Each year, I like to put together a list of my favourite books published in the last 12 months. This year has been particularly difficult to a top 10 list together, and I’ve done multiple versions, each a little different from the last.
Here’s what I settled on, in no particular order.
Defender by G. X. Todd
I absolutely loved this post-apocalyptic novel, the first in a planned series of four. The second instalment, Hunted, will be published in May, and I’m delighted that my request to read this ahead of publication via Netgalley has been approved. You can see my full review here.
In a world where long drinks are in short supply, it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice.
Those who do, keep it quiet.
But one man listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road.
There is a reason why Pilgrim and Lacey must cross paths.
They just don’t know it yet…
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Oh this novel! Both happy and sad, I still think fondly on Eleanor months after reading it, even though I didn’t warm to her immediately. My review can be found here.
Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
For the Winner by Emily Hauser
I love a bit of mythology, and Hauser’s second novel delivers a brilliant retelling of Jason’s search for the golden fleece, focusing on the women from this period. My review is here.
Some three thousand years ago, in a time before history, the warriors of Greece journeyed to the ends of the earth in the greatest expedition the world had ever seen.
One woman fought alongside them.
Abandoned at birth on the slopes of Mount Pelion, Atalanta is determined to prove her worth to the father who cast her aside. Having taught herself to hunt and fight, and disguised as a man, she wins a place on the greatest voyage of that heroic age: with Jason and his band of Argonauts in search of the legendary Golden Fleece.
And it is here, in the company of men who will go down in history as heroes, that Atalanta must battle against the odds – and the will of the gods – to take control of her destiny and change her life forever.
With her unrivalled knowledge and captivating storytelling, Emily Hauser brings alive an ancient world where the gods can transform a mortal’s life on a whim, where warriors carve out names that will echo down the ages… and where one woman fights to determine her own fate.
Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
An incredibly dark and twisted tale, and as bleak as they come. Of course I absolutely loved it! My full review can be found here.
Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonised an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers – chosen male descendants of the original ten – are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smouldering fires.
The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly – they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers’ hands and their mothers’ despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.
Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.
Yesterday by Felicia Yap
I loved this novel, in which the mono / duo memory works as something of a pseudo-class system, giving a unique edge to this murder mystery. Full review here.
There are two types of people in the world: those who can only remember yesterday, and those who can also recall the day before.
You have just one lifeline to the past: your diary. Each night, you write down the things that matter. Each morning, your diary tells you where you were, who you loved and what you did.
Today, the police are at your door. They say that the body of your husband’s mistress has been found in the River Cam. They think your husband killed her two days ago.
Can you trust the police?
Can you trust your husband?
Can you trust yourself?
The Scandal by Fredrik Backman
A small-town mystery and ice hockey – what’s not to love?! This is a fantastic mystery, with a brilliant setting, and one that was an instant favourite. You can see my full review here.
Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead and pulled the trigger.
This is the story of how we got there.
For most of the year it is under a thick blanket of snow, experiencing the kind of cold and dark that brings people closer together – or pulls them apart.
Its isolation means that Beartown has been slowly shrinking with each passing year. But now the town is on the verge of an astonishing revival. Everyone can feel the excitement. A bright new future is just around the corner.
Until the day it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act. It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who’ll risk the future to see justice done. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear.
With the town’s future at stake, no one can stand by or stay silent. Everyone is on one side or the other.
Which side would you be on?
Little Deaths by Emma Flint
I didn’t write a full review of this novel, as it’s one that I read on holiday, but I absolutely loved this retelling of a true crime in which the mother was eventually arrested, albeit on flimsy evidence. My mini review can be found here.
It’s the summer of 1965, and the streets of Queens, New York shimmer in a heatwave. One July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery.
Noting Ruth’s perfectly made-up face and provocative clothing, the empty liquor bottles and love letters that litter her apartment, the detectives leap to convenient conclusions, fuelled by neighbourhood gossip and speculation. Sent to cover the case on his first major assignment, tabloid reporter Pete Wonicke at first can’t help but do the same. But the longer he spends watching Ruth, the more he learns about the darker workings of the police and the press. Soon, Pete begins to doubt everything he thought he knew.
Ruth Malone is enthralling, challenging and secretive – is she really capable of murder?
Haunting, intoxicating and heart-poundingly suspenseful, Little Deaths is a gripping novel about love, morality and obsession, exploring the capacity for good and evil within us all.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
A fantastic novel that contained so much. I loved the setting and the characters, and this is a novel that has stayed with me since reading it. Full review here.
Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.
The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
The Girl in the Tower is the second novel in Arden’s wonderful Winternight series, and if I liked the first instalment, I loved the second. Vasya is one of my favourite characters, and I love her determination to be more than those around her think possible. My full review can be found here.
The court of the Grand Prince of Moscow is plagued by power struggles and rumours of unrest. Meanwhile bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. Setting out to defeat the raiders, the Prince and his trusted companion come across a young man riding a magnificent horse.
Only Sasha, a priest with a warrior’s training, recognises this ‘boy’ as his younger sister, thought to be dead or a witch by her village. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, Sasha realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical…
Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan
I was intrigued by Hold Back the Stars when it was first published in January, but didn’t read it until quite recently. I loved that this was a mix of genres, delivering a little bit of something for everyone. My full review can be found here.
Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left. None of this was supposed to happen. Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the world they left behind. A world whose rules they couldn’t submit to, a place where they never really belonged; a home they’re determined to get back to because they’ve come too far to lose each other now.
Hold Back the Stars is a love story like no other.
And there you have my top 10 books for 2017! Have you read any of these? What did you think?