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.
One murder, eight days, eight hosts and one chance. In his debut novel, Stuart Turton tells a story that is part science fiction/fantasy, part psychological thriller, and part classic whodunit mystery. The result is, to quote Winston Churchill, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." Turton seamlessly combines these disparate tropes of storytelling into a tale, regardless of which genre’s elements may have tempted you into reading it.
It is one of the whispered truths of our society that the wealthy get away with more than the poor, and some people’s lives are given more value than others. In a dark, but not hopeless dystopian novel Claire North takes that unspoken system and makes it explicit--monitizes it. In 84K there is a specific dollar cost for murder, but it’s more expensive to murder a wealthy person with a job than to murder a poor, or unemployed person. But either way, if you have enough money, you can do it.
This is the final volume of the All-new Wolverine, which told the story of Laura Kinney, the clone of a fearsome warrior. She stepped into his shoes and tried to find the best way to be a hero, a sister, and a friend. Laura Kinney is the best version of Wolverine and the final volume gives her an appropriate, moving, and optimistic send off, with plenty of explosions.
Any man is the story of a series of men attacked by a female rapist. The point of view alternates between several of the victims; print, broadcast, and social media; and finally the rapist herself. During this harrowing journey, readers are exposed to the various ways that victims of sexual assault react and are treated, and confronted with the nature of certain gender-related cultural expectations.
Just don’t call it “time travel”!!! Our historian time investigators are at it again: Max gets into an extreme pickle; Clive Ronan is back and dangerous as ever; and spies will be discovered and lives will be in danger. Not as zany as Ms. Taylor's other books, but if Mr. Markham is around, comedy will ensue. The ending was a surprise to say the least, but no spoilers!
If you haven’t read Murderbot yet, you don’t know what you’re missing! Murderbot is a self-named, sarcastic, partly organic robot that was owned, used, and abused by people, and thus has a cynical view of human nature. All it really wants to do, most days, is binge watch it’s favorite soap opera and escape the notice of others. It’s too bad for Murderbot, who is begrudgingly dedicated to helping us hapless humans, and is really a great big sweetheart.
The third book in the Wayward Children series introduces several new characters from Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. Each child is struggling to readjust to life on Earth after finding his or her way through a magical doorway to a magical world. Life on Earth can be difficult in the best of times, but it’s especially hard when you spent your adolescence in Wonderland.
In his debut novel Clark masterfully tells a complex story in a mere 110 pages, far better than others accomplish in much longer novels: a young woman living on the streets and struggling to survive; an airship Captain; a Haitian scientist who has created a weapon that could destroy them all and the alternate New Orleans in which they find themselves. This is a MUST read for those who enjoy fantasy, alternate history or an excellent story expertly told.
When Miranda’s once beloved, then estranged uncle Billy unexpectedly passes away, he leaves her two things: his struggling Los Angeles bookstore and one last scavenger hunt like the ones he would organize for her in her youth. But this time the stakes are high; each clue uncovers family secrets buried far too long.
The Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs packs a punch. This book explores new characters, with a focus on older, more powerful werewolves. Charles is not the biggest, baddest werewolf to be feared, and the witches are dangerous, now and always.
In the third installment of the Custard Protocol Series, there is more of a focus on Primrose Tunstell. This mini-series of the Parasol Protectorate, is just as imaginative and action packed as Ms. Carriger’s original series. This is defnitely for readers who love steampunk, whimsical geniuses, sexy werecats and crazy supernatural creatures
Keiko Furukura marches to the beat of her own drummer. Or rather, to the music of her own convenience store. She may not have any idea how to function in the outside world, but she is completely in her element at the conbini where she has worked for 18 years. Her friends and family, however, all think there’s something wrong with her, so she resolves to find her own cure.
When Sabrina Nielsen arrives at the restaurant to celebrate her 30th birthday, she is astonished to find the people from her “dinner list” (any five people, living or dead, you would invite to dinner) seated at the table for an evening none of them will forget. This is a charming, heart-warming and heart-breaking book about how it feels to be young and what we lose, and gain, as we become adults.
