There’s a lot of greatness coming down the pipeline in 2017. Here’s Book Riot’s top picks.
What are you excited about this year?
Caitlín R Kiernan is one of those writers that you can’t believe isn’t a household name. Her writing is fantastic and her stories are dark, complex and wonderful.
Agents of Dreamland, about a government special agent investigating an event that disturbs him. He meets a women who tells him about the events in question. At the same time, contact is lost with an interplanetary probe.
The book descriptions makes it out to be a Lovecraftian book but I suspect it’s not going to be that simple. Kiernan is too clever for that.
I’m a fan of precisely the blend of complicated and clever dark fantasy and horror Kiernan writes and have several of her short stories in various anthologies. I’m really, really looking forward to this one.
Oh. And that cover…
Among the Ruins is the third book in the mystery series that follows Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak. While I recommend reading the first two books because they are fantastic, they also work as standalone mysteries if you are new to the series. Esa Khattak is a Muslim Canadian detective and the latest book leads him to Iran where he is looking into the suspicious death of a Canadian-Iranian filmmaker. Khan perfectly combines a classic mystery style with a modern and unique view by focusing on Muslim characters and issues. These books are perfect for anyone who loves mysteries and wants to widen their scope beyond the Western world.
At the height of the Civil War, a former slave with an eidetic memory and a Pinkerton detective are both spies. They end up working together when they uncover a potential turn of the tides for the Confederacy, and find they want to uncover each other, too. With an intro like that, who wouldn’t be absolutely ready for this book? It doesn’t hurt that it ticks all my checkmarks: historical, interracial, intrigue? I’m there. Alyssa Cole in any situation is magic, and from what I’ve heard from advance readers it’s going to change the face of historical romance.
As a lifelong Tolkien lover, it is with immense joy that I await the release of Beren and Luthien. This book tells the story of the great love of Beren, a mortal man, and Luthien, the immortal elf maiden. For those of you familiar with the LOTR films, it was the song Viggo Mortensen was singing softly around the campfire in the swamps, which allowed him to summarize the tale for Frodo. The tale is based upon the life and love of JRR Tolkien and his wife, Edith. So sweet!
The story of Beren and Luthien contains multitudes of mythical allusions, from the Twelve Labors of Heracles to the Trials of Thor. It is reminiscent of star-crossed lovers such as Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Iseult, or Lancelot and Guinevere. Full of love, adventure, bittersweet moments, and excitement, I fail to see how this story wouldn’t excite anyone who loves high fantasy. Plus, Tolkien!
Beren and Luthien fits in beautifully with the overall mythology of The Lord of the Rings, as it holds a central tenet of that world within it. The will to defeat evil and for love and goodness to triumph at the end is the driving theme throughout both LOTR and Beren and Luthien. It also feels somehow more relevant and immediate in the current climate, despite being set in a sort of mythic prehistory. Everything dealing with good overcoming evil and love winning the day feels that way to me lately.
The tale of Beren and Luthien was originally included in The Silmarillion, yes, but this book includes Tolkien’s original form and then various forms from different texts, as collated and edited by his son, Christopher Tolkien. As a whole, the resulting text shows the changes to the story of the two lovers and reveal differences that are not in any published versions to date.
I know that many people regard Tolkien as overplayed. Clearly, I do not fall into that category. Adding to a canon of work that I have known and loved for literally my entire reading life is something I anticipate with great joy, even if I couldn’t land an ARC. I hope I am not alone in looking forward to this new addition to the literature of Middle Earth.
When Jeff Vandermeer was asked about his newest novel Borne by The New York Times back in 2014, he described it as, “kind of a weird combination of a Chekhov play in the round, with the equivalent of Godzilla and Mothra fighting in the background.” Having read Borne, it is exactly as Vandermeer said: Borne is an intense, intimate look at personal relationships, the ways people lift each other up and tear each other down, pain, memory, compassion, technology, hope, love, and monsters, both human and not. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before: magical, mesmerizing, and deep, Vandermeer has written a rare gem of a novel that is in a category entirely of its own.
Books about immigration and refugees can be tough to get through. They hit hard and they hit deep, and the writing is often meant to slow the reader down. Exit West operates on another plane. The book introduces us to the young, charming Saeed and the rebellious Nadia, as they fall in love amidst the daily routines of their lives, in an unnamed, normal city. Once you’re hooked, Hamid gives you the gory details: war and violence is taking their city by storm, rendering them immigrants, as the young couple isforced to flee. With its surprisingly poignant use of magic realism, the novel is beautiful and poetic even at its most devastating.
