In which I make various lists of my favourite 2017 reads.
A great thing about late December is looking back on the year and consider memorable events, or in the case of a book blog, reads.
Another great thing is how easy it makes it to find a topic for a blog post.
I thus here present the mandatory “best reads of the year” lists. Only one of the books is actually published in 2017 but all of them are great.
20-21th century novels
- The Love Story of the Century (Århundradets kärlekssaga) by Märta Tikkanen. Why haven’t I read Märta Tikkanen before? I knew it was a Finnish classic (written in Swedish) about a passionate but deeply dysfunctional marriage but I somehow never got around to read it before now. It is both beautiful and thought-provoking and makes some very sharp observations about love and relationships. It’s written as poetry so I’m not sure if there is an English translation that does it justice but it’s probably the best book I read in 2017.
- Berlin Poplars (Berlinerpoplene) by Anne Ragde. Anne Ragde is another new author for me and another instant favorite. This novel about a dysfunctional Norwegian family was a best-seller upon publication but for some reason I never got around to read it before now. It was great! The characters are slightly cliched but given sufficient depth and written with a warmth and a humor which made them very memorable. It has been translated into English and I really recommend it!
- Cold Welcome by Elizabeth Moon. Elizabeth Moon is my go-to author when I want a well-written SF page-turner with interesting characters that actually evolve through the series. Perhaps not as memorable as the previous ones on the list but it’s what I read when I don’t want a challenge, just something entertaining and good. This one is her latest novel and build upon events in her Vatta’s War series.
I’ve read some great pre-20th century classics this year, partly though the Classics Club reading challenge. The four I list here were by far my favorite ones. They have all been discussed previously on this blog.
- The Queen of Spades and other stories by Alexander Pushkin. Pushkin is competing with Tolstoy for the spot as my favorite Russian author and this collection included his best known short stories. A great read!
- The Poetic Edda. The Poetic Edda is a collection of epic poems about Norse gods and heroes. Being Swedish I sort of knew many of the legends before but this was the first time I read any of the source material (except small excerpts). It was a lot more readable than I had thought and I expect to re-read at last parts of it.
- Gösta Berling’s saga by Selma Lagerlöf. A Swedish classic centered around a community in Värmland (west Sweden) during the 1820s. Each chapter is a partly independent story, covering various people and episodes. Taken separately they are the kind of half-mythical stories I could picture being told in 19th century Värmland but Selma Lagerlöf brilliantly weaves them together into a rich portrait of the region.
- Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I hadn’t planned to read Moby Dick but I happened to get plenty of reading time and limited reading options. I’m glad I did, I really enjoyed it. Reading it just after finishing “Twenty thousand leagues under the sea” also provided some interesting contrast.
I didn’t read very much non-fiction in 2017 but much of what I did read was excellent.
- Country Boy by Richard Hillyer. A quiet memoir of the childhood of a boy in an English farm-labor family and his longing for reading and learning. Lory at The Emerald City Book Review made a great review of it.
- Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski. I hadn’t read anything by Jenny Diski before but I certainly plan to now. It is partly a memoir of a terrible childhood but Jenny Diski is far too good an author to make it the normal cliched type of memoir.
- Signatur about Olaf Storø. A personal portrait of my favorite artist of course I loved it!
And finally honorable mentions of my best re-reads in 2017.
- Emma by Jane Austen
- The Summer Book (Sommarboken) by Tove Jansson
- Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh
Have you read any of the books on these list? What did you think?
5 thoughts on “It is the season for lists”
Nice range of books here, some very tasty looking! I enjoyed the Diski so much I passed it on to my partner (who also enjoyed it) and even have her other autobiographical volume waiting to be read. I also liked Emma, a little bit more than Persuasion in fact.
I read a collection of Tove Jansson short stories, but as everyone rates her Summer book I’d like to get round to that sometime. Moby Dick? I really ought to pick up from where I stalled – – Chapter I, I seem to recall!
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I must admit that I prefer both Persuasion and Pride & Prejudice to Emma but Emma was the only one I re-read this year and any Austen will always make my top list.
When it comes to Diski it was really the Antarctica part that drew me in but I stayed for the writing. I should look for her other autobiography, I read a remember reading a review of it once.
Tove Jansson is almost always great, her children (Moomin) books are also worth reading as an adult but The Summer Book is probably my favorite. But I would save it for the summer (or a time when you long for summer).
Moby Dick was greatly helped by a week with no internet and few other distractions, I’m not sure I would have finished it otherwise but under those conditions I really enjoyed it.
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Emma is one of my favorite works by Jane Austen! I think it is one of her subtler works, so it doesn’t seem to have quite so many fans as P&P, but I find it hilarious every time. And Mr. Knightley is the best!
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