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Best books of 2017

Sneaking in with only hours left of this year, I’ve complied my ‘best of 2017 list’.  It was a great year for books (and audiobooks); whispers and snippets of many of them are still rattling around in my head.

I’ve actually surprised myself with this list, and in particular with the ranking of the books. On any given day the list could’ve looked different (how did Sarah Waters not end up in the top spot? Where is Pachinko? Anything Is Possible?).

However, given 2017 is ebbing away as I type, without further prevarication I give you my favourite four audiobooks and my best ten books of 2017.

Best four audiobooks

Number Four

For a bit of fun, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death hits the mark (as I micro-reviewed here). The success of this as an audiobook can almost wholly be attributed to Penelope Keith’s narration – her words effortlessly drip with irony. The simplicity of the plot and the unadorned writing also contributes to this being a great audio choice.

Number Three

I still haven’t seen the HBO series of Big Little Lies, but I loved listening to this. I totally didn’t see the twist coming and when it did, I audibly gasped and – with my rubber-gloved hands perched on the kitchen sink –  I had to suspend the washing up while I digested the news.

Number Two

Helen Garner’s Everywhere I Look was my very first audiobook, back in January. As I said in my review, because she reads this herself I felt intimately connected with the prose and also with her.

Number One

Everywhere I Look included a short extract from Garner’s book This House of Grief; I was intrigued to learn more. I wasn’t in Australia when Robert Farquharson murdered his children, so I was spellbound as I listened to Garner’s unraveling of the story and her own personal journey.

I listened to this recently as I drove the long hours between my new job and home; it kept me company and for that I was grateful. Written long before the Serial podcast, I found this equally if not more compelling.

Best ten books

Number 10

I read A Christmas Carol a few weeks ago, and adored it. At the risk of riling scholars and lay readers alike, I’d forgotten how brilliant Charles Dickens’ writing is.

Watching The Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve and its faithful retelling of Dickens’ novella (setting aside Rizzo the Rat) reminded me just how much this story is interwoven into the fabric of Christmas tradition.

Number Nine

As I said in my mini-review here, I loved Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett because it’s properly funny (laugh out loud funny), the characters are hilarious and yet believable and the writing is pitch perfect. Even if whales aren’t your thing, there is so much to adore about this book.

Number Eight

The genius of His Bloody Project struck me when I realised that Graeme McCrae Burnet has not only made up the whole story, but has managed to construct every character, every plot point, and every bit of dialogue as if he is merely recounting a true historical incident.

The layered narrative conveys much more than the plot –  it highlights the schisms in Scotland between the highlanders and the lowlanders, the injustice of the feudal system as well as the subjectivity of truth.

Number Seven

Although Naomi Alderman couldn’t have forseen it, The Power was a great book to read in the same year in which the TV series of The Handmaid’s Tale resulted in a significant boost to Margaret Atwood’s street cred (and bank balance). The fact that Atwood endorses this book should give you a sense of it’s scope and intent.

Not sure whether this book would appeal to men, but I loved reading about a world in which women were more powerful than men in every sense, including physically and politically. It says a lot about misogyny, but more about power and corruption.

Number Six

The twistings and the turnings of Fingersmith by Sarah Waters takes us from Fagan-esque London, to a gothic mansion, to a mental asylum and back to London again. The narrator changes twice, and the characters shape-shift as a consequence. Best of all, this intricate and layered plot is founded on a solid base of expert story-telling and a dexterity with words. You can read my thoughts on this book, the film, the TV series and the audiobook here.

Number Five

In The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry has created a wonderful ensemble of characters, each with their own flaws and quirks that show off her remarkable writing. The combination of her writing style and these characters gives the book a lightness and humour that historical novels can’t often deliver. I had high expectations for this book, and they met them – which you can read more about here.

Number Four

I read The Good People and then I listened to Hannah Kent talk about it at the Clunes Book Festival. Oh my, oh my. Thirty-two years old and a bloody legend. She is destined for some major, major book prize. While she busies herself writing her next literary marvel, you should check out this one.

Number Three

Autumn by Ali Smith is poignant, fun and breathtakingly original. I liked how it made me feel – hopeful, reassured and somehow joyful. You can read my full review here, or better still, read the book. (And stay tuned for some thoughts on Winter).

Number Two

I have no interest in cricket but for the duration of this book, I LOVED IT. I’m not particularly interested in the fate of dingbat sportsmen who put themselves in morally perilous positions and then expect forgiveness, but for the duration of this book, I LOVED THAT. I revelled in the evocation of growing up in 1970s/80s Australia.

I really wasn’t expecting to, but The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong totally enthralled me. You can read more about why here.

Number One

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney is a darkly humorous excursion into the lives of people inhabiting the fringes of Irish society. It takes the Irish Tourism version of Ireland and warps it mercilessly into something real and meaningful but also grubby and degenerate. I urged you to read it here, and I urge you again: read this fabulous book.

 

As we turn to face 2018, I wonder what our wonderful publishers, book sellers and authors have in store for us. Can’t wait!

And for when it rolls around, where ever you are…

This is a site about books and about tea, and how we should read more books and drink more tea. Sometimes, it's hard to know what books to read and what tea to drink. This is where I can help out.

10 Comments

  1. Snap! Glorious Heresies shared top spot on my list this year as well.

    You know how much I love Rush Oh! I have a couple of the others you’ve listed in my TBR stack (the Waters, Burnet and Perry) and the Rules of Backyard Cricket looks good. I’ll be hunting it down (is it suitable for a 15yo to read?).

    I had not thought about the parallels between House of Grief and Serial… interesting. I could read/listen to them both again – I was riveted the first time around.

    Happy reading in 2018!

    • Not sure about Rules for a 15 yo. It’s less about cricket and more about sibling enmity- there’s quite a lot of violence and some episodes about drugs.

      I’ve you to thank for The Glorious Heresies too.

      I’ll check out your list shortly….

  2. Great to see The Good People on your list because I thought it was great too and I agree with everything you say about Hannah Kent. I really want to find a place in my reading schedule some time to read her first book, Burial Rites.

    • I feel like I read Burial Rites and didn’t like it- which I now I totally can’t comprehend. I am going to read / re read it though to see if my memory is playing tricks on me…!

      • I’m not sure Burial Rites will get on my reading schedule any time soon but I can imagine being a little disappointed if I didn’t like it as much as The Good People, seeing as I enjoyed that so much. What strange bookish dilemmas we have, lol?

  3. Happy New Year! I hope one of my books will be featured in this list for the 2018 🙂
    I will try my best! 😀

  4. I have His Bloody Project and The Good People on my list for this year, and I’m excited! I loved Burial Rites. I hope you do give it (another) go. And a resounding YES to 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 & 10 on your top ten reads.

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