26 September 2017

Favorite Books of 2017

by Barb Goffman

I love reading, but I can't ever seem to find enough time to do it. And when I do read, I'm often playing catch up. When it's time to pick up a new title, instead of going to my personal library and picking one of the hundreds of unread books on my shelves, I'm going to a list of books and stories published in the prior year and nominated for awards.

Agatha teapots
If it's February, March, or April, I'm reading a work nominated for the Agatha awards that year. I don't vote in a category if I haven't read all the nominated books and stories, and between best novel, best first novel, best historical novel, best children's/YA novel, and best short story, my reading dance card is full. (Some years the nominated books are announced and I've read several of the finalists, but I still usually have at least a dozen books to read. And yes, there's a best nonfiction category, too, but I never get to those books.)

So Malice Domestic comes, the Agatha awards are given out, and then I have a month or two to choose my own reading. Heaven! Until the Anthony and Macavity award nominees are announced, and it's off to the reading races again. I read Anthony- and Macavity-nominated books, stories, and novellas until Bouchercon, which occurs in September or October. (And this is a perfect time to give a shout out to my fellow SleuthSayers Paul Marks and Art Taylor, who are up for the Macavity Award for best short story this year, and to Art once more, as he's up for the Anthony for best short story. And let us not forget the wonderful late B.K. (Bonnie) Stevens, who is up for the Anthony for best novella.)

Anyway, Bouchercon eventually ends and the awards season is over and I get to read what I want to read. YAY! Not that there's anything wrong with the books and stories I read for the Agathas, Anthonys, and Macavitys (they're usually great--that's why they're nominated), but there's something to being able to pluck a book off the shelf just because I want to read it. And that period is coming. I'll get to choose my own books!

But what should I choose? There are so many options.

In preparation for making my choices, I reached out to some friends and asked them what books they've read recently that they loved. I asked them to focus on newer books that I might not yet have purchased. There's always room for more books on my shelves. Here are their recommendations:

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz -- my friend described it as "a treat for any tea-drinking, Anglophile, Agatha Christie fan--or anyone who enjoys a traditional mystery."

The Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah -- the new Poirot

Pulse by Felix Francis -- this book comes out next month, but my friend got an early copy.

The Case of the Curious Cook by Cathy Ace

The Good Byline by Jill Orr

Double Up by Gretchen Archer

Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Later Gator by Jana Deleon

The Ex by Alafair Burke

I've already read The Ex and recommend it heartily. How about you, dear reader? What books have you read recently that you adored? Bonus points for books published this year. I'd love to get ahead on my awards reading for next year!


  1. Thanks for the shout-out here, Barb, and for the great suggestions too! Like you, I find that reading just for myself is sometimes rare, between books I'm reading for classes or for reviews or for panels at Malice or Bouchercon--and I admire you for reading all those books, I'm never able to get so much done in time!

    As for recent reading I enjoyed: I reviewed Christopher Bollen's THE DESTROYERS back in the summer and found it really impressive. It's a long book and a dense book, with prose so lush that you might want to linger over passages--which is part of the problem. No time to linger when there's so much book still to read and so many other books beyond calling to you! Still, I'd recommend it. :-)

  2. I'm reading constantly. I was so excited about Catriona McPherson's new book, HOUSE, TREE, PERSON, that I ordered it twice. (Lucky for the daughter; she gets her own copy now.) I'd suggest reading that; it's bound to be on the Agatha short-list.

  3. I've only read two of the books on your current list, Barb, and one was Jane Steele, which I found laugh out loud funny (That probably shows more about me than the book, but people who read my column here or my own books shouldn't be surprised).

    I'm mildly dyslexic and can't read very quickly so I'm always about a year behind on my reading, but I try to read books by authors I'll see at events...which is how I picked up Jane Steele.

    Certainly, we all should read if we're going to call ourselves writers, but reading a lot of the good stuff always reminds me how much I still need to learn about this stuff. It's both inspiring and discouraging at the same time.

    But thanks for giving me more books to look for.

  4. It sounds like my TBR pile is growing again! Thanks, Barb!

  5. Thanks for the Bollen recommendation, Art. And I must confess that I don't often get through every category for every award. Maybe when I'm retired ...

    Keenan, thanks for recommending Catriona's book. She's going to be toastmaster at Malice next year, as I'm sure you know. It's going to be so much fun.

    Steve and Sherry, I'm happy to be your book pusher. Happy reading!

    And I should note that I forgot to mention the Derringer awards in my column. I read for those as well in the winter/spring, though I don't always make it through all four categories. The flash and short short story finalists are usually easy to slip into my schedule. The long stories and novellas are harder.

  6. Highly recommend recently released debut novel, Hollywood Homicide, by Kellye Garrett. I believe it will be an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel next time around!

  7. I'm stunned and oh, so honored to be included on this incredible list. WHEE!

  8. Gretchen Archers whole series is terrific!!

  9. Vicki, I already have Kellye's book, and I'm eager to dig in sometime this fall.

    And, Gretchen, whee back!

  10. Super honored that my book was recommended to you (word of mouth is everything, isn't it???). And so excited to have all these good recommendations for new books to read. Now if only I could find more hours in the day... Thanks for compiling this list! And if you decide to read THE GOOD BYLINE, I hope you enjoy! :)

  11. Word of mouth is super important, Jill. And I already own your book. It's on my list for October - December. Looking forward to it!

  12. I'm a little late here, Barb, but thank you for the shout out. I appreciate. Also for the great list of suggestions. But like Art said, I also find it hard to find time to just read for pleasure sometimes. But whenever I can that time is treasured.


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