The Best Books I Read in 2017


Here are the best books I read or listened to in 2017 (out of a total of 42).

Best Fiction

  • #1 Overall Stay with Me, by Ayobami Adebayo. Gorgeous novel: delicious prose, constant surprises, deep emotion.
  • Most Fun Overall – Hag-Seed, by Margaret Atwood. Delightful update of an old tale of prison and revenge. Advice: Review the plot of Shakespeare’s The Tempest before reading (for example, on Wikipedia). (My review. And in case you want another economist’s endorsement, here’s Tyler Cowen’s.)
  • Most darkly funny and Mrs. Doctor, by Julie Iromuanya. This book will make you groan, cringe, and shudder as the protagonist goes to increasingly precarious lengths to maintain his pretense of success in America after emigrating from Nigeria. (My review at Brittle Paper.)
  • Most uncomfortably funny A Horse Walks into a Bar, by David Grossman (translated by Jessica Cohen). “Magnificently comic and sucker-punch-tragic excursion into brilliance.” -Gary Shteyngart in the New York Times.
  • Most frightening as a parent and a husband – The Dinner, by Herman Koch. Serious questions about inheritability of character and responsibility to our children versus others, all wrapped up in a thriller.
  • Most eerieFever Dream, by Samanta Shweblin (translated by Megan McDowell). “This powerful and at times deeply sinister tale is anything but straightforward.” -Hannah Beckerman in The Guardian
  • Awesomely craziest audiobook Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. Audiobook incorporates 166 different voice actors, several recognizable. Wild ride. Won this year’s Man Booker Prize.
  • Best botany-themed The Seed Thief, by Jacqui L’Ange. A botanist travels from South Africa to Brazil “to infiltrate a religious sect and find some seeds.” Excitement and botany ensue. (My review.)

 Best History

Best Memoir

  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay. Astute essays on living life as an obese woman in America. Powerful and traumatic. (My review.)
  • The Black Penguin, by Andrew Evans. Dual memoir of growing up gay and Mormon, and of taking buses from Washington, D.C., to southern Chile, en route to Antarctica. (My review.)

Best Economics and Social Science

Best Self-Improvement

Best Graphic Novel

  • Marvel (Volume 6): Civil War II, by Wilson and Miyazawa. This isn’t the best of the Ms. Marvel books (and I recommend all of them), but even so, it endearing and thought-provoking around the price we are willing to pay for safety, as well as family and friendship.

Best Children’s and Young Adult

What did I get wrong? What did you read and love?

I also read a number of books of religious history or religious thought. You can read about my favorites among those here.


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