents, Anne lives a sheltered life. Her home is a miserable place. Though her family want for nothing, her father is uncaring, her mother is ailing, and the baby brother who taught her to love is dead. Unfortunately her parents have already chosen a more suitable husband for her than Fub. But Anne is a determined young woman, with an idiosyncratic moral compass. In the matter of pursuing her own happiness, she shows no fear or hesitation. Even if it means getting a little blood on her hands.

Erickson, Steve. Shadowbahn. Blackstone. ISBN 9781504793667. Reader TBA.
When the Twin Towers suddenly reappear in the badlands of South Dakota 20 years after their fall, nobody can explain their return. To the hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands drawn to the “American Stonehenge”—including Parker and Zema, siblings on their way from Los Angeles to visit their mother in Michigan—the Towers seem to sing, even as everybody hears a different song. A rumor overtakes the throng that someone can be seen in the high windows of the southern structure. On the 93rd floor, Jesse Presley—the stillborn twin of the most famous singer who ever lived—suddenly awakes, driven mad over the hours and days to come by a voice in his head that sounds like his but isn’t, and by the memory of a country where he survived in his brother’s place. Meanwhile, Parker and Zema cross a possessed landscape by a mysterious detour no one knows, charted on a map that no one has seen.

Evans, Lissa. Their Finest. Blackstone. ISBN 9781470856205. Reader TBA.
It is 1940. France has fallen, and only a narrow strip of sea lies between Great Britain and invasion. The war could go either way and everyone must do their bit. Young copy writer Catrin Cole is drafted into the Ministry of Information to help “write women” into propaganda films—something that the men aren’t very good at. She is quickly seconded to the Ministry’s latest endeavor: a heart-warming tale of bravery and rescue at Dunkirk. It’s all completely fabricated, of course, but what does that matter when the nation’s morale is at stake? Since call-up has stripped the industry of its brightest and best, it is the callow, the jaded and the utterly unsuitable who must make up the numbers.

Ewan, Chris. Long Time Lost. Blackstone. ISBN 9781504782784. Read by Simon Vance.
Nick Miller and his team provide a unique and highly illegal service, relocating at-risk individuals across Europe with new identities and new lives. Nick excels at what he does for a reason: he’s spent years living in the shadows under an assumed name. But when Nick steps in to prevent the attempted murder of witness-in-hiding Kate Sutherland on the Isle of Man, he triggers a chain of events with devastating consequences for everyone he protects—because Nick and Kate share a common enemy in Connor Lane, a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if it means tearing Nick’s entire network apart.

Harrison, Mette Ivie. For Time and All Eternities. (Linda Wallheim, Bk. 3). Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501931130. Reader TBA.
Mormon bishop’s wife Linda Wallheim is stunned to learn her son Kenneth has gotten engaged to a young woman from a polygamous family. Naomi Carter may have left the religion she grew up in, but the Carters will still be the Wallheims’ in-laws once Kenneth and Naomi are married. Stephen Carter, Naomi’s father and the patriarch of the Carter clan, invites the Wallheims over to the Carter family compound in the remote foothills of the mountains outside Salt Lake City. Stephen Carter wishes to extend an olive branch to his future in-laws, and introduce them to his five wives and 22 children. But Linda suspects he also wants to try to persuade the Wallheims that his way of life is truly righteous. Although she can’t find concrete evidence of mistreatment, Linda’s gut instinct tells her that something on the Carter family compound is deeply wrong. She can’t quite put her finger on what—until it’s too late, and one of the family members is found murdered. 

Hepworth, Sally. The Mother’s Promise. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427282156. Read by Barrie Kreinik.
Alice and her daughter Zoe have been a family of two all their lives. Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector. With no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe’s father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works—until it doesn’t. Until Alice gets sick and is given a grim prognosis. Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers, but who are her only hope. Kate, her oncology nurse, and Sonja, a social worker. 

static1-squarespace__1481292508_29573Hoffman, Cara. Running. Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520065663. Reader TBA.
Set in Athens in the 1980s, Running brings together an ensemble of outsiders who get by as “runners”—hustlers who sell tourists on low-end accommodations for a small commission and a place to stay. Bridey Sullivan, a young American woman who has fled a peculiar and traumatic upbringing in Washington State, takes up with a queer British couple, the poet Milo Rollack, and Eton drop-out Jasper Lethe. Slipping in and out of homelessness, addiction, and under-the-table jobs, they create their own kind of family as they struggle to survive.

