LJ Best Books 2017

It's time again for 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 and literature, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles.   SEE WHO MADE THE LIST

Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction


Best Books 2014: Top Ten
Best Books 2014: More of the Best
Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction
Best Books 2014: Core Nonfiction
Best Books 2014: Graphic Novels
Best Books 2014: E-Originals
Best Books 2014: Romance

By Rollie Welch (African American fiction), Christine Sharbrough (Christian fiction), Mara Bandy (historical fiction), Teresa Jacobsen (mystery), Kristin Ramsdell (romance), Megan M. McArdle (sf/fantasy), Jeff Ayers (thrillers), Karen M. Core (women’s fiction)


african american fiction

Benson, Angela. Delilah’s Daughters. Harper. ISBN 9780062002716. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062101396. CF

A trio of sisters who perform Southern gospel tunes are thrown into conflict when one of the girls is fast-tracked to national fame, challenging the family’s faith and trust in God. Benson avoids sugary melodrama, and the result is a satisfying read. (African American Fiction and More, 3/20/14)

Goss, Shelia M. The Joneses. Strebor. (Zane Presents). ISBN 9781593095222. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781476744513. F

The women of the Jones clan, which operates a successful African American funeral home, cherish their shopping sprees, but the family’s bottom line is hurting owing to a behind-the-scenes money laundering scheme. A twisty, fast-paced plot and snappy dialog will have readers turning the pages at turbo speed. (African American Fiction and More, 1/16/14)

K’wan. Black Lotus. Infamous: Akashic. ISBN 9781617752650. $19.95; pap. ISBN 9781617752667. $11.99; ebk. ISBN 9781617752865. F

K’wan here shifts styles from hard-core urban fiction to a gritty police procedural featuring a New York City detective emotionally consumed with a serial killer’s gruesome work. Plenty of bloody action and nifty twists for the author’s many fans. (African American Fiction and More, 4/16/14)

Mink, Meesha. Kiss the Ring: An Urban Tale. Touchstone. ISBN 9781476755304. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476755342. F

There’s plenty of street flair with a sprinkling of erotica in this tale of a mother’s revenge for her son’s murder, but Mink’s tension-filled plot holds its own against any hard-boiled mystery. (African American Fiction and More, 8/20/14)

Williams, Wendy. Hold Me in Contempt. Morrow. ISBN 9780062268419. pap. $14; ebk. ISBN 9780062268433. F

Williams’s well-constructed novel flows with plenty of New York swagger. A professional girl betrayed by her roommate searches for true romance and gets caught up in the criminal doings of the Irish mob. (African American Fiction and More, 4/16/14)


christian fiction

Cambron, Kristy. The Butterfly and the Violin. Thomas Nelson. ISBN 9781401690595. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401690601. CF

Weaving multiple plotlines, time lines, and perspectives that switch between the present-day search for a haunting portrait of an Austrian violinist and the horrors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Cambron’s debut is a poignant tale about the power of love and faith in difficult circumstances. (LJ 6/15/14)

Gilbert, Kellie Coates. A Woman of Fortune. Revell. ISBN 9780800722722. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441245007. CF

A Texas millionaire’s wife finds her good life imploding when her husband is arrested for running a Ponzi scheme. An inspiring tale of a woman who had it all, lost it all, and kept her faith so that she could redeem herself and her family. (LJ 6/15/14)

Kraus, Harry. Lip Reading. David C. Cook. ISBN 9780781405348. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780781411240. CF

When a doctor helping to develop a wonder drug realizes that the medicine doesn’t work, she ignores her own declining health and races to find a solution. This emotionally charged medical thriller throws light on the pharmaceutical industry, “its researchers, the money at stake, and what people will do to get it and the fame that it brings.” (LJ 4/15/14)

Lee, Tosca. The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen. Howard. ISBN 9781451684049. $23.99. CF

Lee’s fascinating reimagining of a legendary biblical figure is part historical fiction and part romance as it recounts the epic love story between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon that forged 3,000 years of history. Expertly researched and beautifully told. (LJ 9/1/14)

