15 Remarkable Books of 2017 that are Almost-Favourites
23rd January, 2017
There are so many good books out there and it is a shame that we pick ten (or somewhere around that number) as our ‘favourites of the year’. I realized I have a handful of books in my list that didn’t quite make it to the list of best reads, but were great reads. In some of these books, some aspect of the writing stood out for me; in others I was engrossed in the read and loved the experience. Most of these are 2017 releases but there are some titles published earlier but are remarkable reads.
Men without Women by Murakami (review) is a wonderful collection of short stories. All the stories have the perfect Murakami-vibe and some bizarre events that are unexplainable. I would not recommend this as a start to Murakami’s writing, but if you are a fan, this book is sheer pleasure. Janice Pariat’s The Nine Chambered Heart (review) is a fragmented exploration of the protagonist through the eyes of nine other people. It provided an interesting perspective(s) about how we look like in the eyes of other people and how each person we come into contact with is exposed to only a fraction of our true self.
The Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist (full list of reviews here) offered some amazing reads this year. Though The Power by Naomi Alderman (review) won the prize, my favourite in the list was The Dark Circle by Linda Grant (review). The novel talked about TB patients and their treatment. I especially loved how the third section of the novel wraps up the plot and makes us realize that we are humans after all. Another book in the shortlist that I loved is Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo (review). The book talks about marriage, betrayal and childlessness. The novel is fast paced and the suspense builds up with every chapter. This was entertaining and heart breaking at the same time. First Love by Gwendoline Riley (review) was another one in the short list that I really enjoyed. It is a hit-or-miss and might not work for all readers. I loved how unreliable the narrator was and how we try to understand her by the snapshots of her life that she chooses to tell us. Beautifully written!
There were some books that made me so happy and put me in a good mood. Among classics, I really enjoyed Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (review). I was introduced to Gaskell’s writing in 2017 with her famous novel, North and South which stole my heart and was a favourite of the year. In fact I summed up North and South as ‘the best novel to get you started on classics‘. I loved Wives and Daughters for the characters and humour, though I did feel it should have been renamed as Mothers and Sisters. As for humour, Terms and Conditions by Ysenda Maxtone Graham (review) which talks about girl’s boarding houses in England was a laugh riot. If you have a thing for boarding school stories, definitely pick this up; it is filled with real life stories, both the ones that make you chuckle and the ones that make you gasp. Like Water for Chocolate by Esquivel (review) was such an unexpectedly funny book. The book explores the life of Tita who is able to impart her emotions into the food she makes (Oh! The lovely world of magical realism) and it had me roaring with laughter during frequent breaks.
I read a good amount of historical fiction last year and my near-favourite is Salt Houses by Hala Alyan (review). The book talks about being on the run and voluntary displacement. Talking about learning about other cultures and places, Lisa See’s novel, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (review) was a lovely read. I glimpsed into a China that I had never heard about and the process of making tea. It also explores the delicate themes of family and motherhood.
Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali, translated from the Turkish, was a book that sucked me in. The story was predictable, but the dreamy prose and the way it is written makes this one a winner. Sing, Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward (review) has mesmerizing writing. This was my introduction to Ward’s work and I have decided to work my way through her back titles too. See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt (review), based on the real-life Lizzie Borden murder case, captured my heart because of how atmospheric the read was. I kept wiping my hands thinking they have pear juice on them – that’s how real the book felt.
Another book that I loved so much is Ghachar Ghochar by Shanbhag, translated from the Kannada. I adored this little bite sized nugget. It is a book that makes you instantly connect with the characters and also makes you admire the deep layers within. And best of all, it was refreshingly Indian and not modified for a Western audience. I wrote about why I felt that way in a lengthy review here.
And finally, I have a special recommendation. My reading list features very few non-fiction titles. Somehow I lean towards fiction when reaching out for a book. But one of the titles, among the few that I read, which stayed with me is The Naïve and Sentimental Novelist by Pamuk. The book is a series of lectures delivered by Pamuk about the psychology of a reader and a writer. Brilliant read.
Almost-favourites are as good as the best books you have read in the year. The reason they didn’t make the cut might be because other books were even better or personal tastes swayed the list. But these are excellent reads and I would heartily recommend all of these.
And for more books to add to your reading list, check out my favourite books of 2017.