Recommended Reading: Books of 2016

I think it’s fair to say that all of us behind the scenes at Fine Books are book lovers and compulsive readers. So I reached out to our staffers and asked them to recommend their favorite book this year. The results were wonderfully heterogeneous: fiction, non-fiction, topical, bookish, historical, riveting. So if you’re looking for a good read over the holiday break, check out our “Best of 2016.”

9781524721725.jpgColumnist Nicholas Basbanes: Robert Gottlieb’s Avid Reader (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28), a memoir by one of the great literary editors of our time.

Publisher Webb Howell: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight (Scribner, $29). Webb said, “This uniquely American story includes the drama of a Greek tragedy but with a happy ending. It says much about where we’ve been the past thirty or so years and what we’ve come to value. NIKE is more than a shoe company; it manages the sports figures who entertain us, who give countless people the extra nudge to ‘just do it.’”

Columnist Jeremy Dibbell: Ben Winters’ Underground Airlines (Mulholland Books, $26), a novel set in an alternate America where the Civil War never happened. Jeremy wrote on his blog, “Winters’ tale is chock full of slightly-twisted historical threads--like any good counterfactual, it explores what might easily have been had things gone just a bit differently. It’s uncomfortable, chilling, heartbreaking ... and it deserves a wide audience.”

Associate Publisher Kimberly Draper: The Girls by Emma Cline (Random House, $27), a novel about a teenage girl that ends up joining a Manson Family-style cult.

Writer Barbara Basbanes Richter: Chanson douce (Gallimard, €18), a psychological thriller based on true events that opens with the murder of two children at the hands of their beloved ‘nounou’ (nanny), written by Franco-Moroccan ex-journalist Leïla Slimani. Barbara said, “I inhaled it in two nights--I could do nothing else but finish the book.” The book won the 2016 Prix Goncourt, and it is reported that Faber acquired the English translation rights.

Madness.jpgColumnist Jeffrey Murray: Revolution (W. W. Norton, $75) by map collector Richard H. Brown and dealer Paul Cohen (of Cohen & Taliaferro). Said Murray, “I found it an aesthetically wonderful presentation of the cartographic heritage behind the American Revolutionary War.”

As for me: Mike Jay’s This Way Madness Lies (Thames & Hudson, $45), a fascinating and unsparing illustrated history of mental illness, from eighteenth-century madhouses to nineteenth-century lunatic asylums to twentieth-century mental hospitals. The book complements the still-current Wellcome Collection exhibition, Bedlam: the asylum and beyond.

Images courtesy of FS&G (top); Thames & Hudson (bottom).

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