An NYPD police officer, now a private detective, must figure out who and why he was framed and sent to jail for ten years, while at the same time investigating a journalist who has been jailed for murder. How do these two cases connect? Do they? Helped by his daughter and other assorted colorful characters, this new novel from the master of mystery is not to be missed.
Dacre Stoker, Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew, working with coauthor J. D. Baker have created a classic gothic horror story that provides an enjoyable and horrifying, backstory for Dracula. The story begins while Stoker is a child, following him, and his siblings, into adulthood as they investigate and expose, a macabre horror that will affect all of them for the rest of their lives.
The “girl monsters, or monstrous young women,” are back! In her sequel to last year’s The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Goss sends Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, Justine Frankenstein, Catherine Moreau and Beatrice Rappaccini on a cross-country adventure to save Lucinda Van Helsing from a fate worse than death. Like the first book, this is a rollicking adventure with marvelous characters and a great sense of the European settings.
Berlin's short stories speak to everyone, with credible characters and plots. Her prose and characterizations are crystalline, witty and hilarious, even when writing about some of our less worthy human activities.
This powerful and wildly imaginative take on Snagglepuss places the famous pink mountain lion in 1953, as a playwright testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Snagglepuss is gay, and struggles to decide whether to let HUAC keep him in the closet, or to live truthfully, whatever the consequences. As he confides to be an aspiring young writer, “In life, you do not fight battles because you expect to win, you fight them merely because they need to be fought.”
This may seem like a book that is only about a college professor whose dearest friend kills himself and leaves his enormous, elderly Great Dane in her care. But this 2018 winner of the National Book Award for Fiction is so much more than that: no maudlin eulogy, is this, but rather an erudite, epigrammatic contemplation of life, literature, eroticism in pedagogy, and animal husbandry.
In this debut novel, Christopher Huang provides not only a top-notch mystery, but also a window into life in post-WWI London from an unexpected, but welcome perspective: that of his half-British, half-Asian amateur sleuth Eric Peterkin. A marvelous “Whodunit” by a wonderful new writer!
The second novel in Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy brings young Vasya to a glittering palace in Moscow, where she disguises herself as a boy, navigating court intrigue and the forces which threaten a kingdom.
When thirteen-year-old Leni and her parents move up to Alaska in 1974, it feels like the start of a great adventure. Once winter hits, however, the fractures in her parents’ relationship start to emerge, as well as her father’s PTSD from his time as a POW in Vietnam. Hannah’s novel follows the story of Leni as she adapts to the harsh but intoxicating wilderness of Alaska, while navigating her father’s increasing paranoia and violence.
Chicago, 1985: Yale Tishman watches as AIDS claims his friends, one by one, circling ever closer. Paris, 2015: Yale’s friend Fiona desperately tries to find her estranged daughter, newly escaped from an American cult. In alternating chapters, the novel lays bare not only the immediate destruction of AIDS but also its long, devastating shadow.
As he walks home late at night one Christmas Eve, Édouard is approached by a tenaciously flirtatious man. Eventually invited upstairs into Édouard’s home, the man proceeds to rape and rob him. Over the next year, he becomes manic and paranoid, constantly reframing the events of that awful night while struggling to explain to his friends, his sister, and the police what happened.
On a hot summer afternoon, the four Gold siblings dare to visit a local gypsy, rumored to have the ability to tell anyone the date of their eventual death. What they hear will change their lives forever. Do they take more risks than they might have otherwise, hoping to make the most out of what seems such a short time? Or do they try to defy their prediction and hope to live as long as possible? This beautiful tale examines the intersection of fate and choice.
Stella Lane is a Silicon Valley econometrician on the autism spectrum, successful in everything but romance. After some disastrous sexual encounters, Stella decides to hire male escort Michael Larsen to teach her how to be better at sex. The connection between the two is undeniable and smoldering, but can they overcome the stigma and preconceptions that threaten their budding romance? This novel is pure charm, sexy and sweet.
Peter Grant, magician’s apprentice, nerd, and police detective, has a lot to deal with. The murderous Faceless Man has a plan to bring back the good old days. Peter is pretty sure it won’t work, but there isn’t much he can do to stop it, because he’s been kidnapped and imprisoned with an odd, silent woman. The Rivers of London series remains an engaging read, balancing the whimsy and poetry of urban fantasy with the acronym laced wit of a self aware public servant.
