In which we Book Smugglers present our top 10 books of 2017 and other assorted goodies…
Ana: Hello, I’m Ana.
Thea: And I’m Thea.
Ana & Thea: And we are…BOOK SMUGGLERS!!!!!!!
*play facemelting riffs on air guitars*
We’ve brought you some of our favorite authors and bloggers with their reflections on 2017… We’ve once again proved that the hardest Feat of Strength is to restrain ourselves NOT TO BUY ALL THE THINGS after so many awesome lists… And now it’s finally time to get our own hands dirty! We have scoured our personal libraries, gone through all our reviews for the year, and we are happy to report that we finally have our final picks ready to go.
We Smugglers are proud to present you with our Most Excellent Books of 2017!
MOST EXCELLENT BOOKS OF 2017
Ana’s Most Excellent List:
Remember how 2016 was a terrible year and we were all “what a trash fire of a year”? Good times. 2017 proved to be even worse in many ways – and yet, somehow through it all, I did manage to read MORE than last year. It was just the ONE book more – 61 as opposed to 2016’s 60 – but hey, I will take my victories where I can.
And just like last year, I had to be extremely careful picking the books I’d read – not only because of time constraints but also because I wanted to read happy, light books. My average rate for 2017 is pretty dam high at 7.9, an all-time high. Predictably, picking a mere top 10 was a super difficult task and at one point, I emailed Thea to ask if my top 10 could be a top 12.
With that said, here is the nitty-gritty of stats. Out of those 61 books read, 47 were by – as far as I am aware – either female-identifying and trans authors, 78% of what I’ve read in total. The vast majority of those 61 books were unsurprisingly, under the Speculative Fiction umbrella. I read more Adult SFF fiction than ever before with 64% of the books read hitting that category, with the rest split more or less evenly between Middle Grade and Young Adult.
27% of the books read this year were written by authors of colour – more than last year’s 25% so I am pleased with that, but could do so much better. 27% of the books I read featured LGBTQIA characters as protagonists – last year the number was 8% and I had vowed to do better this year, and I did!
And now, without further ado: here is my top 10 of 2017, in no particular order.
10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
There are multitudes within the pages of Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, a powerful, heart-wrenching, hopeful, beautiful debut that has made waves in publishing this year and will be a movie (which I can’t wait to see) in 2018. This is an incredibly political, topical, essential book. It’s harrowing in many ways and also so beautiful, because it’s about families (of blood and found) and about community. If you have to read one book from my list, read this one.
9. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Squirrel Girl is one of Marvel’s most powerful superheroines and her comic run is a delight that has given me many hours of joy. When I heard about this Middle Grade novelisation, I was a bit dubious but oh boy, does this deliver. As joyful and as fun as the comics, this is SQ’s origin story perfectly transporting Squirrel Girl from comic to novel and it encapsulates not only Squirrel-Girl-the-superheroine but it also does so in the context of an origin story for kids. It works as a superhero story, as a middle grade novel and as an origin/coming-of-age story.
8. The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley
A SF novel with an unreliable narrator, featuring a lesbian couple at its center and about a brutal, broken world that is against all odds, fixable. It’s a powerful, bloody, dark novel that also manages to be fun and hopeful. I loved it to bits.
7. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
OK, so. I have been reading this series for years and I was SO happy with how the trilogy ended – because it made the characters happy (well, most of them) and therefore it made me HAPPY because I love these characters and this world SO MUCH – and like I said before, happiness was important to me even more in 2017. Anyone who loves adventure, magic (dark, dark magic), action + consequences, love, romance, did I say adventure and above all, fantastically well drawn characters, should read this series ASAP.
6. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Adorable, romantic, thoughtful, I fell utterly in love with Rishi and Dimple and their love story. A story about love, commitment, finding oneself, family and companionship told with charm and humour.
5. All Systems Red by Martha Wells
The AI protagonist – a robot finding itself – of this super awesome novella is Murderbot, hands down the best character voice of the year for me.
4. A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a year with a Frances Hardinge novel published is a year with a Frances Hardinge in my top 10. A young girl finds herself at the center of a family tradition that if followed, would mean losing her very self to the past. Set in one of the bloodiest periods of British history, this novel is a novel of second chances, “for people who usually don’t get them”. There is also a bear who lives inside the protagonist’s mind and there is only one author who could ever make that work and that author is of course, Frances Hardinge.
