USA Today: 10 Books We Loved Reading in 2017
By Jocelyn McClurg
These 10 fiction and non-fiction titles rose to the top of the heap for USA TODAY’s book reviewers this year.
- Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Random House, fiction)
Saunders’ brilliantly imagined novel, both heartbreaking and hilarious, takes place in a cemetery the night Abraham Lincoln buries his 11-year-old son, Willie, and is narrated by a chorus of voices — the dearly departed who aren’t quite ready to move on to the great beyond; winner of the Man Booker Prize.
- Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, non-fiction)
Isaacson once again has leveraged his prodigious research and storytelling acumen to bring a dead genius back to life in a doorstopper-sized tome that nonetheless makes for quick reading as one marvels at how da Vinci, the gay, left-handed Renaissance wizard, influenced art, technology and the city of Florence.
‘Leonardo da Vinci’ by Walter Isaacson (Photo: Simon & Schuster)
- Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, fiction)
In these nine linked stories set in small-town Amgash, Ill., Strout writes about the lives of people in the heartland — their big heartaches and small triumphs — with empathy and grace and delivers her best book since Olive Kitteridge.
- We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World, non-fiction)
Coates, one of the most influential thinkers of our time, confronts the legacy of President Barack Obama, the election of Donald Trump and what each says about the intractability of race in our country.
‘Uncommon Type’ by Tom Hanks (Photo: Knopf)
- Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (Knopf, fiction)
Not only can the guy act, he can write, and you can hear Hanks’ instantly identifiable voice all through this appealing, accomplished collection of 17 stories, each inspired by a vintage typewriter.
- Sticky Fingers by Joe Hagan (Knopf, non-fiction)
This wildly entertaining if unflattering biography of Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Wenner pulsates with drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll and has just as much chutzpah as its subject, who was infuriated by his (hand-picked) biographer’s laser-beam reporting.
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Grand Central, fiction)
Lee’s ambitious social novel, Dickensian in scope, follows multiple generations of one ethnically Korean family in 20th century Japan as they search for a comfortable place in the world; a National Book Award finalist.
‘Sticky Fingers’ by Joe Hagan (Photo: Knopf)
- My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (Riverhead, fiction)
This powerful debut novel is a deep and moving story of family drama and survival, with a seriously brave little girl at its center who has to break from her abusive father’s hold to find her true self.
- Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Scribner, fiction)
Egan departs from her more experimental work in this historical novel, about Anna Kerrigan, the first female diver at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II; it’s as immersive, eerie and sublime as Anna’s trips underwater.
‘Manhattan Beach’ by Jennifer Egan (Photo: Scribner)
- The Changeling by Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau, fiction)
Not only an engaging read but an important one, this modern fairy tale superbly tells the story of a man desperately trying to find the truth about his dead son while weaving in witches, trolls and Trump-era issues.
Contributing reviewers: Jocelyn McClurg, Marco Della Cava, Kim Willis, Steph Cha, Charisse Jones, Brian Truitt, Charles Finch