Hello and Happy New Year! Today I’m sharing my favorite books of 2017. There’s 12, for no other reason than that’s the number I was at when I just couldn’t narrow it doen any further. But before we get to the best of the best, there are a few honorable mentions. You know how it is. No matter how many books we bookworms include, there are always a dozen more we wish we had room for and these are mine: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng and The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.
This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
This book makes the list simply for being the biggest surprise of the year. I’ve read a lot of YA sci-fi in 2017. While most of it was fun and thrilling while it lasted, none of it really left a mark. So I was not prepared for the impact this book would have on me.
It’s set on Avon – a terraformed planet full of swamps and marshes, where the sky’s permanently clouded and colonists have never seen the stars. Avon has become a war-zone. Captain Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac are on opposite sides. He is the leader of the rebellion she’s been sent to Avon to crush. When their paths cross unexpected thing happen. The combination of an intense plot, interesting conflicts and the mysterious, slightly eerie atmosphere on Avon made this a surprisingly immersive and memorable reading experience.
Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett
To me a favorite book in one that lingers, one you still think about months and even years later. I read this one in November, so I haven’t had a chance to see how my feelings toward it change over time yet. But reading it felt like a gift. It has so many of the elements I look for in a story, it could’ve been written just for me.
It’s set in a kingdom inspired my ancient Nepal and follows Kamzin – a girl from a mountain village who dreams of becoming an explorer. When River Shara, the greater explorer ever know, comes to her village looking for a guide to help him climb the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas – Kamzin is desperate to be the one to go.
I love the old school fantasy vibes of this story. It satisfied both my nostalgia for classic adventure stories like The Hobbit and my hunger for fresh and original fantasy stories. The world Heather Fawcett’s created in this novel is fantastic. It’s so rich in mythology, traditions and folklore. Ghosts haunt the mountains, small dragons are used as sources of light and everyone fears the witches in the Nightwood. I’m so glad there’s a sequel coming this year, cause I can’t wait to explore this world some more. Not to mention find out what happens next cause that. ending.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth was one of my favorite read in 2016, so it’s no surprise this one’s one of my favorites in 2017. One Hundred Nights of Hero is also set in the world of Early Earth, and has a similar set-up of stories within stories.
Cherry and her maid Hero are in love. But Cherry is married to Jerome. When Jerome makes a bet with his friend Manfred, that if Manfred can seduce Cherry in one hundred nights he’ll win her and the castle – Hero and Cherry must come up with a plan. In classic Scheherazade fashion Hero enchants Manfred with stories, keeping him in bay until the hundred nights are up.
Isabel Greenberg’s art style is lovely and the color palette in this book is stunning. So are the tales Hero tells: about a man who falls in love with the moon, twelve dancing princesses, the league of secret story tellers and more. I love that Greenberg’s books are always full of brave, wonderful women and that she emphasizes the power of stories.
Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi
tw: sexual assault, substance abuse
This is one of two contemporaries on my list and they have one thing in common: they both explore different family dynamics. Something I know many of us are keen to see more of in YA.
Nina drinks a lot, but she’s got it under control. Everyone blacks out from time to time. Everyone does thing they regret when they’re drunk. But when Nina is sexually assaulted on a night out and wakes up the next morning unable to remember what exactly happened to her, she begins to spiral out of control. This is such a powerful book. It explores so many important themes like alcohol abuse among teenagers, the effects addiction has on your relationships with friends, family and romantic partners, sexual assault and the emotional consequences, victim blaming and feminism. It also features one of the best female friendships I’ve ever read about. Girls support girls™.
Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
Tsukiko is Japanese woman in her 30’s living alone in Tokyo. One night she meets her old High School Japanese teacher in bar. They start meeting occasionally to share a meal. A tentative friendship begins to grow, then blooms into a romance.
This book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a very understated, but offbeat kind of love story. It’s told through a series of vignettes, all heavily influenced by the seasons. They pick mushrooms in the forest in the autumn months and watch the cherry trees bloom in spring. There’s something incredibly sweet and tender in the awkwardness of the romance between Tsukiko and Sensei, as she calls him, that really resonated with me.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
What I loved the most about this book is the way it explores so many different aspects of life in India at this specific and pivotal time. We see the political debates and the religious conflict, we see daily life in the cities and in the villages, we see the state academia and of businesses, but more than anything we see we see family dynamics, romantic relationships and friendships that tie our four leading families together.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
There honestly isn’t a single person I wouldn’t recommend this book to. Not because it’s important (it is), but because it’s that good.
In an unnamed country on the brink of civil war Saeed and Nadia meet, fall in love and start a relationship. But their city’s turning into a warzone and when rumors start flying of doors that lead to other places – they decide to leave their homeland, in hopes of a better future somewhere else.
