Favorite Books of 2017?


#1

Hello Waypoint!
Reflecting back on your year of reading, what were your favorite books of 2017?
A few ground rules for this thread:

Please include a few sentences about the work in question, what you liked about it, etc. These kind of lists are all about context.

I’m going to say your top five books as a starting point, but if you felt strongly about more or less than five, go for it.

Do comics count as books?
Of course!

Do they have to have been published in 2017?
Nope.

Ok, I’ll start us off:

  1. The Paper Managerie, Ken Liu
    Excellent collection of short stories. Various genres but leans towards sci-fi, playful and poetic prose.
    My favorite quote from the book:
    "I tried to put the feeling into words: ‘It’s like a gentle kitten is licking the inside of my heart’ "
    -Mono No Aware

  2. 17776: What Football will look like in the Future, Jon Bois


Web based science fiction made up of youtube video, gifs, and text. In the distant future, sentient satellites watch humans playing football and speculate about what humanity has become. Very fun and humorous read.

  1. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, Sonny Liew
    The biography of a cartoonist from Singapore in comic book form, very intricate and beautiful in both story and art. After reading the book I found out the cartoonist was completely fictional and I was doubly impressed by this.

  2. Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky
    Science fiction story with a dual narrative that follows a rapidly evolving alien civilization and a space ship ark with the last of humanity. This book continued to pleasantly surprise me until the very end so I won’t say more about the plot.

5)Monstress vol 1 and 2, Marjorie Liu. Volume two of this comic series impressed me so much, love the artwork and how the story has evolved. It follows a young woman who has been infected? possessed? by an eldrich god. There are living gods, dead gods, children of gods everywhere, it’s a complex pantheon that is slowly dished out to the reader.


Plus there are talking cats that apparently can raise the dead.

That’s it, hope this topic works, my first time trying this on this forum.


#2

This is hard. I will have to come back to it.


#3

oh hey i read the paper menagerie this year too
The titular story and The Literomancer were both probably my favourites altho honestly its hard to choose!

I also read lathe of heaven by ursula k le guin, and like. i dont want to give too much away but i feel like u can read it as A Response to how fucking randian & masculine a lot of sci fi is? i liked the ending a whole lot.

the only book i think i read this year that came out this year is john darnielle’s universal harvester and. wow. i dont really know how to describe it. it’s kind of in the vein of a supernatural thriller at points but it really only uses that as a backdrop to like paint a picture of grief, of failing to make sense of things. its very beautiful. i dont know.


#4

1.The Firebrand and the First Lady, Patricia Bell-Scott
Bell-Scott tells the story of Pauli Murray, a Black civil rights activist, feminist, socialist, legal scholar, and Episcopal priest–and more specifically, focusses on her decades-long friendship-by-mail with Eleanor Roosevelt. I found it fascinating on quite a few levels–Bell Scott does an incredible job interweaving their ongoing debate over incrementalism versus more disruptive tactics with grounding practical details about the fight for civil rights in the '40s and '50s, following Murray into diner sit-ins and on inter-state bus trips. This is interspersed with careful research on their private lives, presenting a very human look into how two women struggled with the strict rules–internal and external–imposed on gender and same-sex attraction around the midcentury.
2. Steering the Craft. Ursula K. LeGuin
If I had to recommend one book on writing, it would be this one. LeGuin presents an incredibly prosaic approach to thinking about writing and storytelling, always paying attention to what you want the work to do. Also, the writing exercises she suggests are fun and challenging!
3. City of a Thousand Festivals, Charlie Dart
Charlie Dart has spent the past year writing daily festival descriptions from the fictional sea-side city of Buentiolle. He does an excellent job expressing the beauty of the things we gather to celebrate, while not ignoring how complicated and even ugly their contexts can be. Also:


4. The Book of the Dead, Muriel Rukeyser
Can I choose a poem from 1938? I’m gonna choose a poem from 1938. The Book of the Dead is a poem about the Hawk’s Nest Ridge disaster, where a power company got hundreds–possibly thousands–of men killed when they ordered the construction of a tunnel through silicate-rich rock. Part interview, part congressional testimony, part modernist poetry–it’s long, but it’s worth it.
Here’s a sample.
5. On a Sunbeam, Tillie Walden
@synecdoche summed up my thoughts on On a Sunbeam in The GILM Awards 2017 Favorite Comic:


Also, seconding 17776 as an inventive meditation on meaning and play!


#5

These are some of my favorite books I read this year.

Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih.
I have not felt this as a book since I first read Camus. Truth be told, I probably need to give it another read before passing final judgment, since there is a historical context I am not very knowledgeable of.
It’s a post-colonial existentialist novel set in the 1960’s, after Sudan gained independence and as the country experiences major internal conflicts. A poet who had been studying abroad in London returns to his home village by the Nile, and finds a stranger has moved into town. After a night of drinking, the poet finds out that this man, Mustafa Sa’eed has also studied abroad. As the details of Sa’eed’s life are revealed to us, we find out he has led quite an extraordinary and tragic life.
There are a lot of layers in the novel and honestly you should just read if for yourself. It’s like 160 pages long and the English translation is extremely good.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson.
A girl and her grandmother spends their summers on an island in the Finish archipelago. The chapters are all separate stories covering events that happen to them in this period. Jansson has this ability to put very complicated feelings in very simple words with out losing out on any of the nuance, which comes in handy when she covers the relationship between the two main characters.

Crime and Punishment by Fjodor Dostoevskij.
It turns out some books are classics for a reason. In addition to developing the ideas in Notes from the Underground, the novel is also a really clever crime novel seen from the criminal’s perspective.

Honorable mentions:

  • The Fall of the House of Escher by Greg Bear (from the anthology we read as part of the cyberpunk book club here on the forums!)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (I prefer Sense and Sensibility but this one was really cool to)
    *The Nose by Nikolaj Gogol (A guy loses his nose and finds that it is wandering around town!)
  • Kallocain by Karin Boye (1984 before 1984 and as written by a queer Swedish woman)

#6

It’s weird looking over what I read in a year. Some of these books feel like things I read a long, long time ago.

  1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
    The year before I read Last Night I Sang to the Monster by the same author which is so far my favorite work by him. I guess mental health has been on my mind. I’ve been attracted to fiction that explores it and his work does so with latino youth as the primary protagonists. Mental health is one thing and mental health in POC communities is another and one of the reasons why I love Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is because that interplay between culture, mental health, and in this book, sexuality, is part of the thematic backbone in what is ultimately a sweet love story/coming of age novel. Oh, the tears I shed.

  2. Enigma by Peter Milligan & Duncan Fegredo
    As per usual for 90’s Vertigo comics, the plot is kind of hard to describe. Here’s my best shot: a strange hero turns up to defeat even stranger villains and a pair of men venture to discover the man behind the mask. I was recommended this by my teacher because of Fegredo. The first time I tried it, I bounced off. It was a little too obtuse, a little too abrasive. The second time, I was receptive to it. I read it straight through. I’d say it single-handedly got me through a bad slump because it was so unlike anything on my weekly pull list. Months later and I still don’t know how I feel about the connotations to its ending, but because it had a lasting effect that asked me to think on the questions it asked, it is amongst the most compelling of this year’s reads for me.

  3. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
    What if Draco Malfoy was actually a stunning vampire that was gay for Harry? This is the question Rowell explores and I’m here for it. Also:

  • The magic is based on the power of words and phrases which is dope.
  • The female characters are, IMO, all fantastic. I didn’t love every single one of them, but I sure did understand them.
  • It’s funny! These kids have witty banter and it’s mad cute.
  1. The Backstagers by James Tynion IV & Rian Sygh
    This may be the prettiest comic I read this year. The colors are just gorgeous and Sygh’s style is both coherent and fun. I was so-so on Tynion IV until I read this. Now, I’m on the hype train. The Backstagers is an inclusive title about a group of theater crew kids that guard/explore a strange portal of sorts.

  2. Deep Work by Cal Newport
    Literally the only not gay book on my top five. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but when I do it’s normally self-help shit, specifically about productivity. The Productivity Project, which I also liked a whole bunch, was another such book, but I chose Deep Work because it’s an often cited, well-regarded book that lays down some common sense guides on how to get shit done. It made me realize that my space isn’t conducive to working and that one of my future goals should be to create a space in which I can achieve the elusive “deep state.”


#7

The Brothers Karamazov, Fjodor Dostojevskij
Everything is always a joy to read by Dostojevskij. I mean every sentence. Somehow he manages to be that good for 800 pages. Characters ramble on page after page but you gotta slurp up every word. Within all the dialogue there are always interesting things to contemplate, but there is no need to pretend to be clever to enjoy it.

Flâneuse, Lauren Elkin
Essay type of thing, where Lauren tells you about several women who walked in different cities in different times. She also talks about herself walking the same cities, and her life in them. I appreciate the essay format because it gives me an opportunity to learn something nice, and connect a bit with the human writing it.

Vi, Kim Thúy
All her books are always about the same thing. Vietnam, Canada, being Vietnamese/Canadian. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the story is in this one because all her work melded together in my head. And that’s something I like about it. She can bring out authenticity and nuance in the subject by going over it again and again. Thanks to her I know a little about being Vietnamese/Canadian.


#8

I read Universal Harvester earlier this year, wish I could remember more of it. There was this sense of dread as he discovers those weird videotapes, then it evolves into kind of a hopelessness and inevitability.


