Here are our favorite books so far for 2017!



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Conjuring of Light cover

A Conjuring of Light

by V.E. Schwab

If you haven’t started this stellar trilogy yet, may I introduce you to your next obsession? The conclusion to V.E. Schwab’s brilliantly inventive fantasy series starts with full-throttle action and doesn’t let up much over the course of its 600-plus pages. Replete with all the magic, intrigue, and romance that made the first two “Darker Shade” books such a treat, A Conjuring of Light delivers story, characters, and world-building to rival books like Sorcerer to the Crown, the Harry Potter series, or the work of N.K. Jemisin. Expect to cheer, curse, and wipe away a few tears as the story of the four Londons hurtles toward its end.

A Place Called No Homeland

by Kai Cheng Thom

This debut poetry collection is simply PHENOMENAL. These poems have strong roots in oral traditions and spoken word: you can hear them in your mind and heart. These poems make you want to pump your fist in the air and yell, “fuck yeah,” or “preach!” These poems are tough and tender meditations on family, race, being trans, femininity, trauma, relationships, community, sex, books, and love. They feel alive and present, as if Kai Cheng Thom was right there in front of you. She writes: “dear white gay men: / you are neither the face / of my oppression / nor the hands /of my salvation.”

Abandon Me

by Melissa Febos

Melissa Febos’s astonishing collection of essays is an exercise in naming and exploring the depths of love and loss in all their forms. Febos’s stirring prose–her delicately wrought sentences and stellar sense of pacing–don’t distract from the narrative arcs themselves, which is a relief, as each braided essay carries a beginning, middle, and end, even if the ends and the beginnings sometimes meet up in a kind of snake-eating-its-tale way. From formative loves to emotionally manipulative ones, from dungeons to classrooms, the breadth of experience here feels like wisdom, even as Febos admits she doesn’t, and never did, have all the answers.

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg cover

All Grown Up

by Jami Attenberg

All Grown Up is a book for people who want to dive into a character’s consciousness and linger there for a while. The main character, Andrea, makes for fun company: she’s smart, self-aware (well, she’s working on this), funny, and entertaining. She’s a single woman thinking deeply about what it means to be single in a world that really wants people to be paired up. In a series of vignettes that move back and forth through time, we learn about Andrea’s friendships, relationships, ambitions, work history, therapy appointments, and her brother and sister-in-law’s baby, born with serious health problems. All this adds up to a thought-provoking meditation on what it means to be a smart, independent woman in today’s world.

All Systems Red

by Martha Wells
Science Fiction

A sentient murderbot who has broken free from its programming and “could have become a mass murderer…but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites,” accompanies a research team to a distant planet, ostensibly to protect them but actually to be left alone long enough to watch its shows.

But then the mission goes pear-shaped! And the murderbot has to act to save its humans! And it comes to liiiiiiiiike them!

A heartwarming tale of a sarcastic underachiever-bot and its person-friends. In space!

American War cover

American War

by Omar El Akkad
Science Fiction

The dystopia of American War may have felt a little too pointed a year ago. Now? It reads as an eerily prescient look into America’s future. The novel follows a woman named Sarat in the wake of a second American Civil War. El Akkad brilliantly blends US history with an imagined mythology of this second war as Sarat moves from her family’s homestead, to a refugee camp, and finally to the world outside its fences. Along the way, she has the opportunity to engage with big questions about radicalization, the environment, violence, politics, and humanity. Amazingly, the book isn’t too heavy—El Akkad managed to put real joy in these pages too.

An Extraordinary Union

by Alyssa Cole

Elle Burns is a freed slave with an photographic memory, currently working as a spy for Lincoln in Richmond, Virginia, posing as a mute slave for a Confederate official and his family. Malcolm is a white undercover detective for the Union, posing as a Confederate soldier. They join forces (despite some serious personality conflicts) and sparks fly, leaving them both in a fight for their country and their hearts. Forbidden love! Political intrigue! A historical romance without any dukes! It’s a must-read.

