Best Books Of 2017
For the last two years I’ve kept a log of all the good books I read, regardless of when they were originally published. You can read my 2015 list by clicking here, and 2016’s by clicking here.
And since I’m nothing if not predictable, I decided to repeat this process for 2017.
So, here’s a look at the best novels, short story collections, and other books I read in 2017.
John Scalzi: Fuzzy Nation, Redshirts, The Android’s Dream, Agent To The Stars, The Collapsing Empire, Lock In, The Dispatcher, and The God Engines Having torn through his fantastic Old Man’s War series last year, I spent much of this one reading the rest of his oeuvre, starting with Fuzzy, his clever reimagining of H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. This was followed by the insightful Redshirts; the relatively weirder Android’s; and the funny Agent, which read like a sequel to Paul crossed with L.A. Story. This was followed by the space opera Empire, which was like a funny and slightly filthy mash-up of Iain M. Banks’ Consider Phlebas and Frank Herbert’s Dune; the engaging and medically-minded Lock In; and the similar but slightly better novella The Dispatcher. Finally, I ended the year, quite literally, with Engines, a more serious and bloody affair that was like if Clive Barker wrote a space opera novella.
Daphne Du Maurier: Don’t Look Now: Stories A collection of short horror stories, these tales were not horror in the typical sense, but were more like psychological tortures, as typified by the titular story, which really threw me for a loop.
Alexander Weinstein: Children Of The New World: Stories Along with being a fun and fast read, the sci-fi stories in this collection are clever and inventive, while also being more about just the usual sci-fi tropes and problems. (Click here to read my interview with Alexander Weinstein.)
Joe M. McDermott: The Fortress At The End Of Time Continuing my sci-fi kick, this rather dark space opera had me intrigued, not just because it was driven by a mystery, but also because of the implications of sending your clone into space to work in a shitty place. (Click here to read my interview with Joe M. McDermott.)
Jason Rekulak: The Impossible Fortress In many ways, this novel was like reading an ’80s teenage sex comedy. And a good one, too. More like One Crazy Summer than Porky’s. Granted, it was a bit too movie-ish sometimes, but it was still a fun and fast read. (Click here to read my interview with Jason Rekulak.)
Hideo Yokoyama: Six Four Usually, the phrase “police procedural” doesn’t mean “the procedures that the police use,” and for good reason, that would make for a dull book. But while this crime novel is even more about the intricacies of being the police’s liaison to the press than it is about the crime itself, it was still as compelling as any crime novel I’ve read.
Elan Mastai: All Our Wrong Todays Though it took a while to get going, it eventually became a clever and intricate time travel novel that was funny in way that reminded me of Andy Weir’s The Martian. (Click here to read my interview with Elan Mastai.)
various writers: Star Wars: From A Certain Point Of View: Stories; Ken Liu: The Legends Of Luke Skywalker; Timothy Zahn: Star Wars: Thrawn While I’ve enjoyed all of the Star Wars books that have come out since the cannon was reset, my favorites have always been the ones that are show a different perspective of what happened in the films. Certain Point, for instance, is a collection of short stories in which minor characters and casual observers recall what they were up to during the pivotal event of A New Hope, while Legends has people telling tales (some tall) that they’ve heard about Luke. The exception to this rule is Thrawn, a biography of a character from Rebels that doesn’t intersect with the show…though maybe the upcoming sequel will.
Corey J. White: Killing Gravity Yet another gripping sci-fi book I read this year, this novella was basically like if The Emperor in Star Wars genetically engineered a super Jedi to be his minion, but the minion didn’t like being manipulated. Or being chased around the galaxy. Or people threatening her cat. (Click here to read my interview with Corey J. White.)
Tobias S. Buckell: Halo: Envoy As with the Star Wars novels, I’ve also enjoyed all of the books I’ve read connected to the Halo games. But this is, by far, my favorite, largely because it has the same kind of non-stop action as the best Halo games. (Click here to read my interview with Tobias S. Buckell.)
José Saramago: The Double As with John Scalzi, I spent much of the year also working my way through Saramago’s catalog. Though none of his novels delighted me as much as this one, in which a guy becomes obsessed when he sees his exact double in a movie. As with many of Saramago’s novels, this had a seemingly simple story that he made poetic and vibrant and truly unique.
James Gunn: Transcendental, Transgalactic, and Transformation While I usually like to mix things up by spreading out a series over a few months, the first book in this epic sci-fi trilogy — which was like if Ann Leckie (Ancillary Justice) wrote a sci-fi mash-up of Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express and Raiders Of The Lost Ark — grabbed me so quickly and thoroughly that I tore my way through all three novels in a row. (Click here to read my interview with James Gunn about Transformation and this series as a whole.)
