The Best Books of 2017 to Give to Anyone on Your List
As you rack your brain trying to think of the perfect gift for everyone on your holiday shopping list, it's important to remember that even in our technology-driven world, there's no substitute for a good book. Here are our favorite titles released in 2017 -- you're sure to find something for everyone.
Don't forget to check our gift guide hub for even more movie and TV gift ideas.
Best Fiction Books of 2017
The Answers by Catherine LaceyRelease date: June 6
Why you should get it: Lacey's sophomore follow-up to Nobody Is Ever Missing takes an expansive approach to zeitgeist-y New York City culture, as seen through the eyes of a woman seeking a prohibitively expensive treatment for a mysterious condition. The commodification of relationships, the proliferation of new-age healing, and the irrational logic of extreme wealth combine in this ambitious and satisfying novel.
Belladonna by Daša DrndicRelease date: October 31
Why you should get it: Bleak Croatian writer of memory-driven prose? Yes! Former Fulbright scholar Drndic tells the story of the post-WWII Balkans through the lens of Andreas Ban, a psychologist prone to obsessive mental meandering. If you or someone you know have ever wondered what rats think about, or how it feels to die alone and impoverished, Belladonna will satisfy the darkest, mustiest corners of your psyche.
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Release date: April 25
Why you should get it: The New Weird master who penned the Southern Reach trilogy returns with Borne, a post-climate-change novel about a biotech experiment acquiring consciousness. Those who prefer their science fiction with a literary depth will enjoy VanderMeer's treatment of a B-movie concept.
Elmet by Fiona MozleyRelease date: December 5
Why you should get it: It's not every year that a debut lands on the Man Booker shortlist, but that's exactly what happened to Fiona Mozley's Elmet. A sprawling work that meshes a coming-of-age story with magical elements, plus a proletarian revolt narrative involving a bare-knuckle boxer and his evil landlord, Mozley's book demonstrates a depth of literary knowledge while remaining a page-turners. If this is her first effort, there's no telling what's to come.
The Graybar Hotel by Curtis DawkinsRelease date: July 4
Why you should get it: It's not exactly an inspirational backstory: The author of this short story collection is currently serving a prison sentence of life without parole for murder, and in a publishing milieu that tends to feature meandering stories of privilege, this book promises to bring more neglected subjects to the forefront.
The Idiot by Elif BatumanRelease date: March 17
Why you should get it: Like other authors on this list, Batuman embodies the multi-platform, digital-print hybrid life of a contemporary writer, maintaining a Twitter presence, appearing in outlets like The New Yorker and n+1, and writing books. This makes her an appropriate voice to reference Dostoyevsky, who in the mid-19th century helped push literature into the modern age. The Idiot, her first novel, takes place at Harvard in the '90s, just before the internet became the relentless ubiquity it is today.
Madame Zero by Sarah HallRelease date: July 25
Why you should get it: British writer Sarah Hall has twice been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and her new collection of short stories dives into the lives of women in extreme or unusual situations. No setting is off limits for Hall, who's equally interested in a social worker as she is in a woman who transforms into a fox.
Men Without Women by Haruki MurakamiRelease date: May 9
Why you should get it: It must be the year to publish books with titles that have been used before! In the hands of a lesser writer, a collection of stories about men... without... women risks veering into chauvinist territory. Fortunately, Murakami isn't a lesser writer. The perpetual Nobel candidate (Norwegian Wood, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) plumbs the depths of loneliness, and the often strange strategies humans adopt to fight it. Yes, there will probably be cats.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati RoyRelease date: June 6
Why you should get it: What do you do when you write a universally beloved and critically acclaimed novel? If you answered, "Wait 20 years before publishing a follow-up," congratulations! You're Arundhati Roy. What's that like? Anyway, the author (you) of The God of Small Things returns this summer, and most reviews suggest The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a worthy successor.
Record of a Night Too Brief by Hiromi KawakamiRelease date: December 5
Why you should get it: This collection of three novellas, from the winner of one of Japan's most prestigious literary awards, reads like Kafka and Dali got stoned and decided to write stories set in Japan. Talking animals, transformations into trees and horses, and a melancholic mood of loss and love make it easy to see why Kawakami is one of the more exciting voices in contemporary Japanese literature.
Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier by Mark FrostRelease date: October 31
Why you should get it: It's canon. The finale of Twin Peaks: The Return may have left some scratching their heads, and the co-creator of David Lynch's television phenomenon likely isn't too concerned with clearing up any confusion... but it's more Twin Peaks. Though it promises to take readers "deeper into the mysteries raised by the new series," any answers will likely prove dissatisfactory. But what would Twin Peaks be if it offered easy answers?
