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

Seven Great Beach Reads | Nonfiction Previews, Jul. 2017, Pt. 1

Fagone, Jason. The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies. Dey Street: HarperCollins. Jul. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780062430489. $27.99. HISTORY
Now that The Imitation Game has familiarized everyone with the concept of code-breaking, it’s fagonetime to step back to its origins during World War I. In 1912, while Shakespeare expert (and hence language wizard) Elizebeth Smith was working for an eccentric tycoon with ties to the government, she was introduced to both code-breaking and visionary cryptologist William Friedman, who became her husband. Journalist Fagone details Smith’s particular contributions to cryptology, which include helping to capture gangsters during Prohibition and exposing Nazi spies in South America. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Hayes, Elaine M. Queen of Bebop: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan. Ecco. Jul. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780062364685. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062364708. BIOGRAPHY/MUSIC
Sure, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and Bud Powell had everything to do with the creation and promulgation of bebop, but let’s not forget husky-honey-voiced Sarah Vaughan, whose powerful influence resonated then and continues to resonate now. Vaughan expert Hayes offers a thoroughgoing life-and-art study of one of the jazz greats, who was also a mover and shaker in women’s and civil rights. With a 40,000-copy first printing.

Lacovara, Ken. Why Dinosaurs Matter. TED: S. & S. Jul. 2017. 120p. ISBN 9781501120107. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781501120114. SCIENCE
As paleontologist Lacovara has dug up the bones of some mighty dinosaurs, including the lacavorascary-sounding Dreadnoughtus, which outweighed Tyrannosaurus rex by 65 tons, he’s just the man to tell us what dinosaurs can tell us about ourselves. Based on Lacovara’s 2016 TED talk, this book shows dinosaurs to be surprisingly adaptable creatures whose feats outranked those of any other group of animals. Note that Lacovara’s work has thrice won him notice in Discover magazine’s 100 Top Science Stories of the year, as well as in Time’s Top Stories of 2014.

Livio, Mario Why?: What Makes Us Curious. S. & S. Jul. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781476792095. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781476792125. SCIENCE
A best-selling author whose Is God a Mathematician? served as the basis for the 2016 Emmy-nominated NOVA The Great Math Mystery, astrophysicist Livio gets to the heart of science and indeed all human endeavor by asking why we ask, Why? He considers polymaths like Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman, plus others, like an astronaut with degrees in computer science, biology, literature, and medicine, to understand our hunger to know. With a six-city tour to Austin, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Scottoline, Lisa & Francesca Serritella. I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool. St. Martin’s. Jul. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781250059963. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466865266. CD: Macmillan Audio. RELATIONSHIPS
The Edgar Award–winning Scottoline and her writer daughter, Serritella, have been investigating human foibles in a series that now reaches its eighth title (following I’ve Got Sand in All the Wrong Places). Expect more wit and wisdom; with library marketing.

Shapiro, Laura. What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories. Viking. Jul. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780525427643. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698178946. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. COOKING/HISTORY
What do Dorothy Wordsworth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun, Barbara Pym, Helen Gurley Brown, and Edwardian-era Cockney caterer Rosa Lewis have in common? They all had steffensinteresting relationships to food that tell us more about them and about us. Fun reading from a James Beard Journalism Award winner.

Steffens, Roger. So Much Things To Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley. Norton. Jul. 2017. 480p. ISBN 9780393058451. $29.95. MUSIC
Bob Marley lovers, celebrate. Steffens, who owns the world’s biggest reggae archive and has traveled worldwide with a one-man multimedia show called The Life of Bob Marley, draws on 40 years of close-quarters interviews with Marley’s band members, family, lovers, and confidants to chronicle Marley’s life and art. A small-press edition of this book ran through two printings; here’s the bigtime.

 

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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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