James, Vic. Gilded Cage. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524722999. Read by Avita Jay.
Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world. Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price? Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

Jae-Jones, S. Wintersong. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501938801. Reader TBA.
All her life, 19-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns. But when her sister Kathe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl faces an impossible choice. As she grows closer to the Goblin King, both of them must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world. 

Jio, Sarah. Always. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524773854. Reader TBA.
Enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiancé, Ryan, at one of Seattle’s chicest restaurants, Kailey Crain can’t believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a journalist and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As she and Ryan leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister. When Kailey met Cade ten years ago, their attraction was immediate and intense—everything connected and felt right. But it all ended suddenly, leaving Kailey devastated. Now the poor soul on the street is a faded version of her former beloved: His weathered and weary face is as handsome as Kailey remembers, but his mind has suffered in the intervening years. Over the next few weeks, Kailey helps Cade begin to piece his life together, something she initially keeps from Ryan. As she revisits her long-ago relationship, Kailey realizes that she must decide exactly what—and whom—she wants.

Kagen, Lesley. The Mutual Admiration Society. Brilliance. ISBN 9781531866150. Read by Dara Rosenberg.
Unbeknownst to 11-year-old Theresa “Tessie” Finley, she’s in over her head. After hearing a scream and catching a glimpse of a mysterious man carrying a body beneath the flickering streetlights in the cemetery behind her house, Tessie adds solving a murder case to her already quite full to-do list. Tessie has elected herself president of the crime-stopping Mutual Admiration Society—as if dealing with her “sad madness” over the tragic drowning of her beloved father; showering tender loving care on her “sweet but weird” younger sister, Birdie; and staying on the good side of their hard-edged mother weren’t enough. With partner in crime Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield, Tessie and Birdie will need to dodge the gossips in their 1950s blue-collar neighborhood—particularly their evil next-door neighbor, Gert Klement, who’d like nothing better than to send the sisters to “homes.” 

Lipman, Elinor. On Turpentine Lane. Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520065182. Reader TBA.
At 32, Faith Frankel has returned to her claustro-suburban hometown, where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater. It’s a peaceful life, really, and surely with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow on Turpentine Lane her life is finally on track. Never mind that her fiance is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, too busy to return her texts (but not too busy to post photos of himself with a different woman in every state). And never mind her witless boss, or a mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he’s Chagall. When she finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home, she wonders whether anything in her life is as it seems.

Lowe, Daniel. All That’s Left To Tell. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427282491. Reader TBA.
Marc Laurent is a mid-level executive taken hostage in Karachi. Aside from his guards, his only interaction is with a mysterious woman he knows as Josephine. And then Josephine asks Marc a question that is even more frightening than his captivity—why didn’t he go home last month for his daughter’s funeral, after she was murdered? So begins a bizarre yet somewhat comforting ritual, in which every night Josephine visits Marc in his cell. She tells him stories, including stories about what would have happened had his daughter not been murdered. Marc, in turn, begins to tell his own stories, in which his daughter is alive. And soon it’s not clear which storyline is real, and which is imagined, and if it even matters. 

26233572__1481292582_34870Mackintosh, Clare. I See You. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780804195140. Read by Rachel Atkins.
Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her. It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called FindTheOne.com. Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose.

Mastai, Elan. All Our Wrong Todays. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524734701. Read by the author.
You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed—because it wasn’t necessary. Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland. But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make.

Omotoso, Yewande. The Woman Next Door. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524757168. Read by Adjoa Andoh.
Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbors. One is black, one white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed. And both are sworn enemies, sharing hedge and hostility and pruning both with a vim and zeal that belies the fact that they are over 80. But one day an unforeseen event forces the women together. And gradually the bickering and sniping softens into lively debate, and from there into memories shared. But could these sparks of connection ever transform into friendship? 

O’Neill, Heather. The Lonely Hearts Hotel. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524749644. Read by Julia Whelan.
Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.  Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs, and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. 

