Sunday, January 07, 2018

Books of 2017

And here's our annual popular post of books of the year as they feature in the press (excluding papers and articles with pay-walls, such as the London Times and most of the Financial Times) and on some blogs. This is a selective list of what we judge the highest-quality lists: if you want almost everything that moves, check out Largehearted Boy.

Most recent update: 7.1.2018.

Here are the SCC English Books of 2017.

Previous lists are here: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.

  • The Irish Times this year has a Books of the Year feature in The Ticket, mentioning Old Columban Elske Rahill whose first book of short stories, White Ink, came out recently. Readers chosen Roddy Doyle's novel Smile as their Book of the Year. Declan Burke and Declan Hughes give us the 20 best crime books of the year, including the ever-excellent Michael Connelly's excellent start to a new series, The Late Show. Plenty of contributors and authors give their personal favourites here; our Finance Minister, Paschal Donohue seems to be a regular and thoughtful reader, and goes for Bernard MacLaverty's Midwinter Break, set in Amsterdam.
  • Readers' favourites in the Irish Times are listed separately, with quite a turn-out for Lisa Harding's Harvesting, with Mary O'Sullivan writing that "the ending haunted me, as it should. Harvesting moved me in a way that very few books do."
  • The Irish Independent in Part One has lots of categorised suggestions, such as in the short story section Nuala O'Connor's Joyride and Jupiter, and in biography/memoir, Ruth Fitzmaurice's much-noticed I Found My Tribe. In Part Two there are non-fiction choices, with Kim Bielenberg choosing Tim Shipman's follow-up to his brilliant Brexit account, Fall Out: a year of political mayhem.
  • The New York Times has its critics' Top Books of 2017: Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie will be a big success - "a bold retelling of Sophocles’s Antigone, it begins with the airport interrogation of a young Muslim woman who has come to the United States to study, and Shamsie dilates throughout on Sophocles’ themes: civil disobedience, fidelity and the law, especially as regards burial rights." There are also best photography books of the year.
  • The ever-excellent School Library Journal has a series of lists which are helpful to parents, teachers and indeed children themselves. They are grouped: picture books / chapter books / middle grade / young adult / non-fiction. In the latter, Eyes of the World, about the photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, looks attractive.
  • The Times Literary Supplement is always suitably high-brow in its choices. However, Hilary Mantel keeps her feet on the ground, choosing the novelist Adam Thorpe and the poet SinĂ©ad Morrissey, "an inspiration".
  • The Financial Times has a list of critics picking their best books, with the Editor Lionel Barber rightly praising East West Street by the lawyer Philippe Sands, "a beautifully written story about legal theory (crimes against humanity and genocide in the Nazi era), the city of Lviv in western Ukraine and an intimate family history."
  • The Guardian has its annual double serving from well-known authors: In Part One the great John Banville, author of the excellent Mrs Osmond, goes for Michael Longley's latest collection, Angel Hill (Longley has maintained very high standards for so long). Part Two sees Elizabeth Strout's new novel Anything is Possible repeatedly recommended, as is Irish novelist Sebastian Barry's latest, Days Without End.
  • In other Guardian lists in an enormous collection, there are best sport books; best biographies recommended by Tim Adams (including the fine literary biographer Claire Tomalin's own autobiography A Life of My Own); Robin McKie on science; many riches in history from Anthony Sattin; the poet Carol Rumens on poetry ("Leontia Flynn’s The Radio sparkles with 21st-century chutzpah, sometimes offset by maternal angst. “Every time my daughter cried, I came / barrelling out like some semi-deranged / trainee barista: friendly but perplexed, / and in the dark of night, Lo! I was there, / perplexed – and ratty –when she cried again.” (Yellow Lullaby)"; best children's books by Imogen Russell Williams; art books from the distinguished critic Peter Conrad; architecture from Rowan Moore (including lovely photos from Taschen's Entryways of Milan; graphic novels from Rachel Cooke; Mark Lawson on crime fiction (Jane Harper in The Dry "slowly but thrillingly reveals where the truth lies").
  • The Guardian also has its annual readers' recommendations (why don't more papers do this?)
  • An excellent annual feature from the Guardian is 'the hits and misses of the publishing year', in which publishers reveal books that made their year, books that deserved to do better, and books that they wished they had published. Lots of mentions again of Sally Rooney here.
  • The Globe and Mail from Toronto has its 100 books of the year beautifully displayed with the covers displayed prominently. In the poetry section, Lynn Crosbie's collection about her father's dementia, The Corpses of the Future, looks interesting.
  • The Library Journal has its Top Ten Books of 2017, including the Man Booker-winning Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, and also its Notable Books of the year.
  • The LA Times non-fiction books of the year include the outstanding Ta-Nehisi Coates's collection We Were Eight Years in Power: an American tragedy. In fiction, they have Naomi Alderman's The Power, which we thought was so-so, and the much better Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. And there's a handy children's list, divided into Young Adult, Middle Grade and Picture Books. They also have favourite books of the year from their Critics at Large: Susan Straight astonishingly writes "You might not believe it. I read or reread more than 500 novels this year, to make an epic interactive map of our literary nation with regional fiction. There are 737 novels on that map, which I made for Granta."
  • Sleek has some gorgeous art books of the year, such as David Hockney.
  • The Washington Independent Review of Books favourites include some regular names (Jennifer Egan, Elizabeth Strout, Mohsin Hamid). Jessica Shattuck's The Women in the Castle could be good. 
  • The Evening Standard in London has 24 Best Books of 2017. Deaths of the Poets by Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Harley looks like it's up our street.
  • The Millions Year in Reading is always worth following, with many contributors building up the list over the weeks.
