Best Books 2017


Bemis Reviews Books: Best 10 Books of 2017

This list seemed tougher to write this year but then again I read about 30 more books this year than last so it makes sense. I read some great books this year and I also missed some that I believe would be just as great. I look forward to reading some of those 2017 publications next year.

Our reading journeys are unique to us and it is interesting to compare one another’s and look at all the ways we are influenced in choosing to read the books we do as well as the order in which we choose them. My best books list is different from any of the others I have seen this year and I love its diversity as much as I love seeing my choices overlap with others.

*This list in comprised of only those books I read and reviewed that were published in 2017.

Here they are in publication order along with four special mentions.

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!


Difficult Women by Roxane Gay/Pub Date: 1/3/2017

So gifted is Gay, that both her 2017 releases made it onto this list and were also my book of the month choices in the months that I read them. This collection of short stories depicting the complexities of a woman’s mind and heart are written with a clear lens pointed towards their innermost thoughts. There are prevailing themes of brutal abuse, sex, love, and male dominance weaving their way in and out of these tales. The evisceration of wild game sit in strange juxtaposition with the women whose lives have been gutted in some way by tragedy and exposed as fragile beings who are fighting to regain their foothold on a tenuous existence.

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller/Pub Date: 2/7/17

Ingrid is just twenty when she meets Gil, twenty years her senior and a writing professor at the university she’s attending. She has grand yet rather vague plans for her future but after falling hard for this crazy eccentric and somewhat absent-minded man with terrible judgement, Ingrid finds herself married, pregnant and utterly alone as Gil continues his cavorts and conquests. After Ingrid’s mysterious disappearance when her two girls are ten and sixteen years old, Gil is faced with not only his own mortality but the weight of his indiscretions. The ending is the best part of the book.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders/Pub Date: 2/14/17

The afterlife party is alive and well in this fight to save young Willie Lincoln’s soul after he dies from a bout with Typhoid. His father, the President spends an inordinate amount of time holding Willie’s body in the crypt while beyond the wall of life, a few do-gooder souls rally for redemption and act to move Willie out of the place known as the Bardo, a purgatorial type of holding ground where children have been known not to fare to well. Told in Greek chorus or scripted style with a cast of colorful characters from all walks of life. The theories regarding whether we leave this earth with all our unresolved issues fully intact is a fascinating exploration unto itself.

Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez/Pub Date: 2/21/17

There is not one single feel good story in the entire bunch. Instead, the darkest of underbellies are exposed as a putrid, rotting stink. Things We Lost in the Fire is all about the places desperate people live in body, mind, and spirit. The stories are short lived, loaded down with allegory and unresolved. No peace is offered. The title is the name of the final story, a gruesome tale of women rising up to take their power back from the men who lord it over them by setting themselves on fire. What began as an act of violence against them, in the end, becomes their redemption. The brilliancy of these writings cannot be denied.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas/Pub Date: 2/28/2017

Starr Carter is a sixteen year old living in the ghetto but attending a prestigious school not far away. Her ability to straddle these two worlds makes her one of the most endearing characters I have ever met. On one fateful night Starr is the sole witness to the brutal shooting of her unarmed childhood friend by a confused and misinformed police officer after they were returning from a party. This is the point where Starr’s two worlds begin to collide as she is faced with a critical decision to speak up and fight for justice or lay low and live with fear and injustice.

The Best of Adam Sharp/Pub Date: 5/2/17

Adam Sharp is talented piano playing musician who works as an IT consultant. At the age of twenty six, he meets Angelina, an actress and novice singer. Angelina quickly becomes “the love of his life.” Every song reminds him of her. Though there is a separation, fast forward twenty two years and Adam has built a 20 year relationship with Claire. He still works as a consultant and still sporadically plays the piano. He is a musical encyclopedia of song living in England. Angelina’s second marriage produces three children. As Adam approaches fifty his relationship with Claire has grown stale. Out of the blue, he receives an opportunity to reconnect with Angelina. Will he accept?

Hunger by Roxane Gay/ Pub Date: 6/13/2017

Gay lays it all out in this honest expose of her life in a plus size plus body. You won’t be able to relate if you haven’t lived her experience but her words will grab you and make you feel something.

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham/Pub Date: 7/11/17

The drive toward natural motherhood takes an intense front and center role and drives behavior in this dark psychological thriller. Lives are scoped and perceived in ways that have nothing to do with reality.

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter/ Pub Date: 8/8/17 

The reverberating ripple caused by a violent crime perpetuated upon two teenage girls and their mother leave lasting wounds and deep scars. Starkly told, with sharp, visceral scenes that will disturb your sense of peace, this story will have you quickly turning page after page to find resolution.

Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America by Katrina Shawver/ Pub Date: 11/1/17

Reading a book should be a life-altering experience, Henry is one of the few that delivers. Shawver had the privilege of meeting Henry Zguda, a Polish survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, via an article she was writing for The Arizona Republic and recognized the opportunity at hand to tell his story. This book is, as I see it, a labor of love and a project that Shawver willingly agreed to undertake without compensation and without a solid plan as to how she would pull it off. I mention this because as I read the book, I was overcome with the sense that this book not only needed to be written but also navigated itself as Henry’s story unfolded.

Special Mention:

Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda/ Pub Date: 5/16/17

Journalist Leah Stevens has left her home and thriving career in Boston after taking the fall for a secret scandal. Her only friend Emmy, convinces her to move with her to Pennsylvania for a fresh start. Leah agrees and she does start over, this time as a high school teacher. On one fateful day, a young woman is found by the lake in front of Leah and Emmy’s home. She bears a striking resemblance to Leah. A fellow teacher at Leah’s school is the primary suspect. Then, Emmy suddenly goes missing as Leah starts receiving disturbing email messages and calls.

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown/Pub Date: 7/11/2017

Billie is a restless soul, married to a lovely man who works around the clock to provide for his family and has a fifteen year daughter, Olive, who is naturally pulling away from her parents to establish her own identity and struggling with some pretty heavy issues. Billie plans a solo hiking trip to a place in a place called Desolation Valley. When she fails to return home, she is declared dead and Jonathan and Olive must adjust to a life without her.

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond/Pub Date: 7/25/17

This psychological suspense thriller introduces Alice and Jake as newlyweds who are recommended by one of Alice’s clients to become members of a very exclusive club. They naively enter into The Pact, a strict members only alliance centered on strengthening the marital relationship. Alice and Jake are all in. Alice mainly because she never back down from a challenge and Jake because he is head over heels in love with his new wife and will make any commitment to keep her.

Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty/Pub Date: 8/22/17

An older married Irish couple on holiday in Amsterdam comes to terms with a solidifying moment in time and an experience that bound them in ways that could not be foreseen.