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LJ Best Books 2016 logo
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.



We nominated, debated, and discussed. Then the LJ 12 (yes, 12 of us, just like a jury) convened and voted. On a blustery October day, we got down to it, paring the list of titles from 33 possibilities to the Ten Best Books of 2016.

The arguments were heard, the 12 cast their ballots, and the nonfiction party won the majority: seven out of ten. The results reflect the particularly strong year for nonfiction, and our selections cover weighty issues, such as racial injustice, convoluted family histories, the sorry state of mental health care, advances in gene therapy, the nationwide housing crisis, the effect of single ladies on U.S. history and culture, and the phenomenon that is the Patty Hearst story. Stephanie Klose, who nominated Jeffrey Toobin’s account of the Hearst kidnapping and its aftereffects, calls his book “weirder and more compelling than any work of fiction,” and that observation could apply to any or all of the “true books” we chose this year.

Our fiction choices tell their own hard truths. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad employs touches of magical realism to highlight the horror of slavery and racism. Nathan Hill’s The Nix, as Barbara Hoffert notes, “encompasses three decades of American political and social history to create absolutely addictive fiction.” And hints of magical realism aid and abet the truth telling in Eowyn Ivey’s To the Bright Edge of the World (which also garnered a Best Historical Fiction nod).

The truth is out there in this year’s Best Books; share these titles with your patrons—and everyone.—LF


Looking for even more of the Best Books of 2016? The LJ review editors and many of our regular columnists and contributors selected their Top Five picks for Genre Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Graphic Novels, and SELF-e Titles.


Choosing only five top titles in each category, plus a Top Ten, is a daunting exercise, so LJ’s editors decided to up the ante, selecting honorable mentions in fiction, nonfiction, romance, e-originals, graphic novels, and poetry.

Want a hard copy? Just fill out the form below to download a printable PDF version of the full LJ Best Books 2016 list:

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LJ editors are listed by initial at the end of annotations:

  • Mahnaz Dar (MD), Assistant Managing Editor, LJS
  • Kate DiGirolomo (KD), SELF-e Community Coordinator
  • Bette-Lee Fox (BF), Managing Editor, LJ
  • Liz French (LF), Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
  • Tyler Hixson (TH), Editorial Assistant, SLJ Reviews
  • Barbara Hoffert (BH), Prepub Alert Editor, LJ Reviews
  • Stephanie Klose (SK), Media Editor, LJ Reviews
  • Amanda Mastrull (AM), Assistant Editor, LJ Reviews
  • Kiera Parrott (KP), Reviews Director, LJS
  • Annalisa Pesek (AP), Assistant Managing Editor, LJ Reviews
  • Stephanie Sendaula (SS), Associate Editor, LJ Reviews
  • Wilda Williams (WW), Fiction Editor, LJ Reviews

All outside contributors are listed by name:

  • Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L.
  • Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL
  • Tom Batten, Grafton, VA
  • Lisa Campbell, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., South Deerfield
  • Martha Cornog, Philadelphia
  • Nanette Donohue, Champaign P.L., IL
  • Rachael Dreyer, Pennsylvania State Univ. Dept. of Libs.
  • Karen Ellis, Taylor P.L., TX
  • Sandra Farag, BookOps, New York
  • Heather Halliday, American Jewish Historical Soc., New York
  • Marlene Harris, Reading Reality, LLC, Duluth, GA
  • Teva Hutchinson, Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Lib.
  • Viccy Kemp, Flower Mound P.L, TX
  • Megan M. McArdle, Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
  • Elizabeth Nelson, McHenry Cty. Coll. Lib., Crystal Lake, IL
  • Marie M. Octobre, Coll. of New Rochelle, Brooklyn
  • Kristin Ramsdell, Libn. Emerita, California State Univ. East Bay
  • Derek Sanderson, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY
  • Christine Sharbrough, Tewksbury P.L., MA
  • Lissa Staley, Topeka and Shawnee County P.L., KS
  • Rollie Welch, Lehigh Acres, FL
  • Gayle Williamson, Fashion Inst. of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles