Looking back on 2017, I read a lot of great books. Making the list of my favourite books from last year was incredibly difficult but I present you a collection of books that really left an impression on me in 2017.
Before I start my countdown, I want to list some honourable mentions. Here’s some great books I read this year: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein, Ten Years in an Open Neck Shirt by John Cooper Clarke, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg, The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud’s Complete Works, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and The Sellout by Paul Beatty.
Anyway, onto the countdown:
6. Nausea – Jean-Paul Sartre.
I’ve been meaning to read Sartre’s fiction for years and my friend Rachel loved this book so I decided to pick it up.
Nausea follows a historian called Antoine Roquentin who becomes immersed in existential thought. After completing his paper, he struggles to find meaning in writing anything else and it basically all spirals from there.
This book is essentially an extension of Sartre’s existential philosophy and I have not stopped thinking about it, especially after finishing my undergraduate dissertation.
5. Autumn and Winter – Ali Smith.
Okay, I’m cheating. I’ve paired two books together here. I read both Autumn and Winter by Ali Smith this year – both are part of her seasonal quartet but you do not have to read the books in order as they are only loosely linked.
Autumn centres around Elisabeth Demand and a man called Daniel. Daniel is in a coma and is visited by Elisabeth but after Elisabeth finishes her visits she has to navigate herself around a post-brexit world. The novel is eerie as there are no explicit references to the EU referendum but there are subtle details sprinkled across the book which suggest the divide in the UK post-voting.
In Winter, Smith tackles the idea of Post-Truth. The basic plot holds some very Ali Smith tropes – a family in Cornwell spend Christmas together in a large house and a stranger attends the dinner. I do not want to give too much away about the story but Smith swaps from different character’s perspectives and they all weave together very neatly.
I read Autumn at the beginning of the year and Winter in December of 2017. I think Winter is my favourite because some of the passages were just haunting. Smith’s references to news are more obvious in Winter and I found that very unnerving.
Anyway, read both of these books.
4. Chavs – Owen Jones.
I reviewed this on my blog a few months ago so I won’t go into too much detail. Jones’ book takes a look at the demonization of the working-class in the UK. This book was published in 2011 when the UK claimed to be a “classless” society yet every strives to be middle class. Chavs challenges this idea and argues the class system is more present than ever. Living in the UK in 2017 the class-divide is so obvious no one can really argue against the existence of class anymore. Some of the arguments in the book are products of UK politics in 2011 but some chapters are more relevant than ever.
3. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
If you have not read Crime and Punishment yet, you are in for a treat. Everyone kinda knows the plot of this book whether they have read it or not but I cannot recommend it enough because it is so dramatic. By page 80 something major happens and basically it is just absolutely brilliant and I am obsessed with Raskolnikov. It is a wild ride and that’s all I’ll say.
2. Madonna in a Fur Coat – Sabahattin Ali.
I recommend this book to everyone when I am in a bookshop.
A twentieth-century Turkish novel that has just been translated into English, Madonna in a Fur Coat begins with a man and his co-worker. It is essentially a story within a story as it unfolds Berlin’s 1920s art world. It is about a painting and how art can change you.
This book is only short but the prose is absolutely poetic. The 1920s, art, and Berlin – what’s not to love?
1. High-Rise – J. G. Ballard.
I cannot stop thinking about this book. This book was so unsettling and addictive to read.
The high rise is a dystopian world where the higher up the high rise you live, the more privileged you are. A class-war erupts as the people at the bottom of the high rise demand the same treatment as those at the top. The result is absolute chaos.
I really enjoyed analysing this because there’s so many layers that can be applied to Ballard’s work. Of course there’s Marxist theory, but there’s also Freudian readings of the book and theory of space and architecture.
Honestly, I think High-Rise has to be my book of the year – it’s brilliant.
So overall I had a good reading year! I’m excited to see what my reading year looks like in 2018. I’m currently reading Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me In The Bathroom and it’s already a five star read which is a good sign.