Here is our annual staff picks post. This year, we asked the staff to tell us about the last book that they really enjoyed. Here is our shout-outs for our best reads of 2017.
So Happiness To Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam by Karin Esterhammer. After job losses, the author and her family start over in a most unlikely place: a 9-foot-wide back-alley house in one of Ho Chi Minh City’s poorest districts, where neighbors unabashedly stare into windows, generously share their barbecued rat, keep cockroaches for luck, and ultimately help her find joy without Western trappings.
— “This writer shares her family’s non-tourist experiences in the ‘real’ Vietnam respectfully and enjoyably with dry wit and humor.”
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. When a beautiful woman goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, her diary reveals hidden turmoil in her marriage and a mysterious illness; while her husband, desperate to clear himself of suspicion, realizes that something more disturbing than murder may have occurred.
— “Dark & twisted – leaves you feeling haunted and disturbed for days.”
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. The larger-than-life world of Olive Kitteridge, a retired school teacher in a small coastal town in Maine, is revealed in a series of luminous stories that explore her diverse roles in many lives, including a lounge singer haunted by a past love, a young man grieving over his lost mother, her stoic husband, and her own resentful son.
— “Awesome characters – this story has humor, sadness, tragedies, and joys.”
Beartown by Fredrik Backman. In the tiny forest community of Beartown, the possibility that the amateur hockey team might win a junior championship, bringing the hope of revitalization to the fading town, is shattered by the aftermath of a violent act that leaves a young girl traumatized.
–“Sports themed, fast-paced, outstanding character development.”
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. A curmudgeon hides beneath a cranky and short-tempered exterior and a terrible personal loss while clashing with new neighbors, and a boisterous family whose chattiness and habits lead to unexpected friendship.
— “Loved the author’s sarcastic sense of humor and the way he revealed characters through flashbacks to past life events.”
Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan. When Loki prepares the Ship of the Dead to attack the Asgardian gods and begin the final battle of Ragnarok, Magnus and his friends embark on a perilous voyage facing hostile gods and monsters to outwit their wily adversary.
— “Riordan adds a lot of humor into the fantasy plot-line, and the characters are interestingly relatable.”
The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. A forbidden love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas about the extraordinary woman who gave birth to painter Camille Pissarro, the Father of Impressionism.
— “An enjoyable, intricate plot. Every time I thought I figured out where the story was going next, the plot took a dramatic turn.”
The Flowering of New England, 1815-1865 by Van Wyck Brooks. An analysis of literary talents like Emerson and Thoreau who came from and helped shape New England culture identity.
— “Interesting descriptions and observations on how the essential New England identity came to be.”
Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan. After moving to America, a shy and responsible older sister and a gregarious young sister who thrives in their new Boston home endure the long-term repercussions of a fateful decision when the younger sister becomes pregnant.
— “How the two sisters worked through their troubles made this story an enjoyable read.”
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. On the island of Fennbirn, triplet sisters who each wield a coveted magic skill and claim an equal right to the throne must fight to the death when they turn sixteen for the title of Queen Crowned.
— “Interesting characters and a plot twist at the end. “
Room by Emma Donoghue. A 5-year-old narrates the story of his life growing up in a single room where his mother aims to protect him from the man who has held her prisoner for seven years since she was a teenager.
— “An amazing story – heart-wrenching and believable.”
American War by Omar El Akkad. A second American Civil War and devastating plague in the late 21st century forces a family into a camp for displaced people, where a young woman is befriended by a mysterious functionary who transforms her into a living weapon.
— “A scary real cautionary tale.”
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. On a three-day journey through the snowbound Balkan hills, Hercule Poirot must weed through an array of international suspects to find the passenger who murdered an American gangster on the Orient Express.
— “Eccentric characters, a great setting, a gripping mystery, and the best twist ending ever. A real page-turner.”
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. The kingdom of the royal Stark family faces its ultimate challenge in the onset of a generation-long winter, the poisonous plots of the rival Lannisters, the emergence of the Neverborn demons, and the arrival of barbarian hordes.
–“I’m normally not a fan of fantasies but I picked up A Song of Ice and Fire at the urging of my son, who is passionate about Game of Thrones. So glad I did as I easily became immersed in this saga of seven kingdoms, and the dynamic characters who jockey for power and occasional justice.”