The Best Books Read in 2017

For the sixth straight year, I have rounded up my favorite books of the year (though not necessarily published this year) and presented them here in the hopes that you might find something that piques your own interest. For the first time, I have presented them as a Top 10 list. Of the roughly 80 books I read this year, I first isolated about 20 of them for potential inclusion, then performed another surgery to get it down to 15, then really dug in deep with the scalpel to identify the best 10.

This has been a year unlike any other in my 35 years, to put it mildly, bewildering and exhausting in equal measure, a year-long exercise in gaslighting that has probably rewired all our brains in some ineffable way; opening up my Twitter feed each morning feels like an act of increasing courage.

Things have gotten so radioactive that nearly every move one makes can often feel like a reaction to the political and social moment; choosing not to get worked up over the latest ground-shifting news, if only for mental health reasons, is itself a conscious political decision, and of course that extends to our reading choices as well. What I pulled off the shelf this year was either a necessary distraction from the noise, or a head-long attempt to engage with it. I think my list speaks to that conflict, and I suspect it will only become more acute in 2018.

Onto the list!

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The Best Books Read in 2016

Here is my annual round-up of the 12 best books I read this year, one for every month. The list is alphabetical by author. For the first time since I started keeping annual lists (about 11 years, I believe), I cannot pick a single book to be my favorite. Several of them vied at times for the top spot, but I couldn’t settle on one, so I will not choose one absolute favorite this year*. Hey, if it’s good enough for the Pulitzer board, it’s good enough for me.

Happy reading!

*I retroactively awarded two novels this honor: Dave Eggers’ Heroes of the Frontier, and Toni Morrison’s Sula.

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The Best Books I Read in 2015

Here’s my annual round-up of the 12 best books I read over the past year, one for every month. They are presented here alphabetically by title, with my favorite of all of them, which I saw on virtually no other list, saved until last. Happy reading!

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After Birth, by Elisa Albert (2015)

 

Ball: Stories, by Tara Ison (2015)

 

 

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                             The Cartel, by Don Winslow (2015)

 

The Cult of the Presidency, by Gene Healy (2008)

 

 

first bad mani am pilgrim

 

The First Bad Man, by Miranda July (2015)

 

I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes (2014)

 

 

mr_bridge_connelllittle life

               A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)

 

                      Mr. Bridge, by Evan S. Connell (1969)

 

 

 

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Purity, by Jonathan Franzen (2015)

 

Strangers Drowning, by Larissa McFarquhar (2015)

 

 

terms of service

 

                                                          Terms of Service, by Jacob Silverman (2015)

 

 

 

 

And my selection for Favorite Book of the Year is…

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The Best Books Read in 2014

Another year, another barrage of best-of lists for us all to wade through; here’s one more, just in time for Christmas.

You know, if you pay enough attention to these lists, you can zero in on a handful of titles that have coalesced into establishment favorites. Such titles this year might include Richard Flanagan’s Booker-winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Matthew Thomas’ We Are Not Ourselves, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. I am sure these are all excellent books, and I look forward to getting to each of them in time. (I tend to reflexively hold off on reading books at their hypiest so as to avoid getting drowned by it.)

So you won’t find any of those consensus favorites here. This year I read somewhere around 70 books — not bad considering I lost nearly six full weeks to a move — and this list of the 12 best reflects I think a librarian’s curiosity, zig-zagging from new to old, fiction to non, one genre to another, whatever seems appealing on a given day.

I have chosen the first 11 books in random order, saving my favorite read of the year for last.

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The Best Books Read in 2013

Does the world need another best-of list? No, but I add mine to the cloud anyway.

I read lots of good books in 2013, but for the first 11 1/2 months, I struggled to identify a book that seemed to define the year for me, one that I knew would occupy my top shelf for years to come. But finally, I found it. Finished it 10 days before the end of the year, but one that I knew I’d have chosen even if I’d read it in February.

So, here they are. I’ve bunched the first 11 together in random order, leaving my choice of favorite for the end. I hope you find something here that piques your interest:

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