Limited on time, but love a good read? Shoofly Magazine book reviewer Carole McKellar lists her favorite 2017 books - and gives "best of" lists from the New York Times, Publisher's Weekly and the Boston Globe.
— Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders was my favorite book this year. Saunders is famous for his stories, but his first novel won the Man Booker Prize. This novel takes place in the graveyard housing Abraham Lincoln’s beloved eleven year old son, Willie. Souls trapped in purgatory, called the bardo in Tibet, view Lincoln visiting his young son and find hope for their own salvation. Funny, dark, and totally original, this book will always have a place on my shelf of favorites.
— News of the World by Paulette Jiles describes the journey of a hardened veteran of multiple wars and a child captured and raised by a Kiowa tribe. The child remembers nothing of her life wearing dresses or speaking English. The love and trust that develops between them during their arduous trek across the lawless post-Civil War West brought tears to my eyes.
— Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout is set in the small Illinois town that was the hometown of Lucy Barton, whom we first met in Strout’s previous book, My Name is Lucy Barton. Strout is one of my favorite writers, and this novel doesn’t disappoint.
— Moonglow by Michael Chabon is a fictionalized account of the life of Chabon’s grandfather, an adventurous scientist, engineer, and entrepreneur. The story unfolds as the old man relates his life story during the weeks prior to his death.
— Persuasion by Jane Austen was published 200 years ago in 1817. As with other Austen novels, there are worthy heroines who prevail over greed and vanity. None of Austen’s novels are quick reads, but they are certainly worth the effort.
— Swing Time by Zadie Smith traces the friendship of two girls growing up in public housing in London from childhood into middle age. They meet in a dance class and bond over the movies of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Dance and music play a large role in this book.
— Upstream by Mary Oliver is a collection of essays that explores the reliance on nature in her creative process. Anyone who loves Oliver’s poems will enjoy these essays. In the first essay, Oliver writes, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”
— Miss Jane by Brad Watson is a fictional account of an ancestor of Watson’s who grew up in rural Mississippi with a handicap that made an ordinary life impossible for her. Jane lived to an old age without bitterness or complaint. Her attitude in overcoming her handicaps was inspirational.
— Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng starts with the death of a teenage girl. Lydia is the favorite child of Chinese parents who expect her to achieve what they were unable to. This book reads like a mystery while telling how loving families can completely misunderstand each other.
— The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman will change how you look at the natural world. According to Wohlleben, trees in the forest are social beings who nurture each other and communicate danger through secretion of scent or sound vibrations.
I risk boring my friends with information from The Genius of Birds, and force my husband, John, to listen while I read stories of navigation, nest building and feats of intelligence. These two books are remarkable.
The New York Times Best Books of 2017
Publisher’s Weekly Top 10 Books
The Boston Globe’s Best Fiction of 2017
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Blameless by Claudio Magris, translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud
The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton
Cockfosters by Helen Simpson
The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis, translated from the French by Michael Lucey
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
Frontier by Can Xue, translated from the Chinese by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
House of Names by Colm Toibin
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci, translated from the Finnish by David Hackston
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Savage Theories by Pola Oloixarac, translated from the Spanish by Roy Kesey
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
2018 is shaping up to be another great reading year.