Favorite Fiction of 2017

This year’s list is, as usual, as heavy on historical fiction as it is on women writers.

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How I made my selections: I went through the books I read in 2017 and collected the ones I awarded five stars. This is the way I evaluate books. Favorites get five stars; everything else I consider some variation of good. Eight of those made yesterday’s list.

In 2017, nine books of the fifty-five I read received five stars. Here they are, in alphabetical order by the author’s last name:


This multi-generational family saga tells the story of both Ghana and the United States, revealing the pervasive, pernicious effects of slavery. A real triumph for Gyasi and well-deserving of all the literary awards.

The Velveteen Daughter

Based on the lives of Margery Williams Bianco, author of The Velveteen Rabbit, and her equally talented but troubled daughter, Pamela, this is a gorgeously written work of historical fiction. I especially loved the alternating points of view.


Another multi-generation family story, this one is set in Korea and Japan in the 20th century. Each character is finely drawn, each setting brims with life. It was very hard to put this book down.

Little Fires Everywhere

Ng once again demonstrates her mastery of the psychology of her characters. Set in suburban Shaker Heights in the recent past, the arrival of a single mother with her teenage daughter reveals the racial fault lines of the placid community.


Trust Patchett to take what appears at the start as a conventional story about the trials and tribulations of a modern blended family and fashion it into a rumination on the power of connections and stories.

The Second Mrs. Hockaday

A fine work of historical fiction from first-time novelist Rivers. This is a page-turning story of a young woman who navigates her way through the tumult of the Civil War, confronting the tentacled evils of the institution of slavery.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Pick it up for the oddly charming title and read it cover to cover for a historical sweep of twentieth-century America through the eyes of a pioneering female advertising executive. In Rooney’s capable hands, charming is never superficial.

Anything Is Possible

A fine collection of linked stories about the people of Amgash, Illinois. Strout’s writing is so, so beautiful. Any year in which she publishes a book is a good reading year.

A Gentleman in Moscow

Totally absorbing tale of Russia in the twentieth century told through the experiences of a man confined to house arrest in a Moscow hotel. It deserves all the rave reviews.

Coming up next, reflections on my 2017 nonfiction reading.

4 thoughts on “Favorite Fiction of 2017

  1. Definitely some overlap here with my best of the year! I really want to read A Gentleman in Moscow: I keep waiting for the paperback to turn up on our bookstores but it seems to be taking a long time.


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