The third person omniscient narration Hamid uses in this book combined with he literal doors through time and place lends this very current and relevant story an almost fairy-tale like timelessness. This is only the second of Hamid’s novels I’ve read, but I already consider him one of my favorite authors. There’s something about the way he tells his stories that mesmerizes me.
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
In Tiger Lily Jodi Lynn Anderson takes the familiar story of Peter Pan and morphs it into something brand new and a little dangerous, something with brighter colors, higher stakes and sharper teeth. This is Neverland as you’ve never seen it before. This is Tiger Lily’s story, told from the perspective of everyone’s favorite fairy – Tinkerbell.
If you read this list you’ll notice there are two things I can’t shut up about: beautiful writing and atmosphere. This book deserves an award for both. I was so immersed in this book that while I was reading Neverland seemed more real to me than reality. I must have underlined something on every page. The ending made me ugly cry, not just because the story broke my heart like first love does, but because I needed there to be more.
I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This by Nadja Spiegelman
I’ve always been incredibly close to my mother. She’s my best friend. We can talk about anything and do everything together. The mother-daugher bond is fierce and can be tumultuous, especially during the coming of age years. Nadja Spiegelman gets that. Her memoir about her mother Françoise is the best thing I’ve read about mothers and daughters. It’s the only thing I’ve read that explores those bonds in a way I can relate to.
When trying to force my friends to read this I called it a darker, edgier Gilmore Girls. And that’s not a completely inaccurate description. The dynamics in this book are reminiscent of the show. Nadja’s mother ran away from Paris to start a life unlike her mother’s in New York, Nadja moves in with her grandmother in Paris while doing research for this book and they forge a much more comfortable relationship.
Reading this memoir was such an intimate experience, I was so immersed in it I felt like I was right there next to Nadja listening to her mother and grandmother tell their stories. I didn’t want this book to end.
Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
YA contemporary is not my go-to-genre. I only picked this one up because it’s set in the 90’s and the blurb compares it to Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights. I got so much more than I was expecting.
Wing is half Chinese and half Ghanaian. She lives with her mother, brother and bickering grandmothers: Lao Lao and Granny Dee. When Marcus, the golden boy of the family and star athlete, kills two people in a drunk driving accident and the family struggles to keep their house, while also paying for his medical bills – Wing starts sneaking out at night to run as a way of coping. Soon she discovers she’s good at it, so good in fact that it might not just be a way to cope, but also a way to help her family.
For a contemporary this is unusually rich in atmosphere, there’s something magical and mesmerizing about Katherine Webber’s writing style that I really like. She makes me feel everything her characters are feeling. I can’t wait to read whatever she publishes next.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
I’ve said this so many times. Laini Taylor is the Queen of worlbuilding – all hail the Queen. This is the first book she’s published since I devoured all her books in one go (Which means this is the first time I’ve had to wait for a sequel and I’m getting desperate y’all)
Lazlo Strange is a war orphan and librarian. He’s obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep. But he doesn’t think he’ll ever get to see it, until a band of legendary warriors from the lost city itself turn up at the library with a request. They need great thinkers to help them solve a mysterious problem. So along with a group of strangers with different talents Lazlo travels to Weep and what he finds there is even stranger than his wildest dreams.
Like all of Laini Taylor’s books this one is beautifully written. It’s richly atmospheric, with an air of mystery and magic that emanates off every page. The characters are impossible not to fall in love with, they’re just so human – even the ones who aren’t. I love it.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
This is it, you guys. This is the very best books I read in 2017. Raise your hand if you’re surprised. No one? Ok. The story begins with a tale told by the fire, and that’s exactly what this book feels like – a story told in front of the fire on a cold winter’s night when the storms are raging and the winds are howling outside the windows.
Set in Medieval Russia and heavily influenced by Russian folklore it strikes the perfect balance between historical fiction and fairy-tale. The fantastical elements blend seamlessly into the narrative.
Vasya grows up running wild in the woods, riding horses like her brothers and talking to the household spirits – whom she alone can see. It’s decided she needs a mother figure in her life, so she’ll become more ladylike and her father brings home a new wife from Moscow. Vasya’s new stepmother is fiercely religious and terrified of the house spirits – demons, in her eyes. She forbids the family from leaving them sacrifices and honoring the old ways. Vasya alone suspects that abandoning the old ways is more dangerous than anyone can imagine. When her suspicions prove true and strange things begin to happen – a terrible fear spreads though the village. In the forrest an ancient evil is waking again and to protect the people she loves Vasya will have to defy them all.
Have you read any of these books? What were your favorite read of 2017? Please leave a link to your favorites post, if you have one, I’d love to check it out!