Books our readers loved in 2017
This Christmas, why not give a loved one a chance to enjoy your favourite books? We’ve crunched the numbers to bring you your most-clicked reads of the year…
Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
The world has been waiting for a book like this since the dawn of fairytales, so it's no wonder you pounced when it landed in 2017. You won't find any damsels-in-distress waiting to be rescued in these stories - only inspirational, strong, intelligent and independent women like Michelle Obama and Elizabeth I. Plus, it's beautifully illustrated by sixty female artists, with a stunning cover (and not a spot of pink anywhere).
At the end of the year, it’s natural to feel the need to reflect on our lifestyles, habits and hopes for the future. We work too much, we're consumed by new technology, and we just can't seem to slow things down. Enter Haemin Sunim, who, earlier this year, began offering simple, practical messages and thoughts on navigating the maze of modern life. Being both a Buddhist monk and a social media star, he's certainly qualified.
When did we start to be who we are now? What place do money, family, community, food and farming occupy in human lives? Tackling questions like this, it's no surprise that this book features as one of the bestselling, most searched and well-reviewed books of 2017. Sapiens is wide-ranging in the most literal sense, dealing with humanity's place in the world, through prehistory to the modern day and beyond. Part-anthropology, part-biology, part-philosophy, part-any-other-subject-you-can-name, there truly is something for everyone in its pages.
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you don't need us to tell you why this book has been so popular in 2017. First there was the critically acclaimed TV adaptation featuring the phenomenally well-cast Elizabeth Moss; then there were renewed threats to women's reproductive rights all over the world; then there were dozens of high-profile allegations against men who had used their status to abuse women. It's sad that this book resonated with us so strongly this year, but it's also a gripping read filled with messages of hope, resilience and strength.
The Girl on the Train was, ahem, a runaway success. You flocked to snap up the second book by Paula Hawkins and, judging by the reviews, she didn't disappoint. In this dark psychological thriller, Jules finds out that her sister Nel is dead, only days after a failed attempt to reach out to her for help. Jules is pulled back towards the life she tried to escape, to face the demons from her past. As you might have guessed, water features heavily in this book, as do Jules' fear of water, and her gut feeling that Nel didn't jump, but was pushed.
When the going gets tough, the tough pick up a hilarious and heart-warming read about someone else's life falling apart at the seams. Katie's seemingly perfect life in London comes crashing down around her when she loses her job and her 'glamorous flat' which is basically a large cupboard miles from anywhere. Back with her parents in Somerset, she uncovers a chance to put things right - whatever that might mean. It's true-to-life, but hysterically funny and frank, which must be why it shot up the charts and stayed there.
This year saw the release of The Snowman, a film adaptation of Nesbo's book featuring everyone's favourite loose-cannon detective, Harry Hole. In this, his latest instalment, Hole is drawn into the sinister world of online-dating-gone-wrong. A killer targets his victims on Tinder and seems to leave no traces or clues apart from fragments of rust in the wounds of his victims. Hole has vowed to stay away from cases like these, but when more women are at risk and the investigators are truly stumped, he struggles to resist the temptation to return.
Here’s another classic dystopian tale that's seen a resurgence in popularity following recent notable elections. It features faceless bureaucrats, thought police and fake news in abundance. With many feeling that extreme political views are being increasingly normalised, and noting the pervasive and invasive presence of technology and even AI in our lives, this book serves as both a cautionary tale and a call to arms.
One of year’s most popular debut novels, Homegoing tells the story of Effia and Esi, sisters born on the Gold Coast of Africa. They share everything and have much in common. One day, they are torn apart by slavery - one kidnapped to be sold across the Atlantic, the other forced to marry a slave-owner. Here begins a story that echoes down seven generations and across the world. It's about the making of America, power and the legacy of violent oppression on lives lived even today.
Naomi Klein's earlier books, The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything, were runaway successes, alerting us to the injustice of the global elite profiting from war, natural disaster and systemic oppression at humans' and the environment's expense. In her latest bestseller, Klein turns her razor-sharp mind to unpicking the rise of extremism, arguing that it's deliberately designed to disorientate and disenfranchise people. She also gives her advice for countering its effects, making this a useful read as we head into 2018.
This book follows Tracey and her best friend - both aspiring dancers, but with very different ideas about what constitutes success. Their differences hold them close as children and push them apart as young adults. It's a pattern we all recognise and empathise with, and there's no one better at writing about class, race, identity and the ways we grow up, together and apart as we find our place in the world. Any new novel from Smith is bound to be hotly-anticipated and eagerly snapped up, but her latest was a hit even by those standards. Of course, Booker Prize longlisting might have had something to do with it...
Hearing this book dubbed 'the first great Brexit novel' and 'a post-Brexit masterpiece', it's no wonder you wanted to know what all the fuss was about. In the first of a series of seasonal novels, Ali Smith has played with ageing, reality and mortality to astounding effect. Through the stories and friendship of centenarian Daniel and thirty-two-year-old Elisabeth, Autumn seeks to explore the cyclical nature of time, and how our pasts relate to our futures.