I love this time of year, not only because I’m a Christmas fanatic, but because it also heralds the ever popular ‘Top Ten Books of *2017*’ lists. The biggest thing I love about these lists is the fact that we’re basically getting recommendations of great books which have fought their way to the top against a vast variety of novels. It’s almost like having the hard work done for us – the less enjoyable books have been pushed aside to leave us with the crème de le crème. Of course, reading is always going to be entirely subjective, but I think if you follow someone regularly and have consumed their content for a long time then you can probably tell if your tastes are similar. I for one find these lists incredibly helpful and inspiring, and my TBR’s always suffer from an influx as the year reaches its conclusion.
This year I decided I wanted to be a part of this celebration of fantastic books; not only to possibly help readers pick up a worthy book, but also so that I can look back in the future and recall how great a particular reading year was. I’ve decided not to rank the books in order, as limiting myself to ten was already enough of a challenge! I’ll also leave a link below each entry to the full length review on my blog in case you want to hear more. So, without further ado, here are my top ten books of 2017!
- The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich
This is my most recently read book to appear on this list and also one of only two non-fiction entries. To put it simply, this book blew me away. If I could have rated it higher than 5*/5* I truly would have. It’s a multi-narrative book told from the perspectives of a vast array of females who fought for the Soviet Union in World War Two. It’s an incredibly unique style of writing, with a ‘chorus of voices to describe a specific historical moment’. We are given these incredibly detailed, often quite small moments from within the war, which contrast brilliantly with the more obvious brutalities of such an event. The books is honest, moving, horrific and raw, all in equal measure, but more than anything it is incredibly real, bringing a version of this war to life in more detail than ever before. If you read one non-fiction book next year, please let it be this one!
- My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologies by Fredrik Backman
If your looking for a book which still has heart, but is of a fictional nature, this might be the one for you. It follows the story of seven year old Elsa, exploring the fantastic relationship she has with her somewhat eccentric grandmother. When her grandmother leaves Elsa a treasure hunt in the form of letters apologising to people, this young girl must confront her fears, facing the truth which lays hidden beneath her world. This book will make you laugh and cry in equal measure, all the while hovering between a perfect blend of reality and imagination. I especially liked the importance it places on stories and the crucial importance they can hold within our lives. All in all, a perfect book to bring a smile to your face and remind you of the importance of friendships.
- The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
This next book was quite easily the longest individual book I’ve read this year. Coming in at a whopping 834 pages it’s definitely a book you need to wholeheartedly commit to, but I am so glad I did! If you love literary fiction and/or historical fiction then please pick this up. Set in 1866 during the New Zeland gold rush, we are introduced to Walter Moody, a man wanting to make his fortunes who stumbles unexpectedly into a strange meeting of twelve men. He quickly becomes involved in the events which have ravaged the town, including a missing wealthy man, a suicidal whore and a discovered fortune of gold. Plot aside, which is rather wide but incredibly controlled, the characterisation was undoubtedly the star of the show. This book has an incredible number of characters written with enviable detail, each one being entirely distinct from the others. If your prepared to let the book mature and divulge its secrets at its own pace, then you are in for a treat.
- It’s All About Treo by Dave Heyhoe
I’ve already mentioned my first non-fiction pick of the year, and now I want to mention my second. It’s All About Treo, as you can immediately tell from the cover, is focused entirely upon Treo, an Arms Explosives working dog, and his handler, Dave Heyhoe.The book follows the pair as they begin their assignment in one of the most dangerous areas during the war in Afghanistan. It’s incredibly informative, bringing the fight against the Taliban and the great responsibilities of a working dog into sharp relief. Dave writes with a friendly, engaging manner, with his love and respect for Treo shining through on every page. If you’re a dog lover or not, this book is sure to open your eyes further to the brilliance of both dog and handler as they put themselves on the front line.
- Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
Even if you haven’t read the series, I’m sure most of you would have heard of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. Whilst I really enjoyed the first in the series, I definitely found that the series progressed with each successive book. Ransom Riggs has created a wonderful (if somewhat terrifying) world for children which is absolutely full of imagination. Library of Souls, the last in the series, builds amazingly well on the foundations of the previous two books, following Jacob once more as he explores the depths of his peculiar abilities, all whilst simultaneously trying to save his friends from the evils which hunger for their powers. The imagination within this last book in particular was a pleasure to read, and I loved the darker, more grittier turn the series takes as it reaches its conclusion. I found the ending extremely satisfying, and was honestly saddened to say goodbye to the series. I must also note that as per the other books, the images used within the book are extremely well chosen and add a fantastic multimedia layer to the whole series.
- Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
I spent so long listening to other people rave about the fantasy genius that is Robin Hobb, that I finally decided enough was enough and sat down to start her Farseer Trilogy. It’s no exaggeration to say that I was hooked within the first page and I spent the rest of the first book kicking myself for having wasted so much enjoyable reading time. As much as I loved the first in the series, things got even better with the second book, Royal Assassin. The book continues to follow the royal bastard Fitz as he tries to navigate himself through the danger that is the royal court, with the added threat of the outside Red Ship Traders. Hobb is a brilliantl writer, and I think her books would suit a lover of a more literary style. Her descriptions of the world she has created are astoundingly vivid, with the added magical elements lifting the novel into a thoroughly engaging atmosphere. I also adored the added characterisation of the many leading female characters within this and cannot wait to see where the series will end.
- Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
Geek Love is a more than challenging book to describe. Perhaps its best by first explaining that in this context the word ‘geek’ actually refers to the definition of a carnival performer who bites the heads of live chickens. Intrigued? You’re right to be, because this wonderfully weird book will keep you on your toes the entire way through. It’s narrated by Olympia, a bald hunchback albino dwarf who has grown up in her families travelling carnival. With a mother who purposefully gorged on drugs and pesticides to ensure her children would be deformed enough to perform in her show, the novel explored the dark bonds which join this family together. The author explores brilliantly what it means to be perceived as different, all the while allowing her novel to hang in the balance between amusement and the grotesque. If you’re looking for a slightly different read with brilliant plots which follow a families past and present, then please pick it up!
- Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
Daphne Du Maurier. Do I really need to say more? Probably not, but if by some chance you haven’t yet read anything by this prolific author then please rectify this immediately! Whilst I think my favourite novel of hers is still Rebecca¸ her novel Jamaica Inn is more than a close second. Set in the eponymous Inn, we follow the young Mary Yellan as she begins to uncover the deadly truth behind the work of her aunt’s husband. The secrets of this place are huge, and the crimes which have been committed even bigger. With an extremely atmospheric location, this novel has obvious parallels with Wuthering Heights. There’s suspicion and intrigue, plot twists to be uncovered, and even some legitimate romance which thankfully avoids taking control of the novel. It’s a suspenseful read which is equally as well written, and yet again another example of the skill Du Maurier possesses.
- The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson
I’m sure you all know by now that I love a well written crime novel, and if high concept crime is a favourite of your then you really can’t get any better than Stieg Larsson. This series is incredibly detailed, following an extremely well executed plot. Because of this, I’m not even going to attempt to summaries the plots of the final installment in this trilogy -if you haven’t already devoured the first two books you would be completely lost! What I will say is that we follow once more the journalist Mikael Blomkovist and the ever popular Lisbeth Salander as they try to retaliate against the events of the last book. You really see each and every plot line joining together seamlessly in this book to make clear the twists and turns which Larsson had so carefully cultivated. As always, there is a lot of action, and even more detailed violence. I envy Larsson his abilities to think so astutely outside the normal boundaries of logic and societal expectations, and truly believe he has left behind him a wonderful legacy in the form of this series.
- The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood
If like me you are obsessed with Victorian literature, atmospheric Gothic reads and great characterisation, then this last and final book will surely make its way onto your TBR. The Crow Garden follows a young and newly qualified ‘mad doctor’ as he takes his first position in Crakethrone Asylum. Faced with Mrs Victoria Harlston, Nathaniel becomes more than fascinated by this beautiful and sophisticated lady whose husband has so fervently accused her of hysteria. As Nathaniel digs deeper he begins to question everything he knows about madness, entering a strange world of séances and mesmerism which threaten to disturb his own minds equilibrium. When reading this I was more than impressed by Alison Littlewood’s historical accuracy, most notably in the way she explored the links between gender and madness as viewed by a patriarchal society. Her characters are extremely vivid and the plot remains engaging until the end. If you’re a fan of Sensationalist novels, or authors such as Wilkie Collins, you must give this a try. It’s a triumph of historical fiction.
There we have it – these are my top ten books of 2017! Have you already read any of these? What are your thoughts – do your opinions differ to mine at all? Or have any of these books inspired you to pick up something new? Please let me know in the comments below!