Welcome to our big, overstuffed list of our favorite books of 2017…so far. Once again, this list exemplifies the diverse tastes of our staff — there is something for everyone here. Enjoy!
Chemistry, by Welke Wang — The minute I finished Wang’s wise, funny and beautiful little novel, I wanted to immediately go back and reread the entire thing. This is such a precise, elegant picture of self-doubt, written in such a crisp beautiful way.
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, by Hannah Tinti — Tinti’s one-of-a-kind novel is many things at once: It’s a coming-of-age story, a masterful thriller, and a portrait of an unusual father. The story is often hilarious, sometimes gut-wrenching, and always a complete pleasure to read.
Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory — Oh, this book is just delightful – it has an awesome sense of humor, a terrific climax, and is a blast to read!
Edgar and Lucy, by Victor Lodato — On the surface, this terrific novel is about 8-year-old Edgar, his reluctant, irresponsible mother Lucy, and an unlikely father figure that emerges under bizarre circumstances. But this story is much more than that; it’s about the strange corrosive effects of grief, and the endurance of family ties, even when the absolute worst happens.
Salt Houses, by Hala Alyan — For a 300-page book, this is really broad in scope. The characters are developed extremely well, and it’s a great insight into what it means to be Palestinian and have war so deeply affect your family over the course of decades.
The Fact of a Body, by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich — Part true crime, part memoir, this book explores the murder trial of death row inmate Rick Langley through the eyes and emotions of the author, who as a young law student, becomes immersed in the case and the familiar echoes of the past trauma in her own life. Meticulously researched and emotionally raw, this is a compelling exploration of ethics, law, and feminism. It’s a book that is both haunted and haunting.
The Idiot, by Elif Batuman — This is definitely a coming-of-age novel, but unlike most other bildungsroman, this book manages to capture all the confusion and nonsense of early adulthood. Full of witty humor, astute observations on human behavior, and fun musings on language, this book continually made me laugh, and sometimes cringe.
Stephen Florida, by Gabe Habash — Stephen Florida is a college senior in a North Dakota town – he is single-minded in his determination to win the Division IV NCAA wrestling championship. This is an uncanny and addicting read that I adored (and I don’t usually go in for sports novels!).
Such Small Hands, by Andres Barba — Loosely based on terrifying real events, Barba weaves a lyrical tale of adolescence and grief that features the creepiest doll and a scene that will never let you look at caterpillars the same way again. This is such a short book, but it will leave you unsettled for ages after you’ve turned the last page.
All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai — Mastai’s debut is heartfelt and uplifting, while never ceasing to be very funny and entertaining. Perfect for fans of Ready Player One.
Homesick for Another World, by Otessa Moshfegh — The author has something bold with this, her first collection of short stories. Her writing is beautiful and bold, but what sticks out is her characters: despicable people, memorably described, stuck in their own terrible neuroses, yet still unnervingly relatatable. Not for the faint of heart, the power and skill of these stories will stick with you for a long time.
The Idiot, by Elif Batuman; Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor; Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, by Sarah Ladipo Manyika
The Long Run, by Catriona Menzies-Pike — This terrific memoir is an inspiring read for any runner, whether you’re a Boston Qualifier or a Sunday fun-runner. It’s also an insightful and fascinating history of running – especially women runners.
The Leavers, by Lisa Ko — Really great! This terrific but sobering story delves into the cruelty of our immigration system and how hard it is to make ends meet for those who come here looking for a better life. Extremely well-written and timely.
The Hearts of Men, by Nickolas Butler — This is a big, immersive, multi-generational novel that’s a little dark, a little funny, and more than a little thought-provoking. Butler cares about his characters as much as any writer I’ve read, and writes with such fluidity, he is effortless to read. What does it mean to be a good person in this crazy world? And how hard is it to be decent? Read this to find out.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, by Kathleen Rooney — This witty, funny novel about a witty, funny, whip smart woman named Lillian Boxfish is an absolute blast! As Lillian walks through Manhattan on New Year’s Eve 1984, she recalls her fascinating life.
Trajectory, by Richard Russo — Russo’s signature mix of dad aphorisms (“all hat and no cattle,” i.e.), goofy humor, and whip-smart insight into relationships, aging, and just the human condition in general is on full display in these four fantastic short stories. All four of these stories are greatly satisfying – a must-read for Russo fans!
The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden — This is a take on a Russian folk tales: Traditional stories mixed with a bit of history and plenty of Arden’s own imagination. Her writing is superb, and I’m so thrilled to learn there are sequels on the way.
You Are Here, by Jenny Lawson — I’d never read Lawson, but heard she’s funny. I expected a realistic take on depression, anxiety, but with a sense of humor. I wasn’t disappointed. I found this relatable, funny, and ready to pass along to a friend.
First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies, by Kate Andersen Brower — I’ll be the first to admit that the structure of this book is weird and the writing is kind of weak. BUT, the subject matter is interesting and the details of White House living are fascinating. It’s a quick read and perfect if you need a break from fiction.
The Animators, by Kayla Rae Whitaker — I love a good story about female friendships! This book is not really a feel-good story but it shows every aspect of deep friendship and will have you reaching for your phone to call your best pal!
Hunger, by Roxane Gay — Gay truly lays out her heart and soul on the pages of this emotional new memoir. This book is relatable and emotional, and you empathize with the pain and the strength of the author.
The Possessions, by Sara Flannery Murphy –This strangely realistic book follows Edie, who begins remembering the memories of a deceased client. The author creates a story that explores personal growth and the importance of being present in your own life.
The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne — This fast-paced tale jumps from past to present and explores the complexities of father-daughter relationships.
Beartown, by Fredrik Backman — Backman brings his reader to a small hockey town deep in the woods. The story is about community and loyalty among individuals who have known one another since birth. This is warm and heart-wrenching and Backman’s characters are too!