It’s still only the 4th of January, so it’s okay that I’m not finished posting about last year yet. I figure I have at least a week before I have to start actually thinking about 2018.
So when I was planning this post, I actually had it in my head as ‘Best Books of 2017’. But then I thought, actually, who am I to say what the best books of 2017 were? All I can really say is what my FAVOURITE books of 2017 were.
So here are my top books that I read in 2017, and the reasons why I thought they were so great. All of these books are five-star reviews.
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
Because I read this late in the year, I didn’t actually get around to reviewing it before I was starting on my annual round-ups and challenge summaries. But don’t let the fact that I didn’t review it deter you. There are literally hundreds of reviews of THUG online, most of them lauding it as one of the greatest books of 2017. They’re not wrong. Angie Thomas’s story of Starr, a 16-year-old who sees her best friend shot by a police officer, deserves every accolade it received since its publication. It got not one, but two Goodreads Choice Awards, debuted at the top of the NYT bestseller list, and is already in production as a film adaptation. It’s heartwrenching and searing, humane, and also really funny. I thoroughly recommend you read it.
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
This is a classic. I had never read it before this year, although obviously I knew the story. Honestly, I don’t think there’s any way you can improve on this heartwarming story of a proper Scrooge who learns to love the spirit of Christmas. That is, unless you included muppets. The source material for so many adaptations and reimaginings of classic holiday films, A Christmas Carol is a timeless classic that will endure.
I think what really got to me about this book was how unexpectedly hilarious it was. I assumed it would be something like Gaiman’s other children’s books, Coraline, Stardust, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but it’s nothing like those. Fortunately, The Milk is witty, well-plotted, pacy, offbeat, and incredibly entertaining.
The followup to last year’s The Call, The Invasion actually isn’t published until March of this year, but I got my hands on a copy of it early, at YALC. It’s superb. Taking all of the creepy elements of The Call and beefing the story up so that it’s more humane, more interesting, and more creepy, this is a truly excellent sequel, better than the original.
If you had asked me at the start of 2017 whether I liked Neil Gaiman, I would probably have said that he’s alright, but I don’t love his stuff. So imagine my surprise when I realised that not one, but two of his books made it onto my top ten for 2017.
But both of those places are heartily deserved. Neverwhere was a really fabulous book. Funny and touching, with characters I really supported, as well as characters I really hated, I was enthralled in this book. Listening to it on Audible, I found myself reluctant to get out of the car after reaching my destination because it would mean that I had to leave behind the under-London for however long it would be until I could sit down and immerse myself in the world again. Sweet, tragic little Door who at first seemed a helpless child and evolved to be so much more, and an ANGEL named Islington – there is so much to recommend in this book that I don’t know where to start. Gaiman created a world which was so believable, so intertwined with our own, that I was looking out at tube stations to see if I could find the Earl’s Court.
I was utterly blown away by the beauty of this book. I thought it would be melodramatic and overblown. An anorexic, pregnant teenager? That truly sounded like a recipe for hype. But Countless is so delicately, beautifully written that I truly believed every word of it. I was here on this journey with Hedda, battling with and against Nia, and sucked into the horrendous, endless nightmare that is anorexia. Combined with meeting her new neighbour, and learning how to deal with the life she’s nurturing inside her, this book charts an incredible journey which is harrowing, difficult, and life-affirming. Hedda’s story, from the start to the end of this book, filled me with compassion, and completely sucked me into her world. That Karen Gregory can do that, especially when I went in not expecting a whole lot, is a testament to her skill as a writer, and part of the reason why I recommend this one so heavily.
This is a classic, I know, and to be honest I’m quite surprised it took me this long to get around to reading it. Although it took me a while to get into this, as the structure of introductions and introductions, as well as a book within a book, took a little while to get my head around, I soon grew to appreciate the intense planning and humorous payoff that comes with the unique setup of this book. By creating a fictionalised author with a fictionalised son, as well as the imaginary childhood of that author, Goldman is able to add layers of depth to this book which make it far more than just a subverted fairytale, but something else entirely, something that I’ve never quite seen the like of again. The cultural touchstone that is the Princess Bride is something that passed me by until 2017, and if it has passed you by, I say no more! Read the book! Watch the film! Enjoy the ridiculous and fantastic world that Goldman has created here.
The only crime book on this list, although I read many of them this year, there’s a good reason why this one made it. One of Us Is Lying is, at its heart, a murder mystery. But what made is so excellent wasn’t trying to figure out the murderer – I had that pegged fairly early on, actually. No, what I really enjoyed in this book was the secret lives of the four murder suspects unravelling around them, through the mysterious tumblr account and media interest in their case. Five teenagers in a locked room. Four of them have reason to want the fifth dead, to protect their secrets. But as Simon ends up dead and the secrets keep coming out, what’s to stop these desperate teens from doing even more to protect themselves?
This was a super thriller, as well as a super portrait of the pressures high schoolers face, and the insanity of American high schools. Thoroughly recommended.
When your world is structured on strength of magic, and you’re rubbish at magic, what do you to? Well for Kellen, what he does is befriend a rabid squirrel cat and a wandering salesperson, and use his intellect, wit, and sometimes his inherent clumsiness to get by. Built on a system of great inequality, de Castell has created a world which is nuanced and fascinating, with Kellen only beginning to realise the depths of corruption which are visible in his sheltered, privileged life. Expanding in the final chapters to depict a larger world which Kellen will begin to travel, Spellslinger is a complete and satisfying story on its own, which introduces us to my favourite animal sidekick of the decade – Reichis, a bloodthirsty, vengeful, gambling-addicted squirrel cat. You’ve gotta read this one.
I’m sorry, but did you expect anything different from me? Garth Nix is my favourite author. Subverted fairytales are a genre I’m totally here for. The wit and wisdom of this book, the talking dog sidekick, the younger princess on a quest to save her elder sister’s frog boyfriend, the wizard, everything about this book made me smile and made me laugh. There’s no way it wasn’t making my top ten of 2017. Plus, how gorgeous was that hardback? The endpapers had frogs on them. A ribbon separates the pages and marks your spot. The spine has a leaping frog. I’m here for all of it. Especially the frog on the front cover. It’s wearing a crown!
Those ten books aren’t in any particular order, by the way. Or actually, they’re in the reverse of the order in which I read them. I didn’t want to rank them from top to bottom, because I think that they’re all great, really.
And, of course, there’s also time to pick my ten favourite cover arts which weren’t already mentioned in this post. Watercolours may feature heavily…
It would appear from these ten covers that I really like white text, white backgrounds, and watercolours. What can I say? I have a style, and this is it!