My Books of the Year 2017

I have read a lot of great books this year, some new and some not quite so new. Here are some of my favourites:

The Nix Nathan HillAmong new fiction titles, The Nix by Nathan Hill and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng were both memorable stand-outs. I also reread His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman ahead of the publication of La Belle Sauvage, the first part of the Book of Dust trilogy – a thrilling and imaginative story which did not disappoint. Solar Bones by Mike McCormack was an unexpected delight from this year’s Man Booker Prize longlist – beautifully written, gripping, funny and inventive.

For translated fiction, The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen (translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw) was my personal favourite from this year’s Man Booker International Prize longlist although Compass by Mathias Enard (translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell) was a worthy unofficial winner chosen by our shadow panel. I also really enjoyed Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston which I read during Women in Translation month in August and is a refreshingly original take on the thriller genre set in Israel.

How to Survive a Plague David FranceIn terms of non-fiction offerings, How to Survive a Plague by David France is a fascinating account of the activists who campaigned for AIDS research funding in the 1980s and was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize and won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. Another narrative non-fiction highlight of the year was Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry which is a moving account of the aftermath following the devastating tsunami in north-east Japan in March 2011 while Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond is a powerful examination of the private housing rental crisis in the United States.

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death Maggie O'FarrellIn August, I explored various literary attractions and bookshops in Edinburgh during the Book Festival. I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell is the best memoir I have read this year and I enjoyed hearing O’Farrell speak at the festival about what prompted her to write about her life in a snapshot format, only focusing on her most harrowing experiences. Admissions by Henry Marsh was another highlight of the festival – an excellent medical memoir by a former NHS consultant neurosurgeon who is as thoughtful and erudite in person as he is on the page.

Conversations with Friends Sally RooneyIn November, I was also on the official shadow panel for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. We chose The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico as our winner which is an intriguing collection of interlinked short stories mostly set in Colombia. The official winner Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney is one of my favourite debuts of 2017 which I read back in June – a sharp and witty take on dilemmas faced by the millennial generation set in Dublin.

On Beauty Zadie SmithI made a new year’s resolution to read more books from the back catalogues of my favourite authors. On Beauty by Zadie Smith, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood and The Innocent by Ian McEwan have been among my favourites this year. Elsewhere, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates are my favourite “classic” discoveries of the year and I hope to make more next year as I continue to chip away at my TBR pile.

Which books have you enjoyed reading this year – both old and new?

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25 Comments

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25 responses to “My Books of the Year 2017

  1. Alias Grace is one of my favourites. Have you seen the miniseries?

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  2. Annabel (gaskella)

    The Nix will definitely have to move onto my bedside shelf. I know it’s my kind of book, I’m always intimidated by chunksters, but invariably love getting stuck in once started. I too want to chip away at my TBR in 2018. Good luck with yours. Happy New Year!

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  3. I Am, I Am, I Am was one of my top ten books of the year as well. I’ve been wanting to read How to Survive A Plague and Solar Bones for ages, so I must get onto them in 2018!

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  4. Amy

    That’s a serious list of books you’ve got there. How lovely to be so involved in that world. My favorites of the year were Death Comes for the Archbishop (Cather) and Tenth of December (Saunders). Both were so good in such different ways. Books are the best. The best.

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  5. No is Not Enough by Naomi Klein, The Road Home by Rose Tremain and The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit have all hit the high spots with me. The mini limited Hercules Edition – A Bargain with Light, Poems after Lee Miller – by Jaqueline Saphra was an all round delight and an introduction to a person I wish I had known about years ago.

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  6. My top non-fiction books for 2017 were East West Street – Phillipe Sands; Anthony Powell – Hilary Spurling; Red Notice – Bill Browder. Top fiction Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor; Sins of the Fathers – Thomas Keneally; Munich – Robert Harris. Top easy reading: Imogen Robertson, Stella Duffy and others. Best illustrated book: Lost Words – Robert MacFarlane & Jackie Morris
    And more and more not listed here…Happy New Year!

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  7. I like your resolution to read more from the back catalogue of favourite authors 🙂

    Although the Pullman (Dust trilogy) is not something I’d ordinarily read, I’ve heard nothing but good things about it… I might have to check it out!

    Happy reading in 2018.

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  8. Wasn’t The Unseen wonderful?! A pleasure to read with you this year, Clare.

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  9. nataliacooke

    I loved Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. I’ve not read her newest offering yet. Maybe this year!

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  10. I’ve got to re-read the original Pullmans before getting hold of Belle Sauvage so not sure when that will be. I did a top ten books on my blog on Jan 1 – lots of mid-century women’s fiction and modern non-fiction. It wasn’t a stand-out year for The Best Books Ever, but not a bad year.

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  11. Some of the books I enjoyed in 2017 would be Jesmyn Ward’s ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’, Margaret Atwood’s ‘Alias Grace’, ‘Djinn City’ by Saad Z. Hossain and ‘Hell! No Saints in Paradise’ by A.K. Asif.

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