#9

I agree about On a Sunbeam ! Great comic.


#10

Oh god, yes, Steering the Craft is so good! Too many writing books are autobiography masquerading as advice. Her guidelines to setting up a writing group are excellent

Funny enough, while I think Wolf in a White Van is 10 times the book Universal Harvester is, I find myself thinking about UH every other month or so. Granted, my thoughts are often something about how I disagree with a few narrative choices, but it really stuck in the back of my mind


#11

I’ve had a serious binge of Verso’s collection this year and I’m about to start Tariq Ali’s biography of Lenin which I’m stoked to read. I had a read of China Mieville’s October this year and I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed however, I’ve read several interviews and listened to Chapo’s podcast with him where he discusses it in depth and I came to appreciate more than I did initially.


#12

I completely failed to limit myself to 5, but in no particular order, here’s some of my favorite stuff I read this year:

It Devours! (by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor)
I love the podcast “Welcome to Night Vale”, and the two Night Vale novels have been great opportunities to see this weird desert town from new points of view. “It Devours!” has some great stuff about religion, science, and love, and the mixture of the fantastical and mundane that has always been one of the podcast’s biggest strengths is here in full force, particularly in the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, which is at once both creepy and incredibly familiar.

Parable of the Sower / Parable of the Talents (by Octavia Butler)
I finally got around to reading these two books this year, and though they were first published in the 90s, they feel incredibly relevant in 2017, with characters that struggle to maintain hope in a world filled with sexism, racism, environmental disaster, and a despicable leader who, I kid you not, promises that he will “make America great again.”

Every Heart a Doorway / Down Among the Sticks and Bones (by Seanan McGuire)
Two excellent deconstructions of your typical “portal fantasies” (stories where characters from “our” world wind up in a fantastical one, think Narnia or Alice in Wonderland). Also, EHaD has an ace protagonist (plus a major trans guy side character) and it is so rare but really wonderful to see that kind of representation.

I Asked For Squid Maids But I Didn’t Know I’d Become One (by Alex Zandra Van Chestein)
Ok, so I’m gonna give some backstory for this one. Alex Zandra, an indie game dev, drew a fake light-novel cover for fun inside Splatoon 2’s Miiverse-ish messaging system, and Nintendo thought she was self-promoting a real book, so they took down her post. Anyway, rather then letting that get her down, she went ahead and wrote the light-novel for real, and the resulting Splatoon fan-fic is really sweet and charming and full of, as she put it, “a LOT of gender feels.”

Nimona (by Noelle Stevenson) and Cucumber Quest (by Gigi D.G.)
Nimona is a graphic novel about a shape-shifting girl and the supervillain she teams up with, and Cucumber Quest is an ongoing webcomic about a rabbit-eared boy who has a magical quest thrust upon him, even though he’d much rather leave the adventuring up to his sister. The two aren’t connected in any way, but I’m listing them together here because I love them both for the same reasons: they’re sweet and hilarious, and they subvert typical fantasy adventure tropes in really fun and interesting ways. They differ a little in tone; both are at times funny or sad but Nimona gets darker than Cucumber Quest ever does while CQ is generally goofier and more laugh-out-loud funny. I’ve also got to give a shout-out to CQ’s art, which oscillates between adorable and drop-dead gorgeous, and is sometimes both at once.

The Boy on the Bridge (by M.R. Carey)
I really enjoyed this prequel to “The Girl With All the Gifts”. It’s a post-apocalyptic zombie story, so it’s often bleak, but the characters are complex and well-written and it’s a tense and thrilling read.

Interim Errantry: On Ordeal (by Diane Duane)
This collection of short stories tells the origins of 3 side characters from the Young Wizards series, the standout of which is the story of a cannibal alien who seeks to consume the bodies, abilities, and memories of the wisest, strongest, fastest, and bravest of her kind so that she will capable enough to set right everything that is wrong with the universe.

17776 (by Jon Bois)
I really do not care about sports, which is why I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed 17776, a Homestuck-esque multimedia tale about sentient space probes, immortality, and some really bizarre games of football.


#13

Yo Brothers K is my fave book and I reread it frequently or specific chapters that I feel like address personal problems I’m having. Grand Inquisitor and Rebellion are endlessly fascinating to me.


#14

Nimona and Cucumber Quest are both AMAZING and I think you really hit on the core of why both of them work so well–both adopt a lot of traditional fantasy trappings in establishing the start of their stories, but they don’t get bound up in following a familiar fantasy narrative the rest of the way through. I found the conclusion of Nimona extremely moving in no small part because the character’s choices had this extra weight behind them, this question of whether they could escape or change these established narratives.

Also, I really liked this short twitter story Gigi DG did earlier this month:


#15

Just read that twitter story, very nice, the illustrations added a lot to it. Going to have to read Cucumber Quest.