On the shelf... top books of 2017

On the shelf... top books of 2017


By Ali Smith

The extraordinary friendship of an elderly songwriter and the precocious child of his single-parent neighbour is at the heart of this novel that darts back and forth through the decades, from the 1960s to the era of Brexit.


Exit West

By Mohsin Hamid

A deceptively simple conceit turns a timely novel about a couple fleeing a civil war into a profound meditation on the psychology of exile. It is a novel that fuses the real with the surreal.


Sing, Unburied, Sing

By Jesmyn Ward

An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, this novel examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story, and the power - and limitations - of family bonds.


Manhattan Beach

By Jennifer Egan

This is a dreadnought of a WWII-era historical novel, bristling with armaments yet intimate in tone. It is the story of Anna Kerrigan, who works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women have been allowed to hold jobs that had belonged only to men.


Home Fire

By Kamila Shamsie

This is a bold retelling of Sophocles's Antigone. It begins with the airport interrogation of a Muslim woman who has come to the US to study. It pushes past tragicomedy into darker areas, including the appeal of ISIS for some young men.

The Evolution of Beauty

By Richard O Prum

If a science book can be subversive and feminist and change the way we look at our own bodies - but also be mostly about birds - this is it. Prum, an ornithologist, mounts a defence of Darwin's second, largely overlooked theory of sexual selection. It's a passionate plea that begins with birds and ends with humans.


Locking Up Our Own

By James Forman Jr

A former public defender in Washington, Forman has written a masterly account of how a generation of black officials, beginning in the 1970s, wrestled with recurring crises of violence and drug use in the nation's capital.



By Patricia Lockwood

In this affectionate and very funny memoir, Lockwood weaves the story of her family with her own coming-of-age, and the crisis that later led her and her husband to live temporarily under her parents' rectory.


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