And We're Off by Dana Schwartz

And We’re Off

by Dana Schwartz
Young Adult

Long before I read And We’re Off, I followed @GuyInYourMFA and @DystopianYA on Twitter for a stream of reliably hilarious snark about YA lit and your average creative writing class. When I finally noticed who was behind the two accounts, I knew I had to read Schwartz’s upcoming YA book. I love Gilmore Girls and pretty much any mother-daughter-centric story, so And We’re Off was guaranteed to turn me into a fan. The book’s heroine, Nora, is about to jet off to Europe to study art… but then at the last second, her mother tags along for the ride. Because of this book, I laughed, I cried, I checked Twitter and laughed some more.

Stacey May Fowles’s essays are about more than baseball. She writes with honesty and insight about living with anxiety and how loving something bigger than herself helps her through the worst. Fowles finds life lessons whenever she’s at the ballpark, whether she’s leaving work to go watch a potential perfect game or travelling to Florida for spring training. Covering what it’s like to be a female sports writer, how her husband was won over to the game, and why Toronto Blue Jay Josh Donaldson is everyone’s “dirtbag boyfriend,” Fowles delivers a passionate, heartfelt take on why sports matter to us—and why baseball in particular is a game of tiny miracles.


by Jeff Vandermeer
Science Fiction

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer continues his tradition of intimate, intense stories set in sweeping, strange worlds. Rachel is a scavenger in a nameless city ruled by a gargantuan, flying bear named Mord. When Rachel finds an odd creature, she brings it home and names it Borne. Borne’s evolution from silent biotech to childlike sentience and beyond is captivating, as is Rachel’s relationship with him. The two work to love and understand each other but as outside forces threaten them, Rachel fears what Borne will become in response to the danger. A beautiful story of parenthood, technology, the environment, and more, Borne is a wonder and a delight.

Dating You Hating You by Christina Lauren cover

Dating You/Hating You

by Christina Lauren

A contemporary romance with battle of the sexes pranks and a headstrong heroine battling workplace sexism! Evie and Carter both work for rival Hollywood talent agencies, but their chemistry quickly gets a douse of ice cold water once their companies merge. And of course, there can only be one! Evie is one of my favorite heroines; she’s funny and relatable. Plus, Carter is a nerdy sweetie pie, five years Evie’s junior. Oh, and he knows how to rock a fitted blazer. It’s a feminist romance for the modern era and I loved every bit of it.

Defy the Stars

by Claudia Gray
Science FictionYoung Adult

In the vastness of space and within the complicated breadth of humanity, sometimes you just need a really good hate-to-love novel to take you on a wild adventure. Claudia Gray provides that and more in Defy the Stars as Noemi and Abel are forced to work together, despite very different life-and-death priorities. Their not-quite-love story unravels against war, ethical questions around artificial intelligence, and what lies at the core of being human. Gray does it all with measured, gut-wrenching prose that doesn’t shy away from harsh truths and decisions. Readers would be hard pressed to deny that invitation.

Difficult Women

by Roxane Gay

At this point, I don’t think anyone needs convincing of the literary greatness of Roxane Gay. This collection of twenty-one short stories spans stark realism to fabulism; flash fiction to stories of more traditional length. Each piece showcases Gay’s chiseled prose and ability to evoke a full range of emotion, at times in the course of a single sentence or paragraph. Also, as the title suggests, Difficult Women is a thematically cohesive and powerful, and explores the lives of a spectrum of women in tough circumstances. While Gay is often lauded as an essayist and novelist, her short fiction is not to be missed, in 2017 or any other year.

