The best books of the year, as selected by Los Angeles Public Library staff. Perfect for holiday gift-giving! For more book lists and featured book reviews, check LAPL Reads.
The Age of Swords goes on to develop main characters introduced in The Age of Myth, and many of the peripheral characters that were introduced. The story is based on a mythical land where Fhrei (Elves) are treated as “gods” by all the humanoid races due to their magical powers. Persephone’s journey continues so that she will find a solution that will ensure the safety of her people from the magical wrath of the Fhrei. The series has it all, strong women figures, magic, elves, dwarfs, demons, intrigues, and plot twists. If you’re a fantasy fan, I definitely recommend starting with the Age of Myth and working your way down the list.
When travelling back in time and creating a darker timeline you lose a whole universe, including friends and family members. This novel deals with the loss and the moral quandaries time travel raises, with thoughtfulness and humor.
On the outside Lucy and Owen seem like your standard married suburban couple with a good looking kid. However, on a night out with friends they agree to a special six month arrangement. Find out if they can have their cake and eat it too in this quirky, fun read.
Vasya always loved the stories her grandmother told of the fantastical beings and demons of the forest. She has always made sure to appease the house spirits and follow the rules. But when her widowed father brings home a devoutly religious wife, Vasya is forbidden from honoring the old traditions. As evil encroaches on their small village, no one but Vasya seems able to confront it or her stepmother’s misguided ways.
This bird-themed anthology of delightfully dark literary short fiction features contributions from such esteemed writers as Joyce Carol Oates, Seanan McGuire, Paul G. Tremblay, and Jeffrey Ford. Characters include an obsessive-compulsive counter of crows, a beleaguered widow who finds inspiration in a large predatory heron, and a bird-loving girl with cerebral palsy whose accomplished older sister learns some hard and horrifying truths.
A vast collection of star systems, the Interdependency, is connected by interplanetary trade routes that will stop working, then civilization built on trade will collapse. There is very little time left to do anything because the people in power are more invested in fighting for more power than dealing with the problem. If this seems rather depressing, remember that it is written by John Scalzi, and thus very funny.
The second book in McGuire’s Wayward Children series is the story of twins Jacqueline and Jillian as they attempt to make their way through a world of vampires and mad scientists. It’s a good book for anyone who has ever outgrown an identity and needed to find a better one.
Charlie is the harbinger of Death, the one who goes before Death, sometimes as a courtesy, sometimes with a warning. He is a witness of the living and their ideas; and shares strong evidence about the amazing amount of inhumanity currently extant in the world. He strongly implies that he is witnessing the end of all human life. The book gets at the current zeitgeist vis a vis global warming, corrosive political ideology, and humanitarian crises of every description. Charlie is amazingly inarticulate as the character who is telling us what is going on, and the whole book uses a sort of half-thought fractured style, which is reflective of what is happening at the end of the world.
This masterpiece of a graphic novel is truly sui generis. Ostensibly, it is the story of an alien named Jomny who has been dispatched to study humans on Earth but instead befriends such creatures as bears, bees, and flowers. Funny, endearing, and poignant, this allegory of the human condition is also ultimately enlightening.
Hamid, the Pakistani author of Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, is one of the world's best contemporary writers, sure to be considered for the Nobel Prize in literature. This novel concerns refugees who pass through hidden magic doors in search of a safer life. Fear, loss, resilience, love, and hope all play a part as main characters Nadia and Saeed gradually make their way from an unnamed, war-torn homeland to a dystopic America.
An ordinary day at the zoo turns into a nightmare for Joan and her 4-year-old son, Lincoln, in this cat-and-mouse thriller. Near the exit, Joan sees bodies and a man with a gun, and makes a split-second decision to retreat into the zoo and hide. The book follows Joan and Lincoln over the span of just three hours, Joan relying on her knowledge of the zoo - and of her son - to outwit and evade the unhinged killer. An exploration of motherhood and courage that is breathless, terrifying, and masterfully plotted.
Told through Ginny’s point of view as a resilient and autistic 14-year-old kid, who still sometimes feels stuck at 9-years-old, and her way of life before she was adopted by her “forever” family. Ginny struggles to understand her place in her newly expanding family (and the new rules that go with it), and to come to terms with her traumatic past. Obsessed with both Michael Jackson and the baby doll that she had to leave behind, she leads her new family, schoolmates, teachers, police and the reader on a wild ride with planned kidnappings, a secret cabin, and the urgent need to take care of some very important unfinished business.