  • Esquire magazine starts with Heather, the Totality by the creator of Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, and also has Celeste Ng's new novel Little Fires Everywhere (her earlier Everything I Never Told You was well-worth reading).
  • The Spectator's reviewers present a selection of the best and (always a welcome feature) most overrated books of 2017. Frances Wilson: "Molly Keane, Sally Phipps’s life of her mother, is as fresh and true and eccentric as any of Keane’s novels, and shows just how good biography can be in the hands of a natural writer. A further selection has Daniel Swift go for an option that immediately struck us: "Preti Taneja’s We That Are Young's is big, beautiful, and most of all bold: a rewriting of King Lear, transplanted to modern day Delhi, which is both a dazzlingly original reading of the play and a full novel in its own right. A masterpiece, and by a long way my book of the year." 
  • Library Journal has a huge number of lists, including their Top Ten, and you can get a PDF of some of their other lists, too.The New Statesman divides its recommendations into three; in part one, East West Street gets another deserved mention, and the tremendous Rebecca Solnit is recommended by Robert Macfarlane (see our illustration above) for her latest collection of essays, The Mother of all Questions; in part two Susan Hill goes for David Walliams's Bad Dad, "a blast. Kids will adore it. So did I." Finally, in part three Melvyn Bragg goes for Ian McEwan's Nutshell, set in Hamlet's mother's womb (should have been right up our street, but it was so-so).The bookseller Barnes and Noble has a categorised list of best books of 2017 here 
  • The San Francisco Chronicle's 2017 holiday books gift guide includes Kurt Vonnegut's Collected Stories, and a well-chosen selection from genres like art and architecture. 
  • iNews has Best Books, including the much-noticed first novel from Irish writer Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends
  • The excellent Five Books, which we highly recommend, has Arifa Akbar selecting the best novels of 2017, with Fiona Mozley's Emlet at the head of the list, and best poetry books, including the much-noticed Tara Bergin's The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx, as well as Best Tween books.
  • In the Chicago Tribune: Heidi Stevens on 10 books she loved, all written by women: Real American: a memoir by Julie Lythcott-Haims looks interesting.
  • On Quartzy: tables of the best books when aggregating choices from 21 other lists: Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing beats George Saunders to the top fiction spot.
  • The Economist says its best books are 'about music, nicotine and the tsunami in Japan': the latter is Richard Lloyd Parry's Ghost of the Tsunami: death and life in Japan's disaster zone, 'the finest work of narrative non-fiction to be published this year'. And we can endorse the choice of The Undoing Project, about the intellectual relationship between Daniel Kahnemann and Amos Tversky.
  • The Sydney Morning Herald has 'The year in reading: these are the books we loved'. It's great to hear that Tim Winton, author of one of our own books of the year, The Boy Behind the Curtain, has written a 'searing masterpiece', The Shepherd's Hut, which is published in March.
  • The English and Media Centre have an excellent list of Christmas Reads; we've recommended Thomas Harding's Berlin-based The House by the Lake before.
  • The Huffington Post has the best fiction books of 2017, includes a book of short stories, Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado: "Prickly yet hypnotic, familiar yet alien".
  • Paste Magazine gives us the 30 Best Young Adult Books of the year, with Dear Martin (Luther King) by Nic Stone standing out.
  • The Root has 16 of the best books by black authors, with some very strong names - Coates, Adichie, Ward and Gay among them. 
  • Vogue's best books provided 'much-needed solace' (a common note this year). Bridget Read is "obsessed with Mrs. Caliban, Rachel Ingalls’s perfect, short, bizarre, heartfelt, insane 1982 novel about a woman and a lizard, reprinted this year from New Directions.”
  • The London Independent has Best Art Books selected by Michael Glover, with lots of gorgeous options.
  • The Chicago Review of Books has Best Fiction Books (great cover for Kathleen Rooney's Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk), Best Non-Fiction (including the anthology Who Reads Poetry, and Best Poetry.
  • Darcy Moore has a 'baker's dozen' in his most enjoyable reads of the year, including in his 13, like us, Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Ali Smith's Autumn
  • The National Post's choice of 99 includes the best Canadian writing of the year.
  • The Faber blog doesn't confine itself to Faber publications, with contributors answering questions about what they will read for Christmas, what books they will give as presents, and their book of the year. Sarah Ward goes for Christopher Fowler's The Book of Forgotten Authors, which sounds promising.
  • Go to Lithub for the best list of Best Crime books,  with The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indridason, the terrific Icelandic writer, mentioned.
  • Electric Literature gives us 15 Best Non-Fiction Books, 25 Best Novels and an interesting list of 15 Best Short Story collections (some particularly good covers there).
  • BBC Culture has a selection of 10. Cristina Garcia's Here in Berlin, with its echoes of Sebald, looks promising. 
  • Austin Kleon's 'Reading Year' includes one of our own recommendations, How to Think by Alan Jacobs.
  • Time has Top 10 Novels, with Irish author Sebastian Barry making the list with his award-winning Days Without End
  • The Australian's list includes Jon McGregor's often-mentioned Reservoir 13, and Teju Cole's latest, the essays in Known and Strange Things
  • The excellent Atlantic magazine gives us its editors and contributors' choices, with Rachel Cusk's Outline mentioned by Rosa Smith (it features in many other lists too).
  • Barack Obama released his books of 2017 (the current President didn't...), including Mohsin Hamid's readable Exit West (including more than a touch of magic realism).
  • The Children's Book Council has a handy summary of lists of children's books. 
  • The Atlantic's 'Best Books we Missed in 2017', with comments by the authors themselves, include Alice McDermott's eighth novel The Ninth Hour, and Draft No 4, a promising book on writing by the teacher John McPhee.

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