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

Literary Guinea Pigs, Secret Lives of Grannies| Fiction Audio Coming in May

Campbell, Michelle. It’s Always the Husband. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427286147. Reader TBA.

Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, despite being as different as three women could be. Kate was beautiful, wild, wealthy, and damaged. Aubrey, on financial aid, came from a broken home, and wanted more than anything to distance herself from her past. And Jenny was a striver―brilliant, ambitious, and determined to succeed. As an unlikely friendship formed, the three of them swore they would always be there for each other. But twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge, and someone is urging her to jump….

Chevalier, Tracy. New Boy. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524757496. digital download.
Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day—so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t bear to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players—teachers and pupils alike—will never be the same.

Cooperman, Kathy. Crimes Against a Book Club. Brilliance Audio.  ISBN 9781536614152.book club Read by Katherine Kellgren.  digital download.
Best friends Annie and Sarah need cash—fast. Sarah, a beautiful, successful lawyer, wants nothing more than to have a baby. But balancing IVF treatments with a grueling eighty-hour workweek is no walk in the park. Meanwhile, Annie, a Harvard-grad chemist recently transplanted to Southern California, is cutting coupons to afford her young autistic son’s expensive therapy. Desperate, the two friends come up with a brilliant plan: they’ll combine Sarah’s looks and Annie’s brains to sell a “luxury” antiaging face cream to the wealthy, fading beauties in Annie’s La Jolla book club. The scheme seems innocent enough, until Annie decides to add a special—and oh-so-illegal—ingredient that could bring their whole operation crashing to the ground.

Di Maio, Camille. Before the Rain Falls. Brilliance Audio. ISBN 9781531846084. Read by Dara Rosenberg.  digital download.
After serving 70 years in prison for the murder of her sister, Eula, Della Lee has finally returned home to the Texas town of Puerto Pesar. She’s free from confinement—and ready to tell her secrets before it’s too late. And she finds a willing audience in journalist Mick Anders, who is still reeling after his suspension from a Boston newspaper, and in town, reluctantly, to investigate a mysterious portrait of Eula that reportedly sheds tears. He crosses paths with Dr. Paloma Vega, who’s visiting Puerto Pesar with her own mission: to take care of her ailing grandmother and to rescue her rebellious younger sister before something terrible happens. Paloma and Mick have their reasons to be in the hot, parched border town whose name translates as “Port of Regret.” But they don’t anticipate how their lives will be changed.

Doust, Kelly.  Precious Things. Brilliance Audio. ISBN 9781489390745. Read by Melanie Hudson. digital download.
Normandy, France, 1891: a young woman painstakingly sews an intricately beaded collar to her wedding dress the night before her marriage to someone she barely knows. Yet Aimee longs for so much more….Shanghai, 1926: dancing sensation and wild child Zephyr spies what looks like a beaded headpiece lying carelessly discarded on a ballroom floor. She takes it with her to Malaya where she sets her sights on a prize so out of reach that, in striving for it, she will jeopardize everything she holds dear.

Ellsworth, Loretta. Stars Over Clear Lake. Tantor Audio. ISBN 9781515967941. Read by Tavia Gilbert. digital download.
Lorraine Kindred’s most cherished memories are of the Surf Ballroom, the place where youth lost themselves to the brassy sounds and magnetic energy of the big swing bands, where boys spent their last nights before shipping off to war—and where Lorraine herself was swept away by a star-crossed romance. Returning to the ballroom for the first time in decades, Lorraine enters a dazzling world she thought long vanished. But as the sparkling past comes to life, so does the fateful encounter that forced her to choose between her heart and her duty all those years ago—and Lorraine must face the secret she’s buried ever since.

Firmani, B.G. Time’s a Thief. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524755690.  Reader TBA. digital download.
Francesca “Chess” Varani is an ultra-bright, sassy, but vulnerable Barnard freshwoman from a blue-collar background in the vibrantly gritty New York City of the mid-eighties. She strikes up a volatile and somewhat toxic friendship with drama-queen classmate Kendra Marr- Löwenstein, and through her, receives the sentimental education and emotional roughing up that New York bestows on all of its new arrivals—including: a love affair with Kendra’s damaged brother  Jerry. The story is related by Chess in sadder but wiser voice from the distance of a financially beset 2008, and is tinged with the poignancy of time and choices made and not made.

