I read a lot in 2017, mostly before early November, after which life got complicated, I got adlepated, and I stopped reading. I'm reading again now, but I don't think my current reads will challenge this list. Regardless of how much or how little I read, I'm not going to share the entire list with you anyway, merely my favorites. Only two of these books were reviewed in any way on this blog, and there are links in their titles. I am not offering reviews here, many are available, only a brief blurb, and, because not all of those books were published this year, and a couple have even been reread (gasp!), this list can in no way be construed as a list of the "best" books of the year.
I read a lot of fiction this year, and loved a lot of it as well. But upon perusing the list, I see that only a few really stood out above the rest (in alphabetical order):
Autumn, by Ali Smith is a beautifully and playfully written novel set in a post-Brexit Britain. Smith manages to tell an uplifting story enmeshed in a setting that could be ponderous, but here balances beauty and humanity with the dangers of nationalism, populism, and easy answers.
Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid. This beautiful novel, is one of my favorites of the year. In fact it is tied with The Sellout for second place even though it is radically different, beautifully written, eloquent in its kindness and its understanding of humanity and relationships and the idea that we are all immigrants through life.
Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. My favorite novel of the year is far more than the sum of its parts, which seems to be a theme for me this year. Not easy going, but rewarding. Click through for my review..
The Sellout by Paul Beatty. I can't say it was the easiest read as it challenged all of my cultural assumptions and yet it did so while simultaneously drawing me into the story. Extremely satiric, at times difficult, as well as hysterically funny, this book changed the way I see myself and the world in which I live. All that, and I would read it again.
Ties, by Domenico Starnone. The novel is short, compelling, and something of an emotional rollercoaster. Long before the end however you begin to see that things are not what we initially perceive them to be and that life itself is a complex web of ties, ties that both hold us together and pull us apart.
I read less non fiction than fiction but had trouble finding 5 favorites. Once again in alphabetical order.
American Ulysses by Ronald C. White. I've long been a fan of Grant, since I read his memoirs at least, memoirs that revealed him to be a thoughtful, often wise, and complex man. I'm inclined to think he has unfairly been given short shrift, and although this book may be overly positive, I hope it gives more people a chance to reconsider.
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. Everyone's favorite book in the previous couple of years, I came to this book a little late. There is little I can say that hasn't already been said. Life, illnesses, medicine, and what truly matters. If you haven't read it, you must.
Courage to Be by Paul Tillich. I loved Tillich when I was in college, studying philosophy of religion, and I suppose I still do. It is admittedly dense stuff. As I've grown older I appreciate Kierkegaard more and think Tillich is heavy-handed in his analysis, but still profoundly wise. This was either my fourth of fifth reading of this book, and I continue to changed by each engagement.
Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks. Beautiful and beautifully human short essays by Sacks written during the time leading up to his death. Sacks' essays have much to teach us about gratitude and embracing life in all its aspects, even in approaching death.
On Immunity by Eula Biss. The author takes the vaccination debate as a jumping off point for thoughtful and beautifully written essays about culture, parenthood, and what it means to be human.