What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka ArimahRelease date: April 4
Why you should get it: Arimah's debut takes its name from a short story published in 2015, when her bio read, "If she could just get off Twitter, Lesley would complete her novel and collection of short stories." Well, she's still on Twitter and will publish this collection, so she must've figured it out. This is to readers' benefit, as Arimah's stories bring a perspective more and more common in a global society: that of a nomad uncertain where home is.
Best Nonfiction Books of 2017
Admissions: Life as a Brain Surgeon by Henry Marsh
Release date: October 3
Why you should get it: Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh cuts open people's brains while they're still awake, and while that alone would make for an interesting story, it's Marsh's thoughtfulness and seemingly flawless recall back to his days as a young doctor that allow him to consider the deeper meanings of performing surgery on the seat of consciousness. The result is work that puts Marsh in the company of other doctor-writers like Atul Gawande, Abraham Verghese, and the late Paul Kalanithi, all of whom bring their unique combination of medical expertise and poetic touch to perform the job of all writers: explore what it means to be a human.
Afterglow (a dog memoir) by Eileen MylesRelease date: September 12
Why you should get it: The poet, fiction writer, and memoirist blends genres with an ease that makes the reader feel as if she's on the receiving end of a late-night phone call from a friend with a particular talent for wielding stylish humor in the treatment of dark subjects. A memoir about the loss of a beloved dog might come off as insufferably trite under the aegis of a more prosaic voice, but Myles skill as a poet ensures that this is never the case.
Ali: A Life by Jonathan EigRelease date: October 3
Why you should get it: It's difficult to find an internationally famous American who also happens to embody the ideals we as a nation claim to espouse, but Muhammad Ali -- who died in 2016 -- is about as close as they come. Supremely gifted as a boxer, ridiculously intelligent, and politically active, Ali rose above the racially divided, war-torn morass of the 1960s to become one of the most revered figures in sports. Eig, who's working with Ken Burns on a documentary about Ali, puts the boxer in the full context he deserves, with former wives and managers weighing in on a man who lived so publicly, but was relegated to three years of his prime spent banned from his profession because he refused to enter the draft.
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica HesseRelease date: July 11
Why you should get it: On its surface, American Fire is a riveting thriller about a rural Virginia coastal community ravaged by a serial arsonist. But Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse elevates to national levels the strange story of the man who confessed to committing the crimes with his girlfriend, and how the progressive decline of agricultural wealth in a once-prosperous area influenced them both.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse TysonRelease date: May 2
Why you should get it: The celebrity astrophysicist (hah!) certainly knows how to give people what they want. In the tradition of Stephen Hawking's classic, A Brief History of Time, deGrasse Tyson's accessible writing aims to change your view of the universe, quite literally. At the very least, you'll sound way smarter at the next party you attend.
Bloodlines: The True Story of a Drug Cartel, the FBI, and the Battle for a Horse-Racing Dynasty by Melissa del BosqueRelease date: September 12
Why you should get it: Now that's a title! This almost-too-good-to-be-true story, meticulously reported by del Bosque, lives up to the intrigue promised by the title. It's (kind of) what it sounds like: Notorious drug cartel the Zetas funnels money through a horse-racing operation, but when the FBI gets a tip that the cartel's leader shelled out an absurd amount of cash for a horse, it's game on. Except the game involves drugs, murder, and money.
David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LBGT Music by Darryl W. BullockRelease date: September 7
Why you should get it: It's no secret that the LBGT community has played a huge role in the development of Western music, but Bullock's book excavates those who have been "straight-washed," as he calls it, to give a full account of the artists whose sexual identities were blunted or erased completely in the face of extreme prejudice. The title is a bit sensationalist, but Bullock gives as much attention to the Freddie Mercurys and Little Richards as he does to the lesser known figures who had a tremendous impact on pop music.
Grown-Up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and the Calumet Massacre of 1913 by Daniel WolffRelease date: June 13
Why you should get it: Most music fans know the story of how Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan visited folk legend Woody Guthrie in a Brooklyn hospital while he was suffering from Huntington's disease, and how much of Dylan's early music and lyrical style displays the force of Guthrie's influence. But writer Daniel Wolff, intrigued by a melody Dylan lifted from a Guthrie song, traces their story back to a massacre of union organizers in early 20th-century Michigan, and the result is an original look at two men who have maintained their enigmatic character despite the public interest in their work.