In 2015, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari asked big questions about the past, looking at humanity’s creation and evolution in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. In Homo Deus, he’s looking ahead and what might happen now that history’s major killers – famine, plague, and war – are no longer the serious threat they once were. Without those factors, what will humanity do next? What are the big projects and major challenges we might undertake? I can already imagine how controversial this book might be, as well as how much it might challenge the way I think about my own place in the world.
Mare Barrow is a Red with Silver abilities, and in her world, this means danger to her life and chaos for the Silvers. Their strict reign on the other class colors is coming to an end when they discover more and more Reds with special Silver abilities. So they decide to hide Mare in plain sight, and adopt her as a royal by engaging her to the prince. She can’t deny her people, however, and anarchy looms in her future.
In addition to authentic characters set in a breathtaking world, the plot of the Red Queen series is fast-paced and thrilling. Rebellion laced with romance amidst violence makes the reader flip pages at a record speed. This dystopian fantasy gives all manner of readers something to look forward to; it blurs genre lines to draw in an even bigger audience. The scandal of betrayal and the threat of Red revolt creates a perfect backdrop for the final book of the trilogy.
King’s Cage is the final installment in the Red Queen series from Victoria Aveyard. Due out in February of this year, King’s Cage leaves our heroine, Mare Barrow, without her lightening and being tormented by the boy she once loved. She isn’t completely hopeless, however, because her rebel group of Reds are more organized and motivated than ever. With a new king on the throne, the country gets ready to prepare for war and Mare has a difficult decision to make.
There is almost no information about Celeste Ng’s sophomore novel on the internet. No preorder information, no official release date (though one unconfirmed source tells me it’s coming September 7th), and no real details about the plot, other than that it’s about one family in Ng’s hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio. According to the publisher, Penguin Press, the book explores “the weight of long-held secrets, the nature of belonging, the ferocious pull of motherhood—and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.” So basically, yes please. Honestly, if Celeste Ng said she were writing a rock opera in space, I would be there for it. Everything I Never Told You, her 2014 debut, was and continues to be one of my absolute favorite novels. I’ve been eagerly anticipating her next novel ever since and 2017 will finally put it in my grubby little hands.
Gwenda Bond has won me twice over with her two previous Lois Lane novels, Fallout and Double Down. Her Lois is clever, wry, but always with a drive for truth and justice in equal measure. Quite frankly, Bond is the best writer of Lois Lane we’ve seen in years. I can’t be more thrilled that we’re getting a third book in the series. If you’re a fan of Lois Lane and Clark Kent (yes, he’s in there, too) and you haven’t been reading Bond’s novels, you are seriously missing out. Luckily, you have just enough time to catch up to the series before Triple Threat drops in May.
There aren’t too many living authors who can say they invented a genre, but Dan Brown is one of them. And in Origin, it feels like Brown might have found the ultimate subject of for his theo-cultural thrillers: the origin of life. I’m guessing Brown will plumb the connection of the church and scholarship and have Robert Langdon puzzling over Genesis and The Origin of Species while mopeding across a European city with a bright young English botanist or something. And I am so excited I can barely breathe
Min Jin Lee’s sophomore novel opens during Imperial Japan’s occupation of Korea, and follows a family through five generations of self-discovery. The breadth and depth of challenges come through clearly, without sensationalization. The sporadic victories are oases of sweetness, without being saccharine. Lee makes it impossible not to develop tender feelings towards her characters—all of them, even the most morally compromised. Their multifaceted engagements with identity, family, vocation, racism, and class are guaranteed to provide your most affecting sobfest of the year.
In his latest semi-autobiographical tale, Paul Up North, Rabagliati turned his attention to the period surrounding the 1976 Montreal Olympics. This time we were treated to a teenage Paul and all of the bad hair, emotional angst and Prog Rock that we would expect of this age and era. We see the young Paul’s emotional journey from child to adult mirroring the deep political changes that were happening in contemporary Quebec. While Paul drinks his first beer and smokes his first joint, we also see Rabagliati write a love letter to Montreal’s urban landscape, Quebec’s countryside and the province’s political evolution. The last Paul album for the foreseeable future, this was a touching and funny way in which to bid farewell to these characters and the series.
