This was an amazing year for books. As we come upon the first anniversary of the blog, we looked back on the fabulous books we have been privileged to read. From Historical Fiction and Middle Grade to magical realism and mysteries, this year was amazing for books. Kirsten and I have read almost 200 books between us. Without further adieu, we present our list of the best books of 2017.
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The Best Books of 2017: Historical Fiction
This coming-of-age story examines the relationship between a black woman and a white girl in apartheid South Africa in 1976. This novel is a brutally honest and emotionally compelling story, unlike anything I have ever read.
This book begins just before the 1976 Soweto uprising in which thousands of black students marched in protest of the apartheid government. Though the protest was peaceful, police open-fired killing a hundred children.
This historical fiction book led to the most amazing discussions with our book club. The characters jump off the page. I was completely absorbed from the first sentence on the first page until the last page of the book. It is powerful and poignant and one of Jackie’s all-time favorite books. This is an African Novel that you will not want to miss.
A tell-all about a fictional Elizabeth Taylor-
Evelyn Hugo has asked an unknown reporter, Monique Grant, to write her life story in a no-holds-barred book. There is a bit of mystery around why Monique was chosen and Evelyn certainly has her fair share of hardships as she claws her way to the top.
The drama and suffering add dimension to the story that makes it so much more than fluff, though the inner workings of Hollywood were fun to read too. The story seems so candid that I honestly forgot that Evelyn Hugo was not a real celebrity.
Taylor Jenkins Reid slays with this story finding the perfect balance of glamour and grit. This was an easy pick for a list of the best romance novels of all time and might seem like an unusual pick for books like A Man Called Ove but, both Ove and Evelyn are seeking to change their lives and in doing so, change for the better. This is one of the older book for book clubs on the list and we have never found someone who didn’t like it.
Cyril Avery is not a real Avery- this is what his adoptive parents tell him. Cyril is born to a young woman out of wedlock and is adopted by a rich family in Dublin.
He spends his life coming to know himself and who he wants to be. This is a touching and heartfelt story from the first page to the last. Even though this book is well over 500 pages, it didn’t feel long while I was reading it. This is definitely one of my favorite long books that will emotionally wreck you. This is a beautiful LGBTQ book.
The Best Books of 2017: Christmas Novels
This is a hilarious look at what happens when a family is quarantined together over the holidays. The entire time I was reading this quarantine isolation book, I kept thinking to myself that it should be a movie.
Hornak takes series topics and makes them funny. This family drama book is about crazy coincidences and epic drama in one completely dysfunctional British family.
What starts out as a family spending a quarantine quietly in the family country home, turns into something from a soap opera. Every member of the family has their secrets and lies exposed. When I first read is, I thought it was the perfect book for book clubs. Now, after (during?) a pandemic, there is so much more for book clubs to discuss.
This is one of the books set in Paris that you will also find on our list of books set in France and it is unlike any other. It is written entirely in letter form between two friends during WWI.
You will fall in love with the characters as they fall for each other.
Evie is struggling to find a way to help out during WWI, while Thomas, her brother’s best friend, is struggling with the realities of battle. I just recently started reading WWI books and this one is high on the list.
The Best Books of 2017: Fantasy
When it comes to YA Fantasy books, this one is a classic. The story begins with letters from Scarlett to Legend, the leader of Caraval- a game played once a year in a far-off destination.
Every year, every time it is played, the game is different. Filled with magic and wonder, this destination-based competition is played by Scarlet as she tries to get this year’s prize – her sister Tella – before anyone else can.
There is a love story and magic as the stakes get higher the longer Scarlet plays. This is the first book in three-part series that gets better and more complicated with each new book.
A perfect summer read about a neurosurgeon who is transported back to Siena in the time of the plague. The narrative makes me feel like I am in Italy.
Depicted as Outlander meets Girl with a Pearl Earring, at its heart, it is a love story. I could not put it down and finished it as a perfect start to the summer reading season. I love this time travel book set in Italy and it is the perfect time travel romance book for a list of books like Outlander.
This book is a magical love story that is reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web for grown-ups. I could not put it down.
Weylyn Grey was orphaned and raised by wolves and this is not the only way that he is not like other people. He has a connection to animals and nature that manifests when he least expects it. Unlike any book that I have read, this book with a touch of magical realism makes it all the more special.
This is a perfect YA Fantasy read with just the right amount of romance, conflict, mystery, and magic. In the small town of Five Fingers, Michigan, live the O‘Donnells and the Angerts, two families feuding for generations. Jack “June” O’Donnell has always stayed away from the Angert family with no real explanation for the cause of the feud.