Exit West

by Mohsin Hamid

Hamid’s lyrical, timely novel is a powerful story of love and courage in the midst of war. Nadia and Saeed are two young students drawn to one another in a country on the brink of civil war. When the fighting escalates, they make the decision to flee the country together, but their future looks uncertain as they struggle to hold onto their past  – and each other – while refugees moving through unfamiliar lands. The quiet beauty of the book’s writing will make your brain hum with appreciation. It is a breathtakingly gorgeous tale about identity, uncertainty, and loyalty, and cements Hamid’s place as one of today’s most important writers.

Florence in Ecstasy

by Jessie Chaffee

Hannah runs to Italy to escape her past, hoping a new place, new faces, and a chance to delve into the art she has forgotten she loves will save her from it. She discovers quickly, however, it is impossible to hide from the present alive within her, the voice telling her she isn’t good enough, isn’t smart enough, isn’t important enough to deserve life and love. On the precipice of recovery she doesn’t realize it is remarkable enough she has chosen to live.

Flying Lessons and Other Stories

by Ellen Oh
middle grade

An anthology created in partnership with We Need Diverse Books, Flying Lessons features maybe the most impressive line-up of authors I’ve seen in one book in recent years. I could tell you about all the awards they’ve won and the many best-seller lists on which they’ve appeared, but you should probably just read the book. The true testament to the talent of these authors is their ability to tell stories, and Flying Lessons displays a wide-range of topics and styles. It is important that this is a collection focusing on the work of authors of color. It is also important that it is a book of great stories by exceptionally gifted writers.


Human Acts

by Han Kang

A young boy named Dong-ho is violently killed during the Gwangju Uprising, which took place in South Korea in 1980. The story of this event unfolds as we hear from the various interconnected voices of those affected, both directly and indirectly, by the movement. These individual stories explore topics such as violence, politics, and grief, and span in time from the events in 1980 to today, illustrating how the effects of this popular uprising have reverberated through South Korea’s history. And all of this acts as a backdrop to Kang’s exploration of humanity, making this book beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful all at once.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay never ceases to amaze me. In her latest, a memoir structured as short bite-sized chapters, she peels away the armor that not only she has but that we all maintain to protect the most vulnerable pieces of ourselves. And in doing so, she reinvents the conversation we have about weight and bodies and eating and trauma and sexuality and culture and and and and. As one of my Book Riot colleagues said about Hunger, Gay spoils us with her honesty; I felt like she pulled out her heart and laid it before me and I wanted to pull apart my own chest in kind. Thank you, Roxane. Thank you.

Ill Will

by Dan Chaon

An unnerving story of obsession and memory that follows a psychologist helping his patient who sees signs of a serial killer everywhere. His attempts to help lead him back to the horrible crime of his childhood that he’s worked hard to forget, set in the “Satanic Panic” of the ’80s. A dark and masterful story of the ways men try ignore trauma but never leave it behind, it will surprise and shock you until the very last page.

It Happens All The Time

by Amy Hatvany

Amber and Tyler have been best friends since childhood, although Tyler has always hoped their friendship would become something more. A night of partying and booze leads to Tyler making a grave choice that impacts their relationship forever. The book is told from different points view, chronicling their life before, during, and how they both cope after the assault.

Consent is an issue that is so important to be knowledgeable about. The book opens with this quote: “Violators cannot live with the truth; survivors cannot live without it,” by Chrystine Oksana. And it sums up the plot perfectly.

lincoln in the bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders was widely anticipated as the work of a wordsmith. It is an absolutely creative piece focusing in on Abraham Lincoln’s grief over his young son’s death. What’s interesting here is that it’s tricky to read as a collage of different pieces of text from different origins and different voices. Many of those voices are ghostly. While some might trip up a bit on the form, there is no doubt that this is a genius novel that plays into the worries of modern Americans and readers in general. There’s nothing quite like the grief of Lincoln as he holds the body of his son. It can hit you in the gut.

Love By the Books

by Té Russ

Carmen Jones is a literary agent who has just scored an amazing book deal. When she meets Sebastian Kincaid, there is an immediate connection, and she is delighted to discover that he owns the bookstore café where her author wrote most of his book. The pair embarks on an adorable bookish courtship, from libraries to speakeasies. In the end, it’s impossible not to fall in love with both parties in this beautiful representation of black love and family.

