Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Best Books of 2017. I know I’m a big geek, but I love making end-of-year Best-Of lists. Here are my favorite books read this year; they may not have been published this year, although most are pretty recent.
I always appreciate a book that helps me understand a different place or group of people, and a lot of the books on my Top Ten list do just that. I didn’t deliberately pick diverse authors for my Top Ten, but I’m glad it comes out that way. Half are authors of color, and three are either set in countries other than the U.S. or are about immigrants from other countries.
- The Power by Naomi Alderman: This book won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction award in 2017. It’s a story that had particular resonance in a year filled with accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, a year where women seem particularly vulnerable but at the same time stronger than ever. It’s a story that turns gender and power on their heads, and it’s one I find myself thinking about almost daily.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: This book is also one that I think about regularly. This is Thomas’ first book, and it’s brilliant. I think good YA novels must be really hard to write. You can’t talk down to teenagers, and yet YA writers so often do. This book covers so many difficult and heartbreaking issues, and really put me into the head of teenage narrator Starr, making me realize how little I really understand about race and violence.
- Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout: I’m fairly new to Strout but she keeps coming out with amazing books. Her writing about family and relationships and personal struggle is just beautiful, and she creates characters that feel very real. This is a book like Olive Kitteredge, a group of loosely related short stories about people who interact in a small town.
- Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue: I loved this book about a family from Cameroon who come to the U.S. and struggle to become citizens, for at least two reasons. The first is the complexity of the characters and the interaction between the two families. The second is how it portrays the challenges in becoming a U.S. citizen (in case anyone thinks it’s easy). In a year when illegal immigrants are being rounded up and blamed for everything that’s wrong in this country, this book felt particularly important (I also recommend The Leavers).
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: This is Gyasi’s first novel, about seven generations of a family that begins in Africa with two sisters and follows several centuries in Africa and the U.S. It’s about slavery and history and how one generation impacts the next. The scope of this book is impressive, but so are the individual stories within.
- Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood: One of my favorite Atwood books, I love how she intertwines The Tempest with a modern-day theater director and his work teaching inmates of a juvenile detention facility about Shakespeare and theater. There are so many layers in this book. It not only gave me a better understanding of The Tempest, it was a pleasure to read.
- News of the World by Paulette Jiles: I loved everything about this book about an older man traveling the American West in the late 1800s, reading newspapers to people in small towns. He takes on the job of delivering a young girl back to her family after she’d spent years with the Kiowa tribe. It’s a beautiful book, moving but also understated and thoughtful.
- Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: It’s been a while since I read this (January) but I felt it was a really powerful story about family relationships. There was a lot I could identify with in this book, and the characters felt very real to me.
- We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates: I read a lot of great nonfiction this year, and it’s really difficult to compare fiction and nonfiction in a Best Books list. But this one rose to the top because Coates is a powerful writer, and his subject is so timely and important. This book really made me think, and question the way I see things as a white person.
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: I also read a lot of great memoirs this year, but I include this one in the Top Ten because Noah writes about his childhood with so much humor and feeling, and because it illuminates for me a place and subject I know little about: apartheid in South Africa.
I always end up with a few honorable mentions, and here they are:
1984 by George Orwell: An incredibly powerful book about the power of government to change our perceptions and stifle our thought. And it’s terribly relevant this year.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen: This is the Pulitzer Prize-winning story of a Vietnamese man who is a spy working for the government but spying for the Viet Cong. We’ve been watching the Vietnam miniseries by Ken Burns, and how little I know about Vietnam is shocking. This book made me realize how we in the U.S. have only looked at the Vietnam War through the eyes of Americans and what it cost us as a country, not what the Vietnamese themselves experienced.
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue: I love most of her books and this one was no exception. There’s so much going on in this seemingly straightforward book about a girl who seems to be a religious miracle in rural Ireland because she’s not eating. Her family and village want to prove their daughter is a miracle so they bring in an outside observer to certify that a miracle is actually happening.
A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab: Not the sort of book that usually makes my Best Of list, this book just blows other fantasy series away for me. I loved the characters, the world-building, and the story. This book made me want to do nothing else but sit and read.
Those are some of my favorite reads of 2017! If you’re interested, here are my best-of lists for 2016 and 2015. What were some of your favorites this year?
A Conjuring of Light was my absolute favourite book of the year!
My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/top-ten-tuesday-137/
I read ‘The Hate U Give’ this year too, a very powerful book which I enjoyed thoroughly! Also, I really want to read ‘Hag Seed’ AND ‘The Power’, they look SO good! Great list, I included ‘A Darker Shade Of Magic’ on mine so it’s good to see that the sequel is fantastic too!
Please check out my TTT list too!
