Saturday, January 20, 2018

BEST OF 2017: Our Favorite Fiction for Adults

This past year, our committee has traveled from magical lands in the Middle East and medieval Russia to the haunted landscape of modern America. We've journeyed across time and space and continents, reading stories that are stunning in their eye-opening realism and others that have taken us on a fantastical adventure. We read many magnificent books that didn't make the cut, including thrillers that left us reeling (Tanya loved Fiona Barton's The Child, for example) and the ambitious offerings of literary heavyweights like Jennifer Egan, Paul Auster, and George Saunders.

In the end, though, these are the books that have most stuck with us, the ones that entertained us, taught us, and inspired us. We hope you love them as much as we did!

The 2017 committee includes:
  • Beth, Assistant Branch Manager, Lebanon Junction Branch Library
  • Donna, Circulation Clerk, Ridgway Memorial Library
  • Heather, BCPL Public Relations Administrative Assistant
  • Stephanie S., Reference Services, Hillview Branch Library
  • Tanya, Circulation Clerk, Mt. Washington Branch Library
  • Tracy (that's me), BCPL Public Relations Coordinator & Committee Organizer
  • Trish, Reference Clerk, Mt. Washington Branch Library


All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai 
Heather says:
This sci-fi novel is overflowing with personality. Insanely smart and intelligently written, Mastai has created art with words in a distant utopia, and given us a character that is endearing, funny, and a complete idiot. Loved every page of this one.
Tracy says:
Unless you count YA dystopia, sci-fi is SO not to my usual taste. But I adored this breezy, smartly written time travel caper with its bungling, strangely charming anti-hero. Mastai takes a concept that could've easily become trite or stale and breathes magnificent life into it. Once I got started, I couldn't put it down.

Donna says:
I did not think I would like this book, as it has a fantasy sticker on it, but I absolutely love it.  (Fantasy is not my usual style.)  It is set in medieval Russia.  This author made me believe the gods and demons are real in this timeframe.  I love Katherine Arden's  fresh style of writing. I almost could not put it down.
Heather says:
Beautifully written and darkly enchanting, this is a must-read for all lovers of fantasy and fairy tales. I was hooked from page one. It breathes a breath of fresh air on a genre that (usually) relies heavily on Germanic folklore by bringing to life little-known Russian fairy tales in an epic that keeps you on the edge of your seat and leaves you breathless.

The City of Brass by S.A.Chakraborty
Tracy says:
A spellbinding, addictive fantasy that steps outside the usual tropes and settings to create something truly memorable. Weaving in fascinating details of Islamic history and folklore, The City of Brass is a fast-paced, opulent roller-coaster ride drenched in intrigue, hidden dangers, and compelling world building. I hung on every word and can't wait to see what comes next for this fascinatingly complex cast of characters.

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Donna says:
Very engrossing novel.  I could not put it down.   
Heather says:
Stunningly well-written and chock-full of visceral details. The short scenes pack big punches, and each thread interweaves in an incredible, connected stream of consciousness. Time is not linear, and there are moments of sheer brilliance in the writing. One of my favorite reads this year.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Steph says:
Wonderfully written and subtly stunning. I am going to have to read her first book.

Heather says:
My favorite thing is this book! Surreal and mesmerizing, both in the words and the gorgeous illustrations. Storytelling and mythology interweave the narrative, creating a phenomenal exploration of the human monster, society, and the inner demons we all carry. Of all the books I've read this year, this one touched me at the deepest part of my psyche.

Panchinko by Min Jin Lee
Steph says:
This book does what all good fiction is supposed to. It entertains, it teaches, it crosses the stratum of emotions, and it leaves you thinking. A must read for fans of Amy Tan or The Joy Luck Club.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
Donna says:
I loved this book.  I read the first half straight through from about 2:30 AM till 5:30 AM. Stepping into the world of a woman that lived through much hardship and just got on with her family responsibilities without any doubt about what she should do or could do struck a chord with me. I hated for the book to end. 
Steph S. says:
I really enjoyed this book. It is beautifully written.
Tanya says:
I liked this book more than I expected to. It's a nicely written story and it kept me interested beginning to end.

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
Beth says:
Loved this book! A good coming-of-age story. 
Heather says:
A wildly fun romp through a little girl's screwed up world. It's like a mid-grade novel on steroids. 

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Steph says:
This was fantastic!

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
Donna says:
A generational story of wealthy refugees, this novel offers a view into a slice of life that we ordinarily do not see. The tense relations between the East and West areas of the world have been going on since time began, it seems. This story seems to close the distance just a little, and brings understanding of another culture with it.


See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Beth says:
"Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother 40 whacks! When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41!" Lizzie Borden was acquitted of murdering her parents in 1892, but there has always been a question of whether she really did the deed, and the author presents a fictional tale of how the murders could have happened.
Heather says: 
What a ride! A gripping opening, razor-sharp dialogue, and an intense attention to detail that puts you right in the scene. The narrative flows into madness until Lizzie becomes real, and you question everything. This one has stuck with me for a while.

Sing, Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Tracy says:
An urgent, haunting exploration of the weight of history and how it echoes through today's reality. Reminiscent of Beloved, with a powerful, thoroughly modern spin.

Beth says:
Aa great read, especially when you figure out what the “twelve lives” are.
Tanya says:
This is one of my favorites. It travels back and forth between past and present in the book setting, but it flows perfectly. I had a hard time putting this one down. Excellent read.

Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
Donna says:
I found this novel to be a true page turner. The characters are universal.  Even though the book is set in the middle east, the story could take place right here in the United States. If not for the mention of towns like Beersheba and lots of mentions of the desert, a person could forget exactly where the story takes place. The human emotions of fear, jealousy, and survival are the same in any language or country. I highly recommend this novel.

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