Curtis C. Chen: Waypoint Kangaroo and Kangaroo Too Though the first one took some time to get going, it ultimately became a wild and funny sci-fi spy novel about a guy who’s more Sterling Archer (sans the arrogance) than James Bond. And the second book was just as much fun as the first. (Click here to read my interview with Curtis C. Chen about Kangaroo Too and this series as a whole.)
Camille Bordas: How To Behave In A Crowd I’d been excited for this novel — about a kid who’s the youngest in a family of dysfunctional academics — ever since I first read her great short story “Most Die Young” in The New Yorker back in January. So it was gratifying that when I finally did, I found it was even more engrossing and well-written than I expected. (Click here to read my interview with Camille Bordas.)
Adam Christopher: Standard Hollywood Depravity and Killing Is My Business Given my love of hard-boiled noir crime novels and sci-fi, it’s not surprising I’d be interesting in books that combine both genres. But few have done as good of job of mixing them as Christopher’s new books, especially the former novella, which is by the best entry in his “Ray Electromatic Mystery” series so far. (Click here to read my interview with Adam Christopher.)
Cassandra Khaw: Hammers On Bone, A Song For Quiet, and Bearly A Lady Another cool mixer of genres, the first novella was like if H.P. Lovecraft wrote a hardboiled crime novel but stayed weird, the second was like if Mickey Spillane wrote an issue of John Constantine: Hellblazer about Robert Johnson, while the third was like Bridget Jones’ Diary meets The Magicians. (Click here to read my interview with Cassandra Khaw about A Song For Quiet.)
Ben Loory: Tales Of Falling And Flying The short stories in this collection were so weird and clever that I actually had to stop myself from reading all of them every time I picked up this book. Though it wasn’t until I read his earlier collection, Stories For Nighttime And Some For The Day, that I realized Loory’s writing reminded me of Jose Saramago..if Saramago wrote really, really short stories. (Click here to read my interview with Ben Loory about Tales Of Falling And Flying.)
JY Yang: The Black Tides Of Heaven and The Red Threads Of Fortune While these fantasy novellas are unique for having a more Eastern feel than a Western one, and for delving into areas of gender identity that I’d not seen explored in a story before, it’s how Yang utilizes them to tell a story that makes these stories so compelling. (Click here to read my interview with JY Yang.)
Adam Sternbergh: The Blinds Cleverly twisted, this novel about a kind of planned community for criminals and witnesses in need of relocation — none of whom remember who they are or what they did — read like if Jim Thompson and Matt Kindt collaborated on a Twilight Zone episode. (Click here to read my interview with Adam Sternbergh.)
Rivers Solomon: An Unkindness Of Ghosts It would be easy to explain the plot of this sci-fi novel in movie terms: it’s Snowpiercer if that flick was set on the space ship from Passengers. But that wouldn’t do the exemplary writing justice. Not even if I added something about how it also reminds me of Hugh Howey’s Wool. It’s just way too original and compelling and unique for that. (Click here to read my interview with Rivers Solomon.)
Andy Weir: Artemis Thanks to having the same mix of humor, upheaval, and science — as well as the same kind of snarky, self-deprecating humor — Weir’s second novel is just as engaging as his first, The Martian. (Click here to read my interview with Andy Weir.)
D. Nolan Clark: Forsaken Skies, Forgotten Worlds, and Forbidden Suns, Like with the aforementioned James Gunn novels, I realized within the first dozen pages of this sci-fi trilogy that I wanted to read this entire series in rapid succession. An epic and eminently readable space opera, all three reminded me Gunn’s novels, as well as John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire, Corey J. White’s Killing Gravity, and some of the other great sci-fi I read this year. (Click here to read my interview with D. Nolan Clark about Forbidden Suns and this series as a whole.)
Tim Pratt: The Wrong Stars Yet another great space opera, this sci-fi epic has some of the same elements that made me like D. Nolan Clark’s books and Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire — the action, the invention, the readability — though also gets points for not pretending that pop culture, our pop culture, doesn’t exist. (Click here to read my interview with Tim Pratt.)
Mike Brooks: Dark Deeds Much as I enjoyed the second book in this series — Dark Sky, which I also read this year — this third installment really grabbed by mixing Oceans 11-esque heisting and The Professional-ish “bad ass good at their job”-ness into with its already compelling Firefly–inspired space pirate saga. (Click here to read my interview with Mike Brooks about Dark Sky, and here to read the one about Dark Deeds.)
Liska Jacobs: Catalina Like the Brett Easton Ellis-y novels I used to read all the time, this was an engaging tale of a woman who responds to a life crisis by going on a pill-popping, hard-drinking, let’s fuck bender. I forgot how much fun these can be when done well. (Click here to read my interview with Liska Jacobs.)
