NOTABLE BOOKS, 2017
This list has been compiled for use by the general
reader and by librarians who work with adults.
The Notable Books Council, ALA Reference and
User Services Association (RUSA), has selected
the titles for their significant contribution to
the expansion of knowledge or for the pleasure
they can provide to adult readers. All titles were
published in 2016.
Behold the Dreamers. By Imbolo Mbue.
Random, $28 (9780812998481).
A Cameroonian family struggles to achieve the
American dream during the Great Recession.
Christodora. By Tim Murphy. Grove, $27
A powerful novel about the impact of HIV and
AIDS on individual lives, the activist community
that developed in response, and the ways that the
virus reverberates through decades and generations.
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers. By Max
Porter. Graywolf, $14 (9781555977412).
A surreal and poetic look at a passage in life
when nothing feels quite right, the time after
losing someone you love. What’s real? What’s
Homegoing. By Yaa Gyasi. Knopf, $26.95
A historical novel of two countries and the descendants of two half sisters: one sold into slavery
in the U.S., the other remaining in Ghana.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things. By Iain Reid.
Simon & Schuster, $22.95 (9781501126925).
Things are not as they seem as a couple ponders the meaning of it all on an eerie road trip to
Missile Paradise. By Ron Tanner. Ig, $16.95
Drama and satirical humor intertwine to create
an insightful story of regret, exposing American
privilege and its effects on the Marshallese people.
The Nix. By Nathan Hill. Knopf, $27.95
When his absent mother gets arrested for an activist crime, a halfhearted college professor (who
spends more time gaming than working) undertakes an offbeat voyage of self-discovery.
The Sport of Kings. By C. E. Morgan. Farrar,
A Kentucky horse farmer breeds Thoroughbreds, but his focus on controlling the outcomes
of lives both equine and human has far-reaching
To the Bright Edge of the World. By Eowyn
Ivey. Little, Brown, $26 (9780316242851).
From the wildly adventurous story of the Alaskan frontier to the innovative presentation on
these pages, this historical novel blends folklore,
science, feminism, and the then-new art of photography.
The Underground Railroad. By
Colson Whitehead. Doubleday, $26.95
A shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share, with characters as fully realized
as the train that carries them to “freedom.”
An Unrestored Woman. By Shobha Rao.
Flatiron, $24.99 (9781250073822).
Women recover, or lose themselves, amid the
backdrop of war, power struggles, and politics after the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan.
The Unseen World. By Liz Moore. Norton,
When she loses her computer scientist father to
Alzheimer’s, young Ada Sibelius becomes aware of
how little she truly knows about him. From Alan
Turing to the next incarnation of Second Life, this
character-driven novel is part mystery and part
meditation on humanity.
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart
Animals Are? By Frans de Waal. Norton, $27.95
Inquiries into the intelligence of different species offer fresh perspectives on what we can learn
from them about the human mind.
At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and
Apricot Cocktails. By Sarah Bakewell. Other, $25
A heady mix of biography, philosophy, and social history (with drinks!).
Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in
America. By Patrick Phillips. Norton, $26.95
The expulsion of the entire African American community from Forsyth County, Georgia,
in 1912 established it as a white-only region, a
condition that persisted into the 1980s with the
support of local officials.
The Boys in the Bunkhouse: Servitude and
Salvation in the Heartland. By Dan Barry.
Harper, $26.99 (9780062372130).
Spanning decades, a group of men with intellectual disabilities marginalized by society work
tirelessly in a turkey-processing plant in Iowa under exploitative conditions.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American
City. By Matthew Desmond. Crown, $28
Built on the painful struggles of individual families, this insightful ethnographic study elevates
housing insecurity as a leading social-justice issue.
The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams.
By Louisa Thomas. Penguin, $29.95
A nuanced portrait of a multitalented and widely traveled woman often overshadowed by other
members of America’s first political dynasty.
The Firebrand and the First Lady: Pauli
Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for
Social Justice. By Patricia Bell-Scott. Knopf, $30
The correspondence of two trailblazing women
embodies the tension between the need for immediate action on civil rights versus the political
philosophy of picking one’s battles.
The Gene: An Intimate History. By Siddhartha
Mukherjee. Scribner, $30 (9781501138751).
A cancer physician and researcher uses his family history to frame the story of genetics, in all its
danger and wonder.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream
and the Untold Story of the Black Women
Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space
Race. By Margot Lee Shetterly. Morrow, $27.99
This compelling narrative of the unsung heroines who helped the U.S. win WWII and reach
the stars has been made into a movie.
In the Darkroom. By Susan Faludi. Holt, $32
A feminist writer’s investigation into her parents’
lives leads to an examination of our contemporary
ideas of national and individual identity, gender,
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life.
By Ruth Franklin. Norton/Liveright, $35
From early feminism to Tarot cards, reluctant
polyamory to motherhood, drug use, and literary
daring, this is an in-depth and compassionate portrait of a complex writer.
Valiant Ambition: George Washington,
Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American
Revolution. By Nathaniel Philbrick. Viking, $30
The grueling course of the Revolutionary War
tested its generals harshly, leading one of them to
abandon the cause.
Cannibal. By Safiya Sinclair. Univ. of Nebraska,
Sharp observations of our off-kilter world will
spark readers’ emotions while engaging their minds.
The Rain in Portugal. By Billy Collins.
Random, $26 (9780679644064).
Dealing with ordinary life, death, and language,
this collection is thoughtful, witty, and lyrical.
THE READING LIST: BEST
ADULT GENRE FICTION, 2017
Established in 2007 by the CODES section of
RUSA, the Reading List Council, consisting of
librarians who are experts in readers’ advisory and
collection development, selects an annual list of