“May you live in interesting times” is a quote commonly attributed to Confucius, probably erroneously, but Robert F. Kennedy did use it in a speech in 1966, adding a rueful twist: “Like it or not, we live in interesting times....” Regardless of your thinking on these current times, they are certainly anything but boring, and we feel the same about the books published this year.
Once again, we take the opportunity near year's end to review the year in books, highlighting the very best of what American publishing had to offer in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, comics, religion, lifestyle and children's. There were the authors we expected to deliver, and they did: Louise Erdrich with The Plague of Doves, Richard Price with Lush Life, Jhumpa Lahiri with Unaccustomed Earth, Lydia Millet with How the Dead Dream. A breakthrough surprise about cricket, Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, delighted us, while Tim Winton's Breath took ours away. We listened to our elders in How to Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People; thought about our planet with The Soul of the Rhino; examined our history in The Hemingses of Monticello and Abraham Lincoln: A Life; and, thanks to Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, we even considered Jesus for President.
- The Year We Disappeared: A Father-daughter Memoir By Cylin Busby & John Busby
(children books, teens)
"No one with even a marginal interest in true crime writing should miss this page-turner, by turns shocking and almost unbearably sad, alternately narrated by an ex-cop who, in 1979, narrowly escaped assassination in an underworld-style hit, and his daughter, Cylin, then nine."
- What The World Eats By Faith D'aluisio
(science, children books, nonfiction, teens)
"Visiting 25 families in 21 countries around the world, D'Aluisio and Menzel photograph each surrounded by a week's worth of food and groceries, then use these as a way to investigate different cultures, diets and standards of living as well as the impact of globalization—issues introduced conversationally and examined memorably. "
- Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out by Various
(children books (Ages 9-12), children books, teens)
"An all-star roster of more than 100 children's authors and illustrators, as well as a few scholars and former White House employers and residents, offers a history of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in entries that range from poems to presidential speeches, satirical cartoons to stately portraits; a blue-ribbon choice for family sharing."
- The Trouble Begins At 8: A Life Of Mark Twain In The Wild, Wild West By Sid Fleischman
(children books (Ages 9-12), children books)
"Amusingly illustrated with period engravings, newspaper cartoons and ephemera, this stylish biography is top-notch entertainment. "
- We Are The Ship: The Story Of Negro League Baseball By Kadir Nelson
(children books (Ages 4-8), children books)
"No baseball fan should be without this sumptuous volume, a history of the Negro Leagues delivered in folksy vernacular by a fictional player. While this handsome, square book could sit proudly on a coffee table by virtue of Nelson's muscular paintings, it soars as a tribute to individual athletes. "
- Ain't Nothing But A Man: My Quest To Find The Real John Henry By Scott Reynolds Nelson With Marc Aronson
(children books (Ages 9-12), children books, literature and fiction)
"Nelson models the study of history as an active and passionate pursuit as he shows readers how he pieced together a panoply of facts and anecdotes to find the real-life subject of the folk song “John Henry.” "