So many books, so little time. What were some of the best books of the year and what makes them the best anyway? Books may end up on best seller lists when the subject is extremely topical like current events. However, after reviewing so many booklists, the selections often seem random at first glance. How do you find gems among the thousands of books published each year? You might rely on a highly trusted source like the “100 Notable Books of the Year” by The New York Times. Or maybe you just browse Amazon’s best seller lists and hope for the best. Well, my approach was a little more involved and it took a lot of time … time most people don’t have to spend on picking a few good books to read. The books featured below were selected after reviewing major book award websites, book reviews, and a wide variety of trusted booklists to narrow down the selections to only include the “best of the best” fiction and nonfiction books from the past year. Yet, it’s really still a matter of what interests the individual reader.
Now, the challenge is to find the time to read them!
Named one of the best or notable books of 2017 – Amazon (top 20), Esquire, The Guardian, NPR, and The Washington Post.
Book summary: Fighting an ugly custody battle with an artistic tenant who has little regard for the strict rules of their progressive Cleveland suburb, a straitlaced family woman who is seeking to adopt a baby becomes obsessed with exposing the tenant’s past, only to trigger devastating consequences for both of their families.
One of the best books of 2017 – Amazon (top 20), BookPage, Esquire, Goodreads, The Guardian, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal (top 10), Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Book Review, NPR, O Magazine, Time (top 10), and The Washington Post (top 10).
Book summary: A long-awaited first novel by the National Book Award-nominated, New York Times best-selling author of Tenth of December traces a night of solitary mourning and reflection as experienced by the 16th President after the death of his 11-year-old son at the dawn of the Civil War.
“A tour de force … Ward is an attentive and precise writer who dazzles with natural and supernatural observations and lyrical details … she continues telling stories we need to hear with rare clarity and power.” ~ O, the Oprah Magazine
One of the best books of 2017 – Amazon, BookPage, Esquire, Kirkus Reviews, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Book Review (top 10), NPR, Publisher’s Weekly (top 10), Time (top 10), The Washington Post.
Book summary: Living with his grandparents and toddler sister on a Gulf Coast farm, Jojo navigates the challenges of his tormented mother’s addictions and his grandmother’s terminal cancer before the release of his father from prison prompts a road trip of danger and hope. By the National Book Award-winning author of Salvage the Bones.
“The tension has never been greater… A meticulously built mystery that follows a careful ascent toward a breaking point that will leave you breathless.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
Amazon rating: 4.6
Goodreads rating: 4.46
One of the best books of 2017 – Amazon, Goodreads, Library Journal, LibraryReads, LibraryReads, NPR, and The Washington Post.
Starred review – Booklist and Kirkus Reviews.
Book summary: A suspicious figure that appears on the village green on a cold November day leaves a dead body in its wake, compelling Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec to pursue an investigation that has difficult consequences.
“I was riveted by every page. Alderman’s prose is immersive and, well, electric, and I felt a closed circuit humming between the book and me as I read.” ~ Amal El-Mohtar, The New York Times Book Review
Amazon rating: 4
Goodreads rating: 3.91
One of the best books of 2017 – Amazon, Kirkus Reviews, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Book Review, NPR, and The Washington Post.
Starred review – Booklist and Kirkus Reviews.
Book summary: In a novel of speculative fiction, an award-winning author contemplates a world where teenage girls now have immense physical power—they can cause agonizing pain and even death, drastically resetting the balance of the world.
“The Refugees will haunt its readers, especially in these times, when refugee stories need to be told, shared, and told again, ad infinitum.” ~ A.V. Club
Amazon rating: 4.4
Goodreads rating: 3.95
One of the best books of 2017 – BookPage, Esquire, Goodreads, Kirkus Reviews, The New York Times Book Review, and NPR.
Starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly.
Book summary: A collection of stories, written over a twenty-year period, examines the Vietnamese experience in America as well as questions of home, family, and identity. By the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Sympathizer.
“Family issues are neither airbrushed nor oversimplified. From the first page to the last, this compassionate, funny, moving, compulsively readable novel about what makes a family gets it right.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
Named one of the best or notable books of the year by Kirkus Reviews, NPR, The New York Times Book Review, and Publisher’s Weekly.
Starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal.
Book summary: Feeling incomplete as an adopted child after placing her own baby up for adoption, teen Grace tracks down her biological siblings and finds herself struggling with the dynamics of being a middle child between an embittered older brother and an outspoken younger sister.
One of the best books of 2017 – Amazon (top 20), BookPage, Goodreads, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Los Angeles Times, NPR, O Magazine, and The Washington Post.
Book summary: The National Book Award-winning author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian presents a literary memoir of poems, essays and intimate family photos that reflect his complicated feelings about his disadvantaged childhood on a Native American reservation with his siblings and alcoholic parents.
Best Business Book of 2017 – Business Insider, CNBC, The New York Times Book Review, and The Washington Post.
Book summary: A Washington Post reporter’s intimate account of the fallout from the closing of a General Motors’ assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class. Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Goldstein has spent years immersed in Janesville, Wisconsin where the nation’s oldest operating General Motors plant shut down in the midst of the Great Recession, two days before Christmas of 2008. Now, with intelligence, sympathy, and insight into what connects and divides people in an era of economic upheaval, she makes one of America’s biggest political issues human. Her reporting takes the reader deep into the lives of autoworkers, educators, bankers, politicians, and job re-trainers to show why it’s so hard in the twenty-first century to recreate a healthy, prosperous working class. For this is not just a Janesville story or a Midwestern story. It’s an American story.
One of the best books of 2017 – Amazon (top 20), Goodreads, Kirkus Reviews, LibraryReads, The New York Times Book Review, NPR, Paste, Publisher’s Weekly, The Smithsonian, Time, and The Washington Post.
Book summary: Presents a true account of the early twentieth-century murders of dozens of wealthy Osage and law-enforcement officials, citing the contributions and missteps of a fledgling FBI that eventually uncovered one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
Positive reviews from Booklist (starred review), The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, and Publisher’s Weekly (starred review).
Book summary: Gathered together, the poems of Frank Bidart perform one of the most remarkable transmutations of the body into language in contemporary literature. Few writers have so willingly ventured to the dark places of the human psyche and allowed themselves to be stripped bare on the page with such candor and vulnerability. Over the past half century, Bidart has done nothing less than invent a poetics commensurate with the chaos and appetites of our experience.
Looking for more notable poetry collections from the past year?
“With wry humor, keen vision, and abundant humanity, Neil deGrasse Tyson distills the big questions of space, time, and reality into short, insightful chapters you can enjoy with your morning coffee.” ~ Discover