I know it’s ‘end of year lists’ season because I have enough of a Buzzfeed habit to now be seeing the same tweets I’ve seen all year in new lists that use the year in their title. And whilst there are a lot of reading days left of 2017, I realised that to get in more than one list of books from this year, I’d have to start now.
First up is the nebulous category ‘books not published in 2017 that I read for the first time in 2017’. I’m going for things not published new in hardback or paperback in the UK in 2017 as far as I know. Seeing as I spent so much of 2017 reviewing upcoming books or reading very new ones, this list may seem a bit random.
- Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon – This dual biography moves between their lives a chapter at a time, not only drawing parallels but giving a real sense of the mother and daughter who didn’t get to meet. It is packed full of detail and is worth it for not feeling overwhelmed by the author’s judgements about people who turn up in their lives, unlike many biographies of Wollstonecraft or Shelley.
- If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo – A powerful and sweet young adult novel about being the new girl at school, falling in love, and being transgender. It really focuses on finding friends who support you as well as navigating teenage life and rituals whilst dealing with your own and your friends’ secrets.
- Room by Emma Donoghue – Obviously I’m very behind having only read Room this year, Donoghue’s incredible novel from the point of view of a five year old imprisoned in a single room with his Ma. The way that the style captures the character and his worldview makes it a crucial read.
- Byrne by Anthony Burgess – I’m including Byrne almost solely because I’m annoyed Burgess wrote it, stopping me writing a story that has a structure that’s a Byron joke: a poem in ottava rima that slips into Spenserian stanzas and back again. You might have to specifically care about that to read it (or just be a huge Burgess fan) as it’s the story of an ageing Don Juan-esque composer written in verse.
- Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin – I read most of Giovanni’s Room on my birthday (1st Jan) in the bath, so it only just counts. A classic short love story about two men in 1950s Paris. If you haven’t read it, do.
- The People In The Trees by Hanya Yanagihara – I wasn’t sure whether to include this one because A Little Life is so much better (but I read that at the end of last year), but I think her earlier novel is worth a read too. It’s about a young doctor who goes on an expedition to find a lost tribe, gains fame from what he discovers there, and things don’t go well from there. If you’ve read A Little Life, you won’t be surprised it can be horrible at times, but very interesting as well.