Great list! Anything is Possible is one of my absolute favorites this year too. Many others were favorites of mine last year including Hag Seed, Born a Crime, Commonwealth and Homegoing. I hope to read The Power soon – it looks great!
A lot of these books were on people’s lists last year; I’m always a little behind because I get most of them from the library. The Power is so good, I hope you like it!
You’re smart reading the best ones a little later! It’s always a trade off wanting to read books before they are over hyped, but then you end up reading books that also probably weren’t worth the time.
I loved Hag Seed too as you maybe can tell from my review 🙂 https://bookertalk.com/2017/12/09/hag-seed-by-margaret-atwood/
But I just finished Homegoing and was disappointed. The characterisation was strong but I thought it flitted too much between characters and generations
I was happy you liked Hag-Seed! It blew me away, what Atwood did with that book. I agree with you about Homegoing, I did want to spend more time with the characters. I read an interesting article about how she felt she needed to cover seven generations but still keep the novel a moderate length. For a first novel I found it pretty amazing — though not perfect.
It’s a shame she felt constrained by length because I would have been happy to read more
Yes, I agree. And that’s why I’m willing to say it’s a pretty amazing debut novel.
Yay! I’m doing my own post slightly later in December, but I’m so glad The Power made it onto your best-of list; I thought it was stonking, too.
I’m looking forward to seeing your list! You always have such good recommendations.
I am dying to finish V.E. Schwab’s books and all of the series I’ve started and haven’t finished! Her writing style is of my favorites. The Hate U Give is one of the books I should have read this year but still haven’t. However, I haven’t heard a single soul not LOVING it, and I have no doubt that I should read it and enjoy as well. I love the spotlight it’s been getting, and all of the themes it touches upon interest me a lot. I shouldn’t postpone it anymore! IT IS GETTING DONE!
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!
Here’s my TTT: https://bookslikewolves.wixsite.com/blog/single-post/2017/12/12/Blogmas-Day-12-Top-17-Books-of-2017
I haven’t read any of the books on your list this week. Some of them will be added to my ever growing reading wishlist.
Here’s a link to my TTT post for this week:
Lovely list! Commonwealth made my list too, and was probably my favorite read of the year if I had to choose, while Homegoing is a close second. I had hoped to read THUG and The Power this year, but that didn’t happen. Hopefully I’ll get to them both soon!
I’m reading A Conjuring of Light next. I’m so excited for it. I love that series.
Some great ones there on your fav list. Homegoing is my absolute favorite of the year. I love lists like these so this is my fav time to read posts. I get so many recommendations.
The Hate U Give, Commonwealth, and Homegoing all made my list, plus Coates’ Between the World and Me–I haven’t read We Were Eight Years in Power yet, but I want to. I struggled with including it on my mostly fiction list as well, but it was too powerful to leave off.
It sounds like we have a lot in common! I agree it’s hard to compare fiction and nonfiction, and I read mostly fiction. I did read some great nonfiction this year. Al Franken’s book was another favorite.
Ooh your list is amazing! I want to read The Hate U Give but now I am adding more books from your list hahah. thanks for sharing them!
My post is a little late but here are my Top Ten
I really want to read Hag-Seed and Born a Crime, and you’ve gotten me interested in Behold the Dreamers. My husband is an immigrant (from Switzerland) and I was bowled over by how difficult and drawn out the process was even for him, an English speaking white person from a neutral country. I can’t imagine what it must be like for some of the people who are now being demonized and blamed for everything.
Really enjoyed reading your favorites list. I have some of those on my TBR list and I’ve just added more 🙂
I love this list. I’ve not read any of the books but want to read all of them. For the ones that were already on my list (Homegoing, Commonwealth, Born a Crime), your description really strengthens my desire. I wish I could just take the rest of December off and read:). You also brought a few to my attention – The Power and News of the World which both sounds great and you’ve intrigued me about Hag Seed because I generally love things that play around with Shakespeare and I didn’t realize that was what that book did. Cool! Have a great holiday and new year and thanks for the great list!
So many of these are on my to-read list, so I’m glad to see you loved them! Homegoing was my favorite book last year, and this year I read and enjoyed The Hate U Give, A Conjuring of Light and News of the World.
I have Behold the Dreamers and Homegoing on my reading list for next year – I can’t wait to read them! I loved The Wonder – Emma Donoghue is one of my favourite authors.
Your favorites all sound so thought-provoking! I’d especially like to get to Hag-Seed (and all the Hogarth Shakespeare books!) and The Power.
I can’t recommend Hag-Seed enough, and I’m always wary of modern interpretations of classics. Atwood is brilliant. The Power has a few small flaws but is definitely thought-provoking. Enjoy!