The Best Books We Read in 2017
Another year, another crop of truly awesome books we were lucky enough to read. From family sagas and ghost stories to astrophysics for dummies, here are 29 that stood ever so slightly above the rest.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Her first novel since the National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones, Ward’s latest—which won the National Book Award for Fiction—is a Southern odyssey tracing the past and present of a black family in rural Mississippi.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Set in an unnamed country during a civil war, this novel follows two migrants, Nadia and Saeed, who flee for Europe and the United States for a better life. Timely? Yeah, you could say that.
Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Residents of a small town in Illinois (including the main character from My Name Is Lucy Barton) struggle with quotidian problems in a way that’s so relatable, you’ll swear you know each and every one of them.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
This bizarre, Man Booker Prize-winning historical novel imagines Abraham Lincoln in the aftermath of the death of his 11-year-old son and is as strange (there are ghosts) as it is gripping.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
A young woman accepts an invitation to go to America to follow a long-buried dream. But she can’t stop worrying about her sister in back London and their brother, who’s disappeared in pursuit of carrying on the legacy of his jihadist father.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Batuman’s whip-smart novel begins at Harvard in 1995, when Turkish-American Selin has just encountered the internet for the very first time. It then goes on to follow her strange email-only relationship with an older student who may or may not be stringing her along.
A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
This debut novel is a poignant, deeply emotional exploration of systemic racism in America, told through the interconnected narratives of three generations of a New Orleans family.
Ill Will by Dan Chaon
A psychologist in suburban Ohio links two headline-grabbing unsolved crimes (one involving his step-brother, who may or may not have killed their parents). A haunting, unputdownable thriller with an oddly introspective nature.
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
The latest from Pulitzer Prize winner Egan is the Depression-era story of a resilient young woman whose one-night stand with a gangster has dire consequences for both parties.
A Separation by Katie Kitamura
Just as a young woman begins her new life after separating from her husband, she receives word that he’s gone missing in Greece. She reluctantly goes to try to find him and ends up discovering how little she knew about him in the first place.
Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo
Set in modern-day Nigeria, this unforgettable novel is the story of a young couple tested by their inability to conceive a child. It’s a no-holds-barred look at the fragility of married love, the nature of grief and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood.
Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss
Following his parents’ deaths, his divorce from his wife of 30 years and his retirement from a high-powered law job, 68-year-old Jules gives away much of his wealth (alarming his children) and heads to Israel.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
One of the genre’s most famous names is back with the story a 16-year-old girl who, with her best friend, pursues a mysterious fugitive billionaire in the hopes of winning a $100,000 reward.
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Andrea is single, childless and 39 years old. She’s got awesome friends and a solid career. So why does she feel like she’s not living up to expectations? Attenberg’s latest takes on the ridiculous standards we set for ourselves, all with humor and aching relatability.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
This funny and heartbreaking debut follows a slightly strange, slightly delusional 30-something who decides she’s met her future husband. The only problem? He doesn’t know she exists.
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud
Messud’s latest tells the story of two tween girls in Massachusetts who have been friends since childhood, but start to go their separate ways. Familiar, specific and written without an ounce of sentimentality.
Autumn by Ali Smith
Widely regarded as the first "post-Brexit novel," Autumn centers on the friendship between a centenarian and a 30-something in the U.K. in the aftermath of the E.U. membership referendum. It's a creative meditation on aging, art, love and affection.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Thomas's powerful debut is an unflinching look at police violence through the eyes of a 16-year-old girl, and is an important read for adults and teens alike.
One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scacchi Koul
This razor-sharp debut story collection tackles everything from growing up as the daughter of Indian immigrants to awkward conversations with bikini waxers.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Each of the eight installments in Machado’s weird, sexy, funny and imaginative new collection takes on what it means to live in a woman’s body—from body image to sexual assault.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Set in a seemingly perfect Ohio suburb, Ng’s second novel (after 2015’s Everything I Never Told You) is about two very different families and the secrets and lies that connect them.
Sticky Fingers by Joe Hagan
This juicy read tells the story of Rolling Stone’s founder, editor and publisher, Jann Wenner. It’s a look at the golden age of rock and roll, featuring everyone from Mick Jagger and Bono to Bruce Springsteen (yeah, don’t expect a ton of women).
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
Lockwood, a witty writer and poet, grew up the daughter of a Catholic priest. Her deeply funny memoir is about how she—a feminist, nonbeliever and liberal—makes an unlikely peace with her conservative father.
Grant by Ron Chernow
Like in his previous books about Alexander Hamilton and George Washington, Chernow presents a gripping portrait of the misunderstood general and president. (Looking for a new musical, Lin Manuel Miranda?)
Hunger by Roxane Gay
In this intense, brutally honest memoir, cultural critic Gay writes with unflinching honesty about her relationship with her body leading up to, during and after a violent childhood sexual assault
We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
After his must-read 2015 book, Between the World and Me, Coates is back with another searing political commentary. This time, essays about the unprecedented election of a black president followed by the 2016 election of Donald Trump.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Not everyone was blessed with the same intellectual gifts as DeGrasse Tyson. His newest book translates high-level stuff (like black holes, quarks and quantum mechanics) into terms us normal folks can understand.
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
When New Yorker writer Levy was 38 years old, she was married, pregnant and financially secure. A month later, she was none of those things. Her profound memoir is about picking up the pieces.
The Evolution of Beauty by Richard O. Prum
Popular belief holds that Darwin's theory of natural selection explains every branch on the tree of life. Yale ornithologist Richard Prum doesn’t think so. His thought-provoking book will make you question everything you learned in ninth grade biology.