Mills, DiAnn. Firewall. Tyndale House. ISBN 9781414389936. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781414396132. CF

A new bride traveling to Puerto Rico is the prime suspect in the bombing of Houston’s airport terminal, but one FBI agent thinks she might have been set up. With an intricate plot involving domestic terrorism that could have been ripped from the headlines, Mills’s romantic thriller makes for compelling reading. (LJ 6/15/14)


historical fiction

Doerr, Anthony. All the Light We Cannot See. Scribner. ISBN 9781476746586. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781476746609. F

A National Book Award finalist, Doerr’s poignant novel about the resilience of hope and human connection amid the darkness of World War II has enchanted both critics and audiences. The complexity of the plot impresses, but the true power of the novel lies in its breathtakingly poetic prose and endearing, unforgettable characters. (LJ 2/1/14)

Forsyth, Kate. Bitter Greens. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. ISBN 9781250047533. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466847835. F

An isolated stone tower is not the only prison in this clever blend of historical fiction and fairy tale retellings that illuminates women trapped by society’s expectations. Set within the alternately glittering and vicious worlds of Renaissance France and Italy, Australian author Forsyth’s U.S. debut offers a potent mix of court intrigue, magic, and immersive historical detail. (LJ 6/15/14)

Hunt, Laird. Neverhome. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316370134. $26; ebk. 9780316370127. F

Constance “Ash” Thompson gladly goes to fight for the Union in her weaker husband’s place but soon confronts horror both on and off the battlefield. Hunt’s rough-hewn protagonist faces brutal choices, yet the beautifully lyrical first-person narrative never falters in its feeling of haunting authenticity. (LJ 8/14)

Kidd, Sue Monk. The Invention of Wings. Viking. ISBN 9780670024780. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698175242. F

Kidd introduces readers to Charleston, SC, sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimké, both in­famous in their day for their fiery abolitionist and feminist views. Sarah’s complicated friendship with Handful, a family slave, demonstrates how difficult it was to escape slavery’s pervasive reach. A memorable portrait of three courageous women. (LJ 11/1/13)

Liss, David. The Day of Atonement. Random. ISBN 9781400068975. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781588369635. F

Sebastian Foxx returns to 18th-century Lisbon with one goal: to kill the priest responsible for his parents’ deaths. Betrayals and complications quickly mount as an increasingly conscience-­ridden Sebastian plays a dangerous game guaranteed to keep readers on the edge of their seats. A real treat for historical thriller fans. (LJ 9/1/14)



Bilal, Parker. The Ghost Runner: A Makana Mystery. Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 9781620403402. $27. M

Sudanese detective Makana’s latest case, involving a young Egyptian woman’s death, sends him into the remote Sahara. Suspecting a political dissident, Makana fears the killer intends to wreak more havoc in this explosively violent and dark novel set in 2002. Bilal is a pseudonym for literary novelist Jamal ­Mahjoub. (LJ 2/1/14)

Brody, Frances. Murder in the Afternoon: A Kate Shackleton Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. ISBN 9781250037022. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250037039. M

Only PI Kate Shackleton takes a child’s observation seriously in this deftly plotted village mystery that tackles both women’s rights and union activism. The superb series, set in the 1920s, is perfect for fans of traditional British fare. (LJ 2/1/14)

Lin, Ed. Ghost Month. Soho Crime. ISBN 9781616953263. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616953270. M

When his girlfriend is murdered, Jing-nan, a UCLA-­educated Taipei food-stall owner, stumbles into action. The clueless yet endearing protagonist makes every mistake in the book yet somehow succeeds. Lin’s category-defying stand-alone delights with its humor and profundity. (LJ 7/14)

May, Peter. The Lewis Man. Quercus. ISBN 9781623658199. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781623658205. M

Det. Fin Macleod’s return to Scotland’s Lewis Island turns dark when a murder victim is unearthed from the peat and his identity reveals secrets someone wants desperately to suppress. A stunning follow-up to May’s Barry Award–winning The Blackhouse. (LJ 9/1/14)

Shames, Terry. The Last Death of Jack Harbin: A Samuel Craddock Mystery. Seventh Street: Prometheus. ISBN 9781616148713. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616148720. M

