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It’s that time of the year! “Best Books” lists are popping up everywhere, and I seem to be totally out of sync with most. Many of the critical darlings just didn’t work for me this year. When putting together my own list, I looked to the books that still stand out to me today and that I’ve recommended over and over. Most were books I originally gave an “A” grade to, but certainly every “A” review is not on this list. Sometimes a book I loved initially, fades over time, and others that I may have found a flaw or two in, rise in the test of time. So, without further ado onto my absolute favorite books of 2017!
Best Book/Easiest to Get Lost In
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
My Reasons: I’d had a spat of so-so books when I picked up The Heart’s Invisible Furies last August, and before I’d finished the first chapter, I knew that dry spell was over. John Boyne has written many books, but somehow this is the first I’ve ever read. With superb writing that at times had me laughing and crying on the same page Boyne has made me a fan for life. This magnificent novel is my top pick for 2017! (my review)
Best Audiobook/Best Dystopian Novel
The Power by Naomi Alderman
My Reasons: I’d heard mixed reviews about The Power, but wanted to find out for myself. I’m SO glad I did! It’s hard to describe how much I loved this book: the thoroughly original story, the telling from multiple perspectives, the hard themes, and on audio, the narration. Adjoa Andoh’s was the BEST I’ve ever heard. Listening to Andoh read The Power was almost like being at a movie. Between the reading and the writing I completely lost myself in this book. (my review)
Best Debut/Favorite WWII Story
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (debut)
My Reasons: I’ve read a lot of WWII novels, so I’m not easily impressed. With Georgia Hunter’s stunning debut, I WAS impressed! In this immersive historical fiction, Hunter tells the story of how her own family of Polish Jews managed to survive WWII largely in tact. Her writing made the book unputdownable, unwrapping the family’s story in short chapters highlighting different members in each. This was a family saga at its best. (my review)
Best “What the F**k” Novel
Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan
My Reasons: Based on a True Story is a book that got into my head and would NOT let go! It was impossible to read without constantly questioning everything about de Vigan’s story, starting with how much of it is based on her own life. She’s definitely a master of her craft, seamlessly blurring the lines between what’s real and what’s imagined. I found myself constantly confused, always wondering, “What the f**k?” (But, in a very good way!) (my review)
Best “Sports” Book
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
My Reasons: When I first heard this book was about ice hockey, I wanted to run the other way, but Beartown easily won it’s way into my heart. Fredrik Backman once again proved himself to be a master storyteller, weaving together a huge cast of well-developed, distinct characters at odds with each other over a lot more than hockey. I rarely read series, but am happy to hear Beartown is the first of three. (my review)
Best Nonfiction Book
Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif (audio)
My Reasons: This year I’ve discovered the power of great nonfiction and have read many that I truly loved. My favorite by far was Daring to Drive. Manal al-Sharif’s memoir covered much more than her struggle to earn women the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. It encompassed her whole life and what it was like to be born female in a country where women have almost no freedom. Lameece Issaq’s narration made me feel like Manal was talking directly to me. (my review)
Best Quirky Character You Can’t Help Loving
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (debut & audiobook)
My Reasonss: Eleanor Oliphant was as odd a character as I’d ever met. Just like her, the story was original, quirky and a little quaint. Yes, it had a neat and tidy ending which normally turns me off, but Eleanor deserved it. Honeyman’s brilliant writing of this character made me laugh a lot and cry just a little. Narrator Cathleen McCarron’s reading was perfection adding to the pleasure of knowing Eleanor. (my review)
Best Use of Magical Realism
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (audio)
My Reasons: I am definitely not a fan of magical realism, so was quite wary of this one. I probably wouldn’t have read it, but in the search for my next audio, the sample of Exit West (read by the author) immediately had me hooked. Magical realism plays an important role in the lives of the characters in Exit West, but it’s minor. What I loved was his much bigger story of refugees and immigration in a changing world. It felt both timely and real. (my review)
Best Cast of Characters
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (debut)