Flynn, Kathleen A. The Jane Austen Project. HarperAudio. ISBN 9780062674074. Read by by Saskia Maarleveld.
London, 1815: Two travelers—Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane—arrive in a field in rural England, disheveled and weighed down with hidden money. Turned away at a nearby inn, they are forced to travel by coach all night to London. They are not what they seem, but rather colleagues who have come back in time from a technologically advanced future, posing as wealthy West Indies planters—a doctor and his spinster sister. While Rachel and Liam aren’t the first team from the future to “go back,” their mission is by far the most audacious: to meet, befriend, and steal from Jane Austen herself.

Gray, Amelia. Isadora. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427292148. Read by Jen Tullock.
In 1913, the restless world sat on the brink of unimaginable suffering. But for one woman, the darkness of a new era had already made itself at home. Isadora Duncan would come to be known as the mother of modern dance, but in the spring of 1913 she was a grieving mother, after a freak accident in Paris resulted in the drowning death of her two young children. The accident cracked Isadora’s life in two: on one side, the brilliant young talent who captivated audiences the world over; on the other, a heartbroken mother spinning dangerously on the edge of sanity.

Hammesfahr, Petra. The Sinner. Tantor Audio. ISBN 9781541453999. Read by Christa Lewis.
Hailed as Germany’s Patricia Highsmith, Hammesfahr presents Cora Bender.  She has killed a man. But why? What could have caused this quiet, lovable young mother to stab a stranger in the throat, again and again, until she was pulled off his body? For the local police it was an open-and-shut case. Cora confessed; there was no shortage of proof or witnesses. But Police Commissioner Rudolf Grovian refused to close the file and began his own maverick investigation. So begins the slow unraveling of Cora’s past, a harrowing descent into a woman’s private hell.

Han,  Jimin. A Small Revolution. Brilliance Audio. ISBN  9781531868390. Read by Great Jung. digital download.
On a beautiful Pennsylvania fall morning, a gunman holds college freshman Yoona Lee and three of her classmates hostage in the claustrophobic confines of their dorm room. The desperate man with his finger on the trigger—Yoona’s onetime friend, Lloyd Kang—is unraveling after a mysterious accident in Korea killed his closest friend, Jaesung, who was also the love of Yoona’s life. As the tense standoff unfolds, Yoona is forced to revisit her past—from growing up in an abusive household to the upheaval in her ancestral homeland to unwittingly falling in love. She must also confront the truth about what happened to Jaesung on that tragic day, even as her own fate hangs in the balance.

Hawkins, Paula. Into the Water. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525496069. Reader TBA. digital download.
The author of the bestselling Girl on a Train, returns with a story about a single mother who turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged. Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

Honeyman, Gail. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524749705. Reader TBA. digital download.
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Her weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

KoKo, Lisa. The Leavers. Highbridge Audio. ISBN 9781681685083. Read by Emily Woo Zeller. digital download.
One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, 11-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Malik, Ayisha. Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged. Brilliance Audio. ISBN 9781489390783. Read by Rita Sharma. digital download.
Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all exposé about the Muslim dating scene. As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues,and bossy parents as she seeks stories for her book. But in amidst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers, and polygamy-inclined friends, could there be a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love?

Rieger, Susan. The Heirs. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524773823. digital download.
Six months after Rupert Falkes dies, leaving a grieving widow and five adult sons, an unknown woman sues his estate, claiming she had two sons by him. The Falkes brothers are pitched into turmoil, at once missing their father and feeling betrayed by him. The brothers see their identity and success as inextricably tied to family loyalty—a loyalty they always believed their father shared. Struggling to reclaim their identity, the brothers find their mother’s strange sympathy toward the woman and her sons confounding. Widowhood, it seems, has permitted her to cast off the rigid propriety of her stifling upbringing, leading the brothers to question whether they knew either of their parents at all.

Sardar, Gian. You Were Here. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524750831. Digital download. Reader TBA.
Death, accidental and early, has always been Abby Walters’s preoccupation. Now thirty-three and eager to settle down with her commitment-shy boyfriend, a recurring dream from her past returns: a paralyzing nightmare of being buried alive, the taste of dirt in her mouth cloying and real. But this time the dream reveals a name from her family’s past. Looking for answers, Abby returns home to small-town Minnesota for the first time in fourteen years, where she reconnects with her high school crush, now a police detective on the trail of a violent criminal. When Abby tries on her grandmother’s mesmerizing diamond ring, a ring she always dreamed would be hers, she discovers a cryptic note long hidden beneath the box’s velvet lining. What secret was her grandmother hiding? And could this be the key to what’s haunting Abby?

