Tanya Wardell, Publishing Assistant
This year in books was, for me, all about psychology: of relationships, of the self, of war, trauma, and violence, of the absurd and the ordinary. I’ve heard from a lot of readers visiting our shop that a goal for them was to “try to read more women.” So, keeping that in mind, and because there is such an abundance of incredible, challenging work by women that is so often overlooked, even by those who are trying to find them, I’ve decided to focus most of my list on books by women that have come out in the past year.
So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Favorite Reads of 2017 (plus some honorable mentions, because really, who can narrow it down to only ten?):
The Brick House by Micheline Aharonian Marcom (Awst Press) This book is so beautiful, illuminated in the manner of Armenian manuscripts by the ferociously talented Fowzia Karimi and inspired, in part, by Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Ethereal and erotic, The Brick House is a dreamy exploration of the universes we build and destroy in our sleep, pondering themes of love, sex, violence, climate change, and the evils of capitalism.
The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza (The Feminist Press at CUNY) I was blown away by Cristina Rivera Garza’s ominous, psychological portrait of confused identity, ulterior motives, and shifting realities. If you ever want to question everything you’ve ever known about yourself or anyone else, read this book!
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck (New Directions) I love a good, scathing, and timely political takedown. Especially when it’s wrapped in a story as haunting and multilayered as Erpenbeck’s look at the tribulations faced by refugees (in this case African refugees in Germany). Compassionate and fierce, written and translated beautifully.
My Heart Hemmed In by Marie N. Diaye (Two Lines Press) A paranoid, chilling (two of my favorite adjectives) story of identity that reads with the same nightmarish, surrealist (two more of my favorite adjectives) absurdity as Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Adolfo Bioy Casares’ Asleep in the Sun.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books) There’s a good reason Exit West was a finalist for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. Mohsin Hamid’s story of two migrants fleeing an unnamed country to escape civil war is magical, heartbreaking, and so very relevant.
The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova (Coffee House Press)
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf Press)
Sisters by Lily Tuck (Atlantic Monthly)
The Little Buddhist Monk & Proof by César Aira (New Directions)
The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington (Dorothy Project)
Heavens on Earth by Carmen Boullosa (Deep Vellum) This would have been on my top ten list, but since I work for the publisher, and in the interest of fairness, I’ve included it here.
The Accusation by Bandi (Grove Atlantic)
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera (And Other Stories Publishing)
Not One Day by Anne Garreta (Deep Vellum)
What We Do Now: Standing Up For Your Values in Trump’s America edited by Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians (Melville House Books)
Dear Ijeawele or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Penguin Random House)
Such Small Hands by Andraes Barba (Transit Books)
Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House Press)
Against Everything: Essays by Mark Greif (Verso Books)
I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do) by Tatiana Ryckman (Future Tense Books)