Just like last year, we asked our contributors, book clubbers, and readers to share the best books they read this year. We have 17 lists for you, consisting of 78 separate books and a whole bunch that we all loved. These are our favorite novels we read this year, but we’d love to hear about yours in the comments! And if you’re looking for more best of lists, you can find our list of 2016, 2015 and 2014 right here.
Esmée de Heer
Co-host of Bored to Death book club & YA book club + owner of this blog
- The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis
Last year one of my favorite YA novels was Only Ever Yours and this year it’s The Female of the Species. Both are very depressing YA novels that stay away from typical cliches that litter the genre. It’s about a girl whose sister got raped and murdered and how she deals with the violent urges that are within her. Mindy McGinnis wrote a wonderfully painful novel about women, violence and the darkness that lives in all of us.
- Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire
A series of novellas exploring the idea of doorways that lead to magical lands and the children that fall through. The first novella is all about the aftermath, what happens after these kids get kicked out of their magical land so they have to reintegrate into the regular world again. The second and upcoming third book go into more detail about some of the lands we’ve seen in the first installment. I love all of it as I’m a sucker for magical worlds and books that deconstruct their genre.
- A Conjuring of Light – V.E. Schwab
No end of the year list is complete without a dose of Schwab. I’ve read a lot of her books this year and for my favorite, it was a toss-up between this one and Vicious. I decided to go with A Conjuring of Light anyway because I love that series so much I bought the first installment in three different editions. I was very sad that I wouldn’t get to spend more time in the worlds of London and especially to say goodbye to Kell and Lila (I won’t even mention Holland), which made reading the book bittersweet. Thankfully there will be a new series set in the same world, so I don’t have to miss out on them completely.
- Grief is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter
I read this book at the start of the year but was lucky enough to see Max Porter in November at Crossing Border. This book is just dripping with grief and shows exactly what it feels like to lose someone. And Crow is one of my favorite birds in literature, feeding on grief and chaos while still having some kind of heart.
- The Regional Office is Under Attack – Manuel Gonzales
If Grief is the Thing with Feathers was one of the saddest books I read, The Regional Office was one of the funnest. A group of superheroes working in ‘The Regional Office’ saves the world from all kinds of danger, but at the start of the book, it’s their own office that needs protection. In my review of early February I wrote that I’d highly recommend this to anyone who loves Buffy, Die Hard and Bryan Fuller and I still stand by that. The novel is by no means perfect, but it definitely is a fun ride to be on.
Charlotte de Heer
Co-host of Bored to Death book club
- The Rules Do Not Apply – Ariel Levy
- Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
- Tell Me How it Ends – Valeria Luiselli
- The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead (still reading)
- The Bricks that Built the Houses – Kate Tempest
I knew Kate Tempest for quite a while as a musician and spoken word artists. Through this work, I was very curious about her debut novel. A very refreshing and well-written read – looking forward to her writing more.
- The Illogic of Kassel – Enrique Vila-Matas
This might not be for everyone considering the amount of art and literature references. However, its mix of fiction and non-fiction makes it a very intelligent and perfectly crafted novel.
- Altijd Augustus – Maria Barnas
Dutch poet, artist, and writer Maria Barnas quietly published this beautiful short novel, which made for the perfect summer read.
- The Fatal Eggs – Mikhail Bulgakov
While most people haven’t looked beyond The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov’s shorter novels are less genius but still super funny. I would also recommend ‘Heart of a Dog’.
- Grief is the Thing With Feathers – Max Porter
If you want to avoid the bestselling table in bookshops, this might make for a truly meaningful gift. A beautiful short novel about loss.
YA book clubber & contributor to our blog
- The Muse – Jesse Burton
- A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab
- The Disappearances – Emily Bain Murphy
- Our Dark Duet – Victoria Schwab
- The Darkest Part of the Forest – Holly Black
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
A tale crossing many generations starting with two sisters; one marries a slave trader, the other is traded as a slave and shipped to the United States. Every chapter is a new generation which gives it the feel of a short story collection, but the stories captivate you within a paragraph every time. Easily one of the best books I have ever read.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The scariest dystopian novel I have read so far, simply because it was written so long ago but the scenario Atwood envisioned has become true on so many fronts already. Really makes you question the over-sexualization of society and the ease with which people give in to higher command.
