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

Hawkins, Simsion, Midwinter Keynoter Bell, & More | Barbara’s Picks, May 2017, Pt. 5

Bell, W. Kamau. The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6′ 4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian. Dutton. May 2017. 320p. ISBN bellk9781101985878; ebk. ISBN 9781101985892. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. MEMOIR/HUMOR
Bell has been called “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years” by the New York Times, a claim to fame based partly on his hosting CNN’s Emmy-nominated United Shades of America and Kamau Right Now!, a local NPR radio talk show out of San Francisco. Here he uses his own life—e.g., his ideologically opposed parents, interracial marriage, and early career struggles—to discuss major issues from race relations to right-wing politics to the demands of fatherhood. What’s especially important: Kamau will be a keynote speaker at ALA Midwinter.

Cameron, Claire. The Last Neanderthal. Little, Brown. May 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780316314480. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316314459. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316314473. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. LITERARY FICTION
A No. 1 best seller in Canada and a Baileys Women’s Prize long-listed title, Cameron’s The cameronBear bristled with a fierce and distinctive energy that recommends her new work. Here, pregnant archaeologist Rosamund Gale races to finish excavating significant Neanderthal finds before giving birth, while in a parallel story set 40,000 years ago and echoing the plight of Bear’s child protagonists, a Neanderthal named Girl finds herself alone and responsible for the foundling Runt as a brutal winter storm closes in. At 30,000 copies, not a huge first printing, but Cameron’s work is snow-blown fresh.

Hawkins, Paula. Into the Water. Riverhead. May 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780735211209. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780735211216. CD/Downloadable: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
This just in: Hawkins, author of the latest byword for best-selling phenomenon, The Girl on the Train, is publishing a second novel in May. Says Riverhead editor in chief Sarah McGrath, “Just as The Girl on the Train explored voyeurism and self-perception, so does Into the Water interrogate the deceitfulness of memory and all the dangerous ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present and future.” The story opens with a single mother and then a teenage girl found dead at river’s bottom, with the subsequent investigation revealing the kind of twisty, winding history for which small towns are so famous.

Miller, Kei. Augustown. Pantheon. May 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781101871614. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101871621. LITERARY FICTION
Jamaican-born, London-based award winner Miller arrives on these shores with trumpet augustownflourishes. Though he has won the Forward Prize for Best Collection and been short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, a main selling point is the Jamaican setting, echoing Marlon James’s Man Booker Prize–winning (and stupendous) A Brief History of Seven Killings. Fair enough, but while James’s writing is architecturally intensive, Miller uses simple but evocative diction to unfold the tightly focused story of one woman and her community, the poor and dismal Augustown. The novel opens with blind Ma Taffy sensing trouble when great-nephew Kaia arrives home teary-eyed from school and winds back to the origins of the Rastafari. James calls it a “deceptive spellbinder,” so read up.

Paul, Pamela. My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues. Holt. May 2017. 272p. ISBN 9781627796316. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781627796323. MEMOIR
Of course you want to know what book the editor of the New York Times Book Review has been carrying around with her since high school. Actually, it’s a battered journal called Bob that chronicles every book she’s read. As such, it’s a portrait of her rich interior life, though she’s not just getting personal in opening its pages for us. In her book on her book of books, she’s showing us what reading means for her and as significantly what reading means for everyone.

Simsion, Graeme. The Best of Adam Sharp. St. Martin’s. May 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781250130402. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250130426. CD: Macmillan Audio. POP FICTION
Australian author Simsion’s debut novel, The Rosie Project, bounced straight to the top of the simsionOctober 2013 LibraryReads pick list, while the swift-to-follow The Rosie Effect made the No. 2 spot on the January 2015 list. Now Simsion is back with the story of Adam Sharp, about to hit a half-century and reasonably contented with his life and his life partner but haunted by glorious actress Angelina Brown, who two decades before taught him the meaning of love. Then she reappears. Obviously, readers are already clamoring.

 

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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.

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