So far in 2017 (there are still two weeks left and I have four flights to get home and back, so I plan on squeezing a few more in by Hogmanay) I’ve read 75 books. Most of them were very good, many excellent; this was the year I mostly gave up finishing things just for the sake of it, which has made a huge difference to my reading. So, after much deliberation, here are my top 10 I read in 2017 in alphabetical order.
Stay With Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò
It’s hard to believe this is a debut, as it’s just so confident and accomplished. Split between 1980s and 2008 Nigeria, it’s a tragic but very readable and compelling story about a young woman desperate to get pregnant and her husband, who eventually takes a second wife. The dual narrative is brilliant, and the ending is totally heartbreaking.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
For those who haven’t read it already, this is an amazing feminist dystopian thriller set between the UK, US, Nigeria and Moldova, and a worthy winner of the Bailey’s Women Prize for Fiction. I loved it so much I briefly forgot it wasn’t real and convinced myself that, like the women in the book, I could actually zap people with lightning.
Troublemakers by Catherine Barter
My favourite YA novel of 2017, and one that I wish was getting more attention. This is the story of a 15-year-old, raised by her older half-brother and his boyfriend after her mother dies when she was very young, who gets accidentally caught up in a political scandal. So good, and totally unlike anything else I’ve read in YA.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
If I could pick one book this year to be added to school curriculums, it’d be this. I do read quite a lot about race and racism, but much of it is US-based; this taught me a lot about Britain specifically, and I genuinely wish everyone in the UK would read it. Probably one of the best book covers of 2017, too.
Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen
This was published in 2014, but as I’m not that up-to-date on MG fiction I missed it until seeing it recommended in a Gal-dem article earlier this year. It is unbelievably good – an atmospheric, unflinching and totally gripping story about London tower blocks falling down, and a boy and his agoraphobic mother trapped inside.
La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
His Dark Materials are some of my all-time favourite books, so going back to Lyra’s Oxford was a definite highlight of this year. I must admit, there are a few things I would have changed about La Belle Sauvage – I felt the middle was a little too long, and the ending quite abrupt – but in terms of worldbuilding and the overall reading experience, this was unbeatable.
History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
I read this YA novel – about a teenage boy grieving after his ex-boyfriend accidentally drowns – back in February and am only just recovering from how HEART-SPLITTINGLY SAD it was. I also loved Silvera’s They Both Die at the End, which came out in September, but History was just amazing.
Chanson douce by Leïla Slimani
I only read nine books in French this year, but two have made it into my Top 10 (and another, Les petites reines by Clémentine Beauvais, was very close). Published in English next month as Lullaby, this is a bold, shocking and brilliantly written novel based on the true story of a nanny who killed two young children in her care.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This doesn’t need much introduction! This is obviously an incredibly important book, but eight months after reading what I remember best are the characters: Maverick and Lisa are my favourite YA parents ever, and I can still remember even the minor characters’ names. Given I often forget my own relatives’ names, that’s quite impressive.
D’après une histoire vraie by Delphine de Vigan
For me, this was one of those books where you have to keep stopping to tell everyone around how good it is. Published as Based on a True Story in English, this is an incredibly clever and addictive autofictional thriller about a woman who tried to steal the author’s life and identity after the release of her previous book.
Honourable mentions (in no particular order) to Les petites reines by Clémentine Beauvais, The Gender Games by Juno Dawson, A Change is Gonna Come from Stripes, We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James, The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood-Hargrave, Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle, A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard, If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak, Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green, American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Release by Patrick Ness, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon, and Girlhood by Cat Clarke, which are also totally excellent.
Some other favourites…
Album: Un estrany poder by Els Amics de les Arts. A pop masterpiece!
Song: Getaway Car by Taylor Swift. Not a huge fan of the album overall, but that song is a banger.
TV show: The Leftovers, The Handmaid’s Tale, Jane the Virgin, The Good Place, Insecure.
Film: Hidden Figures, Moonlight (which I think is actually from 2016, but it came out here in February).
Podcast: My Dad Wrote a Porno, obviously. Also Transfert, Radio Ambulante, and Black Hands.
Not a bad year (except for, you know, almost everything in politics). Hope you all enjoy the holidays!