Midnight Without a Moon

by Linda Williams Jackson
middle grade

It’s 1955 and Rose Lee Carter is thirteen years old, working in the summer Mississippi heat and dreaming of life beyond the cotton fields. Her grandparents are sharecroppers, and Rose suffers from the hand of her abusive grandmother who calls her dark skin color “blacker than midnight without a moon”. When Emmett Till, a teenage boy from a neighboring community, is killed for whistling at a white woman, Rose is given the choice to join her family up north. As Rose considers the move, she discovers how her own voice might be more powerful than she ever imagined. Carefully researched and beautifully written, this book is a treasure.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

by Emil Ferris

Karen Reyes is a precocious ten year-old trying living in 1960s Chicago. Her mother is sick, her brother is dodging the draft, and their upstairs neighbor—an enigmatic Holocaust survivor named Anka—is a victim of murder. As Karen tries to solve Anka’s murder (think Harriet the Spy meets Maus) the life she’s been avoiding continues to unravel. Using B-movie horror and monster pulp magazine imagery, Karen records everything in her notebook, weaving an unnerving yet absorbing tale with illustrations both gorgeous and grotesque. Take your time with this one; you don’t want to miss a thing.

Norse Mythology

by Neil Gaiman

In this gorgeous black and gold volume, Neil Gaiman takes the Norse myths as we know them and retells them in his mysterious, careful writing. He has studied his characters carefully, and Thor’s strength and relative ignorance, Odin’s wisdom, and Loki’s trickery and desire for chaos, all emerge beautifully in this collection. Gaiman knows how to write folklore, and he makes the gods both terrifying and familiar, the stories haunting and funny. He has done his research, but most of all, he just knows how to tell a story, and that’s the most important piece of passing down mythology, something borne over the centuries through oral inheritance.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

In Option B, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Wharton professor Adam Grant explore the idea of building resilience after significant loss and setbacks. The main thread of the book is Sandberg’s experience after the sudden death of her husband, Dave Goldberg, while on vacation in Mexico. Sandberg writes movingly about finding her husband’s body, telling her children about their father’s death, and the loneliness and isolation that follows great loss. The research sections of the book on resilience research are equally as interesting, and provide a nice counterbalance to Sandberg’s personal narrative. This book is an useful, thoughtful read.


by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko is an epic family saga that follows four generations of a Korean family from the early 1900s through the 1980s. The family immigrates to Japan early on in the story and Min Jin Lee simultaneously explores the changing family dynamics as well as the cultural tension and discrimination against Koreans living in Japan. The characters are complex, the story runs deep, and Min Jin Lee’s writing is descriptive without being overwritten. She pulls you into this family from page one and you never want to leave them.

Princess Cora and the Crocodile Cover

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

by Laura Amy Schlitz, Brian Floca

Princess Cora’s parents worry about her growing up the wrong way. They mandate her reading, exercise, and bathing habits. Cora wouldn’t mind, except that her parents and nanny never listen. She can’t even get a puppy. Eventually, Cora writes to her fairy godmother for help. Her godmother sends a talking crocodile, who offers to assist Cora with her problems.

This story made me laugh, and was a bright spot at the start of 2017. The art is colorful, cheerful and on-point. I look forward to seeing more works from the author and artist, to add more joy as our world seems to grow darker.


Queens of Geek

by Jen Wilde
romanceYoung Adult

I couldn’t resist this story about Taylor: a fat, geeky, anxious aspie protagonist discovering her own amazingness, and Charlie: a Chinese-Australian bisexual (as in uses the word “bisexual”!) protagonist who ends up in an adorable, interracial F/F romance with a fellow vlogger.

