Is there anything more satisfying than reaching the end of a really great book? Okay, maybe a couple of things. Avocado toast, for example. But there’s a special glow that stays with you when a book hits all the marks.
I love books about complex human relationships and psychology. I enjoy reading authors who take risks with their writing and aren’t afraid to take their stories to the dark corners of the human psyche. I love books that make me think or that make me want to read them again to pick up what I missed on the first reading.
So, with that in mind, here are eight books I loved in 2017.
Celeste Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, made my list of Fave Reads of 2016, so I was eager to read her latest offering. It didn’t disappoint.
Through the stories of a single mother who moves with her daughter into an upscale neighborhood of traditional families, a young woman fighting to regain custody of the child she gave up for adoption, and the mother of four determined to uphold traditional values, Ng explores the question of what it means to be a “good” mother.
Ng is a master of weaving together multiple points-of-view and crisscrossing storylines to force her characters—and her readers—to question their own beliefs.
From page one I loved this story of a socially awkward woman forced to find her way in the modern world. But underneath the humor and quirkiness of Eleanor, Honeyman digs without mercy into the topics of mental health, how we judge others from the outside, and the scars left by our pasts. This was an entertaining and well-told story that also got me thinking.
I read two of Lianne Moriarty’s novels last year and enjoyed them both. The Husband’s Secret, like What Alive Forget, weaves together the points-of-view of a cast of characters, intertwining their stories. There’s a moment in the book when the reader suddenly knows more than the characters and it makes for fascinating reading to watch them bumble into trouble still clutching their beliefs. Moriarty’s writing is infused with humor and a brilliant eye for the day-to-day details of life.
The Muse hops back and forth between the stories of a recent immigrant to 1960s London and a renegade and much sought-after artist in the Spanish Civil War. With vivid and unique characters and beautifully detailed settings, Burton tells an intriguing tale of identity, secrets, and creative inspiration. This one was a definite “Read Again” book.
This book came highly recommended by a trusted friend, but as I got deeper into the story, I wondered if she’d lost her mind. It reads like series of vignettes of “a day in the life” of a count on house arrest in a swanky hotel in Soviet-era Russia. The details are gorgeous and the writing exquisite, but for much of the book it seems like not very much is happening. That is, until all the tiny moving parts come together and every little detail fits into its place. It’s the kind of book I immediately want to read again to pick up all the delicious clues. If you’ve tried to read this book and given up, I urge you to try again. It’s worth it.
This is my “left field” book of 2017. Zombie apocalypse stories aren’t usually my thing, but I picked it up while sniffing out other virus stories in preparation for publishing The Smallest Thing. Trust me when I tell you that a deadly virus is the only thing the two books have in common!
Patient Zero is a tasty nugget of horror-thriller candy. It has an evil villain with an underground lair, a rugged hero with a killer sense of humor, a little romance, a lot of blood, and bodies piled waist-deep by the end of the book. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but if the mood hits you, as it did me, it’s a rollicking good fun read.
I admit it. I have a huge crush on Neil Gaiman. He’s like that really cool rebel English teacher that all the students love, but who eventually gets fired for some sort of inappropriate behavior. Anyway…
I got the audio version of this book, narrated by Neil himself. For the first few chapters, I was convinced it was a memoir, Neil recounting a story of his childhood. Then things turned odd and Neil Gaiman-ish and I realized that all was right in the world after all. It’s dark, weird, and twisted, as well as heartbreaking and utterly believable. As with The Graveyard Book, I cried at the end of this story.
This was my absolute favorite book of 2017. At its heart, it’s an unconventional love story between Wavy, the young daughter of a drug dealer, and Kellen, the older man who works for Wavy’s father. But this isn’t your typical romance. It’s a story of resilience, self-reliance, and a determination to overcome judgment and prejudice in the name of real love.
It’s not an always an easy read. Greenwood paints a gritty picture of drugs, sex, and violence. There were a couple of times I had to put the book down because I was afraid to find out what would happen next. But the characters are so compelling, it was never long before I started reading again. This book is daring writing at its best. I can’t wait to see what Bryn Greenwood gives us next.