Best Books of the Year: And the Rest

February 6, 2018 | Book Buzz

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At the end of the year, Toronto Public Library staff members select their favourite reading experiences of the past 12 months. There are so many great responses that we end up with a series of blog posts. This is the last of our Best Books posts for 2017 and it is full of books I couldn't categorize.

Are you old enough to remember "Gilligan's Island"? Sometimes the theme song listed all of the characters by name and sometimes The Professor and Mary Ann weren't mentioned at all, just lumped together with "and the rest". So, this is the "and the rest" edition of the Best Books of 2017 but like The Professor and Mary Ann, these should not be ignored. A lot of these are critically acclaimed,  award-winning titles. Some are just books that don't fit easily into one of the other categories but they are worthy of your attention.

All we shall know  

All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan

Jim selected this as one of his favourites this year saying, "the novel follows a young woman in present day Ireland who is pregnant and under a moral cloud. The story is structured with each chapter as a week in her pregnancy and is a deeply engaging read".

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Americanah  

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Two teenagers in a Lagos, Nigeria secondary school fall in love. Ifemelu goes to the US for university where she struggles with American racism. Obinze is denied a visa and cannot join her, but instead goes to London where he becomes part of the underground economy. Years later, the pair reunites in Nigeria and confront the differences in themselves and in the country. Recommend by Margot.

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A column of fire  

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

Kelli recommends this book, writing that "this third novel of the Kingsbridge series (began with "Pillars of the Earth") is set in Elizabethan England. Ned Willard of Kingsbridge gets a job with William Cecil to work as a spy to uncover plots against Queen Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Margery works with her brother, Rollo, to smuggle Catholic priests into England. However, Margery is unaware that Rollo is also a key member of a group in France who are plotting to bring down Elizabeth and replace her with the Catholic Mary Stuart".

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Dancer from the dance  

Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran

An anonymous staff member selected this as one of their favourite books of all time. Set in the 1970s, it tells the story of Malone, a successful lawyer from the Midwest, searching for love and meaning in New York's gay party scene.

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Difficult women  

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Elaine recommended this collection of short stories, each dealing with a woman whose life differs from what society considers "normal" for a woman. 

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The door  

The Door by Magda Szabó

This haunting autobiographical novel concerns the relationship between a young Hungarian writer and her housekeeper. Recommended by Susan.

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Fresh complaint  

Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides

Melanie recommends this collection of short stories written between 1980-2017 by the award-winning novelist. 

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Garden of eden  

The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway

Jamie describes this "amazing" book as an "erotic love triangle with questions about identity. Powerful, sensual writing".

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Girl in translation  

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

In this autobiographical novel, a bright young Hong Kong immigrant's life is divided between the exclusive private school she attends during the day and the sweatshop where she works at night. Recommended by Winnie. 

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Homegoing  

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Melanie and Sarah both recommended this novel tracing 300 years of Ghana's history through the lives of two half-sisters and their descendants. 

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Lincoln in the bardo  

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

2017's Man Booker Prize winner was a favourite of Cynthia and Viveca. Viveca says "I loved this book – a challenging format – but once you get into it – a truly moving, humane and wonderful novel". 

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Little fires everywhere  

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The carefully ordered life of the Richardson family is disrupted by the arrival of free-spirited artist and single mother, Mia Warren. Laura and Margaret both enjoyed this book about two very different women who become involved on different sides of a custody battle.  

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Little jewel  

Little Jewel by Patrick Modiano

A young woman sees a woman who looks like her mother in the Metro but her mother is supposed to have died years earlier. She follows the woman and tries to decide what to do next. Recommended by Ghodsi.

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Man called ove  

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Jamie enjoyed this story about a grumpy widower whose life is changed when a boisterous family moves in next door. 

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My best friend's exorcism  

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Betty recommends this book about a high school student who begins to suspect that her best friend is possessed by a demon. 

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Nw  

NW by Zadie Smith

Four characters attempt to create adult lives outside of the working class council estate where they grew up. It rocked Wendy's world.

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  Pachinko  

Pachinko by Min Jee Lee

"Pachinko" is the story of several generations of a family of Koreans living in Japan during the 20th century. Min Jin Lee has done an excellent job of telling the story of Sunja and her family and how the events taking place in Korea and Japan shaped them and their lives. A great book for book clubs as there is much to talk about on the subjects of identity, honour and family. Recommended by Kelli.

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Perfect little world  

Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson

Preston Grind, an idealistic child psychologist, tests his theory about collective parenting by moving ten newborns and their parents into a communal setting. Recommended by Elaine.

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Refrigerator monologues  

The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

These linked stories explore the lives of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes. Recommended by Elaine.

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The refugees  

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Recommended by Alyson who writes: [t]hemes of identity, loss and memory link these eight short stories of people whose lives were torn apart by the 'American War'. The book's dedication reads, "for all refugees, everywhere".

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Underground railroad  

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Melanie loved this alternative history novel about two slaves attempting to escape from their Georgia plantation. Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. 

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Weight of ink  

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

Historian Helen Watt has been asked by a former student to view a cache of seventeenth-century Jewish documents discovered in his home during a renovation. In a race with another fast-moving team of historians, Helen embarks on one last project of her career: to determine the identity of the documents’ scribe, the elusive “Aleph.” "The Weight of Ink" is the story of two women, separated by centuries, and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order to fulfill their intellectual ambitions. Recommended by Kelli.

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Interested in more staff suggestions?

Toronto Public Library staff members wish you happy reading throughout 2018!

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