On top of that, this is a love letter to fandom that takes place entirely at a convention, packed full of geeky jokes and tumblr references! It is has a well-paced plot, compelling romances, and memorable, fully-realized characters. I laughed out loud reading it, and I accidentally finished it in one day. This is so fun and heartwarming. Just lovely.

book cover of rabbit cake - white rabbit on yellow background

Rabbit Cake

by Annie Hartnett

In a novel full of child psychiatry, dying giraffes, naked mole rats, psychics, and world-record baking stunts, what really holds Annie Hartnett’s Rabbit Cake together is Elvis Babbitt’s clear, sweet voice. Elvis is confused and frustrated after her mother’s death, and what makes this book shine is that she is both completely believable as a child, and she is a compelling narrator. The reader feels her grief, her curious hunger for the world, and also her disbelief that a world so abundant in wonder could take her mother away.

Real Friends

by Shannon Hale
Comicsmiddle grade

Real Friends is the book I wish I had as a little girl. It celebrates friendship, girlhood, and imagination, but also talks about how each of these things can trip up girls as they enter adolescence: how friendships can grow sour, how girls can be uniquely mean, and how a strong imagination can make you feel like a weirdo. Shannon Hale writes about her childhood in a way that makes you feel like you are reliving your own, and LuUyen Pham’s bright, expressive illustrations pull you into her memories. If you’ve ever felt out of place in your own small world, Shannon Hale shows you how to find a team and feel at home.

Cover for SK Ali's Saints and Misfits

Saints and Misfits

by S.K. Ali
Young Adult

This is a story about a Muslim and not a Muslim story.

It’ll have you cheering for Janna Yusuf, a misfit in a world filled with other misfits, saints, and monsters, as she tries to find her voice, and figure out her place in the world as a Muslim teen. It’s a refreshing contemporary, an emotional rollercoaster, and satisfying read. S.K. Ali makes a memorable debut and I’m excited to see more.

See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng

See You in the Cosmos

by Jack Cheng
Young Adult

Jack Cheng’s See You in the Cosmos follows 11-year-old Alex Petroski and his dog Carl Sagan to a rocket competition to launch his self-recorded golden iPod into space. It’s a pitch-perfect blend of nerdy space travel love, what family means and becomes during our most transformative years, along with a classic West coast road trip book. I ate See You in the Cosmos up in less than a day, and I’ve been raving about it ever since.

Spaceman of Bohemia

by Jaroslav Kalfar
Science Fiction

This book is literally out of this world! A Czech astronaut, Jakub, has been given the opportunity to go on a dangerous solo mission to Venus. This mission will offer him and his country the chance to redeem themselves and sever ties to their Communist past. The rest of the book is his experiences in space as he battles with his personal demons and isolation. He becomes friends with a giant spider who has a weakness for Nutella (can you blame him!) and oddity ensues. This book is weird, entertaining and thought-provoking in the best possible way. Spaceman of Bohemia is a spectacular voyage of relationships, ambition and the self.

Stay With Me

by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

Stay With Me is a book that has stayed with me long after I finished reading it. It tells the story of Yejide, a young hairdresser and wife in Nigeria. When she can’t get pregnant, her mother-in-law brings home a second wife for her husband. This results in a series of events that slowly chips away at Yijede’s life. The book is a brilliant exploration of motherhood, along with the pressures and expectations of motherhood that come with being a woman.

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker Cover

The Animators

by Kayla Rae Whitaker

I thought this was going to be a book about a supportive friend helping a self-destructive one, but it’s more than that. The book’s central characters—Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses—need each other and support each other. I was thrilled to find a book that takes women’s friendships so seriously.

The book also raises complex questions about art, as the offbeat cartoon Mel and Sharon make together draw on their own life experiences. But what happens when telling your own story means sharing others’ stories, too?

I cried a lot reading this book. It’s funny and sad and really beautiful. An excellent debut by Kayla Rae Whitaker.

the changeling by victor lavalle cover

The Changeling: A Novel

by Victor LaValle

I mean, I don’t know what I’m supposed to say here. I went into this book blindly, and it made for a freakin’ awesome reading experience. So just go get at it.

