A Look Back on Last Year’s New York Times Best Books

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As the New York Times Book Review prepares to announce its list of 10 “Best Books” of 2017, the American Booksellers Association is encouraging booksellers to take a look at last year’s top titles and keep them in mind when thinking about backlist favorites to sell this holiday season.

In 2016, the New York Times Book Review created bookmarks featuring the year’s selected titles and distributed the bookmarks to ABA member bookstores in the January 2017 Red box. “We are creating these bookmarks because this list does not just end in 2016,” the editors said in a statement. “We think these books will matter to readers for years to come, books we think people will remember long after they’ve read them, and books we think deserve to be remembered.”

This year, ABA will work with the New York Times Book Review to help booksellers feature and promote the 2017 Best Books list, which will be announced in December.

As ABA continues its campaign to highlight the importance of backlist titles such as last year’s New York Times Book Review picks, booksellers are reminded to visit the ABA Book Buyer’s Handbook to review publisher and university press offers for Indies First, as well as publishers’ backlist programscurrent special offers, and more. ABA’s new Backlist Buying Calculator can help booksellers evaluate the advantages of backlist offers. (A username and login are required to access these items; booksellers can e-mail info@bookweb.org for login details.)

The New York Times Book Review’s top 10 titles for 2016 were selected from the Times’ list of 100 Notable Books of the Year. Titles chosen for the final list, as selected by Book Review editors, embody excellence on a number of fronts, including in the author’s ambition, execution of vision, quality of language, and storytelling power.

The 2016 New York Times Best Books, as announced on December 1, 2016, are:


  • The Association of Small Bombs, by Karan Mahajan (Viking)
  • The North Water, by Ian McGuire (Henry Holt & Company)
  • The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)
  • The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith (Hogarth)


  • War and Turpentine, by Stefan Hertmans, translated by David McKay (Pantheon Books)
  • At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails, by Sarah Bakewell (Other Press)
  • Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by Jane Mayer (Doubleday)
  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond (Crown Publishers)
  • In the Darkroom, by Susan Faludi (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company)
  • The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, by Hisham Matar (Random House)

The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2016 were selected by judges G. Brian Karas, an illustrator for more than 70 books for children; Cynthia Weill, the director of the Center of Children’s Literature at Bank Street College of Education in New York City; and Cheryl Wolf, the librarian for two New York City public elementary schools.

The 2016 New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books, as announced on November 3, 2016, are:

  • The Cat From Hunger Mountain, written and illustrated by Ed Young (Philomel Books)
  • The Dead Bird, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Christian Robinson (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Freedom in Congo Square, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Little Bee Books)
  • Little Red, written and illustrated by Bethan Woollvin (Peachtree)
  • The Polar Bear, written and illustrated by Jenni Desmond (Enchanted Lion Books)
  • Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis, by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Nancy Paulsen Books)
  • The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams)
  • The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window, by Jeff Gottesfeld, illustrated by Peter McCarty (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785, by Matthew Olshan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • The White Cat and the Monk: A Retelling of the Poem “Pangur Ban,” by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press)

Watch upcoming issues of Bookselling This Week for the announcement of the 2017 New York Times Best Books list and for details about this year’s bookmarks. The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2017 were announced on November 2, 2017.

Booksellers who are attending the 2018 Winter Institute will have the opportunity to get a sneak peek inside the book review process during a session featuring New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul and ABA CEO Oren Teicher. The session will take place on Tuesday, January 23, from 10:40 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. See the full Winter Institute program here