Looking at NYT’s Notable Books of 2017

Written by Andi Feddeler

If you’re struggling with what to gift your literary friends and family for the holiday season, The New York Times Book Review has recently come out with a list of 2017’s most notable books with 100 total titles. A wide selection of books of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have been selected by the editors and were compiled into an alphabetical list of great works of 2017. If you’re like me, this list can seem a little overwhelming, so I’ve chosen a few of the books that most interest me to look into further.

Autumn, by Ali Smith (Pantheon $24.95)

The “first great Brexit novel” of our time, Smith explores the relationship between a dying 101-year-old man and the young Elisabeth, who steps in to serve as a friend and companion for his last months. Set directly after Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, Autumn is a story of tension, displacement, resilience, and connection. The book is the first of a planned four-part series based on the seasons—so Winter is up next. Overall, Autumn seems a fascinating read full of hope and lessons on humanity and friendship during hard times.

Fast, by Jorie Graham (Ecco/HarperCollins, $25.99)

A collection of poems created in the face of adversity, Graham links “parents and planet, cancer and capitalism, cellphones and ‘the war on terror’” in a brilliantly unique style. She takes on unlikely perspectives in every poem, weaving together raw emotion with greater commentary on the humanitarian crises around the world. By linking moral issues and physical ones, Graham allows her readers to create their own interpretation of the world around them and how it all comes together.

A Kind of Freedom, by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (Counterpoint, $26.00)

Human experience differs between every person, family, and culture. Sexton’s novel follows three plot lines, each set in New Orleans in different historical eras. She focuses in on how black identity has evolved over time—while noting the continuities that never quite seem to change. However, rather than dwelling on the everlasting damage caused by internalized racism and street life, she authors three narratives that look toward the future with hope for growth.

Who is Rich?, by Matthew Klam (Random House, $27.00)

Dark and comical, Klam presents a new narrative on a very old topic: infidelity. Despite the overused theme, Who is Rich? is an original take on the family man with a woman on the side. Blaming his wife’s sexual shortcomings for his wandering eye, Rich is a generally unlikeable character who wants the best of both worlds but can’t seem to figure out how to achieve them without being a complete ass.

Animals Strike Curious Poses, by Elena Passarello (Sarabande Books, $19.95)

In an extraordinary collection of essays, Passarello takes on the perspectives of many famous animals, including Cecil the Lion and Mozart’s pet bird. The biographies of the animals present many truths about their owners and the people they communicated with, creating a sort of cultural relevance we can all sink our teeth into. The themes of morality and human experience are abundant in this collection, and ask us to think about what it really means to have our own sense of identity.

Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, by Gordon S. Wood (Penguin Press, $35.00)

If you ever had a Hamilton phase, then this book might be one for you. It details the relationship and falling out between our second and third presidents, presenting a narrative of friendship among radically different ideologies. A story of hope and inequality, Friends Divided reminds us that American exceptionalism can be quite destructive.

To Siri with Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines, by Judith Newman (Harper/HarperCollins, $26.99)

Fraternal twins Gus and Henry produce clear contrasts between what’s considered a normal childhood and one that involves autism. Newman’s memoir as a parent of an autistic child focuses on the difficult themes of strength, companionship, and technology. The book asks us, “Does it dehumanize us if tenderness is tried out first with a machine?” and presents us with many possible answers.

These are only a few of some of the amazing books on this year’s list, so check out all of them if you can. And if you find one worth sharing, do so: we’re in the season of giving and nothing feels better than getting to read a new, amazing book.

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