My Reasons: The press on If We Were Villains compared it to one of my all time favorite books, The Secret History by Donna Tartt. This made me fearful because so many books have fallen short with this comparison. I’m happy to say If We Were Villains entirely lived up to to my expectations of a great college novel: friendship, murder and mystery. Of the debut authors I read in 2017, M.L. Rio is the one I’m most looking forward to reading more from. (my review)
Best Sophomore Book
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (audio)
My Reasons: I’ve learned the hard way to be fearful of sophomore novels. Often they disappoint, but that was definitely not the case with Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, which I liked MORE than her debut. Ng tackled a huge cast of characters and serious issues, all plopped down into the “Stepford-like” community of Shaker Heights. Jennifer Lim’s narration was magnificent, imbuing each of the many characters with their own personalities. (my review)
Best Novel I Had No Desire to Read
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (audio)
My Reasons: Last summer everyone was raving about this book, but I was firm in my resolve that it wouldn’t be a book for me. At a loss for something to listen to, I reluctantly decided to give Evelyn a try. For three days I spent HOURS outside in my hammock listening to Reid’s timely story set in Hollywood’s heyday. Alma Cuervo carried most of the narration and was so engaging that I couldn’t stay away from this book. I put everything else aside to spend time with Evelyn! (my review)
Best Book No One Else Read
Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor (debut)
My Reasons: Sycamore was such a great story and I don’t know anyone else who read it. Bryn Chancellor’s writing is gorgeous in this dual timeline story of a missing girl from a small Arizona town. She created a large cast of really interesting characters whose stories she put together like a complicated jigsaw puzzle. With each chapter the picture became more clear. I loved everything about Sycamore and am still trying to get others to read it! (my review)
Sarah's Book Shelves says
Love all your categories! And love that Seven Husbands made both our lists…who would’ve thought?!
I haven’t finalized my best of list yet but I know Heart’s is at my top as well. I’m going to try to squeeze in Sycamore before end of the year, if not next year’s tbr for sure.
Heart’s was such a great book. Thanks for getting me to read it. I’m looking forward to seeing your list.
Amber @ The Literary Phoenix says
What a great list! The Power is already on my TBR, but I’ve added If We Were Villains and Based on a True Story from your recommendations! I was actually a bit wary of The Power, because you’re right… the reviews are very mixed. :). Happy to see a good recommendation!
I fyou enjoy audio, I’d listen to The Power. The narrator is just amazing!
Susan (Bloggin' 'bout Books) says
I’ve seen LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE on all kinds of “best” lists this year. Although it’s definitely compelling, I just didn’t love it. It’s so depressing and the characters are all so unlikable. Ugh. I liked it more than Ng’s first novel, true, but I’m just not getting why everyone loved LITTLE FIRES so much.
I haven’t read any of your other picks, although several of them are on my TBR mountain chain. Maybe next year I’ll get to them …
I can see why some wouldn’t like little fires. I saw it as a little bit satirical and liked that aspect a lot. The family and community were so fake, so Stepford like.
JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing says
This is excellent! I’ve decided to start 2018 with The Heart’s Invisible Furies thanks to you and Sarah, and also plan to read Daring to Drive. Will consider going the audio route with Exit West, and I loved Little Fires Everywhere, too. Your categories are perfect 🙂
Thanks, JoAnn. I think you’ll love The Heart’s Invisible Furies. A book that makes you laugh, cry and tells a great story is always wonderful.
Nina D says
Yours is the second blog today to remind me about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I really have to remember to add it to my lists!
Yes! It was so much more than I expected. As Sarah calls it, Brain Candy!
Tina Woodbury says
Great list! I also have We Were the Lucky Ones on my list. A few of these books I will be reading next year – The Heart’s Invisible Furies, Beartown and The Seven Husband’s…
I also loved the categories!!
Thanks, Tina. I’m headed over to take a look at your list right now!
Ann Marie says
I think I’m going to have to order Heart’s! I’m seeing it on so many best books lists. I also loved Seven Husbands and We Were the Lucky Ones. I’ve downloaded Eleanor Oliphant. If I actually listen to it, it’ll be my first audio book.
I think Eleanor Oliphant is a great choice for a first audio. The narration is great. Let me know how it works for you.
Sophie Alex says
I am SO excited about The Power by Naomi Alderman. The premise of that one sounds so inventive and interesting. I love the fact that the narrator is a male reporter, even though the author is a woman! It makes it even more original and fun!