PMIF not only made me giggle helplessly every month, it hit me right between the eyes more than once. It’s not often that something so laugh-out-loud funny also has this much heart, but beneath Danny’s hyperactive shenanigans and Luke’s self-bowderlized swearing lies a genuine friendship between two decent men just trying to live the best lives they can. Greene’s utterly charming takes on the characters leap off the page with a breakneck kineticism that always leaves you wanting more, and Walker’s meanderings down the Marvel Universe’s less-traveled byways are both nostalgic and utterly fresh. I love the fiddle-faddle out of this book.
Princess Sadie is about to be rescued, but the dashing young royal who releases her from her tower is no prince. Princess Amira is brave, bold, and determined to be a hero. The Princesses team up, discovering their individual talents, true friendship, and yes, even love. O’Neill’s art is as charming as her story is touching. Originally a hit webcomic, Princess Princess is known for being a classic fairytale made gay, but it is as much about learning to have faith in your abilities and compassion for others (even giant ogres who are bad dancers). Perfect for every age, this is the queer fairytale we all needed.
The felled Twin Towers appear in the middle of the desert. That premise alone is weird enough to grab my attention. Add a blessing Jonathan Lethem and comparisons to Mark Z. Danielewski’s, and I’m counting down the days until this book is available everywhere. Any novel that ties Sci Fi and music together belongs in my wheelhouse.
To say that Strange the Dreamer is my most anticipated book of 2017 is an understatement; it is my most anticipated book of the decade. I fell so love with Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone that I got a tattoo inspired by the book, but based on the preview I’ve read, Strange the Dreamer will be my new favorite YA fantasy. Strange is, like myself, a librarian. But Strange also has a dream of a long lost city and a blue-skinned goddess, and though he is not a warrior, he is called to join a quest to discover what became of the mythic place. I can’t wait to get lost in Taylor’s stunning writing and go on an adventure with Lazlo Strange.
It is not easy to write true crime that is respectful, compassionate, and curious. It’s not easy to bring your own story into someone else’s story. And yet this book manages to do both of those things. It also manages to break your heart every few pages. The story of a law student whose first case becomes the object of her obsession, and the story of two victims of sexual abuse, it’s not an easy read but it is an incredibly affecting one.
In the follow-up to A Study in Charlotte, Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson’s winter vacation goes belly up when Charlotte’s beloved uncle disappears. Racing across Europe, Charlotte and Jamie must solve the mystery of his disappearance, unravel some longheld family secrets, and figure out their still complicated feelings for each other. Valentine’s Day is the perfect release date for one of the most quietly romantic pairings I’ve ever read, and I’m excited to slip back into Brittany Cavallaro’s loyal but perfectly modernized world of Holmes and Watson.
The first thing you have to understand is that Morgan Parker is one of the most fascinating poets working today. She writes poems that are clever, beautiful, political, playful, breathtaking. The second thing is that Beyoncé is one of the most potent icons in contemporary popular culture. Now imagine what happens when those two—poet and icon—meet in verse. I know I’m excited to see what happens and thrilled to watch Parker continue killing it on the page. Plus, Roxane Gay loves this book and says that “Every poem will get its hooks into you.” So there’s that, too.
Samantha Irby has long been considered a local treasure in Chicago and her first book of personal essays, Meaty, finally catapulted her beyond the Midwest. Now with an FX half-hour series based on it in the works, Irby will probably solidify her status as one of the most hilarious writers out there. I can’t wait to dig into We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and encounter the Samantha Irby I’ve had the pleasure of seeing onstage: visceral, courageous, and with zero filters. Irby has a knack for taking life’s awkward, uncomfortable and downrigh cringe-worthy moments and turning them into stories of, dare I say, exuberance. Which isn’t to say that she shies away from the very real pains of difficult childhoods, chronic disease, sex and dating, and all the other hearbreaks one encounters as an adult. As if that wasn’t enough to have me giddy with anticipation, her new book apparently has her giving an explanation on why she should be the new Bachelorette. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2017 is the year Samantha Irby transforms into a national powerhouse.
I fell in love with the cover and felt like I hit the reading-lottery when I discovered that the characters, story, themes, and spirit of the book were just as beautiful. It was a delight to get to know Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel–as they got to know each other–while they navigate adulthood, aspirations, an arranged marriage, family expectations, desire, and friendship. Filled with heart, humor, and even a Bollywood dance, I can’t wait for everyone to get to read this: Not only will you want to hug this book but it’ll hug you back.