Over the past year, we've seen some thrilling releases hit the shelves. From Roxane Gay's powerful
Difficult Women to long-awaited fantasy favourite The Book of Dust, SL has put together a definitive list of the best reads of 2017.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, £6.29 |
An unwavering portrayal of the slave trade, told through Effia and Esi, two sisters with two very different destinies – one sold into slavery, one a slave trader's wife. This fateful moment reverberates down the generations, with each chapter telling the story of a different descendent of the sisters.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, £10.78 |
The Booker Prize-winning first novel from best-selling short story writer George Saunders focuses on Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven-year-old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War. Saunders takes this fragment of fact and runs with it, setting his story in the ‘bardo’ – a Purgatory-like realm borrowed from Tibetan Buddhism – where a host of disfigured, increasingly absurd spirits grapple for control of young Willie’s soul, while the boy touchingly awaits his father’s return.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay, £9.93 |
From the writer of the conversation-changing
Bad Feminist, comes a sharp, powerful collection of 21 short stories about a diverse cast of women, from the immensely privileged to those battling poverty. Eye-opening and unforgettable.
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, £4.49 |
Set in London in 1893. When Cora Seaborne's husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one, and she never suited the role of society wife. Accompanied by her son Francis – a curious, obsessive boy – she leaves town for Essex, where rumours reach them of the mythical Essex Serpent, which once roamed the marshes claiming human lives.
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy, £8.99 |
When Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true. New York Times bestseller
The Rules Do Not Apply is a gorgeous memoir about a woman overcoming dramatic loss and finding reinvention.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy, £8.99 |
This is Roy’s first novel since 1997, when her debut
The God of Small Things claimed the Man Booker Prize. Her follow-up is an expansive, ambitious novel traversing a subcontinent over many years, peopled with wonderfully rich and detailed characters. Expect to laugh, cry and feel everything in between.
The Power by Naomi Alderton, £3.99 |
Having won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction earlier this year, Naomi Alderman’s novel-cum-feminist-thought experiment,
The Power, is one of the books everyone has been talking about. Exploring the idea of what would happen if women held power over men, and weren’t afraid to abuse it, this gripping, innovative story passes beyond the remit of any standard thriller into a global, sprawling parable of what it means to be a woman today.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, £6 |
This book contains one of the most joyful, if difficult, character evolutions in fiction this year, as protagonist Eleanor gradually learns to break away from the tired habits that prop up her life in order to rediscover the self she’s lost along the way – a relatable story of confronting illusions and starting anew.
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood, £9.99 |
Lockwood, an irreverent poet who first emerged on Twitter, has produced a memoir that is as quick-witted and hilarious as it is astonishingly well-written. While her father – a Catholic convert priest who lounges in boxer shorts and blares electric guitar at 2am – is undoubtedly the star of the show, Priestdaddy contains an entire cast of characters, from her safety-obsessed mother to a sexually-embarrassed seminarian, that are hard to forget.
The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman, £9.99 |
Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them; a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua… The first in a new trilogy of fantasy novels by Philip Pullman, which will be loved by fans old and new.
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, £5.39 |
Days Without End, the reader follows brothers-in-arms and lovers John Cole and Thomas McNulty as they try and find success in 1850s North America. The landscape is brutal and violent, punctuated by war and depravity, yet Barry strives to fill the narrative with moments of heart-wrenching bravery and beauty.
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, £7.91 |
Named in the Observer’s ‘Rising Stars of 2017’, Rooney’s debut has attracted a dedicated following over the year.
Conversations with Friends is a challenging exploration of the frictions and politics of female friendship, setting up a thrilling conflict between the protagonist’s lofty mind and carnal body as the relationships of several friends unfold in person and online.
Autumn by Ali Smith, £3.99 |
Weaving in and out of realism, Ali Smith’s
Autumn recounts the daily life of an art history teacher in her 30s interlaced with the dreams of her century-old neighbour in a coma in a residential care facility. Their beautifully written friendship blooms against the backdrop of a post-Brexit UK and the violence, tensions and emotions caused by the vote.
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