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Reviewer Picks Reviewers Pick Their Favorite Books of 2017

Recently we asked our reviewers to provide us with a list of some of their favorite books from 2017. Included is a mix of fiction and nonfiction titles, all published this year. Take a moment to read these varied lists of titles and see if you agree with their selections! Please note that due to personal and professional commitments, some reviewers were not able to participate in this feature.


Kate Ayers

  • A DOG’S WAY HOME by W. Bruce Cameron
    W. Bruce Cameron mixes his wit with his compassion, crafting this into a wonderfully heartwarming story. The narrator, Bella, is a pup saved from an abandoned building. Her adventures, when separated from her rescuers, virtually glues readers to the book.
  • THE DEAL OF A LIFETIME by Fredrik Backman
    A poignant novella of a father telling his son of a life he’s taken, and why. He’s dying now, so he wants his son to understand, but knows he probably won’t. Their relationship has never been very good, so when the father has a chance to do something nice for a little girl in the same hospital as himself, he seizes it. The result is a Christmas miracle.
  • BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman
    “Late on an evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger.” That’s how the book begins, and that’s what drew me in. After that, I was hooked to the end.
  • THE CUBAN AFFAIR by Nelson DeMille
    Nelson DeMille is simply a brilliant author. I’ll read anything he publishes. This one has the added dimension of Cuba trivia and insights into “the thaw,” or what are hailed as improved relations. Plus, we are introduced to a new devil-may-care character, Daniel Graham MacCormick, or Mac, and his first mate on the good ship The Maine, a fishing charter out of Key West. Of course, then there’s the dangerous mission...
  • HOUSE OF SPIES by Daniel Silva
    Daniel Silva is another author whose work I’ll read without question. Always intelligent, fast-paced and scary as all-get-out. His newest Gabriel Allon novel has the master spy grooming a young woman to infiltrate a terrorist network similar to ISIS. The result is fear on every page.
  • ENDGAME: A Nameless Detective Novel by Bill Pronzini
    This features two cases being worked simultaneously by the Nameless detective agency, which gives the readers sort of a bonus.
  • END GAME by David Baldacci
    Will Robie and Jessica Reel, two deadly agents, are sent to Colorado to find Blue Man, their boss who has gone missing. The tiny town he went to for a break harbors big secrets, making their job none too easy. A fast, action-packed read.
  • A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE by Shari Lapena
    A story full of twists and turns, from the moment the husband opens the door to his empty house to the reason his wife is in the hospital after crashing her car in the worst part of town. A great thriller.
  • THE LOST BOOK OF THE GRAIL by Charlie Lovett
    Any time a quest for anything involving the Grail is involved, really, who can resist? This one involves an English teacher and an American manuscript digitizer. Match made in heaven? Probably not, but well teamed up for their quest.



John Bentlyewski

  • KINESTHESIA: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969 by Dan Cameron and Susan Green
  • NEW YORK IN THE SNOW by Vivienne Gucwa
  • YAYOI KUSAMA: Infinity Mirrors, by Melissa Chiu, Yayoi Kusama and Gloria Sutton



Leah DeCesare

  • FEAST OF SORROW: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Crystal King
    FEAST OF SORROW swept me up and into another time in the best possible way. Being not much of a historian or a foodie (though I do love to eat), this isn't a book that would normally catch my interest, but I LOVED this story. Crystal King's writing is spectacular, and her characters are beautifully developed.

    While being propelled through the story, I learned so much and felt like I had strolled through ancient Rome and Italy alongside Thrasius and Apicius and the others. Full of humanity and an incredible glimpse into another era, I highly recommend FEAST OF SORROW.

  • I LIKED MY LIFE by Abby Fabiaschi
    From the first line, you know you're in the hands of a confident writer. I loved the perceptiveness and wisdom peppered throughout I LIKED MY LIFE. There were so many times I was nodding my head in understanding about life truths on motherhood, growing up, friendships, relationships, teenagers, perceptions... I thoroughly enjoyed this debut and can't wait to read more from Abby Fabiaschi!



