Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Top Five Books of 2017

Every December, LT staff members compile a list of our top five favorite books we’ve read this year. You can see past years’ lists here.

We also like seeing members’ favorite reads, so we compiled a list that all of LibraryThing can add to. We’re interested in not just the most read books of 2017, but the best of the best. What were your top five for this year? Note: books on this list weren’t necessarily published in 2017—these are the best we’ve read this year, regardless of publication date.

» List: Top Five Books of 2017—Add your own!

Without further ado, here are our staff favorites!


KJ

Hunger by Roxane Gay
This memoir is both baldly honest and achingly human. Gay writes in her forthright manner about her lifelong relationship with her body and soul, pointing her incisive lens on how fat women experience a deeply prejudiced world.

Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan
Combining two of the world’s great storytelling cultures, Gilligan’s book about Jewish people in Ireland in the 20th century, told through three intertwining stories, strikes a unique and heartfelt note.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
This collection of connected short stories really nails the unique interpersonal conflicts of small town Maine better than any book I’ve ever read, except perhaps a couple Stephen King novels.

Edinburgh by Alexander Chee
This author’s first book (he’s better known for his second, The Queen of the Night), which details the fallout from a sexually abusive choir conductor, contains the spectrum of human emotions in spare, wrenching prose, and some lush descriptions of Maine landscapes as well.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
The book I have been physically pressing upon every woman in my life who has ever been called “kinda intense.” Machado’s short story collection uses the format of gothic tales to interrogate the daily visceral horrors of women living under a patriarchy which is both distant and intimate at the same time. My favorite? “Eight Bites,” a.k.a. the answer to the question: “where does the fat go after bariatric surgery?”

KJ’s honorable mentions:
Honorable mentions go to the fantasy books that helped me through the hard parts of this year: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Note from Abby: this book is utterly charming, the perfect balm to the insanity of 2017), The City of Brass, and The Queen’s Thief series.


Loranne

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
I read the entirety of Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy this year, back-to-back-to-back, and if I’m being 100% honest, those three books would all be in my Top Five. But I wanted to give a special nod to the second installment, for knocking my socks off where other middle-of-the-trilogy books often fall short. If you like inventive fantasy, with rich, unique worlds, or if you just like rocks, definitely give her work a shot.

Touch by Claire North
This was one of the most fun, compelling books I read all year. A sci-fi thriller about a centuries-old entity that can take over a person’s body via touch, and who finds theirself being hunted down.

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
Smart, well-written, hard sci-fi set around China’s Cultural Revolution. Full of wonderfully complex characters and a unique premise—once you figure out what’s really going on.

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan
If a 1980s girl gang of newspaper deliverers + time travel doesn’t sound like an awesome, wild ride, then this probably isn’t the comic for you. If it does…

Injection by Warren Ellis
My favorite creepy, weird comic about a group of geniuses who unleash an AI onto the Internet, and what it does once it settles in.

Loranne’s dishonorable mentions:

  • Armada by Ernest Cline: Meet “All the pop culture references that couldn’t be crammed into Ready Player One: The Novel”. I’m not much of an RPO fan to begin with, but attempting to read this one (my only DNF this year!) makes me actively dislike RPO in retrospect.
  • Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari: A big ol’ NOPE. What a slog that amounted to nothing.

Abby

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
A fantasy world with gay spies and smugglers in an eerily prescient fascist state.

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey
A fantastic but somewhat quiet character study of astronauts during a simulation of a mission to Mars. (Note from KJ: cosigned from the resident company space opera nerd.)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
This book has everything. It’s an Ocean’s Eleven-esque heist, with magic, and with maps in the front. (I’m a sucker for a book with a map in the front.)

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Murder mystery + theater students who are both incredibly pretentious and undeniably human + so much Shakespeare. Glorious.

The Unseen World by Liz Moore
This book is smart, and heartbreaking. If your motto is like mine, “get wrecked by literature,” read this.

Abby’s honorable mentions:

  • The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone: The amazing story of Elizabeth Friedman, one of the first code-breakers, whose achievements are buried in history behind those of her husband.

Kate

Honestly, I would have an easier time of listing the five books I disliked most this year (I’m looking at you, Lincoln in the Bardo). Turns out 2017 was difficult for a lot of folks! Add a newborn and a toddler to the mix and my year in reading was less than stellar. I did, however, read every single children’s book published, so here’s my top five in children’s literature:

Supertruck by Stephen Savage
We love all of Savage’s books, but my son especially loves this one. And the dedication definitely didn’t* make me cry.
(*it did)

Dog on a Frog? by Kes Gray
Silly rhymes, which led to lots of laughs.

