25 books from 2017 that stayed with us
From short stories to non-fiction books, here's what had us turning pages in 2017
‘Her Body and Other Parties’ by Carmen Maria Machado
This National Book Award for Fiction shortlisted book’s blurb captures it best: “earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious". Machado’s debut collection is dark as it is daring and genre-defying.
‘A Life Of Adventure and Delight’ by Akhil Sharma
From the Folio Prize-winning writer of Family Life comes this collection of eight stories, which explore everything from arranged marriage to alcoholic mothers, and which “marry the minimalism of Chekhov and Carver with an unparalleled flair for dark comedy".
‘What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky’ by Lesley Nneka Arimah
This National Book Award “5 under 35" honoree’s 12 short stories are nothing short of 12 sucker-punches: the reader is compelled to ration, relish and recover from this dazzling debut. Expect elements of ecological fiction, science fiction and feminism.
‘Sour Heart’ by Jenny Zhang
For Karan Mahajan, Zhang’s book “blasts open the so-called ‘immigrant narrative’" with its even stories of Chinese women and communities in New York City. This honest and hilarious collection confirms her as a fresh voice in contemporary American fiction.
‘Homesick For Another World’ by Ottessa Moshfegh
Shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize for Eileen, Moshfegh dips into the short story genre with this equally electrifying debut. Here too, she combines the unlikeable but utterly magnetic characters with the “damaged-girl deadpan snark" so true to her style.
‘Memoirs of a Polar Bear’ by Yoko Tawada, translated by Susan Bernofsky
Winner of the inaugural Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, Tawada text teaches us to wonder at the human world—politically, poetically, pensively—through the stories of three polar bears. Memoirs makes for a mesmerizing read.
‘The White Book’ by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith
This third work by the Korean literary superstar and her British translator articulates the untimely death of its anonymous narrator’s sister. From its pristine white cover to the whiteness between the sentences, it demands to be held and read with care.
‘Black Moses’ by Alain Mabanckou, translated by Helen Stevenson
If a man who has been given the literary moniker “Africa’s Samuel Beckett" and a novel that has earned the epithet “Oliver Twist in 1970s Africa" is not enough praise to go by, perhaps one ought to directly dip into the pages of the Point-Noire novel world Mabanckou creates.
‘Fever Dream’ by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell
This Argentinian author’s nightmarish novella (originally titled “Distancia De Rescate") sparkles with the suspense of the “exact moment when the worms come into being". It’s best read in a single sitting, and preferably not at bedtime.
‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ by Dorthe Nors, translated by Misha Hoekstra
Endorsed by Junot Diaz, Nors’ latest was shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker International Prize. And her forty-something protagonist, Sonja, the driving force of the novel, makes the reading journey one worth making.
‘We That Are Young’ by Preti Taneja
A retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear set in contemporary India, this politically charged page-turner is the “story of a country that, like the old king, is descending into madness". Taneja’s work offers up a mirror to mankind and these modern times.
‘My Absolute Darling’ by Gabriel Tallent
Stephen King hailed it a “masterpiece" and the Guardian and The Times reckoned it would become “this year’s A Little Life". Needless to say, weighty words accompanied the arrival of this debut—brutal, brilliant, shocking.
‘Leila’ by Prayaag Akbar
Akbar’s dystopian debut, set against the landscape of a digitized city, gained literary validation very soon after its release; it appeared on several shortlists, including that of The Hindu Prize. Leila confirms Akbar as a necessary new voice in Indian fiction.
‘Stay With Me’ by Ayòbámi Adébáyò
With mentors such as Margaret Atwood and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Adébáyò’s prose captures the reader from its compelling first sentence: “I must leave this city today and come to you." A story of superstition, secrets and sickle-cell disease, it is ultimately a mother’s plea for her dying children, and a husband’s plea for a dying marriage.
‘Home Fire’ by Kamila Shamsie
Greek tragedy—Sophocles’ Antigone—meets the “war on terror" in Shamsie’s latest. Long before it was longlisted for the Booker, Peter Carey reviewed it as “recommended reading for prime ministers and presidents everywhere".
‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman
Among Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists, and winner of the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction—whose judges described it as a “brilliantly imagined dystopia"—Alderman’s book of feminist science fiction is an electrifying read.
‘Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous’ by Manu Joseph
The author of Serious Men and The Illicit Happiness of Other People (and a Mint Lounge columnist), Joseph returns with a topical new work that stings with satire, and where he “couldn’t get Modi out of my head as a literary character".
‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders
The acclaimed American short story writer treads on novel shores—and secures himself a Man Booker Prize. Saunders’ imagining of the death of Abraham Lincoln’s young son is Gothic, grief-filled and genius.
‘When I Hit You’ by Meena Kandasamy
The feminist-activist-novelist-essayist followed up her “anti-novel" The Gypsy Goddess with this work of “auto-fiction"—a memoir-like portrait of an abusive marriage—to critical acclaim, with audiences across India and the UK.
‘Winter’ by Ali Smith
Out shortly after her Booker-shortlisted, Brexit-themed book Autumn, the second in Smith’s seasonal quartet (complete with David Hockney art covers). Indeed, if Winter is here, can Spring be far behind?
‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid
Hailed as the “first post-Brexit novel", and honing in on the topical refugee crisis (in true Hamid style), Exit West was his second Booker shortlisting. Follow its central couple through multiple migrations and magical doors.
‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’ by Jesmyn Ward
This year, Ward became the first woman to win two National Book Awards for Fiction (Salvage the Bones was honoured in 2011), with her latest work, set in modern-day Mississippi, and which has garnered comparisons with William Faulkner and Toni Morrison.
‘We Were Eight Years in Power’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Toni Morrison has called him the James Baldwin of our times. Coates follows up his breakthrough book, Between the World and Me, with eight essays embodying the Obama Years, and culminating in what he calls the election of America’s “first white president". Needless to say, this is essential reading.
‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge
A viral blogpost turns into a bold debut, which is certain to blow apart how Britain talks about race. Composed with a journalistic eye, including case studies and statistical evidence, Lodge’s book, dealing with everything from white washing and feminism to class, is a literary wake up call for a country.
‘The Mother of All Questions’ by Rebecca Solnit
Solnit can’t be credited with coining the word “mansplaining", but her 2014 book, Men Explain Things To Me, certainly started the conversation. In this latest work, she tackles topical issues and threads them together with what she considers the “universal condition of oppression"—silence.
FIRST PUBLISHED26.12.2017 | 06:44 PM IST
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