My favourite books of 2017

I always love this time of year. It’s not only a chance to put my feet up (and read a few extra books), it’s also when I look back over my reading year to choose the 10 books that made the biggest impression on me.

This year wasn’t a typical reading year. My day job really ate into my time, and when I did have the time, my brain was too tired to focus on reading.

Or at least that’s the impression I had until I looked back over this blog and my GoodReads account to see that I’d actually read 74 books (10 more than 2016). Interestingly, 90 per cent of those were from my TBR — in other words, books that I’d purchased myself rather than review copies supplied by publishers.

Over the course of the year I gave myself a few projects. I read the entire shortlists for the:

(And agreed with all the winning choices, which have made my top 10 below.)

I also took part in 20 books of summer (though I only read 15) and read 10 books by Australian women writers as part of the 2017 Australian Women Writers’ Challenge.

Unsurprisingly, my top 10 favourite reads of the year are a mix of fiction by mainly Australian, Canadian and Irish writers, and because I really delved into my TBR, there’s less reliance on new books, with several being published in the 1950s and 60s.

So here’s my list. The books have been arranged in alphabetical order by author’s surname. Hyperlinks will take you to my full review.

Bird in a Cage by Frédéric Dard

Bird in a Cage by Frédéric Dard (1961)
A cleverly plotted tale of suspense (and murder) set in Paris on Christmas Eve.

My Name is Leon

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal (2016)
Bittersweet coming of age story about a mixed race boy going into foster care in the 1980s. Winner of the 2017 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award.

Smile by Roddy Doyle

Smile by Roddy Doyle (2017)
A deceptive and compelling novel about a middle aged Irishman coming to terms with his past.

Careful He Might Hear You by Sumner Locke Elliott

Careful, He Might Hear You by Sumner Lock Elliott (1963)
Set in Great Depression era Sydney, this warm-hearted and rambunctious novel explores one family’s emotional tug-of-war over a six-year-old boy.

In a strange room by Damon Galgut

In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut (2010)
Lush, hypnotic novel that explores longing and desire through the prism of travel.

Down in the city by Elizabeth Harrower

Down in the City by Elizabeth Harrower (1957)
Disturbing story of an unlikely marriage between two people from opposite ends of the social spectrum.

Solar Bones

Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (2016)
Award-winning stream-of-consciousness novel that charts one man’s struggle to be a good father, brother, son and husband.

Beastings

Beastings by Benjamin Myers (2014)
Gothic horror story about a priest and a poacher pursuing a woman, who’s stolen a baby, across the wild and windswept landscapes of northern England.

Bellevue Square

Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill (2017)
This year’s Giller Prize winner (and Shadow Giller winner) begins as a psychological thriller before morphing into a mesmerising tale about medicine and mental illness.

Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose (2017)
This year’s Stella Prize winner asks what is art and what is its purpose, framing the story around a real-life performance art exhibition staged in New York by Marina Abramović.

Have you read any from this list? Or has it encouraged you to try one or two? What were your favourite reads of 2017?

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30 thoughts on “My favourite books of 2017

  1. I picked out the Dard to read tonight – what good timing! I’d love to read Kit de Waal and the McCormack – I own both. maybe in 2018! I like the sound of Beastings and Bellvue Sq too, but will be trying not to buy so many books this year – so they shall have to wait. Happy New Year. x

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    • Enjoy the Dard! It’s a quick read but oh-so cleverly plotted. And I hope you find time to dig out the de Waal and the McCormack; they will be worth your time.

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  2. Just checked my library’s website for Bird in a Cage…it’s not in stock but I’m adding it to my wishlist. And Bellevue Square is on the kitchen table. Toronto is a forty minute drive away so it will be fun to recognize the setting! A couple of my favourites from this year are Long Live Great Bardfield by Tirzah Garwood, and Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik.

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  3. Good for you for reading so much from your TBR. My TBR “rule” includes that the book must have been there for a year. I can’t quite accept that a book I buy and read in a reasonable time is from my TBR, but perhaps I’l consider shifting to your “rule” and just call it books not sent to me for review. I’ll ponder this conundrum!!

    Meanwhile, I love your bravery in naming 10 books … my highlights post is going up later tonight and it is organised under categories (and includes more than 10 books!!).

    If I did pick a TOP TEN I’m sure The museum of modern love would have been there. I haven’t read any others of the books you list but I imagine that if I’d read the Harrower, it would be there too!!

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  4. I’ve read the Dard, which I also thought was great. I have Solar Bones which I plan to read this coming year finally. Glad to see it on your list, though unsurprised given everyone seems to rate it.

    I haven’t read Myers yet. I have his Pig Iron but Beastings sounds possibly a better entry point. I’ve heard he’s a very “male” writer (whatever that means, when it was said it wasn’t quite clear to me what was meant). Does that resonate with you at all and if so in what sense?

    I also have In a Strange Room, have had it for years in fact. You remind me that I really should read it. I’ll save your review of that for later, once I eventually have.

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    • Hmmm…. the Myers book is very violent and full of blood curdling moments… does that make him a “male” writer? Maybe. He’s certainly not for the fainthearted.

      Oh, you must read In a Strange Room. It really resonated with me because it’s about travel and the dislocation / isolation it can sometimes cause, especially if you do it alone or you go with someone who you don’t exactly get on with. I loved this book so much I went out and bought his entire back catalogue.

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    • Oh, do read In a Strange Room… it’s quietly contemplative, but if you have ever travelled or just felt a bit lost it will resonate. I really want to explore more of Dard’s work… this particular book of his was just genius! And Bellevue Square was a real joy to read. Not sure if it will ever be published outside of Canada though. I had to order mine direct from Canada —at great expense.

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    • Yes, I read lots in the summer too… plus, I had a week off in May and lay by a pool in Greece devouring books, so that helped to up my numbers, i think

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  5. Reading 90% from your own books is really impressive! I find that hard to do… my main distraction being the library. I love seeing older books of best-of lists, though. I like to think older books are still being read as much as the new ones.
    Bellevue Square is also on my list (along with Son of a Trickster and I Am a Truck).
    I’ve never heard of Beastings before, but now it’s calling to me.

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  6. Pingback: ‘The Quarry’ by Damon Galgut – Reading Matters

  7. As you might see in your stats, I’ve been nosing around your page and liking some posts. How is it that I, a pretty well read lady, haven’t read any of your fav books from 2017? Hmm. Going to check out another year so I might feel better.
    I also subscribed to your channel and followed you on IG. Great to meet you.

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    • Hello, Run, you are more than welcome to rummage through my archives: there’s a lot of explore. My reading tastes aren’t conventional, so I wouldn’t worry about not having read any from this list… I like to see this blog as a way of introducing people to work they might not have considered reading before, so if I have encouraged you to try anything on this list then my work is done 🙂

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