Megan Elliott



Harvey Freedenberg





Maya Gittelman

  • PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee
    This sprawling, urgent, unique epic was such a refreshing read. PACHINKO illuminates so many stories that need to be told, and Min Jin Lee is a fantastically skilled writer.
  • EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid
    Of borders, love, migration and the self. I think this one should be required reading. Wow.
  • THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas
    This longtime bestseller also feels like it needs to be required reading. She did it. Such an important, incredible book. Read it before the movie hits theaters!
  • SING, UNBURIED, SING by Jesmyn Ward
    Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction. If you haven't read this achingly powerful novel, do it --- it's accessible, beautiful and an absolute must.
  • SHADOWHOUSE FALL by Daniel José Older
    The followup to SHADOWSHAPER, this YA novel and its series can really appeal to adult readers as well. Centered in modern-day New York, it weaves current issues with ancestral magic for an absolutely astounding, addictive story.
  • THE WITCH BOY by Molly Knox Ostertag
    I adored this middle-grade graphic novel! Of identity, conformity, family, friends and magic --- gorgeously illustrated with a wonderful message. I'm giving it as a gift to lots of family, and cannot wait to see more from this author!
  • THE REFUGEES by Viet Thanh Nguyen
    This short story collection packs a timely and powerful punch


Joe Hartlaub

  • FATAL by John Lescroart
    John Lescroart’s 2017 effort, a stand-alone that tinkers just a bit with the traditional structure of the novel, but all to good end, makes the list as a wonderfully complex whodunit full of surprises.
  • THE DARK ROOM by Jonathan Moore
    This second crime noir novel in a very loose trilogy set in San Francisco sparkles and startles by turns for all the right reasons. You will never read a blackmailed-themed book quite like this.
  • A WELCOME MURDER by Robin Yocum
    If this underappreciated gem got by you, please stop what you are doing and pick up this dark and wonderfully intricate small-town crime tale full of unusual characters and dangerous situations.
  • ILL WILL by Dan Chaon
    This beautifully told tale, set knowingly in a decaying Cleveland, resonates and haunts throughout but never more so than after the final chapter is read.
  • SHADOW MAN by Alan Drew
    This story of a detective attempting to save his marriage while investigating a number of serial murders is wonderfully plotted, but it is the memorable primary and secondary characters that make it a winner.
  • FOOLS’ RIVER: A Poke Rafferty Thriller by Timothy Hallinan
    Timothy Hallinan, in this latest installment of the Poke Rafferty Bangkok series, improbably tops what he has done before to provide what for me was the best book of this year. He somehow makes a mystery/thriller simultaneously sad and hopeful, as only the best authors can.
  • THE USUAL SANTAS: A Collection of Soho Crime Christmas Capers foreword by Peter Lovesey
    This collection of mystery and thriller stories, Christmas-themed but suited for all seasons, present some of the best of Soho Crime’s superlative author roster, thus serving not only as deep entertainment but also a fine introduction to what the imprint presents on a regular basis.
  • NO MIDDLE NAME: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories by Lee Child
    This collection of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher short fiction does everything that such a volume is supposed to do, which is to introduce the character to the uninitiated, provide longtime readers with (at least some) stories that they haven’t read, and keep the pages turning.
  • BRYANT & MAY: WILD CHAMBER: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery by Christopher Fowler
    This long-running British procedural series that features an eccentric police unit headed by a pair of ancient (they both remember the Second World War) detectives never disappoints, but manages to exceed its own lofty standards in this tale that provides elements of history, dark humor and an extremely puzzling mystery in a tale about a series of murders connected to a fatal accident. Not to be missed.
  • YOU CAN RUN by Steve Mosby
    This deservedly much-heralded author more than lives up to his acclaim with this literary, multi-layered police procedural that begins as a manhunt for a notorious serial murderer but involves much, much more.



Christine M. Irvin



Sarah Jackman



L. Dean Murphy

  • BLOOD TRUTH: A Rick Cahill Novel by Matt Coyle
    Rick Cahill has long feared the truth about the blood of his father coursing through his veins. When a long-hidden safe unlocks clues about why his father was kicked off the police force 28 years ago and then spiraled into a drunken death, Rick determines to find the truth even if it proves the one thing he’s always feared. But as he grapples with his father’s past, a former flame pleads with him to find out if her husband is having an affair, or something more sinister. Could the truth send her back into Rick’s arms? He may never know, as killers who will do anything to protect their secrets lurk in the shadows.

             - Click here to read’s exclusive interview with Matt Coyle.

