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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.

FICTION

best books 2017 ward

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.

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best books 2017 hamid

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.

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best books 2017 strout

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.

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best books 2017 saunders

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. 

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best books 2017 shamsie

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.

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best books 2017 batuman

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.

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best books 2017 sexton

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.

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best books 2017 chaon

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.

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best books 2017 egan

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.

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best books 2017 kitamura

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.

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best books 2017 adebayo

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.

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best books 2017 krauss

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. 

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best books 2017 green

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.

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best books 2017 attenberg

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.

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best books 2017 honeyman

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. 

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best books 2017 messud

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.

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best books 2017 smith

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.

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best books 2017 thomas

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. 

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best books 2017 koul

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.

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best books 2017 machado

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.

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best books 2017 ng

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.

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NONFICTION

best books 2017 hagan

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).

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best books 2017 lockwood

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.

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best books 2017 chernow

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?)

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best books 2017 gay

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 

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best books 2017 coates

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.

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best books 2017 tyson

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.

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best books 2017 levy

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.

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best books 2017 prum

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.

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