Gaston by Kelly Dipucchio
A cute book that challenges what it means to fit in, complete with great illustrations, and dialogue which necessitated my horrid, exaggerated french accent which made my son howl with laughter. Plus dogs!

Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery by David Gordon
My sons is crazy about trucks—to the point that we’ve exhausted our library’s vehicle-centric kids’ collection. This one popped up a few weeks ago and he loved it: animals, trucks, and a sneaky lesson about forgiveness.

Everyone by Christopher Silas Neal
Sparse and beautifully illustrated, my son had LOTS to say about this one.

Kate’s honorable mentions:


Kirsten

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
I had no idea when I started this book that it would be one I consider potentially life-changing YA. Featuring protagonists with intersectional identities; questions of culture, gender, sexuality, and family; a healthy dose of magical realism and unique prose, I wish it had been around 20 years ago for teenage Kirsten to read.

The Lightning-Struck Heart by TJ Klune
Look, I’ve boiled this down to a simple pitch: it is at once the raunchiest and most wholesome thing I’ve ever read. This book has everything: wizards, a royal family, sexually aggressive dragons, a hornless gay unicorn—need I go on?

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Listened to this on audio—Bahni Turpin’s pacing probably isn’t for everyone, but her delivery was perfect throughout. This is a very accessible story about police brutality, race relations between classes, and living one’s truth. Recommend to absolutely everyone.

The High King’s Golden Tongue by Megan Derr
Yep, more MM romance fantasy, because 2017. I loved the characters in this one, as well as Derr’s decision to center a linguist as necessary to successful governance. Another fun romp, a bit less absurd than the Klune, but no less enjoyable.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Beautifully told stories of intricately interwoven lives, over seven generations of a family. Do recommend looking up the family chart if you listen to it on audio.

Kirsten’s honorable mentions:


Tim

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
Lockwood by turns dazzles and drives me nuts. Either way, I’m sure to remember the characters that inhabit her breakthrough memoir—the strangest and most interesting of whom may be the author. The next State of the Thing newsletter will include my interview with her.

The Samurai by Shusaku Endo
Silence made my list last year, in anticipation of the Scorcese movie. Samurai is a much “larger” book, and might have made a more successful movie.

A History of Britain by Simon Schama
Especially volume three (1776–2000). Help me, I’m turning into my Dad. Schama was one of a number of British history books I read this year. Also memorable—and even more of a Dad-read—was Lukacs’s The Duel: The 80-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler.

John W. O’Malley The Jesuits: A History from Ignatius to the Present and St. Ignatius Loyola and the Remarkable History of the First Jesuits.
After Georgetown, devouring a raft of “Jesuits in Space” novels, and experiencing the first Jesuit Pope, it was time to do a deep dive into Ignatius and his order.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
I read and/or listened to a number of books with my eleven year-old son this year. Hatchet was one of the stand-outs.

Tim’s dishonorable mentions:
This year was marked by as many duds as successes. A few deserve special mention.

  • Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari: What a terrible follow-up to Sapiens—or rather, a magnification of everything flip and cliched in Sapiens, without any of its interest.
  • The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher: Dreher is asking some of the right questions, and he started a necessary conversation. But his answers are mostly wrongheaded—and frequently gross.
  • Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer: How on earth did this win the Nebula? If this is the best, why bother?
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner: Now and then I like to read a celebrated YA book. This one’s a stinker.

Kristi

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
This sensuous historical romance chronicles the evolution of Nancy Astley, an oyster girl who follows her beloved male impersonator to the theatres of London. The abrupt end to their romance is just the beginning for “Nan King,” who discovers other parts of herself—and other lovers—in Victorian England.

Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou
Incredible tale of an orphan from Loango who flees to Pointe-Noire at 13, and experiences a myriad of adventures, trials, and tribulations.

The High House by James Stoddard
High fantasy starring the newest steward of Evenmere mansion. Evenmere holds the power to the universe, quite literally, and our hero must protect it from those who seek to endr reality as we know it.

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc
A creepy thriller! A young couple’s relationship—and sanity—is tested after moving into their new and suspiciously cheap home in small-town Wisconsin.

