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

Nobel Prize Winner Alexievich, Dublin Winner Sharma, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Jul. 2017, Pt. 1

Alexievich, Svetlana. The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II. Random. Jul. 2017. 384p. tr. from Russian by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky. ISBN 9780399588723. $30; ekb. ISBN 9780399588730. Downloadable: Random Audio. HISTORY
Winner of the Nobel Prize for her rich, incisive oral histories of the Soviet Union, Alexievich here alexievichfocuses specifically on the experiences of ordinary Soviet women during World War II, whether in battle or on the home front. Whatever you thought you knew about the war, you should put it aside and listen to the voices here. More than two million copies of the Russian-language edition of this book have been sold worldwide, with rights snapped up by 47 countries so far. Expect New York Times bestsellerdom, as with her last book, Secondhand Time.

Kean, Sam. Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us. Little, Brown. Jul. 2017. 384p. ISBN 780316381642. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316381635. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316465199. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. SCIENCE
As New York Times best-selling science writer Kean explains, the air around us, which we so cheerfully take for granted, has quite a history. Of the sextillions of air molecules you breathe in while reading this sentence, some may have been breathed out by a dying Julius Caesar or by dinosaurs eons ago. What’s air made of, and how did it all start? With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Osborne, Lawrence. Beautiful Animals. Hogarth: Crown. Jul. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780553447378. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780553447385. LITERARY FICTION
In his three frequently best-booked novels (most recently, Hunters in the Dark), Osborne osbornewalked the razor’s edge of East-West culture clash from Morocco to Macau to Cambodia. Here he lands on the Greek island of Hydra, where Naomi, whose British art collector father owns a magnificent villa, is rambling through the countryside with younger vacationing American Samantha when they discover a sleeping man who is very likely a refugee. Naomi’s urge to help, perhaps just as a diversion, has grave consequences that include murder.

Quick, Matthew. The Reason You’re Alive. Harper. Jul. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9780062424303. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062424341. lrg. prnt. LITERARY FICTION
Medical tests after a BMW crash reveal that diehard patriot and Vietnam veteran David Granger has a brain tumor he believes was caused by Agent Orange. After surgery, he determines that he must make amends to a Native American soldier he wronged during the war, a move that might help his relationships with his estranged, art-dealer son and loyal Vietnamese American friend Sue. Acknowledging the American rift and trying to heal it; from the New York Times best-selling author who brought us The Silver Linings Playbook.

Scott, Joanna. Careers for Women. Little, Brown. Jul. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780316363839. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316363877. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316465236. LITERARY FICTION
A MacArthur fellow and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Scott returns with a novel that should prove both thought-provoking and entertaining, especially for Mad Men fans. In 1958, at the Public Relations Department of the New York Port Authority, glass-ceiling breaker Lee Jaffe inspires the young women around her, especially Maggie Gleason. But the disappearance of Pauline Moreau, whom Lee had sheltered under her wing, causes Maggie to rethink her assumptions about love, work, and ambition. With a 30,000-copy first printing.

Sharma, Akhil. A Life of Adventure and Delight. Norton. Jul. 2017. 192p. ISBN 9780393285345. $24.95. SHORT STORIES
You can expect Sharma’s story collection to be good. Not only have his pieces appeared in sharmaBest American Short Stories and O. Henry Award Stories but he ably proved himself when he debuted with Family Life, a New York Times Best Book and winner of the International Dublin Literary Award. From a woman in an arranged marriage who finds that she loves her husband to a man who comes to admire a cousin who tends to a sick woman, the stories feature Indian protagonists at home and abroad.

Verzemnieks, Inara. Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe. Norton. Jul. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780393245110. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393245127. MEMOIR
Recipient of Rona Jaffe and Pushcart honors and for 13 years a staff writer for the Oregonian, where she covered the area’s overlooked populations, Verzemnieks was raised among Latvian refugees and heard stories she finally had to pursue. In particular, her grandmother Livija and her grandmother’s sister, Ausma, were separated by the horrific battles of World War II and did not see each other for 50 years. Livija became a refugee in the West, while Ausma endured the chill of exile in Siberia. A personal story writ large; Verzemnieks currently teaches verzemniekscreative nonfiction at the University of Iowa.

Ware, Ruth. The Lying Game. Scout: Gallery. Jul. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781501156007. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781501156199. CD: S. & S. Audio. THRILLER
Ware handily established herself with two especially intense novels, In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10, both New York Times best sellers and LibraryReads picks. Her third novel features Isa Wilde, who’s walking the beach in the little town of Salten when her dog leaps into the waves and retrieves a human bone. The resultant trauma undoes the personal history of Isa and her friends. Big demand already.

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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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