3. Buried Heart by Kate Elliott
Another trilogy ender that made me SO happy for how all plotlines were revolved. Change, conviction, revolution, love and family are all part of this fantastic YA series by Kate Elliott. Efea will rise! Efea has risen!
2. Jane, Unlimited by
I am utterly baffled by the lack of buzz, lack of coverage for what I consider to be the hidden gem of 2017. I can’t even begin to describe this utterly amazing book but I will try: multiple genres, each chapter a different genre and a different strand of reality, all possible choices our main character Jane could make in one single moment. This is unique, I have never read anything like it and I ADORED IT.
1. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
You may remember what I said last year with regards to the second book in this series, The Obelisk Gate: Another year with a N.K. Jemisin book published, another year with a N.K. Jemisin book as a favourite book of the year. In an incredibly harrowing series, this particular book felt more restrained and personal than its predecessor, but still in an earth-shattering, life-changing, revolutionary way. I don’t think that my heart will cope with book 3.
Well, here we are and it’s book 3 and the end of the trilogy, and my heart was broken into a bazillion pieces but in the best possible way. I consider this book and the entire trilogy not only the best thing Jemisin has written but the best book and trilogy ender published in SFF this year.
Thea’s Most Excellent List:
It’s been a couple of years of diminishing output for me–at least in terms of volume. This year, I’ve reviewed only 50 books, which is my lowest EVER. That said, there were a lot of other things that happened in 2017 to account for that lower amount… and all things considered, I’m really happy with the books I *did* decide to read and review this year.
Like Ana, I am becoming increasingly selective with the books I choose to read and review–I don’t have as much free time, and I try to pick my battles. With that in mind, my 2017 average rating for a book is 7.5, which is pretty damn good. Of the books I reviewed, 34% were written by authors of underrepresented diverse perspectives (authors of color, lgbt identifying, for example). My split for Adult vs YA was even–22 books reviewed of each–with the remainder representation coming from Middle Grade. This was a Fantasy-heavy year for me–surprising, given my more recent years have been focused on science fiction–accounting for 42% of my total reviews. But enough of the statistics. Let’s get into the good stuff, shall we? In descending order, my top 10 books–all written by self-identifying women, I might mention–of 2017 are…
10. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
A debut novel about a gender-fluid pickpocket in a historical fantasy world, Mask of Shadows was an unexpected delight. Incredibly brutal–Sal is auditioning to become one of the Queen’s jewels, and must literally kill every competitor for the job–yet somehow still hopeful, I loved this book and cannot wait for the next one in the series.
9. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Ah, Laini Taylor. Your writing is imaginative and brutal, enchanting and infuriating in equal measure. Strange the Dreamer follows Lazlo Strange–orphan, librarian, nobody–on a journey to the ends of the world to find a place that has been plucked from the memory of all. There is a love story, a hidden history of gods and slaves, and the souls caught inbetwixt it all. I loved almost every step of this perilous journey, deeply flawed as it may be at times, and cannot recommend it enough.
8. A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas
This is a little bit of a cheat, since my review won’t be up for another few days–but A Conspiracy in Belgravia is worth it. The second novel in romance author Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series, Belgravia follows Charlotte Holmes as she dives deeper into the mystery of Moriarty and his web of agents. DAMN, but this series is good. I was skeptical of yet another Sherlock reboot–do we really need more of them?–and color me delighted to have Sherry Thomas prove me wrong. The answer is YES, yes we really do need Charlotte Holmes, and Mrs. Watson, and Livia in our lives. If you haven’t read this series yet, start with A Study in Scarlet Women and don’t look back.
7. All Systems Red by Martha Wells
A television show binge watching murderbot–that calls itself murderbot–suddenly finds itself responsible for the livelihood of several scientists on an expedition. What could go wrong? Martha Wells has been a Smuggler favorite for years now, and this novella is one of her finest books yet. (Case in point, both Ana and I have it on our top 10 of 2017!)
6. The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso
This novel follows two unlikely allies–Lady Amalia, heir to the Cornaro ruling seat atop the council that controls the Raverra Empire, and Zaira, a balefire mage of unprecedented power. After a chance encounter leaves Amalia the falconer to Zaira’s tethered mage, the pair face a formidable plot that threatens the existence of the Empire itself. Nuanced world-building, complicated characters, and a lot of potential for plot development make The Tethered Mage pure awesomeness.
5. Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray
With the amount of amazing Star Wars novels coming out each year, I’m amazed that only one made my top 10 list (Phasma was an honorable mention). Claudia Gray is the master of Leia Organa’s voice–a truth I discovered with last year’s outstanding Bloodline. In this novel, Leia is sixteen and ready to accept her role as the heir to Alderaan’s rule; she must undergo three tasks in order to be worthy of the position. This novel is heartbreaking in that we readers know exactly what happens to Alderaan in a few short years; it’s even more profound because of the personal relationships between Leia and her family (her father and especially her mother). Bonus: for those who were curious about Laura Dern’s character in The Last Jedi, read this novel and you will get Holdo’s backstory.
4. Buried Heart by Kate Elliott
OH MY GOD THIS BOOK. The third and final novel in the Court of Fives series by the always astounding Kate Elliott, Buried Heart is everything I wanted–and more–from a concluding volume. With civil war brewing and tensions rising, Jessamy confronts harsh truths about her family, her parents, and her own desires. Nothing is ever as easy or as clear-cut as it may originally seem–Buried Heart is proof of that, over and over again. I loved this book dearly; I loved this series even more. Please do yourself a favor and read it now.
3. Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter
A scientist discovers an anomaly at the end of the universe: something that signifies life, or at least something constructed and not by mankind. To discover the source of the noumenon–that is, an event or object that exists independently of human senses–Earth sends a genetically-selected group of individuals aboard a generation ship. But instead of relying on human procreation through natural means, the population is carefully controlled through cloning. Noumenon is the story of these clones over generations as they make their way through the cosmos to the noumenon, and what they do afterwards. Deeply profound and utterly human, Noumenon is a soul-shaking book.
2. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
Another joint review on the list! I loved this trilogy deeply for its stellar worldbuilding, its fascination with dark magic, and–most of all–because of its exceptional, empathetic characters. This concluding volume does our Kel, Lila, and the crew right, bringing the tale of the parallel Londons to a dramatic and fitting end. I love this series so much.
1. Forest of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
And the top spot on my list goes to Julie C. Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns–an eastern asian interpretation of the evil queen’s story from Snow White. A dark fairy tale featuring an epic anti-hero, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is brutal and unflinching, showing us the creation of an evil sorceress queen, one decision after another.
Most Honorable Mentions of 2017
As with every year, we have a hard time sticking to just one list. Because we’ve read SO MANY AWESOME BOOKS this year, we feel it’s only fair that we give a shoutout to those titles on our Best of 2017 longlist (all of which have been published in 2017). In no particular order:
Ana’s Most Honorable Mentions:
1. Battle Hill Bolero by Daniel José Older, 8 (Urban Fantasy)
2. Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, 8 (SF)
3. The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, 8 (Paranormal Romance)
4. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey, 9 (Fantasy)
5. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, 9 (Fantasy YA)
6. Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee, 8 (SF)
7. Provenance by Ann Leckie, 8 (SF)
8. Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner, 9 (Fantasy, YA)
9. The Long Past and Other Stories by Ginn Hale, 8 (Fantasy)
10. Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns, 8 (SF)
Thea’s Most Honorable Mentions:
1. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, 8 (Fantasy, Historical)
2. The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman, 8 (Historical, YA, SFF)
3. Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray, 8 (Science Fiction, YA)
4. Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne, 8 (Fantasy, YA)
5. Weave A Circle Round by Kari Maaren, 8 (Middle Grade, Fantasy/Science Fiction)
6. Goldie Vance by Hope Larson, 8 (Comics, Mystery)
7. Phasma by Deliliah Dawson, 8 (Science Fantasy)
8. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, 7 (Fantasy, YA)
9. No Good Deed by Kara Connolly, 7 (SFF, YA)
10. A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas, 8 (Historical, Mystery)
Most Excellent Books Published PRIOR to 2017
Last list. Promise. There are a treasure trove of awesome pre-2017 books we have read this year, and here are a few of our favorites:
Ana’s Most Excellent Oldies:
1. Viscera by Gabrielle Squailia, 9 (Fantasy)
2. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett, 9 (Fantasy)
3. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett, 9 (Fantasy)
4. Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett, 9 (Fantasy)
5. Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi, 8 (SF)
6. The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones, 9 (Fantasy)
Thea’s Most Excellent Oldies:
1. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (Science Fiction)
2. Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi, 8 (Science Fiction)
3. The Reader by Stacy Chee, 9 (Fantasy, YA)
4. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, 8 (Fantasy, MG)
5. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin, 7 (YA, Fantasy)
And with that we, your Friendly Neighborhood Book Smugglers, close the books on 2017. Bring on 2018 and don’t forget:
Be Excellent to Each Other!