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

Books Beyond Our Borders | Barbara’s Picks, Jul. 2017, Pt. 4

Bassingthwaighte, Ian. Live from Cairo. Scribner. Jul. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9781501146879. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501146893. LITERARY FICTION
A Hopwood Award winner and finalist for the Daniel Pearl Investigative Journalism Initiative, cairoFulbright grantee Bassingthwaighte worked in Egypt in 2009 to help refugees from Iraq, Sudan, and the Horn of Africa. Thus he brings both writing skills and knowledge to his story of four people caught in Cairo during the crash of President Mubarak’s regime. Dalia has been denied entry to America to resettle with her husband; lawyer Charlie plots a shady way to get her in; Aos, Charlie’s translator and sole friend, protests in Tahrir Square at night; and Iraqi-American Hana, Dalia’s case worker, is in crisis over her work.

Carrasco, Jesús. Out in the Open. Riverhead. Jul. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9781594634369. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780698197404. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY/DYSTOPIAN
In a lawless, drought-ravaged land, a boy hides from violent pursuers, then sets off for freedom across a vast plain. There he meets a goatherd who embodies all the righteous brightness lost to his world and learns that he has choices. Carrasco’s debut sold hugely in Spain, with rights grabbed by nearly two dozen countries; it also won multiple awards like the European Union Prize for Literature and the English PEN award. With an award-winning translator, too; newsworthy.

Chase, Eve. The Wildling Sisters. Putnam. Jul. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780399174131. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698191471. CD/downloadable: Penguin Audio. WOMEN’S FICTIONchase
Chase, whose gothic-twisty Black Rabbit Hall was a No. 2 LibraryReads pick, offers an atmospheric successor set at shadowed Applecote Manor. In June 1959, four sisters arrive there, anticipating a pleasant summer holiday with their aunt and uncle. Instead, they find their cousin Audrey’s disappearance five years previously still inking the manor’s every corner, and the incursion of two handsome neighbors brings breaking-point crisis. Fifty years later, Jesse moves her husband and stepdaughter to Applecote Manor, hoping for a fresh start but instead finding troubling rumors about its dark past.

Cohen, Joshua. Moving Kings. Random. Jul. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9780399590184. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780399590191. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY FICTION
Literary cult author Cohen always gets high praise, with 2015’s nationally best-selling Book of Numbers best-booked by the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and New York magazine. His pointedly relevant new work features 21-year-old Israelis Yoav and Uri, who come to New York after completing their compulsory military service and work for Yoav’s distant cousin, a mover and shaker in the Tri-State area’s moving and storage industries. Mostly, they’re shoving out delinquent tenants and defaulting homeowners in poor minority neighborhoods, but meeting someone who refuses to budge brings echoes of their own soldiering pasts.

Davis, Angela J., ed. Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment. Pantheon. Jul. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781101871270. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101871287. AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES
The recent deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and more bring into ever sharper focus thePOLICING long, tragic history of the arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment of African American men. This timely anthology, edited by a professor at the American University Washington College of Law, collects painfully relevant essays by leading criminal justice experts that explore issues like racial profiling, the role of implicit bias, the consequences of various police and judicial decisions, the disproportionate imprisonment of black men, and the Supreme Court’s failure to redress the balance. Ripe for discussion.

Hall, Sarah. Madame Zero: 9 Stories. Custom House: Morrow. Jul. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9780062657060. $23.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062657084. SHORT STORIES
A new mother encounters an old flame, a social worker struggles to foster a commune-raised child, and a woman periodically turns into a fox. Intriguing scenarios that will doubtless yield gem-like stories, and here’s the proof: Hall (The Wolf Border) was named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, and her shelf topples over with honors that include the BBC Short Story Prize, the E.M. Forster Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the James Tiptree Jr. Award, the Betty Trask Award, and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Oh, and there’s a Man Booker short-listing in that pile. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Higashida, Naoki. Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight: A Young Man’s Voice from the Silence of Autism. Random. Jul. 2017. 272p. tr. from Japanese by KA Yoshida & David Mitchell. ISBN 9780812997392. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812997408. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. MEMOIR
At age 13, Higashida wrote The Reason I Jump, an international phenomenon that offered readers an extraordinary look into the mind of a wholly nonverbal child with autism. This new memoir finds the author moving into young adulthood and wrestling with issues of identity, family, and society, creating the portrait of a unique individual, not just a labeled type. This work expands on the Japanese version, offering new material that includes a short story by the author. The first book stayed on the New York Times best sellers list for 20 weeks, so expect demand.

Hudson, Gabe. Gork, the Teenage Dragon. Knopf. Jul. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780375413964. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781524732479. LITERARY FANTASY
As the promotion says, “High school, with dragons,” which sums up the genre-bending, hudsonage-defying appeal of this latest from Sue Kaufman Prize winner and PEN/Hemingway finalist Hudson (Dear Mr. President). A dragon named Gork, about to graduate from WarWings Military Academy, has an unfortunate reputation for fainting and the lowest class ranking for Will To Power. Now he must ask a female dragon to be his queen so that they can fly off and conquer a new planet (his destiny is Earth), and if she demurs he’ll become a slave. It looks bad, but Gork has one thing going for him: a big, generous heart. Seriously, literary sentimentalists, can you resist?

Mezrich, Ben. Woolly: The True Story of the De-Extinction of One of History’s Most Iconic Creatures. Atria. Jul. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781501135552. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501135576. SCIENCE
Under the direction of a world-class geneticist named George Church, a bunch of persevering young scientists sequence the DNA of a frozen woolly mammoth, splice elements of the sequence into the DNA of a modern elephant, and dream of bringing back a creature long ago hunted to extinction. No, not escapist fiction but reality, as reported by Mezrich, responsible for the New York Times best sellers The Accidental Billionaires and Bringing Down the House, basis of the Academy Award-winning The Social Network and the hit movie 21, respectively.

Muñoz Molina, Antonio. Like a Fading Shadow. Farrar. Jul. 2017. 320p. tr. from Spanish by Camilo A. Ramirez. ISBN 9780374126902. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374714161. LITERARY/HISTORICAL FICTION
Spanish author Muñoz Molina, winner of the Planeta and Príncipe de Asturias prizes, takes on American history with a twist. Drawing on recently declassified FBI files, the narrative opens after the shooting of Martin Luther King Jr., as assassin James Earl Ray flees to Canada, London, and finally Lisbon, where he enjoys the international furor he’s created while trying on various disguises. Reconstructing events allows Muñoz Molina to inject himself into the proceedings as he ponders the act of writing a novel. More than your average chase story, though the narrative does rush along.

Nayeri, Dina. Refuge. Riverhead. Jul. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9781594487057. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780399576409. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY FICTION
Having distinguished herself with A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, the story of twin sisters refugeseparated when one immigrates to America with their mother, Nayeri again plunges us into the riptide experience of immigration today. Niloo left Iran as a child and is now a cultured and classy Westerner, but she misses the obstreperous father she’s seen only four times in two decades. As she becomes absorbed in the plight of the refugees flooding Europe, Niloo recognizes a need to reconnect with both her father and with a familiar homeland she still barely knows.

 

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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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