  • FINAL TARGET: A Jonathan Grave Thriller by John Gilstrap
    The mission: Drop into the jungle, infiltrate a drug cartel’s compound and extract a kidnapped DEA agent. When Jonathan Grave and Boxers retrieve the hostage and return to the exfil point, all hell breaks loose. Ambushed, abandoned and attacked on all sides, their only hope of survival lies inside a remote orphanage. Even if Grave can lead his precious cargo to safety across a treacherous jungle filled with enemies, he can’t shake the feeling that something bigger is at play. A vast conspiracy of international power players who take no prisoners --- and leave no survivors.

             - Click here to read’s exclusive interview with John Gilstrap.

  • RAGDOLL by Daniel Cole
    William Oliver-Layton Fawkes, a controversial detective known as The Wolf, has been reinstated after suspension for assaulting an acquitted suspect. Still under psych evaluation, Fawkes and his friend and former partner, Detective Emily Baxter, calls him to a crime scene: a body made of dismembered parts of six victims, sewn together like a puppet. A corpse dubbed “The Ragdoll.” Fawkes must identify the six victims, but that gets dicey when his reporter ex-wife anonymously receives photographs from the crime scene, along with a list of six names and the dates on which the Ragdoll Killer plans to murder them. The final name on the list is Fawkes.

  • GIVE UP THE DEAD: A Jay Porter Novel by Joe Clifford
    Three years have passed since estate-clearing handyman Jay Porter almost lost his life following an “orchestrated accident” on Echo Lake’s thin ice. The traumatic, uncredited events cost him his wife and his son, and left him with permanent leg --- and psychological --- injuries. Jay is just putting his life back together when a mysterious stranger stops by with an offer too good to be true: a large sum of cash in exchange for finding a missing teen who may have been abducted by a radical rehab group. Skeptical of gift horses and weary of reenlisting in the local drug war, Jay passes on the offer. The next day his boss is found beaten and left for dead, painting Jay the main suspect. As clues begin to merge the two cases, Jay finds himself back on the job and back in the line of fire.

  • TANGIER by Stephen Holgate
    TANGIER tells parallel stories. The first follows Christopher Chaffee, a disgraced Washington power broker whose French diplomat father supposedly died in a Vichy prison in 1944. The second tells of espionage and betrayal, set in WWII-era Morocco. Rene Laurent, Christopher’s father, struggles to maintain his integrity in the snake pit of wartime Tangier. The stories intertwine as Chris unravels the mystery of his father’s fate, and flashback Laurent becomes trapped in a web of lies and corruption and caught up, too, in the arms of a woman he knows he shouldn’t trust.

  • MURDER UNDER THE FIG TREE: A Palestine Mystery by Kate Jessica Rafael
    During 2006, Hamas has taken power in Palestine, and the Israeli government is rounding up threats. When Palestinian Detective Rania Bakara finds herself in prison, friend Chloe comes from San Francisco to free out. Chloe begs an Israeli policeman named Benny for help --- and Benny offers Rania a way out: investigate the death of a young man in a nearby village. The young man’s neighbors believe the Israeli army killed him; Benny believes his death might not have been martyred. The secret investigation draws Rania into a Palestinian gay scene she never knew existed, forcing her to question beliefs about love, justice and cultural identity.

  • A-LIST: A Jake Longly Thriller by D.P. Lyle
    Private investigator Jake Longly and Nicole Jemison head to New Orleans, when Hollywood A-list actor Kirk Ford wakes in his hotel bed with the body of Kristi Guidry, Dixie Mafia boss Tony Guidry’s niece. Tony pulls strings attached to the prosecutor’s office to avenge her death.
  • FIRSTBORN: A Progeny Novel by Tosca Lee
    Audra Ellison now knows the secret she forfeited everything to protect. A secret so powerful neither the Historian nor traitor Prince Nikola will ever let her live to keep. With Luka’s life at stake, Audra has only one option: end the perpetual war between Progeny and Scions. Love, action and stunning revelation reign in this thrilling conclusion to THE prisoners --- and leave no survivors.

             - Click here to read’s exclusive interview with Tosca Lee.