In this the fourth book of the Invisible Library Series, our heroine, Irene, and her dragon sidekick, Kai, find themselves in an alternate-dimension version of 1920s New York. Unfortunately, Irene and Kai find themselves in the middle of dragon politics and schemes. We find out more about the dragon culture, and more importantly about Kai’s family, with lots of twists and turns in the plot.
After the deaths of her parents, a wealthy young woman decides to withdraw from the world and spend as much of the next year asleep, aided by her dodgy psychiatrist, Dr. Tuttle, the profligacy of whose prescriptions borders on the criminal. Darkly tragicomic and gleefully absurd, you’ll have trouble deciding whether to laugh or cry, and you may well end up doing both.
Robert Masello weaves a marvelous alternate history that blends historic people and events with the fantastic to speculate on the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The novel is a rollicking adventure, filled with great characters and events that push the limit of believability. Readers will want to believe what happened, even when they know what they are reading did not actually occur.
During a storm, a young girl is found drowning in the rampaging river. By some miracle, she regains consciousness and, though mute, enchants everyone who comes into contact with her. As several townsfolk claim her and others look out for her, we learn of the entangled lives of the villagers of Radcot.
One evening after work, Laurie James looks out the bus window, sees a man at the bus stop, and immediately falls in love. Despite searching for him over the next year, she doesn’t see him again--until her best friend Sarah brings him home and introduces him as the love of her life. Unwilling to devastate Sarah, Laurie stays mum, a decision whose repercussions will reverberate through all three lives for years to come.
The last book of the Themis Files trilogy follows the pilots of the giant alien robot Themis as they struggle to survive as soldiers and refugees. Their struggle forces them to confront not only giant alien robots but implacable, illogical militaries and governments in space and closer to home.
In a world where magic is a recognized force in the world, but where only women are considered good enough at magic to study it, one young man has decided to become a member of the Rescue and Evacuation Department of the U.S. Sigirly Corps. To succeed he will not only have to become one of the best magic users there is, he will have to help defend his friends and family against the forces that think magic is evil.
Award-winning author John Kessel takes two well-known and loved stories and blends them expertly. Readers of Pride and Prejudice and/or Frankenstein will find interesting twists to the familiar plots provided by Kessel’s crafty integration of the two stories. The novel is contemplative, compelling and delightful, and a must read for fans of Austen and Shelley.
This novel explores a microcosmic culture on an aging fleet of interstellar ships. By telling the stories of those who live there, those moving in, those planning/hoping to leave, and those who have come purely to see for themselves how life here works (and doesn’t), Becky Chambers examines the culture from both the inside and out, providing a thought-provoking look at not only the Exodus Fleet, but our world too.
The attempted theft of the suit of an assassinated Columbian politician sets in motion a complex tale of political intrigue and conspiracy. Author Vásquez's masterful portrayal illuminates how past political corruption can harm and destroy a country.
A coming of age novel, set in Burundi in 1992, as adult Gabriel looks back on his early life, as a mixed race child once living a protected serene life. Gaël Faye's writing is beautiful and reflective. In this debut novel he presents the nuanced complexity of life in a country and region where there are no definitive boundaries between countries, cultures and religions, and violence can erupt quickly.
A historical novel based on the life of Iran's most controversial modern female poet, Forugh Farrokhzad, who was both exalted and reviled during her short life. The poetess dared to create and to live as a liberated woman, long before the Iranian Cultural Revolution. This beautiful novel brings to life the feelings, direct speech and thoughts of a woman seeking to live unshackled as a human being and artist.
A beautifully written novel about love, loss, and hard truths. The story is centered around evangelical preacher Asher Sharp, who questions all that he has once believed and preached. When Reverend Sharp’s questioning sermon goes viral, his life changes drastically. Will the kidnapping of his son Justin during an acrimonious custody battle and their road trip to Key West, to find his long lost brother, Luke, provide Asher with the solace he is so desperately seeking?
