The 30 Best Books of 2017 (So Far)

Books Lists best of 2017
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The 30 Best Books of 2017 (So Far)

Now that we’re over halfway through the year, we decided to update our picks for the best books of 2017 (so far). From thrilling sci-fi to Latin American fiction, illuminating memoirs to eclectic short stories, our favorite titles promise enthralling reads for every literary taste.

We’ve assembled 30 books released from January through July, including novels, short story collections and nonfiction books. Browse our favorites below (listed in alphabetical order by title), and check out our lists of the best novels and best nonfiction books of 2016 for more great reading recommendations.

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1bbbelovedghosts150.jpg All the Beloved Ghosts by Alison MacLeod

Alison MacLeod blends memoir and fiction to stunning effect in her short story collection, blurring the lines between life and death as she explores the nature of memory. In “Sylvia Wears Pink in the Underworld” and “Dreaming Diana: Twelve Frames,” she examines our relationship to celebrities after their death. While in stories like “The Thaw” and ‘The Heart of Denis Noble,” MacLeod crafts intimate portraits of individuals at the end of their lives. The collection’s haunting prose is by turns heartbreaking and uplifting, transforming the stories’ heavy themes into something entirely unique. —Bridey Heing

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1bbblackmadwheel.png Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman’s second horror novel amplifies its dread with a surrealist vibe reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft or Philip K. Dick. Set in the late ‘50s, Black Mad Wheel follows a rock ‘n’ roll band recruited by the U.S. military to investigate an otherworldly sound echoing across the Namib Desert. From there, the novel crescendos with a spate of mysterious disappearances, disturbing Satanic mirages, AWOL ghosts and a thrilling pair of confrontations between two uniquely-represented monstrosities—one in the Namib and one in a U.S. hospital. But Malerman’s greatest feat is setting a tone of brotherly friendship between his main characters, which amplifies the tension when one bandmate (or more?) falls into peril. —Jeff Milo

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1bbborne.jpg Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction can be exhausting, especially in today’s political climate. But with Borne, Jeff VanderMeer has created a narrative so refreshing that it defies genre clichés. The novel follows Rachel, a scavenger in a city ruled by malevolent forces and terrorized by a giant flying bear. When she discovers a bizarre creature and chooses to protect it—against her better judgment—she catalyzes events with alarming consequences. The creature, nicknamed Borne, proves both wondrous and chilling, proving that VanderMeer has crafted one of the most compellingly original characters in years. —Frannie Jackson

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1bbchemistry.jpeg Chemistry by Weike Wang

Chemistry is narrated with such a catching rhythm that you won’t need a science background to fall in love with this contemplative debut novel. Weike Wang’s book boasts a wholly original narrator, whose philosophic musings on sliding through her twenties toward the looming specter of matrimony prove insightful (and always entertaining). The unnamed narrator also faces the stress of graduate school, the pressure of parental expectations and the dense weight of wondering whether her career choice in synthetic organic chemistry was the right move. Wang’s prose draws you in with its wry wit, causing you to wonder what’s in your own makeup that positively (or negatively) charges your more existential thoughts. —Jeff Milo

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1bbclass.jpg Class by Francesco Pacifico

Francesco Pacifico’s second novel to appear in English, Class, is a humorous, sprawling look at a group of wealthy Roman hipsters who alight on 21st-century New York in hopes of finding some validation for their largely directionless lives. Yet underneath that comic crust is a more complicated tale of forgiveness, restlessness and death. Pacifico’s ability to slyly resuscitate the comedy of manners while deploying a Faulknerian multiple-consciousness narrator—all while thoroughly inhabiting the present moment of conspicuous consumption—has expanded the bounds of contemporary fiction. —Lucas Iberico Lozada

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1bbdestroyers.jpg The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen

Christopher Bollen’s literary thriller is an exemplar of the form—one of those rare novels that not only embraces all the conventions of its genre but elevates them. The Destroyers opens as Ian Bledsoe joins childhood friend Charlie Konstantinou, member of a Cypriot construction dynasty, on the Greek isle of Patmos. When Charlie disappears, Ian is left to piece together his place among the island’s coterie of souls while investigating his friend’s fate. Yachts and reformed actresses aside, by availing itself to the twin tragedies of the refugee and Greek economic crises, The Destroyers rises above the wealthy’s luxe dramas and slots instead into the plights of a cosmopolitan world. —B. David Zarley

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1bbessexserpent.jpg The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent was one of the most acclaimed books of 2016 in the UK—and it’s easily one of the most engrossing works of historical fiction in recent years. Released in the U.S. this summer, the novel follows Cora Seaborne’s travels to a small Essex village after her husband’s death in 1893. When she arrives, Cora learns about a mysterious beast called the Essex Serpent, which is rumored to be responsible for a recent death and other strange occurrences. Lively and brimming with eclectic characters, Perry’s novel perfectly captures a sense of time, place and peril. —Bridey Heing

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1bbexitwest150.jpg Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid has always had a finger on the global pulse, publishing stories hot on the heels of the latest headlines. And though Exit West was completed nearly a year before Trump announced a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, its timing is perfect. The novel opens in an unnamed city (feasibly located in one of said countries) that’s tipping towards civil war and swollen with a sea of refugees. Then we meet Saeed and Nadia, young adults falling in love just as their world is falling apart. Their hope is kindled by rumors of mysterious doorways that transport people to undetermined locations. These doors have supernatural powers, but the way Hamid weaves his story, you’ll believe that they’re real. And, in a way, they are. —Jeff Milo

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1bbgoldenlegend.png The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam

At The Golden Legend’s core is a deep understanding of the centuries-long conflict between Muslims and Christians—and how it continues to be exploited by men in power. Set in Pakistan, Nadeem Aslam’s novel follows several characters whose lives are uprooted when an American man kills innocent Muslims. It’s a narrative that insists on a very simple but terrifying fact: everything is political. God, love, family, justice, faith, power, friendship, secrets—acts of kindness and acts of evil are all informed by politics. And still, The Golden Legend dazzles as much as it devastates. As characters wrestle with the truths of their worlds, Aslam succeeds in reflecting these truths in his prose. And the reader walks away better—and with more understanding—for such an intimacy with such unforgettable characters as these. —Shannon M. Houston

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1bbgrownupanger.jpg Grown-Up Anger by Daniel Wolff

New Bob Dylan books appear so frequently these days, and it’s become a rare treat to find one that distinguishes itself by delving into deeper mysteries than the Nobel laureate himself. Daniel Wolff’s provocative new book, Grown-Up Anger, enumerates the ways Dylan fashioned his early public persona around Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl balladeer image, exploring connections in the anger that came across in the two men’s songs. Wolff particularly focuses on the time-transcending rage that made those songs stick, which established Dylan and Guthrie’s voices as connected but distinct, honest, mature, uncompromising and impossible to ignore. As Wolff says, “We could all use a little grown-up anger.” —Steve Nathans-Kelly

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