I absolutely adored how you organized this post. I’m really excited about reading Little Fires everywhere and If We Were Villains!!! 😀 I appreciate the time you took to separate everything into categories. It’s much easier to know what we would be the most interested in reading! Great post!
Here’s my TTT: https://bookslikewolves.wixsite.com/blog/single-post/2017/12/12/Blogmas-Day-12-Top-17-Books-of-2017
Thanks so much, Sophie. The Power has been my best surprise of the year. I was skeptical and had come off of reading a really awful review of it, but then I fond it amazing. So nice to find a fellow fan.
One of my colleagues absolutely raves and raves about the Boyne, I really must get to it soon. Glad to see Exit West popping up on a few posts too.
Eleanor is definitely on my radar too 🙂
I feel like a lot of bloggers didn’t go for Exit West, so it’s nice to find others who enjoyed it.
Aj @ Read All The Things! says
I love your categories. Beartown and The Power are on my TBR list, so I hope I like them as much as you did.
Thanks, Aj. Let me know how those work for you (especially The Power).
I got Based on a True Story, but never got around to reading it before I had to return it. A lot of your books are on my TBR. Hopefully I’ll get to all of them in 2018!
Great choices. I enjoyed The Power too. I am hearing high praise for Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo everywhere. Might have to pick that up
Thanks, Resh. I though The Power was so original and such a compelling read.
Loved this fresh list and I”ll be doing mine soon!! Your first two are on my TBR <3
Looking forward to your list, Annie!
I love your fun categories, Susie! Also, I am now definitely curious about Sycamore!! I’m trying to fit in The Power before the end of the year, so I may download the audio like you’ve suggested. What a great list!
I really wish someone would read Sycamore! I want to hear what someone else thinks of it. Go with the audio on The Power. I could hardly tear myself away from it!
Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis says
I’m currently listening to Evelyn Hugo for the same reason you did. I let myself listen to it only when I’m getting redecorating work done, so the project is coming along nicely! 😉
Great motivation to get work done!
I know you already know this, but Heart’s Invisible Furies will be in my top 2 for 2017. Such an amazing book and yet it got almost no buzz. I was at an event with the Random House sales rep and he said they released it in August which is a dead time which is why so few people know about it. A;; the more reason for us to make noise!
I like your categories. I’m going to go a bit different as well simply because I couldn’t come up with ten 2017 release books I loved so I’m going to include backlist I hadn’t read until this year. We’ll see how it goes!
Yes, I fully expected to see Heart’s up at the top of your list. Now you have me curious about the other one.
That’s interesting about when Heart’s was released and not getting much buzz. Did they not expect it to be as well liked? Why not release it at a better time of year? I’m really looking forward to seeing your list.
I loved Eleanor Oliphant, Evelyn Hugo and Invisible Furies as well! For some reason I was initially hesitant about We Were the Lucky Ones, but I’ve seen so many rave reviews that I will definitely make a point to read it next year. Same goes for The Power.
Sounds like we have similar taste in at least several books, so hopefully that means you’ll also like We Were the Lucky ones.
Nice list! I always meant to get to If We Were Villains but then didn’t. You remind me again, I must get to it. I plan to get to The Power too, hopefully on audio. I was impressed by Daring to Drive and so happy women will be able to drive in Saudi Arabia starting sometime in 2018. I like your categories. One of my favorites for 2017 was Home Fire. I’m still coming up with my favorite list.
Thanks so much for your always thoughtful comments, Susan. I’m excited to see you list for 2017. It will be interesting to see how much overlap we have. I actually didn’t like Home Fire very well, so I guess that won’t be one!
Bryan G. Robinson says
I think we might have Sycamore at our hometown library (where I also work). I’ll have to see if that’s the case.
I love that you included Sycamore! I am also always trying to get people to read it! I can’t remmeber your thoughts on The Current, but I especially push it on readers who like that book, although I enjoyed Sycamore more. There’s a similar vibe though.
I’m so happy to find another Sycamore fan. I thought it was brilliant, but so few people have read it. It’s truly a hidden gem. You’re right about The Current being similar, but I also liked Sycamore better. Thanks for stopping by.