When June meets Saul Angert, everything changes. She can’t seem to stay away from him and strange things begin to happen. June decides she needs answers and embarks on a journey that will take her to places she never thought were possible.
What would you do if you knew the day that you were going to die? Would want to know? The four Gold children find out the information that will shape their lives in this amazing magical realism book.
Beautifully written, the Immortalists follows Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya through their lives. Ms. Benjamin does a superb job of creating different voices for each of these characters. They are so vivid and unique. This family saga book about grief is un-putdownable and stays with you long after you have finished reading the last page.
If you want to host an Immortalists book club, we have a post that will help you make it spectacular.
The Best Books of 2017: Mysteries and Thrillers
All I can say is wow!!! This book kept me in suspense from the first page to the last. I love reading a book that leads you down a path, so perfectly choreographed that it’s like a dance.
This family story is so twisted and multilayered, the final layers are not peeled away until the last pages of the book. This book is truly unputdownable- far and away the best psychological thriller I have ever read.
This story mostly takes place during a car ride when a husband and wife are on their way up to their vacation home.
I can’t talk much more about what I loved about this book without giving away the plot. I will say that the narrator is unlike any I have read before and for all you fans of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train…this domestic thriller is perfect for you!
Where to begin with this thrilling story? I loved just about everything in this A-to-Z mystery. The dark, twisted plot of Dead Letters begins when Ava returns hometown to her family’s failing vineyard to deal with the death of her twin, Zelda, in a barn fire.
The story immediately launches into a few mysteries. First, and the most easily solved, why did Ava flee the family vineyard for Paris 2 years ago? Second, is Zelda really dead? This is one of the fiction books about wine you won’t want to miss.
The Best Books of 2017: Contemporary Fiction
This is a wonderful contemporary fiction book about love and survival. It is so much more than it appears on the surface. It’s a beautifully written book about a vacation gone awry.
When Sophie and Barry find themselves on an Island as the sole survivors of a plane crash, they learn to depend on each other. The book moves seamlessly from the past to the present, weaving an intricate tale. It’s one of Kirsten’s favorite books of all time. We also included this one in our list of feel-good books!
If you are looking for vacation books, this is a perfect pick from the list of books like People We Meet on Vacation.
Loved this story of an autistic girl who struggled to find a place with her new adopted family. The story was told from the perspective of the girl (written by the parent of an autistic child) and it was fascinating.
It made me very anxious because Ginny’s inner dialogue is very different than mine. It really helped me understand the inner workings of autism. I really recommend this book.
The Best Books of 2017: Middle Grade and YA
Another great read in middle grade books. This story is about a boy named Matthew who has severe OCD and has trouble leaving his house due to his anxiety.
Matthew is the last person to have seen the toddler next door before the four-year-old disappeared. I love the fact that this book looks at the world from Matthew’s point of view. It is a very readable, eye-opening middle grade mystery book for 13-year-olds.
This realistic middle grade fiction story is so relevant to society today. The heroine of this story is a girl whose favorite book was just banned from her school library. She starts her own locker library filled with more banned books from the school’s library.
As she stands up for her right to read, she challenges adults in her community and learns about books’ power to unite everyone.
Three tales in one, this realistic fiction story is told in alternating chapters by three narrators. The stories feature Josef, a Jewish refugee fleeing WWII Germany, Isabel a Cuban girl on her way to Miami in 1994, and Mahmoud a Syrian refugee seeking asylum in Germany in 2015. The chapters rotate between the three characters and their stories do connect at the end in a meaningful and moving way.
The characters are all about 13-years-old but shoulder burdens that would be hard for an adult to handle. Gratz accurately portrays each child’s struggle with both grace and clarity – not shying away from difficult emotions and even death. If you love this YA historical fiction book, we have a list of Powerful WWII Books for Kids.
This fantastic and incredibly relevant young adult novel tackles the Black Lives Matter movement. Starr is straddling a line between two worlds. She attends a prestigious prep school where she is one of 2 black children in her grade but she lives in a poor neighborhood 40 minutes down the road.
She switches her personality so that she can fit in wherever she is, never truly being her whole self. When she witnesses her unarmed childhood best friend get killed by a policeman her entire life changes.
She needs to decide what to tell and to whom because her words can have dire consequences for her family and her community. It’s a truly wonderful coming-of-age story from thought-provoking books set in high school that all young adults should read.