As life changes in Zanzibar, so does Salim's life. He leaves a house full of secrets, and joins his charismatic Uncle Amir in London. However, Salim is not prepared to experience the culture shock as an immigrant and college student. As in his other novels Abdulrazak Gurnah's elegant writing and keen observations about exile and immigration personalize the lives who are most vulnerable.
Self-aware police constable Peter Grant takes on what could be his biggest challenge yet, talking to the insanely wealthy, as he works to repay a favor to the anthropomorphic personification of River Tyburn, Lady Cecelia Tyburn Thames.
This strange story of interpersonal drama, gender, religion, and colonialism, set on an alien planet, is a very beautiful work of art. The stylized black and white art is breathtaking, the book is a pleasure to hold, and flip through, and the story is profoundly unsettling.
Nightingale Books is a cornerstone of the quiet town of Peasebrook. But when the owner passes away and leaves the store to his globetrotting daughter Emilia, suddenly the future of the store is in question. What’s more, this one change affects countless others, as one by one, the town’s residents find their lives in flux.
George Smiley, super-spy of the British Secret Serivce, passed the torch to Peter Guillam, whose own past is plaguing him. John le Carré has not lost his touch for analyzing political problems from the past and present, by way of his characters, and to thrill readers with his insights about international issues.
Arthur Less, a writer on the verge of turning 50, embarks on a round-the-world tour to avoid attending his ex-lover’s wedding. Stumbling from one country to the next, Less reexamines his life and has more than his fair share of adventures (or misadventures). This wonderful comic and romantic novel manages to provide both actual laughs and beautiful moments of reflection.
This is the story of Anna, working at a shipyard during World War II. There is a web of connections among Anna, her father (who has disappeared), and a gangster who may have had something to do with his disappearance. Jennifer Egan's characters are so complex and real, and her description of New York in the thirties and forties is so immersive that you almost feel like you're waking up when you have to put the book down.
Tom Perrotta (Election) has spent his literary career depicting, with a satirical bent, the lives of suburbanites on the East Coast. This latest novel deals with the sexual mores of the residents of a small town. The novel explores the sexual reawakening of a divorced mother after she sends her popular son, who is trying to tamp down his own sexual urges, off to a state university.
A fascinating story that combines the reawakening of some uber-powerful beings, (perhaps gods) with arising AI, some problematic genetic engineering, and an epidemic of a powerful new hallucinogenic drug. With Port Elizabeth, South Africa (and probably the world) on the brink of absolute disaster, four disparate people work together to solve things. The book ventures far into the realm of magical realism, but once you’re hooked it’s impossible to put down. For those who love SF, with a fair amount of the improbable mixed in.
This novel chronicles a convoluted tale of magic and time travel. Magic apparently existed in the past, worked by actual witches, and was killed when the 1851 solar eclipse was photographed. Reality became fixed in place and put a stop to the quantumesque access to other worlds that witches used to work their magic. Tristan Lyons and Melisande Stokes find an innovative scientist able to create a machine that allows a witch access to magic. With one very old witch they use magic to send people back in time, to where magic affects outcomes in the future that are desired by the US government (whose auspices they’ve been working under). Events spin out of control as people’s sheer hardheadedness combines with the blind workings of bureaucracy to create a delicious chaos. It was an exciting plot with interesting characters, who were occassionally worthy of a slap.
This volume of the Saga series is the story of Hazel as she grows up in a war torn universe with her parents, who were soldiers on different sides of a galaxy-wide conflict, and her strange, extended, family. The situations are dark and dire, but the characters can make you laugh.
When greenhorn journalist Cara Cavanaugh’s new assignment takes her from her cushy suburban milieu into a small Colorado farm town, she quickly realizes she needs help, which arrives in the form of Garrett Strickland. And what a form it is: nice enough to distract her from her assignment, which of course she absolutely does not want...right?
For a newlywed woman in Victorian England, Ally Moberly is quite unusual: a freshly minted doctor intent on revolutionizing the care of women in asylums. Meanwhile, her architect husband Tom Cavendish travels immediately after the wedding to Japan to design lighthouses. As their respective professions pull them further and further apart, they begin to question how each is to fit in with the other’s life.