Why you should get it: Every once in a while, a social media campaign like #Kony2012 or #bringbackourgirls reveals to ordinary Westerners the kinds of extreme terror many people living across Africa face on a daily basis. But New Yorker staff writer Alexis Okeowo goes far deeper than the moral outrage cycle in her chronicling of everyone from kidnap victims of Joseph Kony himself, to a Somalian women's basketball team who continue to play despite constant death threats. It's a harrowing collection of stories, but it's worth putting a human face on atrocities that can be glanced at and ignored from afar.
Why you should get it: There are few Wikipedia pages more exciting than the one for Robert de La Rochefoucauld, so you can imagine what an exciting read a thoughtful, in-depth biography would be. And Paul Kix has written a thoughtful, in-depth biography of a man who literally jumped off the truck full of Nazis who were driving him to his execution during World War II -- far from the only time he escaped death. This is the kind of biography that everyone in the family will read after Dad's finished with it.
Why you should get it: Is there anything more satisfying than watching the living subject of an autobiography turn on the person to whom he granted total access in hopes of producing a hagiography? Yeah, probably -- but Jann Wenner's feud with Joe Hagan is still pretty fun. That's because Hagan goes into extreme depth portraying the sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll that helped shoot Wenner and the magazine he founded, Rolling Stone, to icon status in the publishing industry. Spoiler: Not all of the stories feature Wenner as a hero.
Two and Two: McSorley's, My Dad, and Me by Rafe BartholomewRelease date: May 9
Why you should get it: Bartholomew's father was a bartender at legendary New York City dive McSorley's -- known for, among other things, serving only two kinds of beer, light and dark -- so anyone interested in the city, beer, or the infinitely mutable ideal of "Old New York" will likely find at least a few appealing stories in this memoir.
Why you should get it: Normally, successful memoirs require a bit of time between the events they describe and their publication, but as anyone with cable news access will tell you, there was nothing normal about the 2016 US presidential election. You may remember Tur as the NBC reporter who found herself in the direct line of Donald Trump's personal criticism during his raucous rallies, and now you'll get to hear in her own words what that felt like. Probably: not great.
What Does This Button Do? by Bruce DickinsonRelease date: October 31
Why you should get it: He's not the most famous Bruce in rock 'n' roll, but he's the only Bruce who pilots his own band's charter plane. The Iron Maiden lead singer, now in his second stint with the band, is sure to entertain with tales of captaining Ed Force One -- that's seriously the name of the plane -- competitive fencing, singing, and more, in a book that was supposedly originally delivered as a handwritten manuscript.
Best Food Books of 2017
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. TwittyRelease date: August 1
Why you should get it: Twitty's food historian chops serve him well in diving into the roots of Southern cooking, which is inseparable from the legacy of slavery in America. Those looking for a comforting account of Southern comfort food won't find it here, but it's Twitty's willingness to examine the violent, nasty past of cooking in the South that makes this a satisfying, worthwhile read.
F*ck, That's Delicious: An Annotated Guide to Eating Well by Action BronsonRelease date: September 12
Why you should get it: Is Action Bronson an idiot? A savant? Both? Neither? The laconic rapper's style certainly won't suit everyone, but for fans, this part-memoir, part-cookbook, part-rambling lunacy will satisfy like braised pork belly with a side of mac & cheese.
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives by Ree DrummondRelease date: October 24
Why you should get it: This book features two colons in its title. People love Ree Drummond; I know because two colleagues traveled to Pawhuska, Oklahoma to see how she's virtually singlehandedly propped up the town of Pawhuska economically, which is crazy considering that no one wants to go to Pawhuska -- or, at least, they didn't before Ree Drummond moved there. The point is that you should jump on the Pioneer Woman bandwagon by checking out her new book.
Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories by Randy Garutti, Mark Rosati, and Dorothy KalinsRelease date: May 16
Why you should get it: I mean, come on, it's the Shake Shack cookbook. Your fries and shakes probably won't taste like Danny Meyer's, but the pursuit of perfection is more important than actually achieving it.
Tartine All Day by Elisabeth Prueitt, Jessica Washburn, and Maria ZizkaRelease date: April 4
Why you should get it: Elisabeth Prueitt, the chef behind San Francisco's Tartine (and creator of some insane Instagram foodporn) comes out with a collection of recipes for all meals, savory, and sweet. Prueitt, who has a gluten intolerance, helped bring gluten-free cooking and baking into the mainstream, but don't worry: The presence of cheesy garlic bread indicates there's something for everyone.