Craddock, the retired police chief of small-town Jarrett Creek, TX, is back on the job when a disabled veteran and his caregiver die in quick succession. Astutely plotted, this regional series carries universal appeal; think Margaret Maron. (LJ 11/1/13)



Balogh, Mary. Only Enchanting. Signet: NAL. (Survivors’ Club, Bk. 4). ISBN 9780451469663. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698156081. HISTORICAL

A war veteran struggling with memory loss and unpredictable behavior and a young widow intent on avoiding love are drawn together against all odds in a poignant, beautiful love story enhanced by secrets, scandal, and the malicious machinations of a spiteful adversary. (LJ 10/15/14)

Bourne, Joanna. Rogue Spy. Berkley Sensation. ISBN 9780425260821. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101625606. HISTORICAL

A brilliant code breaker heroine and a British Service agent, both legendary Cachés (lethally trained children sent to England as French spies), become targets of a diabolical revolutionary bent on murder and destruction in a gripping, complex romantic thriller graced with compelling characters and exquisite prose. (LJ 10/15/14)

MacLean, Sarah. Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover. Avon. (Rule of Scoundrels, Bk. 4). ISBN 9780062068514. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062065414. HISTORICAL

A powerful, aristocratic heroine secretly leading a triple life and determined to secure her daughter’s future joins forces with an equally powerful newspaper owner intent on neutralizing a blackmailer in this engaging, secrets-laced page-turner that is another winner from rising star MacLean. (LJ 12/14; see p. 79)

Phillips, Susan Elizabeth. Heroes Are My Weakness. Morrow. ISBN 9780062106070. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062106117. CONTEMPORARY

A young woman returns to the remote Maine island where she spent her childhood summers and discovers startling truths as she reconnects with her past and the stepbrother whose betrayal almost killed her. A chilling, gracefully crafted, unforgettable contemporary gothic. (LJ 8/14)

Putney, Mary Jo. Not Quite a Wife. Zebra: Kensington. (Lost Lords, Bk. 6). ISBN 9781420127164. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781420127195. HISTORICAL

Reunited by chance after years apart but still divided by conflicting values, an estranged couple are forced to reconcile for the sake of a baby in an emotionally compelling, gorgeously written story that is as thought provoking as it is romantically satisfying. (LJ 8/14)



Addison, Katherine. The Goblin Emperor. Tor. ISBN 9780765326997. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429946407. FANTASY

Half-goblin Maia was never expected to inherit the imperial throne and faces prejudice, greed, corruption, and loneliness when he is crowned. The characters, especially that of gentle Maia, breathe new life into the typical dynastic politics found in epic fantasy. (LJ 3/15/14)

Bennett, Robert Jackson. City of Stairs. Crown. ISBN 9780804137171 pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780804137188. FANTASY

When the gods were killed and their worship forbidden, the city of Bulikov changed. But dead gods, murdered historians, and dogged spies are just part of the complex religious and political world brought to life in Bennett’s fascinating mix of epic fantasy and mystery. (LJ 8/14)

Gibson, William. The Peripheral. Putnam. ISBN 9780399158445. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698170704. SF

Flynn Fisher takes a gaming job as a favor to her brother and winds up witnessing a murder. Not content with showing us merely one future, Gibson layers two time lines, myriad cool new technologies, and a clever mystery into this sf thriller. (LJ 10/15/14)

Leckie, Ann. Ancillary Sword. Orbit: Hachette. ISBN 9780316246651. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780316246644.

Former ship ancillary Breq is given a command and sent to Athoek station, home of the family of the lieutenant she killed in Leckie’s debut, Ancillary Justice, which won every major sf award for 2013. Breq confronts corruption and injustice while still longing for the integrated existence she has lost. (LJ 9/15/14)

VanderMeer, Jeff. Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. Farrar. ISBN 9780374261177. $35.

