2017 Fiction Picks from Rosemary & Reading Glasses

I asked Carolyn Oliver of Rosemary & Reading Glasses for her top fiction picks from 2017 and she came up with this list of 13 cracking recommendations. I doubt you’ll be able to resist adding at least one of these to your TBR.

 

Best 2017 Fiction: A Baker’s Dozen

These were my favorite works of fiction published (in the United States) in 2017, listed in the order I read them. One caveat: as I write this, there are 22 days left in 2017, so I may find another favorite; there are some heavy hitters (Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing comes to mind) that haven’t found their way to my nightstand yet.

 

Human Acts, Han Kang: I admit, this book, which traces the human costs of the brutally repressed Gwanju Uprising, is difficult to read. Worth the effort, though, for its urgent questions about the nature of humanity.

 

Pachinko, Min Jin Lee: A twentieth-century family saga about Korean immigrants in Japan. Expansive and richly textured.

 

The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry: A recently widowed natural historian and a village curate spar over rumors of a returned prehistoric serpent. Sumptuous.

 

Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders: The resident ghosts look on with consternation as Abraham Lincoln visits their cemetery to mourn over the body of his son, Willie. Polyphonic; extraordinarily moving.

 

The Wanderers, Meg Howrey: Three astronauts undertake a long-term simulation of a mission to Mars, leaving their loved ones behind. Wonderful literary sci-fi, absorbing in its physical and psychological detail.

 

Exit West, Mohsin Hamid: Two young lovers become part of a global migration through mysterious doors that connect locations all over the world. Intimate and tender.

 

My Darling Detective, Howard Norman: A tale of family secrets set in 1970s Halifax, featuring plainspoken people and delightful use of radio drama. From my review: “noir with a spring in its step and a lilt in its voice.”

 

Days Without End, Sebastian Barry: Irish immigrant Thomas McNulty chronicles his survival in the American West (and the Civil War) and his love for fellow soldier John Cole. Fearsomely beautiful.

 

The Mountain, Paul Yoon: Six exquisite short stories, set in different locations over the past 100 years, from a master of the form.

 

The Stone Sky, N. K. Jemisin: The blistering final book in Ms. Jemisin’s stunning Broken Earth trilogy (must be read in order, so start with The Fifth Season if you’re new to the series). Superb speculative fiction.

 

Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng: The complexities of race, class, and motherhood swirl in a Cleveland suburb (my hometown) in this deft, compassionate novel.

 

Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado: Short stories grounded in the body but shot through with elements of horror and fantasy. Won’t take it easy on you, but you won’t want to stop reading, either. Brilliant.

 

The Power, Naomi Alderman: Women harness a power within themselves that turns the tables on men. Atwoodian dystopia at its finest.

 

 


A huge thank-you to Carolyn for this guest blog!

Which one of her picks do you want to read first?

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26 thoughts on “2017 Fiction Picks from Rosemary & Reading Glasses

  1. Well, I’ve already read the first three! I loved Human Acts, and Pachinko – very different takes on life in South Korea. I was out of step with the Essex Serpent, because I didn’t love it. But both Lincoln in the Bardo and Exit West are firmly on the list. I’m intrigued by the Paul Yoon book, because (I’m whispering now) I’ve never heard of him, and it sounds right up my street..

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    1. I think Yoon has published several books now, all of which I’d like to read but haven’t managed to find yet. He often writes about Korea as well — isn’t it interesting that 3 of 13 have a Korean element?!

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  2. Little Fires Everywhere has been on my tbr for a while (as is Sing, Unburied, Sing!). I wasn’t a huge fan of Exit West. Pachinko was one of my 2017 favorites as well. I hadn’t heard of Human Acts but it sounds like an important one to read so I think I’ll be adding that one to the ever-growing pile 🙂 Great list!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I agree, Carolyn’s come up with a great list. I myself have read (at least parts of) 9 of her picks. Pachinko was a solid read even if it probably won’t quite make my Best of Year list. Little Fires Everywhere is essential, though. I’m about halfway through Sing, Unburied, Sing now and it’s very good so far.

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  3. What a good list. I also loved Days without End, definitely one of my books of the year. Not sure I would like Human Acts as I read The Vegetarian this year and found it rather cruel and upsetting. Really liked the sound of the Halifax detective novel and the astronaut one sounds a good choice for my husband.

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  4. Human Acts was brilliant, much like The Vegetarian, but SO difficult to read (or listen to, as I did). Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, and The Power fell flat for me though. The Power was the only book I actually DNFed this year.

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    1. It’s been really interesting to see the range of reader opinions on the big-name books of the year, especially prize winners like Lincoln in the Bardo and The Power. I can see the arguments for both sides.

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  5. From this list I want to read Pachinko — and I’m reading Little Fires Everywhere now. I’ve read Bardo & Exit West, but perhaps one of my favorites of the year was Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire and a novel called Brother by Canadian author David Chariandy. Nice list though.

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