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

From David Abrams to Jenny Zhang | Literary Fiction Previews, Aug. 2017

Abrams, David. Brave Deeds. Black Cat: Grove/Atlantic. Aug. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9780802126863. pap. $16. LITERARY
A New York Times Notable Book, Barnes & Noble pick, and finalist for the Artabrams Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, Abrams’s Fobbit was among the first—and most sharply satiric—in a long line of fiction by soldier writers of the Middle East wars. This second work features a squad of six soldiers who’ve gone AWOL to attend the funeral of their leader, with their personal flaws and deepest worries revealed as they work their way tentatively across war-shattered Baghdad. Look for a big push at ALA.

Bordas, Camille. How To Behave in a Crowd. Tim Duggan: Hogarth. Aug. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780451497543. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780451497567. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY
Award-winning French writer Bordas, who moved here in 2012 with her American husband and began writing in English, debuts her first English-language novel after publishing the story “Most Die Young” in The New Yorker in January. Her protagonist is 11-year-old Isidore Mazal, whose five older siblings are all astonishingly accomplished, whether they are receiving doctorates before age 25 or performing with a symphony. Isadore isn’t so precocious, but he’s thoughtful and perceptive, and he saves the day when tragedy strikes. Great expectations, and Bordas is already well connected in America.

Dee, Jonathan. The Locals. Random. Aug. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9780812993226. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780679645016. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY
Most recently the author of A Thousand Pardons, 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist Dee taps into the zeitgeist with a novel about a rural, working-class New England town that elects a New York hedge fund billionaire as its mayor. After 9/11, seeking safety and romanticizing the country life, Philip Hadi moved his galerafamily to Howland full-time. At first the townsfolk are delighted, seeing him as a source of political and economic rejuvenation. But culture and class clash are inevitable.

Galera, Daniel. The Shape of Bones. Penguin Pr. Aug. 2017. 192p. ISBN 9781594205484. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781101613900. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY
One of Granta’s Best Young Brazilian Novelists and a translator of authors from John Cheever to Zadie Smith, Galera got some attention here with the stylishly noirish Blood-Drenched Beard but is expected to break out with this new work. It features a young man taking a mental detour as he travels to the Andes to  climb a daunting peak with a friend. Recalling his coming of age in the neighborhood of Esplanada, where he hung out with a tough bunch whose increasingly risky behavior served as male rites of passage, he reveals a horrific incident that scars him still.

Ives, Lucy. Impossible Views of the World. Penguin Pr. Aug. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780735221536. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780735221543. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY
A curator at a prestigious New York art museum, Stella Krakus is contending with an intrusive nearly ex-husband, a failing office romance, a vanished ivescolleague, an ethically challenged corporate sponsor, her unintentional appearance in a viral video, and the world’s most demanding mother. But discovering the map of a mysterious 19th-century utopian settlement could set everything right. An award-winning poet who knows her subject—her mother was a curator at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art—Ives debuts with an endearing multigenre blend of literary fiction, women’s fiction, and mystery.

Jemc, Jac. The Grip of It. FSG Originals. Aug. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780374536916. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780374716073. LITERARY
A PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize finalist, Jemc offers literary horror that should freshen the story of a house that’s got it in for its occupants. James and Julie must start anew after his gambling debts push them out of the city, but they’re happy in their small-town home until the water turns moldy, the rooms shift to reveal hidden corners, and stains appearing on the wall are duplicated on Julie’s body as bruises. Clearly, there’s no place like home.

Kobek, Jarett. The Future Won’t Be Long. Viking. Aug. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9780735222489. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780735222496. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY
Having attracted a cult following (and New York Times support) with the small-press I Hate the Internet, Kobek breaks out with his first big-house publication. His new work scours the 1980s–90s social scene, as wealthy aspiring artist Adeline befriends a Midwesterner named Baby she discovers in an East Village squat. She introduces him to the bars and nightclubs of downtown Manhattan, then takes him home to Los Angeles, where he clubs and drugs with relish. Eventually, however, each comes to a crossroads that will test their friendship.

Lamprell, Mark. One Summer Day in Rome. Flatiron: Macmillan. Aug. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9781250105530. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250105554. LITERARY
As Lamprell cowrote the film Babe: Pig in the City, it’s not surprising that his lamprellfiction has lighthearted twist; witness the title of his well-received first novel, The Full Ridiculous. That novel was written in second person, and here Rome serves not just as setting but narrator. Timid Alice travels there for a last chance at excitement before marrying her standard-issue fiancé; Meg and Alec are looking to find the perfect kitchen tiles but clearly need marital repair; and close sisters-in-law Constance and Lizzie want to scatter the ashes of a beloved husband and brother. Clearly, expectations will be upended; definitely worth a visit.

MacLaverty, Bernard. Midwinter Break. Norton. Aug. 2017. 208p. ISBN 9780393609622. $24.95. LITERARY
Perhaps best known for Cal and also author of Grace Notes, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, veteran Belfast-born, Glasgow-based author MacLaverty returns with the story of a retired Irish couple facing the holes in their marriage while vacationing in Amsterdam. Stubborn Jerry relentlessly challenges Stella’s faith, and memories of Ireland’s own troubles don’t help. Can this marriage be saved?

Patterson, Molly. Rebellion. Harper. Aug. 2017. 560p. ISBN 9780062574046. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062574077. LITERARY
In her highly touted debut, Pushcart Prize winner Patterson links four women pattersonover generations to show the ties that bind and how they might be loosened. In late 1950s Illinois, Hazel mourns her husband’s death and recalls her mother, Louisa, who found married life on a farm rigorously dictated. Louisa corresponds with her sister Addie, a missionary in China, who’s adventurous enough to break free but is then trapped by the Boxer Rebellion. Finally, in late 1990s China, Juanlan escapes her stultifying home life after college through a risky affair. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Rose, Augustus. The Readymade Thief. Viking. Aug. 2017. 385p. ISBN 9780735221833. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735221857. CD/downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY
Having taken a fall for an uppercrust friend, teenage Lee is hiding out on the streets of Philadelphia and tentatively accepts aid from a secret society that helps homeless kids. But she soon suspects that its intentions are less than noble and teams up with artist/hacker Tomi to figure out its real agenda. The narrative is described as a literary puzzle, with allusions to art and literature schmidtthat will keep readers guessing. A debut with buzz.

Schmidt, Sarah. See What I Have Done. Atlantic Monthly. Aug. 2017. 324p. ISBN 9780802126597. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780802189134. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
On the 125th anniversary of the notorious Lizzie Borden murders, Australian librarian Schmidt offers a retelling that depicts an abusive household that includes a violent father, a mean-spirited stepmother, and two spinster sisters who want out. But was Lizzie responsible for all those whacks with an ax? Here she’s horrified at the bloodshed, uncertain of her memories, and desperate to be assured that the dead won’t return. With film rights sold and named one of 12 hot books for 2017 by the Bookseller.

Zhang, Jenny. Sour Heart: Stories. Lenny: Random. Aug. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780399589386. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780399589393. Downloadable: Random zhangAudio. SHORT STORIES
The inaugural offering in Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s new imprint, Lenny Books, this debut collection focuses on young women in unexpected ways. They belong to a community of immigrants who have abandoned dangerous lives as artists in China and Taiwan for poverty in 1990s New York City, and they must reconcile with the burdens of the past (e.g., a grandmother’s role in the Cultural Revolution) while also acknowledging the value of family ties and their own particular strengths. Newsworthy.

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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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