The Best Books I Read in 2017


the best book I've read in 2017

2017 has been an especially good reading year for me, having┬ádevoured more books in a year than in the past few ones combined. Partly I can blame my college major that urged me to read a rather large number of texts for class, but it might be more correct to incriminate my discovery of Goodreads; nothing can escalate one’s reading speed more than being able to compare it to your friends’. I read a total of 77- some were fresh off the shelves, a few were old classics, but almost all were quite brilliant*, which made it rather hard for me to compile a list of my favourites. So, after many hours of ardour and introspection, the list that I’ve come up with below is the very best of the best books I’ve read, the cream of the crop that holds a special place on my bookshelf and never fails to make me smile when I happen to glance its way. I do hope you give at least one of them a try. You wont regret it.

*An absolute exception being John Dryden, whom I will hate until the end of my days.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

I remember this experience distinctly as it spurred on a reading frenzy that lasted the rest of the year. Before discovering this book I was going through a bit of a dry spell- I couldn’t finish any of the books I was reading and my ability to focus on them never exceeded half an hour. It had been a while since I found a book I could stay up with all night, but this one kept me up almost until dawn. I have been a fan of Gaiman’s writing ever since I first read Neverwhere, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane combines all that magic with the soothing effervescence of a well-told bedtime story. I also featured this book in my list of 10 Great Novels You Can Finish in One Sitting.

The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly

I chanced upon this book by accident whilst browsing through Pinterest. It was the cover that first caught my eye- an intricate golden design of leaves and brambles weaving its way around the cover over a rich purple background- and after reading the excerpt I immediately decided to buy it. The book is about twelve-year-old David who finds comfort in his books that seem to whisper to him when they’re alone. As he takes refuge in their stories he realizes that the veil between reality and fantasy is far less tangible than he imagined. This book has everything you’d expect in a fantasy novel- heroes, monsters, evil spells and magic- and a lot that you won’t.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shelly Jackson

This classic novella is the absolute best work of the eternal horror-queen Shelly Jackson, not to mention one of the best books I’ve read in the horror genre. If you’ve read any of her other works, the dark and sinister quality of her prose will be no surprise. Merricat and Constance Backwood live in isolation from the rest of the villages, after a fatal dose of arsenic killed off the rest of their family and Constance- the elder of the two sisters- was convicted of the crime. Their days pass happily enough until cousin Charles decides to pay them a visit, bringing with him a danger that Merricat alone can sense. Another selection from my post on the 10 Great Novels You Can Finish in One Sitting, this macabre story is not one you’ll easily forget.

The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden

Buying books based on their cover seems to be a dominant theme with me this year, but I’m pleased to announce that The Bear and the Nightingale is equally wonderful and magical on the inside. Set in a village at the edge of the Russian wilderness, young Vasilia and her siblings have grown up honouring and listening to stories of the spirits surrounding their home. But when Vasilia’s mother dies, her father’s new bride refuses to pay homage to this age-old tradition and soon misfortune falls upon the entire village. To save those whom she loves, Vasilia must use her talent of communicating with these spirits and set things right. If you’re looking for a more detailed review of this book, I wrote one here a few months ago.

The Bastard of Istanbul, Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak’s name is one I’ve been catching at the forefront of most bookstores I visit- and for good reason. When I finally decided to give her a try, her brilliantly insightful and though-provoking writing had me hooked right from page one. The Bastard of Istanbul is one of those books you can randomly on to any page and read any paragraph on it, and it’ll be an absolute work of art. The story is slow-paced and very detailed, so this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Shafak’s writing is perhaps the best I’ve come across this entire year.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

This American coming-of-age classic is a poignant and moving story about young Francie Nolan and her family as they struggle thorough the ups and downs of poverty. The story doesn’t quite follow a linear narrative but instead reads more like a picture book of memories, perfectly piecing together the daily experiences as well as life-altering moments of he family’s life in Williamsburg. It’s a fairly lengthy read and took me about a week to get through, but I don’t regret a single moment of it.

Lud-in-the-Mist, Hope Mirrlees

Like most modern readers I came across Mirrlees’s name through Neil Gaiman, who wrote a wonderful foreword to the new edition of her novel a few years back. If you’re a fan of Gaiman’s work, her influence of him, as well as other fantasy writers, is quite apparent. Lud-in-the-Mist is the perfect high-fantasy novel and yet covers tropes not familiar to the genre. The city of Lud-in-the-Mist is banked by the Debatable Hills across which lies Fairyland, the places where the dangerous and highly addictive fairy fruit originates. When the mayor’s own son seems to have consumed this unholy fruit- an act of unspeakable shame- he is forced to investigate the history of this city to save his son as well as his people.

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