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

Krauss, le Carré, McDermott, Rushdie, Ward | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Sept. 2017

Krauss, Nicole. Forest Dark. Harper. Sept. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780062430991. $27.99. LITERARY
A National Book Award finalist, Anisfield-Wolf Award winner, Granta Best Young American Novelist, kraussNew Yorker Twenty Under Forty, and New York Times best-selling author to boot, Krauss returns with an expectedly rich and inviting new work. Larger-than-life Jules Epstein is now retired, and with his parents dead and his marriage over, he gives away most of his possessions and heads to Israel. There he becomes involved with a dynamic American rabbi planning a reunion of King David’s descendants and with the rabbi’s daughter, who’s making a film about David. Meanwhile, a young American novelist, desperate to redirect her life, arrives at a Tel Aviv hotel where she stays yearly and is offered the project of a lifetime. With a 150,000-copy first printing and a 15-city tour to Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

le Carré, John. A Legacy of Spies. Viking. Sept. 2017. 320p. ISBN 978-0735225114. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780735225121. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. THRILLERlecarre
This just in: spymaster le Carré returns with his greatest creation, George Smiley, though we don’t yet know whether Smiley will appear in the present (he’d be an old guy) or only in memory. Here, Smiley’s loyal ally, Peter Guillam, is yanked out of retirement, with the current government asking pointed questions about the Cold War activities of Smiley, Guillam, Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, and others in their circle. Smiley last appeared in 1991’s The Secret Pilgrim, so we should be getting some good perspective.

McDermott, Alice. The Ninth Hour. Farrar. Sept. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9780374280147. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374712174. CD: Macmillan Audio. LITERARY
One of the great writers of the Irish American experience, National Book Award winner McDermott mcdermottoffers the story of a young immigrant in early 1900s Brooklyn who has lost his job and is being hectored by his pregnant wife. So he asserts himself the only way he knows how: he turns on his tenement’s gas taps. Sister St. Savior rushes in to tend the widow and unborn child, and shame means that the suicide is never discussed. Yet it has an enormous impact on the victim’s family and friends for generations. Look for promotion at BEA.

Rushdie, Salman. The Golden House. Random. Sept. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9780399592805. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9780399592812. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY
Not surprisingly, this latest from “Booker of Bookers” prize winner Rushdie thinks big, chronicling a young American filmmaker’s involvement with a real estate tycoon and his powerful, in-the-shadows family. Yet it extends beyond rushdiethat story line to plumb American culture and politics since the inauguration of Barack Obama, which explains why it’s described as The Great Gatsby meets The Bonfire of the Vanities. It’s all here: the Tea Party, identity politics, the Gamergate scandal, and, as the Guardian quotes, “the insurgence of a ruthlessly ambitious, narcissistic, media-savvy villain sporting makeup and coloured hair.” One can almost hear Rushdie sharpening his knives.

Ward, Jesmyn. Sing, Unburied, Sing. Scribner. Sept. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781501126062. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501126093. CD: S. & S. Audio. LITERARY
Finally, what every smart fiction reader has been waiting for: Ward’s next novel after the stupendous, National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones. An intensively written story of one family that also wardjessmyncaptures the larger history of Mississippi, it stars Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla; their sometimes-there, sometimes-not mother, Leonie, a drug addict who has visions of her dead brother; and their grandparents Mam, who’s dying of cancer, and Pop, who struggles to hold the family together. When Leonie learns that the white father of her children will be released from prison, she loads them and a friend into her car and drives to the state penitentiary. Both grand and intimate; with a ten-city tour to Boston, Chicago, Jackson (MS), Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Oxford (MS), San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

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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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