K.B. Wagers: Behind The Throne, After The Crown, and Beyond The Empire Yet another epic science fiction trilogy I tore through in rapid succession, this one was a little different from the others — though no less compelling — by being more about the Game Of Thrones-esque political intrigue and less about the sci-fi…even it does take place in a Dune-like universe. (Click here to read my interview with K.B. Wagers about Beyond The Empire.)
Nicholas Reynolds: Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures 1935-1961 While I’ve liked the Hemingway novels I’ve read his real life was just as fascinating. Take this bio, which delved into his brief stint in espionage, and its impact on his life. (Click here to read my interview with Nicholas Reynolds.)
Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets For The Next Generation On the first night I read this collection, during which I read the first 32 pages, I made note of two new writers to check out, as well as a third who I’d read before, so I made note to see if they had anything new. By the time I finished reading this excellent collection, I had a dozen new poets to check out, including one, Wole Soyinka, whose name came up in another writer’s piece. Speaking of which…
Kate Litterer: Ghostly Boo …this is one of the two new writers I noticed in Please Excuse This Poem. I’m usually not one for long poems, but the five in this 89-page collection were so raw and vivid that they kept my attention long after other long poems would’ve lost it.
Linda Pastan: Carnival Evening: New And Selected Poems 1968-1998, The Five Stages Of Grief, PM/AM: New And Selected Poems, and Aspects Of Eve Having read her newer books last year and the year before, I decided to go back and read Pastan’s earlier collections, only to find that while she has obviously evolved, she was just as good back then as she is now.
various writers: Japanese Death Poems: Written By Zen Monks And Haiku Poets On The Verge Of Death, Matsuo Basho: The Complete Haiku I’ve never read much haiku before this year, but after enjoying his poems in the former compilation I sought out more, which led me to his excellent collection.
James Longenbach: Earthling Given that this collection of narrative poems grabbed me right away, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of Longenbach’s earlier books end up on next year’s list. (Click here to read my interview with James Longenbach.)
Nagabe: The Girl From The Other Side: Siúil, A Rúin: Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 In this dark fable manga, a small girl lives with a fantastical (and rather dapper) creature with an antelope head after she was abandoned by someone who thought she (the kid) was cursed.
Stjepan Sejic: Sunstone: Volume 5 While I’m sad to see this erotic and romantic comic end, I’m not sad that it ended in such a satisfying way, and that it stayed strong the whole way through, with humor and real emotion and fully realized characters I wish I knew in real life.
Brian Michael Bendis: Civil War II The annoying thing about Marvel’s big events is that they come in such rapid succession that you never see how they impact individual characters over time. But while that’s how I feel about their “Civil War II” event as well, I must admit, this kick-off book is super good (no pun intended). As with most of Bendis’ books, it’s smart, emotional, risky, and doesn’t always go where you’d expect.
Dennis Hopeless: Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears: Volume 2: Civil War II, G. Willow Wilson: Ms. Marvel: Volume 6: Civil War II, Tom Taylor: All-New Wolverine: Volume 2: Civil War II Speaking of Marvel’s “Civil War” series, while I also read the other books connected to this event, these three really stood out for being smart, clever, and for having unique takes on the big event. Not surprisingly, you could also say the same for the other stories Hopeless, Wilson, and Taylor wrote about these characters this year: Hopeless’ Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears: Volume 3: Scare Tactics; Wilson’s Ms. Marvel: Volume 7: Damage Per Second and Volume 8: Mecca; and Taylor’s All-New Wolverine: Volume 3: Enemy Of The State II and Volume 4: Immune.
Brian K. Vaughan: Saga: Volume 7, Saga: Volume 8, and We Stand On Guard Vaughan has been one of my favorite comic writers since I read the first volume of Y: The Last Man, and the three books of his I read this year did nothing to change that. While Saga continued to be just as unique and creative and sexy as always, Guard went in a different but still compelling direction by being an entertaining, epic, and sadly topical sci-fi military story.
Kengo Hanazawa: I Am A Hero: Omnibus 3, I Am A Hero: Omnibus 4 This zombie manga puts a different spin on the undead apocalypse, both visually and narratively. But I also like that it’s one of the few zombie stories set in a world where people have actually seen zombie movies before.
Brian Michael Bendis: Invincible Iron Man: Volume 2: The War Machines Just weeks after thoroughly enjoying his Civil War II book I read this collection, which was set just before Civil War II, but was just as funny and clever.
Guy Delisle: Hostage While his previous books showed what it was like when he visited North Korea (Pyongyang: A Journey In North Korea), China (Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China), and Burma (Burma Chronicles), this graphic novel is instead about a NGO worker taken hostage and held for months. But while it’s far more unsettling than his other works, it’s still just as engrossing and thoughtful of a tale that gives insight into a different culture.
