Our book club editor Collin Huber has read what seems like every word printed this year. Out of his love for books there is a love for critique, review, and high praise. Below are some of his favorites from 2017.
No. 1, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Shaker Heights is a quiet suburb outside of Cleveland designed for planners and rule-followers. That’s why it suits Elena Richardson and her family. For Elena, life is a matter of choices, and if you follow the rules, no one gets hurt. But that begins to change when Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl move into a rental home owned by the Richardsons. Their arrival invites the unexpected as well as a mysterious past that brought them to the neighborhood, one that threatens to unravel both the community and Elena’s commitment to following the rules.
Read Collin’s review of Little Fires Everywhere here.
No. 2, Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Beartown is a hockey town with a chip on its shoulders. For years, the town has been haunted by the the hockey glories of its past and treated as runoff by their neighboring cities. But not this year. Peter, a former Beartown star turned general manager, has the city’s junior hockey team on the verge of a championship. Poised to break out of the shadows of their rivals, the team is only a win away from the title until one of its players commits a violent act that turns the community upside down. Beartown is an ode to sports fandom, an examination of its darker potential, and an all-too-familiar portrayal of the consequences of misused celebrity that confronts readers with dilemmas of friendship, sacrifice, and honesty.
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No. 3, Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Crowned with the 2017 National Book Award for fiction, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a haunting, lyrical tale tracing the story of a black family in the Deep South. Jojo may be thirteen years old, but life has forced him to become a man. His mother Leonie medicates her constant insecurities with drugs leaving him to care for his younger sister and his aging grandparents. When Jojo’s white father is released from prison, Leonie takes her children to meet him in the hopes of reuniting their family. At the prison, they meet the ghost of a young boy who has his own tales to tell, stories that shape Jojo’s view of the past as well as his expectations for the future. With two National Book Awards to her name, Jesmyn Ward continues to legitimize herself as a modern literary giant.
No. 4, Keeping Place by Jen Pollock Michel
Fresh off her first book, Teach Us to Want, which won Christianity Today’s 2015 Book of the Year, Jen Pollock Michel dives into a topic that weaves its way throughout the biblical narrative from beginning to end—home. Drawing on a wealth of story and scripture, she surveys the significance of home across a variety of disciplines in order to demonstrate how deeply it affects our daily lives. Far more than a dry theological treatment, Michel’s writing injects a warmth and personality to the topic that will resonate long after the final page.
Read Collin’s review of Keeping Place here.
No. 5, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Set in an unnamed country in the Middle East, Exit West opens with the playful new love of Saeed and Nadia. After meeting in a night class, their relationship grows into a tender intimacy, which starkly contrasts the civil war raging around them. Each day, the violence creeps closer to their doorstep and rumors of mysterious doors have begun to surface—doors said to offer transport to safer destination. Out of options, Saeed and Nadia pay for travel through a door where they hope to find safety and new life together. An eerily prescient book, Exit West is a startling reminder that given enough time we are all migrants in this life.
Read Collin’s review of Exit West here.
No. 6, The Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
During the 1920s, the Osage Indians of Western Oklahoma were the richest people per capita in the world. Thanks to the discovery of oil deposits on their land, the Osage lived a life of plenty until they began dying one by one, victims of what appeared to be an organized murder spree. Before long, the body count reached twenty-four and the FBI stepped in to take on its first major investigation. Reading more like a thriller than a historical survey, Grann takes readers on an exploratory thrill ride through one of the most overlooked and disturbing mysteries of American history.
No. 7, Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman has built a career on his masterful storytelling, which has accumulated a wide array of awards and left his fingerprints all over popular culture. Yet, while myth is always latent in his stories, Norse Mythology adds a new chapter to his legacy, that of resurrecting the ancient Nordic myths for the average reader. Broken into a series of fifteen shorter tales, the book traces the Nordic myth cycle beginning with creation and drawing to a close with the events of Ragnarok, the Norse version of Armageddon. With many elements of the Nordic myths popularized in the Marvel universe, Gaiman returns readers to their source through a fresh and witty retelling of these undying tales.
Read Collin’s review of Norse Mythology here.
No. 8, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
Despite years of living on the run, Samuel Hawley’s scar-ridden body tells a story that refuses to stay in its past. As he and his daughter Loo attempt to settle down in Olympus, Massachusetts—the hometown of his deceased wife—his past comes to collect. Each of his twelve bullet wounds slowly unravel the mystery of his wife’s death, the violence of his past, and the lengths he will go to protect the daughter he loves. Both a literary thriller and coming-of-age novel, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley unearths the depths of a father’s love for his child.
No. 9, Sourdough by Robin Sloan
Fresh out of college, Lois Clary moves to San Francisco to begin a promising career with General Dexterity, a robotics company committed to exterminating the mundane through innovation. Despite a big paycheck, Lois finds herself worked thin and longing for something more. So she eats, and in the process discovers a hole-in-the-wall café run by two brothers who provide her dinner nearly every evening . . . until they have to shut down and move. As a parting gift, the brothers leave her with their secret sourdough starter, which mysteriously produces more than simple loaves of bread. Be careful with this book—you might not be able to put it down.
No. 10, All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Tom Barren is from the world we were supposed to have, the one in which the sci-fi tales of the ’50s and ’60s came true. For him, it’s 2016, but his world is filled with hovercrafts, intricate skywalks, and, of course, time travel—all of it made possible thanks to Lionel Goettreider’s 1965 invention of the Goettreider Engine, which converts the gravitational pull of the Earth’s rotation into an inexhaustible source of clean energy. While traveling back in time to witness this invention, Tom accidentally alters the course of history and ends up creating our 2016. All Our Wrong Todays is a smart and often funny novel that leaves you asking if we’re really better off with the future in our hands.
Cover image by Kelsey Hency.
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