Fine, I’ll spill more, but if you keep reading this blurb, then you did this to you.

I’m not gonna warn you again.

Ugh, this hurts.

Okay. This book is luminous and dark. It will scare the bejeezus out of you, and then scare out your bejeezus’ bejeezus. It is truth, even as you eventually doubt every character it introduces. The tenderness will bowl you over. You will lose sleep. And all of this goes triple for anyone who loves someone who is under the age of two.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir

by Jennifer Ryan

This is the book I’ve been telling everyone to pack for their holidays this year. It’s a delightful epistolary novel, in which five women and girls narrate life in their southern English village during the Second World War. The characters are well-drawn and vibrant, and complete with at least one villain I loved to hate (and who’d have thought it’d be the midwife?). Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society.

Book Cover for The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin

The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories

by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin

While the genie in “Aladdin” is my favorite character from the movie, the djinn in this short story collection are far more diverse. I’d no idea so many variations of djinn existed — good or evil, kind or mischievous, religious or deviant, and everywhere in between. The sheer variation of interpretation is what makes this a superior collection, as well as, of course, the superior writing. And in terms of genre, every kind of reader will find something they like, whether you prefer realism, fantasy, mystery, or horror. I read it earlier this year, yet many of the stories still haunt me. It’s exactly what I want from a short story collection.

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

For a memoir permeated by trauma, The Fact of a Body leaves its own mark on readers. It is simply unforgettable. In this debut, the author becomes engrossed with the case of a man sentenced to death for the murder and molestation of a young boy. A law student adamantly against the death penalty, Marzano-Lesnevich finds her position tested by the case as it conjures uncomfortable parallels with her past. Weaving through time, through memory, The Fact of a Body explores what can and cannot be known, what can ever be true and false, which story gets told and which gets buried.

The Fifth Letter

by Nicola Moriarty

A warm and engaging novel about four women who have been friends since the first day of high school are now in their mid-30s. On one of their annual holidays (away from their husbands and children), secrets are revealed that change the way they view each other and themselves. The book tackles issues about marriage, parenting, fertility, loyalty, and ultimately, what does it mean to be a friend and how do friendships change over a lifetime? Can your best friend when you were twelve be your best friend when you’re 35, and if they’re not, is that okay? I’ve loved Nicola Moriarty’s other books and this one is no different—I love Moriarty’s voice, her style, and her characters. This was a great read.

The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas
Young Adult

EVERYONE’S been talking about this debut YA novel, and for good reason. This heartbreaking, yet infuriating story manages to tackle racism in its macro and micro forms, police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and class in a powerful and authentic way.  The characters in this book are complex with their own unique histories, and each chapter feels like a sucker punch.  Angie Thomas makes the reader step into Starr’s shoes, into Starr’s life, and ask themselves what they would do if they were in Starr’s place.  It’s a perspective changing novel, and by far one of the best that will be published this year.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Young Adult

I loved this book; I loved that the writing felt spare, and honest.  These characters are so fully-fleshed out and flawed, and full of rough edges, and their problems felt messy and real and frustrating in the way that problems are. There are no easy answers here, but there is a lot about identity and family, and I cared so much about how these characters connected. It is about tragedy and confronting your history and where you are, and if you loved Aristotle and Dante, why haven’t you read this already?

The Lonely Hearts Hotel

by Heather O'Neill

O’Neill’s writing creates a fantastical feeling that was like a vintage movie playing inside my brain and building an immersive feeling that I’ve only ever felt before with The Night Circus. Rose and Pierrot–quirky, creative, gifted, and in love—grow up in a Montreal Orphanage in the early 1900s. We follow their childhood, their being split apart as teens, then working for the wealthy as their lives closely circle each others, and their reunion. Heartbreaking and beautiful, the name Rose will forever make me want to run away to the circus. And for audiobook fans Julia Whelan does a lovely narration.