Satyal, Rakesh. No One Can Pronounce My Name. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427291431. Reader TBA.
In a suburb outside Cleveland, a community of Indian Americans has settled into lives that straddle the divide between Eastern and Western cultures. For some, America is a bewildering and alienating place where coworkers can’t pronounce your name but will eagerly repeat the Sanskrit phrases from their yoga class. Harit, a lonely Indian immigrant in his mid-forties, lives with his mother who can no longer function after the death of Harit’s sister, Swati. In a misguided attempt to keep both himself and his mother sane, Harit has taken to dressing up in a sari every night to pass himself off as his sister. Meanwhile, Ranjana, also an Indian immigrant also in her mid-forties, has just seen her only child, Prashant, off to college. Worried that her husband has begun an affair, she seeks solace by writing paranormal romances in secret. When Harit and Ranjana’s paths cross, they begin a strange yet necessary friendship that brings to light their own passions and fears.

Simsion, Graeme. The Best of Adam Sharp. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427286253. Read by David Barker.
Two decades ago, Adam Sharp’s piano playing led him into a passionate relationship with Angelina Brown, an intelligent and strong-willed actress. They had a chance at something more―but Adam didn’t take it. Now, on the cusp of turning fifty, Adam likes his life. He’s happy with his partner Claire, he excels in music trivia at quiz night at the local pub, he looks after his mother, and he does occasional IT consulting work. But he can never quite shake off his questions over what might have been. And then, out of nowhere, from the other side of the world, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously at last?

Solwitz, Sharon. Once, in Lourdes. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780451482945. Reader TBA. digital download.
As the Vietnam War rages overseas, four friends make a vow. For the next two weeks, they will live for each other and for each day. Then, at the end of the two weeks, they will sacrifice themselves on the altar of their friendship. In the two-week span in which the novel takes place, during the summer before their senior year of high school, the lives of Kay, CJ, Saint, and Vera will change beyond their expectations, and what they gain and lose will determine the rest of their lives. As the heady 1960s shift the ground beneath their feet, all of them must face who they are—and who they want to be.

Stern, Abby. According to a Source. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427286437. Read by the Abby Stern.
Ella Warren works for celebrity news website, The Life, as a club reporter. She’s assigned to stake out Hollywood’s hottest clubs and spy on the celebrities inside. When she is pressured by her volatile, high pressure  boss to find an exclusive story to keep her job, she has to decide if being in Hollywood’s elite inner circle is worth jeopardizing her friendship with actress Holiday Hall, her budding romance with Holiday’s agent, and her own family.

Sullivan, J. Courtney. Saints for All Occasions. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524781484. digital download.
Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible sister; she’s shy and serious and engaged to a man she isn’t sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan—a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand. Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children. Estranged from her sister, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont. Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago.

Sullivan, Mark T.
Beneath a Scarlet Sky. Brilliance Audio. ISBN 9781536623147. Read by Will Damron. digital download.
Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior. In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders. Based on a true story.

Toibin, Colm. House of Names. Simon & Schuster Audio. ISBN 9781508227922. digital download.
Tóibín brings a modern sensibility and language to the ancient story of Clytemnestra, revealing the love, lust, and pain she feels at the sacrifice of her daughter by her husband, and who will, in turn, be murdered by her own son, Orestes. It is Orestes’ story, too: his capture by the forces of his mother’s lover Aegisthus, his escape and his exile. And it is the story of the vengeful Electra, who watches over her mother and Aegisthus with cold anger and slow calculation, until, atvthe return of her brother, she has the fates of both of them in her hands.

Turow, Scott. Testimony. Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781478926917. Reader TBA.
At the age of fifty, former prosecutor Bill ten Boom has walked out on everything he thought was important to him: his law career, his wife, Kindle County, even his country. Still, when he is tapped by the International Criminal Court—an organization charged with prosecuting crimes against humanity—he feels drawn to what will become the most elusive case of his career. Over ten years ago, in the apocalyptic chaos following the Bosnian war, an entire Roma refugee camp vanished. Now for the first time, a witness has stepped forward: Ferko Rincic claims that armed men marched the camp’s Gypsy residents to a cave in the middle of the night—and then with a hand grenade, set off an avalanche, burying 400 people alive. Only Ferko survived.

Walsh, Jenni L. Becoming Bonnie: A Novel. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427289018. Read by Susan Bennett.
The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family’s poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her, and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas’s newest speakeasy, Doc’s. Living the life of a good time girl at night, Bonnie remains wholesome by day, engaged to Roy, attending school, and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, he embraces it―perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling.  Bonnie tries to make the pieces fit, thinking maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. But her life―like her country―is headed for a crash. Bonnie Parker is about to meet Clyde Barrow.

Waxman, Abbi. The Garden of Small Beginnings. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524779351. Read by Emily Rankin. digital download.
Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.  At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles botanical garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not….

 

 

 

 

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