Greg Rucka: Wonder Woman: Rebirth: Volume 2: Year One Like Bendis, Rucka is one of those writers who’s always solid, always doing something interesting. And that goes double when he’s writing about Wonder Woman, as evidenced by this clever take on her origin story, which was even better than her big budget movie.
Chabouté: Alone It’s hard to describe this graphic novel in just a few words. Which is ironic, given that it only has a few words. But this beautiful story about a guy who’s lived his whole life in a lighthouse manages to be thought-provoking and deeply moving even with such a minimalist approach.
Mark Millar: Empress and Reborn If there’s one thing you can say about Millar’s comics it’s that just when you start to think they’re being predictable, theyl take a left turn and redeem themselves. In the case of Empress, it was subtle, but enough to make it an epic sci-fi tale in the vein of Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, only less weird. As for the fantasy-infused sci-fi story that is Reborn, it could’ve been really, really obvious, with a really telegraphed coincidence, but it too took a different path.
Mike Johnson with Ryan Parrott: Star Trek: Boldly Go: Volume 1 Much like the recent Star Wars comics, Johnsons’ Star Trek comics have filled in missing pieces from the movies, such as how, in this volume, we learn how Jayla ended up alone on Altamid. But Johnson’s comics are also like the Star Wars ones by being smart, well-written, and feeling like the films to which they’re connected.
Mariko Tamaki: She-Hulk: Volume 1: Deconstructed As writer Dan Slott previously showed in such comics as Volume 1: Single Green Female, Volume 2: Superhuman Law, and Volume 3: Time Trials, She-Hulk is at her best when she’s not just a female version of her cousin The Hulk, but is instead a lawyer who specializes in superhuman cases. Which is what she’s back doing in this intelligent and thoughtful book, which finds her still recovering from happened to her, and her cousin, during the events of Civil War II.
Rob Williams: Unfollow: Volume 1: 140 Characters, Unfollow: Volume 2: God Is Watching, Unfollow: Volume 3: Turn It Off This is one of those kind of edgy and perverse comics that can be utterly stupid if done wrong, but really engaging if done right. Thankfully, this one — in which a billionaire splits his fortune to 140 people, but then tells them they’ll get a bigger cut if any of them die — falls squarely in the latter column.
Jeremy Whitley: The Unstoppable Wasp: Volume 1: Unstoppable! I really wonder what it says about Marvel Comics that so many of their best books — Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Spider Woman, All-New Wolverine, and now this one — are about their female superheroes? I’m just bummed that this series has already ended and won’t continue past Volume 2.
Katie Green: Lighter Than My Shadow As someone who’s had his own (albeit very minor) issues with food, I was struck by how this graphic novel about the author’s own body issues was not just raw, honest, but sympathetic, but also eminently readable and entertaining.
Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson: The Visitor: How & Why He Stayed While I’ve enjoyed every comic in the Mignolaverse or Hellboy-verse or whatever you want to call it, this collection — about an alien who’s been observing Hellboy and pals for years, and even occasionally helping out from a distance — stands out as one of the better ones for being rather unique.
Charles Soule: Star Wars: Darth Vader: Dark Lord Of The Sith: Volume 1: Imperial Machine; Jason Aaron, Dash Aaron, Jason Latour: Star Wars: Volume 6: Out Among The Stars The thing I love most about the best Star Wars comics and novels is how they fill in the blanks from the movies in interesting ways. Take the former comic, which connects the end of Revenge Of The Sith to the first season of Star Wars: Rebels in a way that feels like both the film and the show. Though the latter also stands out for being a series of fun and unexpected one-off stories.
Jason Shiga: Demon: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4 Brutal, mean, nihilistic, creative, funny, bloody — there are so many words I could use to describe this four-part series about a guy who realizes he’s a demon who posses the body of the nearest person whenever he dies, and then uses this power to fuck and frolic and, on occasion, get away whenever someone tries to stop him.
Warren Ellis: Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 In Vargr While I’ve read all of Fleming’s original Bond novels, I’ve never had much interest in any Bond books he didn’t write. But I’m glad I took a chance with this one, which was as exciting as any of Fleming’s best, though with a thoroughly modern (read: Daniel Craig-esque) take on the character.
Kelly Thompson: Hawkeye: Volume 2: Masks Like the aforementioned volumes of Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, and All-New Wolverine, this smart and snappy comic — in which the Kate Bishop version of Hawkeye deals with Madame Masque and some family issues — is yet another example of how Marvel’s female superheroes seem to bring out the best in their writers.
So, what were the best books you read in 2017? Please let me know in the comments below…so I can read them and maybe mention them as one of the best books I read in 2018.
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