I read some incredible books in 2017, but for one reason or another, 16 of the 40 stood out above the rest. These books were so good that I will beg you to read them if I have to.
So if you're looking for a great book to pick up, I've got you covered. We may not have these particular books in stock (if we do, they'll be in our We Recommend section), but that won't stop me from helping you find the best books to add to your TBR list!
I’ve broken this post down into two parts by genre. Part 2 includes Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. You can read Part 1 here (includes General Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Mystery/Thriller genres).
I decided not to write out full descriptions of each book, because you can find those anywhere (Goodreads is your friend!). Instead, I've given you a quick review and a short list of words/phrases that describe the essence of the story. I find that's all I need to spark my interest in a book!
Without further ado, here are my picks (drum roll please):
American Gods by Neil Gaiman (Fantasy)
This was a massively entertaining romp through the hidden corners of America and the history of human beliefs. The story answers the question: What if the old gods from mythology were still alive, and secretly lived among us in this world as people? And what if the ideas we practically worship now (technology, money, etc) started to overtake them because these new concepts have gained all our attention?
The plot is supernatural and mysterious while still feeling realistic, but as with all Neil Gaiman's works, the characters are just as strong. It's not my #1 favorite book of his (don't ask me to pick one, because I just can't), but it's definitely worth reading.
Here's one gem you might love as much as I did:
“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”
[About: history & mythology, humankind, small town America, magical realism]
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (Horror)
Shirley Jackson had always been on my radar, but never at the forefront until last year. I read her classic short story, The Lottery, and it was such a perfect slow-burn story that it made me move this book to the top of my TBR list.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is not outright scary like a jumpy horror flick, but it will creep up on you. While reading it, you'll feel a growing sense of dread without fully understanding why (at least not at first). It's a perfect story for a dreary winter night.
[About: eerie relationships, family secrets, old mansion, small towns, murder mystery]
Borne by Jeff Vandermeer (Science Fiction)
Jeff Vandermeer has gotten a lot of buzz recently for his popular novel Annihilation (the movie comes out on February 21st), but his more recent novel, Borne, is just as deserving of a read.
The world Vandermeer builds in Borne is strange and beautiful and terrifying; rampaged by extreme biological enhancements created in a failed attempt to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. The characters are complex and fascinating, especially the titular character of Borne. The story touches on ethics, science, and emotional connection (romantic and family; human or otherwise). Definitely read Annihilation - but give this one a try, too.
[About: post-apocalyptic, biological enhancements, survival]
IT by Stephen King (Horror)
This probably isn't the type of story you'd expect someone to associate with good childhood memories, but, oddly enough, that's the case for me.
My family used to own a cabin that we'd stay at during summer weekends. There was this old, independent movie store we'd stop at to rent movies, and my little sister and I discovered the IT Miniseries there (on a VHS tape, of course). Luckily for us, I don't think our parents realized what it was. After that first viewing, a tradition was born. We would watch it every summer until we had to sell that cabin, and we still watch it whenever we get the chance. So I've known this story since I was 9, and I've always loved it.
[About: small hometowns, coming-of-age, friendship, good vs evil]
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Science Fiction/Thriller)
Dark Matter is a fast-paced sci-fi novel that tackles the concepts of parallel memories and happiness versus desire. It's innately human to want and reach for more, but what if it goes too far? When are we truly happy? There are also high-speed chases and mysterious men - plenty of thrill to get your heart rate up.
[About: parallel & conflicting memories, the quest for happiness, action-packed, mind-bending]
John Dies at the End by David Wong (Horror)
This is the kind of book where anything can happen. It's both hilarious and bizarre. It's difficult to describe because it's so off-the-wall. As long as you keep an open mind (and aren't too squeamish), you'll have so much fun reading this.
[About: monsters, paranoia, pop culture, unusual friendships]
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Fantasy/Young Adult)
This was such a unique take on the young adult fantasy genre. The story centers around children & teenagers who had fallen into other worlds (such as Wonderland) and have since returned, but have trouble adjusting to normal life. Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children is a boarding school for these young people, meant to help them cope with this drastic change - but some of them just want to find their way back, no matter the cost.
[About: a mashup of monsters & fairy tales, other worlds, boarding school]
Sleeping Giants & Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel (Science Fiction)
If you have ever had the slightest interest in science fiction, you need to read this series. Even if the extent of your interest is an occasional random thought like, "yeah, I guess science is pretty cool"; read it.
The story is told in snippets of recorded dialogue, interviews, and journal entries, which gives the reader an intimate understanding of the characters while still allowing for a big-picture world view. From the very beginning, the scope ramps up and the intensity never wanes. There are giant metal body parts and wayward scientists, secret investors and worldwide mayhem, but there are also heroes and families and a whole lot of heart. It's the perfect package.
I haven't been this excited about a series in a while, and it only gets better with the second book. The third book in the trilogy (Only Human) comes out on May 1st of this year. You can bet I'll be first in line to get my hands on it.
[About: wayward scientists, secret investors, worldwide mayhem]
That wraps up Part 2 of my favorite books I read last year. Plenty more recommendations to come, including my most anticipated reads of 2018!