The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett

The Lost Book of the Grail

by Charlie Lovett

Love books about books? (Of course you do, who doesn’t.) Then you HAVE to read this novel. It blends romance, history, booknerdom, and questions about faith and religion into a literary mystery that’s not only incredibly fun but super smart. Arthur Prescott is a professor who spends most of his days holed up in the Barchester Cathedral Library on a quest to find the lost book of the Cathedral’s patron saint, Ewolda. Then a fast-talking young American named Bethany shows up and he starts to question everything he believes in.

If your idea of a good time is sifting through the shelves of an old library, this book will speak to your heart.

The Pearl Thief

by Elizabeth Wein
Young Adult

Julia Beaufort-Stuart is fifteen years old and has to solve the mysteries of her own head injury, a missing man, and missing heirloom pearls, while navigating love, class, and friendship, in this beautiful prequel to Code Name Verity. Everything about this story made my heart sing.

The Prey of Gods

by Nicky Drayden
FantasyScience Fiction

By the end of the first chapter of The Prey of Gods, a crab and a dolphin are having sex while a sentient robot watches, and things haven’t even gotten truly weird yet. Drayden’s debut is expansively queer and ecstatically strange. The South Africa-set story is part urban fantasy, part sci-fi thriller, and part something you’ve never seen before: demigods come to power, robots plot an uprising, a trans politician and a disabled pop star team up, queer teens explore their identities, a designer drug packs a supernatural punch, and more. Playful and sprawling and unexpected, The Prey of Gods is the most fun you can have in 2017.

cover of The Radium Girls by Kate Moore: image of five women washed in bright green

Through the window of a factory, an otherworldly cadre of women can be seen. An eerie glow emanates from their bodies as they sit hunched over timepieces. In their other hand, paintbrushes loaded with certain death.

Radium was, at one point, seen as a panacea. The news of its danger had not yet reached the manufacturers that relied so heavily on it. And when it did, companies chose to ignore it. These ghostly women of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Illinois paid the price for this corporate greed.

Moore’s story is one of strength of spirit. These women spent their last moments on this Earth, ensuring that others would not suffer their same fate.

The Signal Flame

by Andrew Krivak

In this follow-up to the National Book Award finalist The Sojourn, Krivak evokes, with beautiful and sparse prose, the mid-century lives of blue-collar men and women as they grapple with love, grief, and forgiveness. Bo Konar and his mother Hannah absorb the loss of the family patriarch as they reel from yet another: Sam Konar, the youngest of the family, has been missing in action in Vietnam for over a year. The Signal Flame is like being inside the eye of a hurricane. It unfolds with relative calm, but death and devastation brim around the edges. Only after reading the final page are you aware of the emotional impact left in its wake.

The Upside of Unrequited

by Becky Albertalli
Young Adult

In this YA novel, teenage Molly has had 26 crushes and no boyfriends. When her twin sister starts dating her first girlfriend, Molly makes it her mission to change this. There’s Will, the flirtatious hipster-boy she knows she should have a crush on. But there’s also Reid, her coworker who wears too-white sneakers and Middle-earth t-shirts. Watching her try to move beyond the crush phase is hilarious, emotional, and very romantic. Molly is the pretty, fat, Zoloft-taking YA heroine of my dreams. I’m so happy to read a story about an overweight character who has some body image issues but never – not even once – is seen trying to lose weight.

Cover of These Ruthless Deeds. Red background featuring opened fan with knife attachment.

