The Best Books of 2017 (So Far)
What better way to salute the year past than with these fabulous titles, handpicked by the editors at T&C.
A SEPARATION: A NOVEL
Katie Kitamura’s short novel packs a punch. The slim volumes
AN ODYSSEY: A FATHER, A SON, AND AN EPIC
Daniel Mendelsohn’s 81-year-old father,
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE
Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout revisits some of her already beloved characters—like Lucy Barton from 2016’s My Name is Lucy Barton—and introduces new ones in this novel, which is comprised of short stories about pained, complicated, compelling people from the same town. It’s not always easy to read, but it’s never less than enthralling.
Karl Ove Knausgaard, the Norwegian author of the 3,600-page, six-volume My Struggle, writes this relatively slender volume to his yet-unborn daughter. “You will experience things for yourself and live a life of your own, so of course it is primarily for my own sake that I am doing this: Showing you the world… makes my life worth living.”
THE BURNING GIRL
This smart coming-of-age novel from Claire Messud (she wrote The Emperor’s Children) follows two young women in a small Massachusetts town as their unusually close friendship first brings them together, and then drives them apart.
DO NOT BECOME ALARMED
Two families spending a holiday on a boat—seemingly insulated by money and influence from anything that could go wrong—find themselves separated from their children in a dangerous Central American country when things go haywire in the blink of an eye. This novel from T&C contributor Maile Meloy is both enthralling and terrifying… just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.
DUCK SEASON: EATING, DRINKING, AND OTHER MISADVENTURES IN GASCONY– FRANCE'S LAST BEST PLACE
David McIninch’s account of moving to Gascony with his family and learning how to cook—especially the titular fowl—from locals and in the process learning lessons about himself. The book is charming, especially in its focus not on the writer, but on the interesting and exciting characters he meets along his way.
ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE
The title character in this novel by Gail Honeyman is offbeat and socially awkward—not your usual heroine. But that’s what makes Eleanor, and the unusual relationship she forms with an unexpected coworker and an old man they encounter, so enthralling. Don’t believe us? Ask Reese Witherspoon, who’s making the book into a movie.
In his fourth novel, Moshin Hamid follows two young lovers as their country erupts into civil war and they find themselves flung across the globe. The Times has already raved, "By mixing the real and the surreal, and using old fairy-tale magic, Hamid has created a fictional universe that captures the global perils percolating beneath today's headlines." And it might be nice, at least for a few hundred pages, to focus on the upset in countries other than our own.
THE GOLDEN HOUSE
In his latest, Salman Rushdie tells an epic tale of a foreign family running from a secret. A father (who has given himself the new name of Nero) and his three sons cross the globe to settle in Manhattan, live in high style among some of the city’s most glittering characters, and attempt to forget their past completely. Here’s a hint: It doesn’t quite work out that way.
GOOD CLEAN FOOD
Health coach Lily Kunin’s first cookbook offers more than 200 pages of plant-based recipes—including spaghetti squash with mushroom meatballs and falafel bowl with Mediterranean millet and green tahini—and has become one of our favorite references for at-home cooking.
This is the first novel from New Yorker staff writer Elif Batuman, though she's not a complete newcomer: in 2010 she released the non-fiction work The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. The Idiot is a charming, bright novel about the coming of age of Selin, a young woman we meet during her freshman year at Harvard and follow through awkward correspondences, strange new friendships, and life-changing years abroad.
LINCOLN IN THE BARDO
George Saunders has been a finalist for the National Book Award, he's won MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, and his 2014 collection of short stories, Tenth of December, was named one of the best books of its year by the New York Times Book Review. So, it's no small matter that this year sees Saunders releasing Lincoln in the Bardo, his first novel. The story follows President Abraham Lincoln as his young son grows ill and dies, and continues to trace their relationship—with uncommon talent and flair—into the afterlife. (Of course, it recently won the Man Booker Prize).
LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE
The drama in Celeste Ng’s already beloved novel takes place in a seemingly perfect Cleveland suburb, but readers soon find out that there’s more to the town—and the people living there—than meets the eye, especially when new arrivals to town find themselves on opposite sides of an argument from a local who’s hell-bent on keeping the status quo. There’s a good reason everyone you know who’s in a book club already loves this title.
After winning a Pulitzer for her bestseller A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan is back with an equally captivating tale. Manhattan Beach, Egan's first historical thriller, takes place in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. It centers on the evolving Naval Yard
THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS
It’s been nearly two decades since Arundhati Roy shot to literary fame with her debut novel, The God of Small Things. Her sophomore effort, which brings together a wide cast of characters, has at its center a transgender woman living in a cemetery, from the old neighborhoods of Delhi to Kashmir. And it was worth the wait.
NO ONE CAN PRONOUNCE MY NAME
In his second novel, Rakesh Satyal—whose last novel was 2009’s award-winning Blue Boy—tells the story of two Indian immigrants living
This multigenerational tale from the author of Free Food for Millionaires begins in the early 20th century in Korea, while it was under Japanese rule, and follows a family whose unfortunate circumstances move them to Japan, where they are forced to survive and try to fit into a society that views all Koreans as low-class intruders. Lee, who is Korean-American, was inspired to detail this overlooked period in history after hearing a story of a 13-year-old Japan-born Korean boy who had committed suicide after classmates wrote racist things in his yearbook. It’s a heartbreaking saga, but also incredibly enlightening.
SING, UNBURIED, SING
Jesmyn Ward’s last novel, Salvage the Bones, won the National Book Award, and this one has been nominated for the same honor—in fact, in the same year that the author received a MacArthur Genius Grant. These accolades are no surprise considering Ward’s beautiful, gripping writing (the Washington Post recently called her work “powerfully poetic”), which is certainly on display in Sing, a novel that follows a family on a difficult—perhaps even cursed—to collect a missing member from prison. It’s not an easy read, but it’s an important one.
SOUTH AND WEST
It’s been quite a year for Joan Didion. In addition to being the star of this month’s Netflix documentary about her life and work, the 82-year-old also released this collection of excerpts from a 1970s notebook about her travels throughout the two titular regions of the United States. As always, the writer’s style is a treat (and sometimes a challenge) to read, and while her observations are decades old, there’s something that feels important
STARTUP: A NOVEL
The witty Startup captures a world so few of us comprehend despite the fact that its creations dominate our lives. No detail of tech culture goes unnoticed. Some people are calling Startup a satire, but you get the feeling that there’s very little air between Doree Shafrir’s hilarious, unsettling novel and reality.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks are always favorites around the T&C offices, and this new sweets-specific tome written with pastry chef Helen Goh is no exception. The recipes are inventive, exciting, and in our experience thus far delicious. Favorites so far include blackberry and star anise
WOOLLY: THE TRUE STORY OF THE QUEST TO REVIVE ONE OF
HISTORY'S MOST ICONIC EXTINCT CREATURES
Just as reminiscent (and possibly as thrilling) as Jurassic Park, Ben Mezrich’s documentation of recent efforts to genetically re-engineer the extinct woolly mammoth reads like a work of fiction. And yes, for prime entertainment, there’s an entwined love story.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.
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