At 17, Deshawn bolted out of rural Alabama because neither his town nor his religious family could make sense of a black, gay, promiscuous punk rocker. Now in his thirties and living in Oakland, he is summoned back home for the funeral of an old friend. Surrounded by old memories and new revelations, he must contend with the living and the dead, with his past and what it augurs for his future.
Thirteen-year-old Jojo lives in southern Mississippi with his baby sister, their neglectful mother, their grandfather, and their dying grandmother. When their mother Leonie gets a call that their father Michael is being released from prison, they embark on a road trip full of revelations that may harm, as much as heal.
A clever novel about the interplay of food and community, and how technology has the potential to reshape, revolutionize, and endanger both. Lois, a robotics engineer and neophyte in the world of artisanal food, has a mysterious sourdough starter that lets her bake incredible bread, with strange faces that rise out of the dough.
A brutal and innovative book that deals with creation, life and death. Amnesic Zan and her lover Jayd are trapped in an endless,cyclical war, on a planet that is also a ship and is slowly dying. The world they inhabit is strange, fearsome and awe inspiring.
N.K. Jemisin has won the Hugo award the past two years for the previous two volumes of her Broken Earth trilogy. The series is amazing, painful, and has cool magic. The novel is about how injustice and oppression shape us, and how we pass that pain along to our children. It’s about trying to live and build a better life in a world that works against those very goals.
A sweeping tale of the little-known Akha people of China and their culture of tea. Traditions and family ties are sacred in Li-yan’s far-flung town in the Yunnan province. When she has a baby out of wedlock, it is in secret. The child swaddled with a tea cake is left at an orphanage. The baby is adopted by a loving family in Pasadena and grows up as Hillary. Li-yan and the lives of her townsfolk are about to change dramatically with the arrival of a man seeking the rare tea they grow, which becomes a gold mine. Since Li-yan is educated and at the center of this change, her fortune takes a dramatic turn but she never forgets or stops longing for her daughter. Hillary also questions her heritage and yearns for her homeland. Their bond remains, and ultimately tea is what binds them as they seek answers.
Hannah Tinti’s second novel is a genre-defying delight.The story of twelve-year-old Loo Hawley and her career criminal father, Samuel, is by turns a modern take on the myth of Hercules, a father-daughter bonding tale, a coming of age chronicle, a family saga, a teen romance, a slam-bang action adventure, a murder mystery, a noir thriller, and most of all, an exploration of the scars we carry from a past we can never truly escape. Samuel Hawley’s Twelve Lives all end with a gunshot, a different bullet wound in each of a dozen flashback chapters. In alternating segments, Loo’s adolescent curiosity threatens to expose the ugly truth lurking beneath her once unquestioning daughterly devotion: Is her Father somehow responsible for her Mother’s mysterious death?
In the quiet town of Smelterville, Idaho, everyone either works in the silver mine or knows someone who does. So when a fire in the mine claims nearly a hundred lives, everyone in the town is devastated. But grief takes many forms, and like the poisonous gas that spreads invisibly through the tunnels, some of those forms go unnoticed until it’s far too late.
The great magic families of New York are fighting! The winners get power and influence, and the losers die. This novel has magic duels, several epic quests, and all for vengeance, freedom, and justice. But the story is at its strongest when it uses the quests and different types of magic to consider the nature of power.
This book has it all: plot twists, action, mad scientists and a giant robot. There are mysteries to solve and daring escapes to be made in the sequel to Sleeping Giants.
A seemingly absurd and surreal horror novel with a helping of gross-out humor. Don't be fooled by any of that because David Wong explores the grinding pain of depression, the relentless reality of poverty, and the challenge of facing drug addiction.
This is a novel that is a self reflective, coming-of-age story of a young woman, Thandi, caught between culture, race and identity. It is loosely autobiographical--dealing with the author's grief over her mother's passing. A quick read mixed with hand-drawn charts, archival photographs, rap lyrics, and a deeply felt meditation on racism.
The thief Charlie “Coop” Cooper is immune to magic, which comes in handy in the sordid magical underbelly of Los Angeles. Coop reluctantly works for the Department of Peculiar Science, which means he has to deal with filling out forms in triplicate and hiding from evil mummies.