My Best Books for 2017

As I did last year, I’m paying less attention to four and five star ratings and more attention to the books that are still speaking to me.

Reading my way through the Stella Prize longlist delivered some exceptional books, notably Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain, Wasted by Elspeth Muir, and The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose. Oddly, I have thought again and again about these books in relation to my studies this year – the Blain has very obvious links to counselling; the Muir for its perspective on suicide and the Australian attitude to alcohol; and the Rose for an appreciation of ‘silence’, ‘presence’ and what is left unsaid. Perhaps it’s a case of reading into a book what I need to get out of it?

I do love memoirs and although not strictly classed as one, Lily Brett’s Lola Bensky and her examination of ‘survivor guilt’ was fantastic. I also really enjoyed memoirs by Matt Haig, Rob Lowe, Cheryl Strayed, Joanna Rakoff and Maxine Beneba Clarke.

I read more non-fiction this year than I ordinarily do. There were two stand-outs – Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed and Sarah Krasnostein’s The Trauma Cleaner. Both books I have recommended to dozens of people.

On the fiction front, I sobbed my way through Jennifer Down’s Our Magic Hour, admired Elizabeth Strout’s unwavering restraint in Anything is Possible, and was unnerved by Eliza Robertson’s Demi-Gods. For its sense of time, Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm was a ripper (I’ll be rewatching the brilliant movie version over summer) and for the clever use of art, A Line Made By Walking by Sara Baume was memorable.

I had two absolute favourites this year – Commonwealth by Ann Patchett and The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney. I loved them both for their beautifully developed characters and exquisite sense of place. Commonwealth is pretty much my perfect book and I truly couldn’t fault it. Heresies, although not something I was automatically drawn to, won me over quickly and by the end I was savouring every (feckin) word.

In summary, 2017 has been a super reading year.

Thanks for your readership.

14 responses

  1. Commonwealth and Glorious Heresies were both fantastic books. I also admired Anything is Possible. I’ll keep an eye out for some of your other recommendations as well – I’m always looking to read more nonfiction.

  2. Glorious Heresies was a superb novel I thought also because of its characterisation. The Trauma Cleaner I’ve not heard of but am curious about having read your review now though I’m not sure the level of detail abou filth etc would make this a pleasant read by any stretch of the imagination.

  3. Such a good method for selecting year-end favorites – choosing books that are still speaking to you rather than referring back to your ratings. I’m going to focus on that next year! Anything is Possible was on my list, too, and Commonwealth was there last year. Happy New Year.

  4. I just finished Commonwealth and it was fantastic. I can’t wait to read more Ann Patchett in 2018! I’ll have to check out some of the other titles on your list – I haven’t heard of a lot of them! Good luck in 2018!

  5. Perhaps it’s a case of reading into a book what I need to get out of it? – this happens to me a lot, but I think of it as reading out of a book. Sometimes I know that it’s going to happen because I’ve chosen a book to help me understand something better, other times it takes me by surprise. And when I talk to friends who have read the same book, they get something completely different from it.

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