- Turtles all the Way Down by John Green
Amazing new novel by John Green, I reviewed it on my blog and all I want to say is that it describes and conveys mental illness so realistically, including the struggles with friends and family. In line with this book, I would like to mention All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, which is also about a teenager with a mental illness and is also a great book.
- Hersenschimmen by Bernlef
A Dutch book, the first on my list ever! It is a book about a man with Alzheimer and you are in his head as he slowly starts to lose his grip on the world. Just like Turtles all the Way Down it gives great insight into a mental illness by reading the thoughts of the main character without ever seeming unrealistic.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
A story about a black teenager who witnesses a police shooting and the fall-out that follows. I thought it was very well done and I would highly recommend it to people interested in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, but in its core, it is also just a story about fitting in and living in two worlds.
YA book clubber & contributor to our blog
- Always and Forever – Jenny Han
- When Dimple met Rishi – Sandhya Menon
- They Both Die at the End – Adam Silvera
- How to Stop Time – Matt Haig
- The Hating Game – Sally Thorne
Jochem F. Melis
Book clubber & writer
- Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West – Cormac McCarthy (1985)
An extreme novel in every way. Brutal, poetic and experimental in its style of narration. McCarthy comes close to it’s characters, though never revealing their thoughts, to zoom out the next page and leave you wandering in a bewildering landscape for over 40 pages. It’s a tale about the scalping of Native American tribes (The hunters get a bounty for every scalp they bring back to town) around 1850. But when the scalps run out, the gang of hunters just scalp anyone they come across, leaving behind a trail of death and chaos. Probably the best book I ever read.
- Het Bureau 1: Meneer Beerta – J.J. Voskuil (1996)
Funny and depressing. The first part (800 pages) of a 7 part (5000 pages in total) book series. It’s about a man who is asked to work in an office, who says yes reluctantly and gets sucked in, not knowing what to do otherwise. You have to do something in this world without meaning. Every time he finds out people take their meaningless tasks seriously, he gets more disconnected and scared.
- Keefman, verhalen – Jan Arends (1972)
A collection of short stories, where the protagonists are mostly poor men, on the verge of insanity, but always observant of the even more insane world that surrounds them. Very funny, very bitter at times. Reminded me of a Dutch Kafka.
- Berlin Alexanderplatz: Die Geschichte vom Franz Biberkopf Alfred Döblin (1929)
Just released out of jail, Franz Biberkopf just wants to live a normal life, but the seduction of easy money and cheap liquor lurks him back to the petty criminal life again and again. Even when losing an arm in the process. Written in a stream of consciousness prose, the City of Berlin (in the final years of the 1920’s, already full of Nazis) entwined with Franz’s thoughts and actions. Completely insane, but I loved it.
- Godverdomse Dagen op een Godverdomse Bol – Dimitri Verhulst (2008)
An alternative, cynical, gory history of humankind. Read it in 1 or 2 days and loved it, although I can easily see why people would hate it.
Jette van der Veen
YA book clubber & bookstagrammer
- The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
- The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
- Lord of Shadows – Cassandra Clare
- A Conjuring of Light – V.E, Schwab
- Macbeth – William Shakespeare
Book clubber & bookstagrammer
- A Conjuring of Light – V.E. Schwab
I couldn’t make this list without including a book by Schwab. She’s possibly my number one favorite writer at the moment and Esmée and I met her on our trip to Edinburgh this summer (besides being an awesome writer she’s just an Allround amazing and sweet human being). A conjuring of light is the conclusion to the shades of magic series, which centers around Kell, a magician who can travel between the four parallel versions of London and Lila, a cross-dressing thief from grey London. This is one of those series that gave me ‘the harry potter feels’ all over again.
- Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta
I haven’t heard a lot of people talk about this book, which is partly why I decided to include it. It is a coming of age story about a lesbian woman in Nigeria. She has to come to terms with her sexuality and her past while being in a country and a time in which it’s dangerous for her to be herself.
- Release – Patrick Ness
This was my very first Patrick Ness book and I instantly fell in love with his writing. Release is one day in the life of Adam, a gay teen, during which a lot of things go wrong between him and his very conservative family. Besides that, there is another magical and weird story throughout the book, which unfortunately doesn’t really add up to the rest of the book. But besides the book having some problems I just flew through it because of the writing style and Adam’s touching story.
- Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
I don’t necessarily cry a lot while reading, but this book made me ugly cry at some point. It’s about a Chinese-American family dealing with the death of Lydia, their daughter, and sister. Thought the story we find out bits and pieces of what happened and what their lives used to look like, while the family tries to find a way to deal with the loss of the favorite daughter. Very devastating at some points, and just very beautifully written.
- The Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet – Becky Chambers
This being a science fiction book, a lot of people expect this to be an exciting story packed with action, so did I, but I was (pleasantly!) surprised by this book. It follows a spaceship crew on their way to a dangerous and high-end job. This job is however not the most interesting part of the story, that might actually be the crew. It is a very diverse crew, as it consists of all different kinds of species. The story takes place far in the future and humankind has made contact with all kinds of different aliens and they now live together with them peacefully. The book uses the crew to describe the society that arose when these species met. The book has some amazing observations about race, gender and what it means to be human. It is a hard book to describe, so I suggest you just check it out for yourself.
Angela van Leersum
- The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer
- Dark Matter – Blake Crouch
- Harten Sara – Thomas Olde Heuvelt
- Dit Blijft Tussen Ons – Daphne Huisden
- Alles is Breekbaar – Neil Gaiman
- The Blank Wall – Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
I picked up this book in the Persephone Bookshop in London this summer, along with some other titles I’d also recommend (The Woman Novelist and Other Stories by Diana Gardner and Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll). Persephone Books publishes lots of older, mostly forgotten fiction, especially by women writers throughout the 20th century. They have a great selection; I’ve read a couple of their books so far and none have disappointed me. Same goes for The Blank Wall, a very intriguing noir thriller, originally published in the late 1940s. It’s a very well written, exciting and un-put-downable read.
- The Bad Girl – Mario Vargas Llosa
Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010, so high time I read something of his! This story spans a whole life and half the world. He is such a great storyteller, and ‘the bad girl’ has got to be one of the most interesting characters I’ve come across this year. You are constantly wondering what’s right or wrong, whether this choice is good or bad. It highlights the grey areas in life, and despite all the bad things ‘the bad girl’ does, you can’t always help but feel sympathy for her spirit and admiration for her ambition and feistiness.
- The Three-Body Problem (trilogy) – Liu Cixin
I have reviewed the first part (The Three-Body Problem) here for this website. Parts two (The Dark Forest) and three (Death’s End) were even better and even more mindblowing. This is the number one book I’ve recommended to or bought as a gift for friends this year. I can’t even begin to summarize the story, but it is definitely out-of-this-world good.
- Second-Hand Time – Svetlana Alexievich
This is a ‘serendipity’ book, one of those books you pick up randomly and impulsively at a bookshop, turns out to be so great and you feel as if there were some higher powers leading you to this book (bookshop in question: the Waterstones near University College London which has a great history/academic selection). Second-Hand Time could be categorized as a non-fiction work, but a better name is ‘a collage of stories’. Svetlana Alexievich started out as a journalist and has used that experience to create her own genre. This book gathers dozens of voices of normal, unremarkable, everyday people and the stories of how they lived and live their lives during and after the collapse of the USSR. She doesn’t describe anything but has simply collected and transcribed dozens of personal stories and lets the stories and people speak for themselves.
- Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
Last but definitely not least is Homegoing. It is a story about two half-sisters, one is sold into slavery and the other marries a British slave trader. The next twelve chapters tell the story of someone in the next generation down their respective lines, spanning 300 years of Ghanaian and US history. From a writerly perspective, it’s remarkable how coherent the overall story is, with fourteen characters, each in their own time and place in history. It’s an emotional read that will stay with you for a long time.
Roy den Boer
Book clubber & contributor to our blog
- Loner – Teddy Wayne
This book really got its grip on me. An odd push and pull between wanting to stop reading, but also being too morbidly curious how it was all going to play out. It came out in 2016, but it was incredibly timely in 2017.
- Human Acts – Han Kang
In the book club, many found this book to be too cold, too affectless. I understand the criticism intellectually, but I really found myself connecting to a lot of the stories in this collection.
- Vacationland – John Hodgman
A lighter read. A memoir by the comedic writer John Hodgman. A very fun, breezy read that nonetheless contains quite a bit of insight into aging and adulthood.
- Giant Days, Vol. 1 – John Allison & Lissa Treiman
The first volume in an ongoing series about three girls who go to university. It really isn’t much deeper, but this is a lovely looking comic book with fun characters. It’s a delight.
- All Grown Up – Jami Attenberg
An engaging character study about… growing up and not quite growing up. If I didn’t have Human Acts on here, I’d really have a theme going!
- Invocation to Daughters – Barbara Jane Reyes
An intense and searing poetry book dedicated to Filipina women and girls around the world. As a Filipina, I felt such growing conviction, invigoration, and heart-wrenching pangs for the women depicted here. Reyes turns psalms and prayers into chants for those Pinays who are beaten, maltreated, and who still rise despite harrowing circumstances. This is a book that can spark a revolution and most of all, connection for those in the diaspora and in the Philippines homeland.
- The Melancholy of Mechagirl – Catherynne M. Valente
Goddamn, can this woman write. I had no idea language could slide and elicit like this. Her imagery is so potent and I loved how playful she was with the words, pacing, and format. The short stories and poems are delightful, crave-worthy treats with an aftertaste of, well, melancholy. I just wanted to sink into her world and never let go. It amazed me how her stay in Japan impacted her work. I wonder what living in a foreign country could do to my own writing and thought process, to yours?
- Double Game – Sophie Calle
Reading this art book confirmed conceptual artist Sophie Calle as my absolute favorite creative of all time. Paul Auster fictionalized her, as Maria, in his book Leviathan and in the first part of Double Game, you read a reproduction of her passages and Calle makes notes on the paper on the differences between her real life and the character’s. She also does the projects that Maria does, like eating a meal of the same color. Then in the second section, you see all the art projects that Calle has done that Maria appropriated. Like how she met a stranger in Paris and overhears that he will take a train to Venice. She decides to follow him and find him. Another where she becomes a hotel maid and takes photos of other people’s belongings while cleaning. In the final section, she requests Auster to give her instructions and she follows them, like making sandwiches and giving them to strangers in New York City. I was entranced from start to finish. I want to create conceptual art just like hers one day. What a brilliant creative!
- Boring Boring Boring Boring Boring Boring Boring – Zach Plague
With its inventive typography, pushing the taboo, and slick plotting, I was so captivated by its entirety. Whatever direction Plague wanted to go, I wholeheartedly went with it with a slight grimace. I loved how daring it was and its absolute indulgence. This is an author that wanted to have fun and didn’t care for being politically correct. Even when certain scenes were nauseating, I felt refreshed. Bring on the plague.
- The Only Girl in China – Eric Qiao
This work opened my eyes to mystery thrillers, a genre I never before delved in. Like I wrote in my book review, I was enthralled. Qiao crafted such a drastic but completely believable world in rural China. He exercised such mastery, each word not wasted, the pacing completely on point. I even teared up at certain segments, I didn’t expect to be so overcome with emotion. Months later, I’m still hoping for a sequel. I can’t abandon this thrilling world just yet.