  • CHILD’S PLAY by Merry Jones
    Just before the first day of school, second-grade teacher Elle Harrison learns that former student Ty Evans has been released from juvenile detention for killing his abusive father. Days later, the principal who had tormented Ty as a child is brutally murdered, along with another teacher and Ty’s former girlfriend. Ty seeks out Elle, confiding that she’s the only adult he ever trusted. But when Elle is assaulted, she suspects her attacker is Ty. Before Elle discovers the truth, she’s caught in a deadly trap that challenges her deepest convictions.
  • HE SAID/SHE SAID by Erin Kelly
    In 1999, eclipse chaser Kit and newbie Laura travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total solar eclipse. Young and in love, they are certain this will be the first of many they’ll share. But after the shadow passes, Laura interrupts a man and a woman, something terrible. The man denies it, his word against hers. The victim seems grateful. Months later, she turns up on their doorstep like a lonely stray. As her gratitude takes a twisted turn, Laura begins to wonder if she trusted the wrong person. Fifteen years later, Kit and Laura are living under new names and completely off the digital grid: no Facebook, only rudimentary cell phones. As the truth catches up to them, they realize they can no longer keep the past in the past.



Eileen Zimmerman Nicol



Ray Palen



Vivian Payton



Melanie Reynolds

  • THE DAY THE ANGELS FELL by Shawn Smucker
  • SOME SMALL MAGIC by Billy Coffey
  • GILDED CAGE by Vic James
  • JANE OF AUSTIN: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility, by Hillary Manton Lodge
  • THE ELUSIVE MISS ELLISON: Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace, Book 1 by Carolyn Miller



Barbara Bamberger Scott



Lorraine W. Shanley

This year I read many great books, both in print and audiobook formats. Here is a sampling:

  • I just finished reading FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: A Political Life by Robert Dallek. Despite its heft (900 pages), it is immensely readable and makes a complex man dealing with overwhelming geopolitical issues both human and extraordinary. While Dallek doesn’t shy away from discussing some of FDR’s more controversial decisions about internment camps and refugees during World War II, he tries to put them in the context of a deeply isolationist nation. How Eleanor’s activism and popularity influenced FDR is deftly into this insightful biography.
  • Neil Gaiman’s NORSE MYTHOLOGY is one of the best audiobooks I’ve read this year --- and I don’t particularly like myths. Gaiman himself narrates this short (6.5 hours) audiobook, and he is a delightful companion. The stories are less familiar than those of the Greeks, but are filled with (literally) larger-than-life characters, and often very funny indeed.
  • THE ONE-EYED MAN by Ron Currie arrived last spring, but has stuck with me as a clever and prescient book about the effect of “fake news” on our psyches, and how much truth we really want from our friends and colleagues. It’s an absurdist comic novel, with many characters talking as though they had just come from a philosophers’ convention. It’s a wonderfully sly sendup of the times in which we live.
  • LAST HOPE ISLAND: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War by Lynne Olson, whose CITIZENS OF LONDON is also a must-read, gives us a riveting history of Europeans living in, and fighting for, Britain and her Allies during the war.  Many European monarchs, members of their governments and other European exiles --- over 100,000 in total --- were residing in London by 1940, and how Britain aided them in multiple ways beyond their battlefield heroics is the subject of this well-researched and amazingly readable book.



Stuart Shiffman

  • EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid
  • SELECTION DAY by Aravind Adiga
  • GRANT by Ron Chernow
  • MY JEWISH YEAR: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew, by Abigail Pogrebin



Katherine B. Weissman

  • THE SISTERS CHASE by Sarah Healy
    The tough/tender story of two girls and their odyssey of love, lies and survival following their mother’s death.
  • ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS by Elan Mastai
    Time-travel is rarely straightforward, but this example of the genre is the cleverest and twistiest yet. Like THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE and TIME AND AGAIN, it’s a mix of romance and  fantasy.
  • EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid
    The immigrant crisis, framed by an imaginative fable of magic doors leading out of the war zone. It’s on every “best” list around --- deservedly so.
  • THE BIRDWATCHER by William Shaw
    Both policeman and author are meticulous observers --- of nature, of people --- in a quiet, atmospheric English mystery.
  • SAINTS FOR ALL OCCASIONS by J. Courtney Sullivan
    If you’ve a taste for multigenerational sagas --- I do --- try this absorbing tale of an Irish family.
  • THE ANIMATORS by Kayla Rae Whitaker
    Finally, a book about two women (close friends and collaborators) in which the main subject is work --- in this case, the crazy/deep/autobiographical/radical films they make together.
  • ALL GROWN UP by Jami Attenberg
    What does it mean to be an adult? To the protagonist of Jami Attenberg’s smart, acerbic novel (she also wrote THE MIDDLESTEINS), it isn’t marriage or children.