How can humanity prove to the galactic community that we are not worth destroying? By singing in a talent contest with competitors throughout the universe and winning! Or, at least, not coming in dead last.
After saving her father’s foundering moneylending business, young Miryem brags that she can turn silver into gold. She doesn’t mean it literally, but that doesn’t save her from the notice of the king of the Staryk, whose hunger for gold--and contempt for human life--is legendary.
If you have power, how can you use it well? This book follows the story of Alison Green, who was one of the strongest super heroes out there, and is now trying to live as a college student. Like every college student you’ve ever met, she is interested in being a good person, but she just isn’t sure how to do it.
It would be understandable for someone to think that nothing new could be done with Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Beth Bernobich, writing under the pseudonym of Claire O’Dell, proves that imaginative writers are still able to pleasantly surprise fans of Holmes and Watson, turning familiar tropes into something completely new: the main protagonists are now queer women of color, their base of operations is Georgetown and the setting is a frighteningly familiar U.S. struggling to survive another civil war being fought between the extremists of the Left and the Right. This is a must read for both Holmes fans and anyone interested in a gripping story of self-discovery.
Tommy Orange explores urban Native American identity through a spectrum of character perspectives. Twelve Native American characters who struggle with their own hardships, combined with the memory of a tragic history as a people, hope to find meaning or solace at the Big Oakland Powwow in California.
In this most recent series entry, Meg Langslow and her eccentric family return. Meg is working in the local church to help the Reverend, who is on maternity leave, when she stumbles across the body of a curmudgeonly patron in the crypt, er columbarium. Also found with the corpse is a very elaborate ring which turns out to be from a collection stolen years earlier. So Meg must find out who killed an unpleasant old man while also unraveling a years old crime.
This story is set in the near future on the land of the Dinétah (the Navajo reservation), after a cataclysmic global warming has drowned most of the world. There has been a (literal) rebirth of the gods and heroes of myth in the aftermath of this cataclysm. Maggie Hoskie, the heroine, is a monster slayer and is sent on an adventure that tests her origins and skills. This is an exciting story that highlights the myths and legends of the Navajo people in the context of post-apocalyptic fantasy.
A tender story of friendship, love and trust between a stray cat, with a crooked tale, taken in by a man. Satoru travels in a van to various parts of Japan in order to visit old friends. Nana the cat is his companion as they venture forth on a trip of the spirit and road.
Schwab’s long awaited sequel to her debut novel Vicious, Vengeful was well worth the wait. Schwab has created a larger, grander story while maintaining her compelling characters and story. Once begun, this novel is nearly impossible to put down.
Nathaniel Williams reminisces about his life as a young boy during World War II, when he and his sister were left in the care of a mysterious stranger. Has time blurred his memory, or was there something more to the neighbor and his relationship to the young boy's parents?
It is not very often that a book merits being called brilliant--this one does. A historical novel about slavery, adventure, dashed dreams, and unexpected possibilites, all portrayed in language that is lush, evocative and revelatory. Edugyan has the ability to meld plot, characterization and language to perfection.
Cy Bellman can’t stop thinking about the giant bones uncovered in Kentucky. This obsession leads him to leave his young daughter in the care of his sister and travel from Pennsylvania to learn more about the beasts that might have been. Bess, alone but for her maiden Aunt, is left to trace his trail through the letters he sends and watch after their lonely farm. A short but immensely powerful tale about the American frontier.
What does it mean to seek asylum and freedom in one country, while running from a country that is home and yet life-threatening? As death approaches, Nahid revisits past decisions and is angry and torn.
The Wicked + the Divine is a powerful, risk taking, and rewarding dive into the power of myth and celebrity. Volume 7 builds on everything that has happened before, and provides both answers for long asked questions and new questions to haunt the reader, until the next trade.
A woman walks into a funeral parlor, plans her own funeral and six hours later is found strangled to death in her own home. The author, Anthony Horowitz becomes his own character in this account of a murder so perplexing, he will suffer to work with Daniel Hawthorne, disgraced police detective and all-around curmudgeon, to learn the truth. Writer and detective form an unexpected bond that thrills, rings true and fascinates in this modern-day Sherlock Holmes with a twist. It’s anything but elementary, my dear.