Though actual paper book reading is down somewhat, we’re actually reading more these days than during the perceived peak in some distant golden era. This is thanks in part to the rise of tablets and Kindles, as well as the increase in small presses. That’s a good thing, because the voices are more diversified, too, which means there is a wealth of great stories being told out there.
The great thing about having readers on your shopping list is that books are an evergreen perfect gift. There are so many out there you almost never have to worry about getting them something they already have. You can either pick something that you know nothing about but looks interesting, gift something you love to share that joy with them, or choose a book based very specifically on what you know about them. It’s one of the best ways to show your love to give a book you think someone will like. It shows thoughtfulness on your part and expresses that you care about your intended recipient. In short, there’s no such thing as too many books.
Before we get into our list, we thought we’d link to a few more places to look for books this year. First, Book Riot is a great resource for all things reading and earlier this year published their “Best Books of 2017 (So Far)” if you need more ideas. Also check out presses Big Lucks, YesYes Books, and Two Dollar Radio.
For all the readers looking to turn brilliant pages, here are the best new books of 2017.
1. Historical Fiction: ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders
Winner of the Man Booker Prize this year, this is the first novel from Saunders following his excellent collections of short stories and essays. The story begins following the death and burial of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie and reimagines the context, conversations, and characters surrounding the event. It’s an odd concept and a risky play, but judging by the accolades, Saunders succeeds in a big way.
Price: $17.69 in hardcover, $11.69 in paperback, $13.99 on Kindle
2. Short Fiction: ‘Difficult Women’ by Roxane Gay
The last time Roxane Gay released two books in a year, she quickly landed on the New York Times Bestseller list. The year was 2014 and the books were novel An Untamed State and essay collection Bad Feminist. It’s three years later and Gay has again released two books in a calendar year. Her memoir Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body is a Bestseller already and well worth a look. The book we’re featuring here, Difficult Women, is a collection of short stories focusing on the lives of women in different stations and at different points in their lives. One of the stories follows a woman married to a twin who overlooks the fact that her husband and his twin sometimes impersonate one another. Gay’s authority and experience informs these compelling snapshots.
Price: $17 in hardcover, $11 in paperback, $9 on Kindle
3. Historical Fiction: ‘The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir’ by Jennifer Ryan
Jennifer Ryan’s debut novel focuses on the women of Chilbury village during the early days of World War II. Five women attempt to carry on their lives — including the continuation of singing in their choir against the wishes of the Vicar — while the men are off at war. Romance, gossip, strength of will — it’s all here.
Price: $17.86 in hardcover, $12.72 in paperback, $11.99 on Kindle
4. Historical Fiction: ‘The Lonely Hearts Hotel’ by Heather O’Neill
In the winter of 1914, two infants are abandoned at a Montreal orphanage. Their musical and entertaining talents emerge in their youth, but when they’re teenagers, they are separated when they’re sent to be servants during the Depression. They reunite years later to realize their childhood dreams of an elaborate circus show and bring it to New York. Heavy with difficult themes including child abuse, sexual abuse, and the difficulties that come with humans relating to one another, but light with humor and musicality.
Price: $19.76 in hardcover, $19.04 in paperback, $13.99 on Kindle
5. YA Fiction: ‘We Are Okay’ by Nina LaCour
Occupying the space between childhood and the real world, this young adult novel centers around college freshman Marin, who opts to stay in her upstate New York dorm rather than return to her home in San Francisco over winter break. Her best friend Mabel joins her, which sets off the exploration of their difficult relationship and Marin’s past, which is by turns joyful and painful.
Price: $12.59 in hardcover, $13.25 in paperback, $10.99 on Kindle
6. Essays: ‘They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us’ by Hanif Abdurraqib
We previously mentioned this book in our best gifts for music lovers post because it deserves to be mentioned more than once. Following on from his staggering poetry full-length, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, this collection of essays covers much of the same territory in direct, accessible prose. Abdurraqib uses the common language of music and cultural touchstones to relate the fears facing the world today that we might gain insight, grow, and understand in an era that seems to want anything but.
Price: $10.70 in paperback
7. Horror: ‘Strange Weather’ by Joe Hill
Following in his father’s footsteps, Joe Hill presents this collection of four short horror novels just as Stephen King did with his speculative Different Seasons collection. Hill’s version presents four supernatural happenings that bend the mind and offer a healthy dose of tension. A Polaroid camera that erases memories, a solid cloud island, a downpour of nails, and the loss of sanity amidst a gun rights debate. Released just over a month ago, it would have felt right at home at Halloween, but will delight anyone who loves to be terrified.
Price: $18.29 in hardcover, $16.99 in paperback, $14.99 on Kindle
8. Science Fiction: ‘Spaceman of Bohemia’ by Jaroslav Kalfar
Combining several familiar threads from space travel epics of years past, this novel presents the story of Jakub Prochazka, the first Czech astronaut. He is offered a mission to fly to Venus alone, which he accepts, leaving behind his wife, Lenka. Jakub encounters a giant alien spider and begins a series of philosophical conversations. From there, the drama escalates, leaving the reader to discover whether he will make it home to his devoted wife.
Price: $8.99 in hardcover, $15.99 in paperback, $13.99 on Kindle
9. Science Fiction: ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid
Finishing as a runner up for the Man Booker Prize to the Saunders novel at the top of this list, this novel explores the beginnings of love at the outset of a civil war in a world that is reminiscent of our own. As the two young people navigate their new relationship and the burgeoning warzone, they learn about magic doors that can take people away from the conflict. They eventually decide to take the risk to use one of the doors, which imperils their love and identities.
Price: $18.53 in hardcover, $14.86 in paperback, $12.99 on Kindle
10. Mythology: ‘Norse Mythology’ by Neil Gaiman
Something akin to John Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, Gaiman wrestles with the whole of Norse mythology and distills it into a singular novel. His style lends itself well to the retelling of myths with their fantastic elements and enormous scale.
Price: $14.58 in hardcover, $4.82 in paperback, $9.32 on Kindle
Need more ideas for your Christmas shopping list? Check out our Gifts category for posts from our whole team throughout the season.