Owner of Ik Vind Lezen Leuk & YA book clubber
- De Grote Verboden Zolder – Edward van de Vendel
This story is about Eddie who gets a foster sister. Linea. She takes him to the forbidden attic and introduces him to some ghosts. Together they have some strange adventures. But is it real or is it a dream?
- Thornhill – Pam Smy
This is a translated novel. This book consists of two storylines. The story of Mary takes place in the 198s and is told in illustrations. The story of Ella takes place in 2017 and is being told in words. What have these stories in common?
- Lampje – Annet Schaap
This story is about Lampje, a girl who lives with her father in a lighthouse. Her father has to pay off a debt and is being imprisoned in the lighthouse. The girl is being sent to a foster family. There she meets a boy who never leaves the house. Everybody in the village thinks he’s a monster. But is he really?
- De Negen Kamers – Peter-Paul Rauwerda
This story is about a haunted house. Jonas man suddenly finds a very old book in the living room. And suddenly there appears a house in the street that he has never seen before. Somehow the book and that house are connected. Will he find out the secret?
- Serafina en de Zwarte Mantel – Robbert Beaty
Serafina lives with her father in the basement of a big old house. Her father has forbidden her to go anywhere else in the house or outside. But Serafina wants to know more about the family who lives there. And there’s a man in black lurking in the basement. Serafina thinks he’s dangerous. Is she right?
- What The Hell Did I Just Read – David Wong
This is the third book in the ‘John Dies’ series and it’s a little bit different from the other two. Although still falling squarely in the Horror-Humour category, this one is not a grand adventure like the first two books. It involves a kidnapping, weird parasitical monsters, BATMANTIS???, but most of all it’s a story about dealing with depression and substance abuse problems. I really thought it was poignant, without being too preachy.
- The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
I don’t have a lot to say about this book, except that it’s really good and also really relevant. We in the Netherlands don’t exactly deal with the same issues, but this book can teach us all a little something about how we treat fellow humans.
- The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin
My favorite fantasy/dystopian novel of the year. The story is breathtaking, the world is phenomenal and the writing makes my brain melt. Follow three women through a world that is ravaged by natural disasters, aka fifth seasons, who are orogenes or stone benders in a world where they are both revered and hated. I still have to read the rest of the series, but this is definitely a fantastic opener.
- Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett
I love the Discworld dearly. Of all the book series in the world, it is my favorite. Despite this, I couldn’t bring myself to read this book when it came out because it is the last Discworld book that will ever come out. This year, however, I finally gathered the courage and I’m happy I did. It is both heart-warming and heartbreaking. It reads like a salute to a world dearly loved.
- Rise – Mira Grant
This is a short story collection set in the universe of Grant’s Newsflesh series. It details many different aspects of the zombie apocalypse and its aftermath. We find out what happened to Australia, what the school system looks like and how the apocalypse started in the first place. I especially want to mention the Last Stand Of The California Browncoats, which is details an outbreak during Comic Con. I basically cried all the way through it. That made the author in question very happy (yes, I asked).
- The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett
Sir Terry Pratchett’s final novel. The Tiffany Aching series was always a favorite of mine growing up, and this resolution was bittersweet.
- Illuminae – Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
I may be late to the party with Starbuck, but this book was a visual and imaginative masterpiece. I got into sci-fi relatively late, but this was the book I needed in high school to show me exactly how exciting the final frontier could be when executed well.
- An Ember in the Ashes – Saaba Tahir
I can see what all the hype was about and can’t wait to see how the series ends.
- Luck in the Shadows – Lynn Flewelling
An underrated diamond in the rough. I finally ordered the first of the series after it having been in my TBR list for ages, and it did NOT disappoint. Can’t wait to dig into the rest of this complete, affordable series.
- The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland – Catherynne M. Valente
My comfort read of the year. My go-to hot-coco light read series for all ages.
Muriel de Kroon
- Mara Dyer Trilogy and The Becoming of Noah Shaw – Michelle Hodkins
- This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet – Victoria Schwab
- Lord of Shadows – Cassandra Clare
- Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman
- The Memory Book- Lara Avery