In the Woods by Tana French
Det. Ryan returns to the woods of his Dublin hometown to investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl. The case resembles one in 1984, where Ryan and two friends went missing: he was found with no memory of what happened. Now, he must try to remember…


Chris C.

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
I found this oldie but goodie absolutely fascinating and eye-opening. Offers an insightful history of the world’s cultures from a variety of different angles.

Stranges in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
An account of a writer’s journey to understand a part of the US she doesn’t personally “get.”

Numbers and the Making of Us by Caleb Everett
A fascinating look at the way numbers have shaped societies and human development from a technological and linguistic point of view. I particularly loved the linguistic aspects.

Sicily: A Literary Guide for Travellers by Andrew Edwards
A tour through Sicily from a literary point of view, visiting important Sicilian writers’ towns and explaining some of Sicily’s variety through a history of it’s literature.

Agile Data Science by Russell Jurney
An introduction to a set of tools and practices for processing large amounts of data and producing visualizations and/or predictions from that data.


Pedro

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Radical Candor by Kim Scott Malone

The Weekly Coaching Conversation by Brian Souza

More?

Tell us about your favorites for 2017 on Talk, or add your own Top Five to our list!

Labels: holiday, lists, reading, recommendations, top five

15 Comments:

  1. Pam Dunn says:

    Salvage the Bones
    When We Were Yours
    Orchard by Teresa Weir
    Little Bee, Chris Cleaves
    The Day the World Came to Town

  2. Gerald Camp says:

    Paul Auster’s 4 3 2 1 was the best written, most fun books I’ve read in many a year.

  3. G S Willmott says:

    I have ten books published fantastic reviews. I have a further five written to be published in 2018. Why can’t I get the acknowledgement that some authors receive on sites like yours

  4. Erin Clark says:

    Speaks the Nightbird
    Before We Were Yours
    Whistling Past the Graveyard
    Boy’s Life
    The Alice Network

    Loved every one of these!

  5. Sandy says:

    London Rules (Mick Herron)
    The Marsh King’s Daughter (Karen Dionne)
    Where Roses Never Die (Gunnar Staalesen)
    The Chalk Man (C.J. Tudor)
    The Birdwatcher (William Shaw)

    So hard to pick just 5!

  6. GardenWoman says:

    None of Us the Same and Truly Are the Free by Jeffrey K. Walker. These first 2 of a trilogy set in WWI and the 1920s take you to Newfoundland, Ireland, France, Harlem and more through vivid characters and beautiful writing that puts you right in the stories.
    All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda is a compelling mystery told backwards.

  7. Marshall Cohen says:

    The Force by Don Winslow
    Prussian Blue by Phillip Kerr
    Fantasyland by Kurt Anderson
    Both Michael Connelly books
    Both Lee Child books

  8. Mark Fisher says:

    Red Notice (Bill Browder)
    Shoe Dog (Phil Knight)
    Nabakov’s Favorite Word is Mauve (Ben Blatt)
    Change Agent (Daniel Suarez)
    House of Spies (Daniel Silva)

  9. Modlibrary says:

    Dark Money by Jane Mayer
    My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul
    Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
    The Circle by Dave Eggers
    The Moonstone & The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

  10. The Alienist
    THe Grip of It
    See What I have Done

    These three rank on the top of my list for 2017.

  11. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign
    by Jonathan Allen, Amie Parnes

    – Hillary was her own worst enemy.

    Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year
    by Steve Turner

    – An amazing year for an amazing band.

    Paper: Paging Through History
    by Mark Kurlansky

    – Another great microhistory from a guy who knows how to write it.

    Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon
    by Jeffrey Kluger

    – The first trip around the moon was a real shocker, and a real accomplishment.

    Electric Shock: From the Gramophone to the iPhone – 125 Years of Pop Music
    by Peter Doggett

    – An older one, but a really comprehensive look at popular music since the beginning of recording. Really good.

  12. Jumpball says:

    Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
    Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips
    Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein
    A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Witch Trials and the American Experience by Emerson Baker
    Putin Country: A Journey Into the Real Russia by Anne Garrels

  13. Jane Terebey says:

    I’m wondering about books 576-598 listed in the reader’s 5 best books of 2017. How did they get on the list when there is no one listed who selected them?

    I’m watching the postings and hope to see more. I added mine a few days ago as reluctanttechie.

  14. Lindsey K says:

    1. Sin Bravely: A Memoir of Spiritual Disobedience
    2. The Thousandth Floor
    3. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman
    4. Seeker
    5. Luckiest Girl Alive: A Novel

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