Originally published as separate short paperback novels throughout 2014 (Annihilation, LJ 1/14; Authority, LJ 5/15/14; Acceptance, LJ 8/14), this hardcover collects the story of the lush and dangerous region known as Area X into one volume. Unsettling and surreal, this trilogy blends horror and sf into a thoroughly unique creation. (LJ 12/14; see p. 75)



Burcell, Robin. The Kill Order. Harper. ISBN 9780062273710. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062273727. F

A mistake in protocol endangers FBI Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick and her colleagues, as a cryptic key and a young woman with eidetic memory hold the answers to a potential world war. Burcell’s action-packed tale is a nail-biter from the first page.

Coulter, Catherine & J.T. Ellison. The Lost Key. Putnam. ISBN 9780399164767. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101618752. F

Mix a creepy villain with a fish-out-of-water FBI agent, a baffling murder, a secret society, and a historical mystery that has puzzled scholars for decades, and the result is another terrific page-turner from these amazing authors, who prove the adage that two heads are better than one. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 8/29/14)

Dugoni, Robert. My Sister’s Grave. Thomas & Mercer: Amazon. ISBN 9781477825570. pap. $15.95. F

This successful hybrid of police procedural and legal thriller revolves around a cop seeking justice for the murder of her sister years earlier. The man convicted of the crime avows his innocence, and when the girl’s body is finally found, the evidence seems to justify his claim of being framed. Dugoni’s stand-alone is an emotional and gut-wrenching, character-driven suspense tale. (LJ 9/1/14)

Ryan, Hank Phillippi. Truth Be Told: A Jane Ryland Novel. Forge. ISBN 9780765374936. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780765374974. F

In investigating the story of a middle-class family facing foreclosure, reporter Jane Ryland uncovers a murder, while Boston detective Jake Brogan knows the man confessing to a cold case is a liar. Throw in romance and dashes of humor, and this thriller proves that ­Ryan’s numerous literary awards are well deserved. (LJ 9/1/14)

Weir, Andy. The Martian. Crown. ISBN 9780804139021. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780804139038. SF

The surprise sf thriller of the year, Weir’s futuristic Robinson Crusoe tale will grip readers from the moment astronaut Mark Watney begins to tell his story of being marooned on Mars: “I’m pretty much fucked.” (LJ 12/13)


women’s fiction

Macomber, Debbie. Love Letters: A Rose Harbor Novel. Ballantine. ISBN 9780553391138. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780553391145. F

The guests at Cedar Cove’s Rose Harbor Inn are each romantically challenged and none more so than the proprietress, who has designs on her handyman. Love letters may prove the means of self-expression necessary to realize the bliss that eludes them. (LJ 8/14)

Moriarty, Liane. Big Little Lies. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. ISBN 9780399167065. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698138636. F

A death occurs in the most innocuous of times and places: parents’ night at an elementary school. Scratch the surface, however, and these parents don’t live up to their carefully crafted personas. In a group that thrives on lies, gossip, and cliques, could someone be a murderer? Once again, Moriarty excels at exposing the dark side of the “perfect” family. (LJ Xpress ­Reviews, 7/4/14)

Moyes, Jojo. One Plus One. Pamela Dorman: Viking. ISBN 9780525426585. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698152007. F

In an effort to get her genius daughter to an out-of-town math competition, Jess and her family accept a ride from one of Jess’s housecleaning clients who happens to be an insufferable tech geek. This satisfying romantic comedy road trip takes enough detours to avoid the formulaic. (LJ 5/1/14)

Rowell, Rainbow. Landline. St. Martin’s. ISBN 9781250049377. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466850378. F

Georgie’s seemingly doomed marriage gets a chance at a reprieve when she figures out how to communicate with her estranged husband as he was when they first fell in love. Far from being a cure-all, however, this link to the past might prove that her marriage was dead on arrival. (LJ 5/1/14)

Walsh, Therese. The Moon Sisters. Crown. ISBN 9780307461605. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780307461629. F

Two sisters, one pragmatic and the other a dreamer, attempt to come to terms with their mother’s death, an apparent suicide. A journey ensues, the destination a suitable place to scatter their mother’s ashes, and along the way the sisters face challenges that put their tenuous bond in jeopardy. Moving and beautifully written. (LJ 3/15/14)

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