Parsons, Kelly. Under the Knife. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427266866. Read by Nancy Wu.
Morgan Finney, a biotechnology tycoon, is a shy, highly intelligent but socially awkward and emotionally fragile man. It was his wife, Jenny, with whom he connected and who enabled him to connect with others. When Jenny dies of complications during a surgery led by Dr. Rita Wu, Finney’s grief turns to rage. He vows to kill Rita just as he believes she killed his wife. But first he will systematically destroy her life. Aided by a mysterious man named Sebastian, Finney uses advanced medical technology to brainwash Rita. He tricks her into ruining her reputation and brings her to the brink of madness. Alone, fighting for her sanity and life, Rita reaches out to ex-lover Dr. Spencer Cameron. Together they uncover Finney’s horrific intentions and race to stop him.

Rushdie, Salman. East, West: Stories. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501920608. Read by Sunil Malhotra & Steven Crossley.
A rickshaw driver dreams of being a Bombay movie star; Indian diplomats, who as childhood friends hatched Star Trek fantasies, must boldly go into a hidden universe of conspiracy and violence; and Hamlet’s jester is caught up in murderous intrigues. In Rushdie’s hybrid world, an Indian guru can be a redheaded Welshman, while Christopher Columbus is an immigrant, dreaming of Western glory. Rushdie allows himself, like his characters, to be pulled now in one direction, then in another.

Ryan, Jennifer. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524721367. Read by various narrators.
As England enters World War II’s dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the vicar’s stuffy edict to shutter the church’s choir in the absence of men and instead “carry on singing.” Resurrecting themselves as “The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir,” the women use song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives. 

61osh7nzoil-_sy344_bo1204203200___1481292667_94588Saunders, George. Lincoln in the Bardo. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780553397598. Reader TBA.
February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved 11-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Shanbhag, Vivek. Ghachar Ghochar. Blackstone. ISBN 9781538400203. Reader TBA.
Bangalore, present day. A young man’s close-knit family is nearly destitute when his uncle founds a successful spice company, changing their fortunes overnight. As they move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house and try to adjust to a new way of life, allegiances realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background. Things become “ghachar ghochar”—a nonsense phrase uttered by one of the characters that comes to mean something tangled beyond repair, a knot that can’t be untied.

Smith, Alexander McCall. The Bertie Project. (44 Scotland Street, Bk. 11). Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501949210. Reader TBA.
Bertie’s respite from his overbearing mother, Irene, is over. She has returned home from the Middle East, only to discover that her son has been exposed to the worst of evils: cartoons, movies, and even carbonated beverages. But the one who should be most concerned is her unfortunate husband, Stuart, upon whom her wrath is about to descend. Meanwhile, Bruce has fallen in love with someone other than himself; Big Lou wants to adopt her beloved Finlay; Matthew and Elspeth host the Duke of Johannesburg for supper; and Bertie decides he wants to move away from Scotland Street altogether and live with his grandmother, Nicola. 

Whitfield, Sheree. Wives, Fiancees, and Sidechicks of Hotlanta. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501947674. Reader TBA.
Sasha Wellington has put herself on the fast track to success. Fresh out of college, she’s got her career as a fashion designer and entrepreneur all planned out. When fate points her to Atlanta, she sets out to make her dreams come true. Before she knows it, Sasha’s befriended by two rival BFFs. First there’s Norman, savvy stylist to Atlanta’s stars. Then there’s Nina, an outrageous personality with a questionable nightlife. Between their antics, Sasha’s beyond grateful for her coworker, Casey. Married to an NBA player, Casey’s got class. But there’s more than meets the eye to being a baller’s wife. Still, she’s not worried about getting caught up in the drama—until she’s romanced by a baller of her own. 

Young, Hester. The Shimmering Road. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524703059. Read by January LaVoy.
When Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to have recurring dreams about harm coming to her unborn daughter, she knows these are not the nightmares of an anxious mom-to-be. They are the result of her mysterious gift. But before she can decipher what these dreams might mean, Charlie learns that the mother who abandoned her when she was a toddler is a victim of a double murder in Arizona. The other victim—Jasmine, a half-sister Charlie never knew she had—has left behind a child, a little girl who speaks to Charlie in her dreams and was present on the night of the murders. Convinced that she must help her orphaned niece, Charlie travels to Tucson, where she must confront her painful ties to her mother and delve into her sister’s shadowy past. 

Zoboi, Ibi. American Street. Blackstone. ISBN 9781470859169. Read by Robin Miles.
On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own. Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola must learn that freedom comes at a cost. 

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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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