These Ruthless Deeds

by Kelly Zekas and Tarun Shanker
FantasyYoung Adult

These Ruthless Deeds is the highly anticipated sequel to These Vicious Masks. The series is frequently billed as “Jane Austen meets X-Men” and honesty I feel like that’s all anyone needs to say to convince me to read something. This sequel does not disappoint—it picks up where the action of the previous book left off and takes you on a nonstop, page-turning adventure. The witty sense of humor that completely won me over in the first book returns, along with extra drama and angst. These Ruthless Deeds is anything but predictable, and is hands down one of the best reading experiences I’ve had so far in 2017.


by Cindy Pon
Science FictionYoung Adult

From the intense world building and the literary references that are peppered throughout, the witty banter and the polluted, corrupt sci-fi world that feels a little too close to now… it’s a book that has a little bit of everything that I love in a novel.

Readers meet a teen navigating the toxic streets of a future-set Taipei. The wealthy wear special exo-suits and have flourished, living a life of clean air and lavish delights. But those who can’t afford the tech, are left to grow sick and die on the streets. Until a young teen fed up with it all decides to break into their society disguised as one of their own.

If you’ve been looking for a diverse sci-fi adventure that’s Pierce Brown’s Red Rising meets Marie Lu’s Legend, this is it. Pick it up. You’ll adore it. I promise.

We Are Okay

by Nina LaCour
Young Adult

Unraveling over the course of a week alone in her college dorm room between the holidays, Marin’s story is a vivid exploration of raw emotion and what it feels like to be lonely. It’s about loss, about relationships with people we know and that we think we know but don’t, and about the depths and shapes grief can make. It’s also a story about love and romance, without romance playing a role in the central narrative; what we get is instead the way love takes many different forms.

Taut, well-paced, and sharp, LaCour’s latest is one that will linger long after you close the book. A quiet, literary title that packs a punch.

cover of We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

We Were the Lucky Ones

by Georgia Hunter

We Were the Lucky Ones is the story of one Polish Jewish family’s fight for survival during the Holocaust. Aside from the Georgia Hunter’s noteworthy skill as a storyteller, what makes this book so remarkable is that it is closely based on the experiences of her own family–so closely, in fact, that most of the names haven’t even been changed. The story ambitiously spans three generations and multiple continents as it follows the various members of fractured Kurc family. It’s a remarkable story of courage, love, and of course, luck.

when dimple met rishi cover

When Dimple Met Rishi

by Sandhya Menon
romanceYoung Adult

Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel are two 18 year-old first generation Indian-Americans from different parts of California. They are both attending Insomnia Con, a competitive summer coding program, in San Francisco. Coding is Dimple’s passion and attending this program is a big deal for her. Little does she know, her and Rishi’s parents have set in motion a plan for an arranged marriage between them. When Rishi meets her, he has his great-grandmother’s ring in his pocket. Dimple is so not on board… but maybe she and Rishi have more in common than just their culture. One of the best YA contemporaries I’ve read, When Dimple Met Rishi is hilarious and adorable.  A cute, funny, quirky romance, it balances love and independence with the weight of family expectations. ​

the cover of Winter Tide

Winter Tide

by Ruthanna Emrys

When government agents raided Innsmouth, Mass. in 1929, Aphra Marsh and her brother Caleb were children. Now they are the last of their kind, determined to reclaim their birthright from those who stole it. Emrys’ novel, the follow-up to her short story “The Litany of Earth,” is a compassionate counterpoint to Lovecraft’s xenophobic “Shadow Over Innsmouth.” If you’re the sort of fantasy fan who finds themselves concerned for the orcs, pick this book up. If you love Lovecraft’s creations but are uncomfortable with his plots, pick this book up. You will love Aphra, Caleb, and the family they’ve cobbled together in their attempt to go home.


Words in Deep Blue

by Cath Crowley
Young Adult

Cath Crowley has a rare, magic ability to make all her characters come fully to life. She has an economy with words that leaves you feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut. Quiet plots aren’t usually my thing, but I knew I couldn’t miss this one when Crowley’s Graffiti Moon still sticks with me so many years later. And I’m so glad I picked it up because it is such a beautiful book about grief and hope and heartbreak and love. It’s also very much about the power of words and in that respect, Cath Crowley is in a class all her own. This book is what I always knew New Adult could be.


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