10 Overlooked Books from 2017 You Should Read

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Picture of JW McCormack
Updated: 1 February 2018
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2018 is a month old and already filled with hot new titles from authors like Jamie Quatro, the late Denis Johnson, and Leni Zumas (whose Red Clocks is one of the year’s biggest breakout hits so far). But that doesn’t mean that it’s time to hang books from 2017 out to dry on the remainder tables quite yet. There’s plenty of brilliant books from the past year that might not have gotten quite the attention they deserved. Or at least, they’re all good enough to deserve even more. What’s more, many of these titles will be arriving in the cheaper paperback format in early 2018, meaning now is the perfect time to indulge yourself. Below, 10 slightly overlooked books from 2017 to read in 2018.

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

One of the most perfect debuts in recent memory, The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker is the story of the working friendship between Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses, two young women working in the traditionally male-dominated field of independent animation. At first, the book may seem like the predictable story of a friendship strained by success, but Whitaker serves up a series of curveballs that take Mel and Sharon far from their comfort zones and into their tumultuous pasts.

Random House Trade Paperbacks

Shadowbahn by Steve Erickson

For fans of Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace and rock and roll/punk, beloved cult author Steve Erickson delivers a kind of playlist in novel form with Shadowbahn, a surreal novel in which the Twin Towers suddenly appear in the Badlands of South Dakota, broadcasting a strange music heard by the legion of pilgrims who begin moving in their direction while the stillborn twin of Elvis Presley awakens within.

Courtesy Blue Rider Press

Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls

Long-out-of-print, Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls is the story of a romance between a housewife and an aquatic monster escaped from the Institute of Oceanographic Research. What follows is part fairy tale and part horror, not to mention that it makes The Shape of Water look tame by comparison.

Courtesy New Directions

Houses of Ravicka by Renee Gladman

Fourth in Renee Gladman’s ongoing series about a mysterious city, Houses of Ravicka is the best one yet, the story of Ravicka’s Comptroller as he searches for a house that has become untethered in space. Gladman’s novel winds up being a sublime, deeply poetic mood piece about what it feels like to be out of place even at home, or in one’s native country.

Courtesy Dorothy, a publishing project

The King in the Golden Mask by Marcel Schwob

One of the greatest French writers of all time has been rescued from obscurity for English readers by translator Kit Schluter in The King in the Golden Mask by Marcel Schwob, which collects 21 tales of the fantastic set during all stages of human history and featuring witchcraft, plagues, kings, priests, Protestants, and pirates.

Courtesy Wakefield Press

Isidora by Amelia Gray

The brilliant Amelia Gray surprised her audience, accustomed to her weirder work, with the relatively straight Isidora. But the life of dancer Isadora Duncan turns out to be weird enough on its own to be a perfect match for Gray’s talents, as she follows her in the aftermath of the drowning of Duncan’s two children, confronting rivals for her fortune and her own sanity.

Courtesy Farrar Straus, and Giroux

Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay

The biggest rediscovery of 2017 has got to be Claude McKay’s Amiable with Big Teeth, a totally lost masterpiece of the Harlem Renaissance that follows various factions of the Harlem intelligentsia as they jockey for power while organizing support for the liberation of Ethiopia. What follows is a political thriller that examines the fraught relationship between Communism and black liberation.

Courtesy Penguin Classics

The Windfall by Diksha Basu

A stunning debut about what happens when an East Delhi family suddenly comes into a fortune, The Windfall by Diksha Basu is a riotous comedy of manners that manages to be a tragedy, satire, and extremely observant class-comedy all at once. To boot, Diksha Basu’s modern India is made intimately real on every page thanks to her gift for sensual detail and pitch-perfect characterization.

Courtesy Crown

The Reef by Juan Villoro

There’s an unbelievable amount of story packed into the relatively slim The Reef by Juan Villoro. For starters, an ex-rock star named Tony Góngora is trying to solve the murder of a scuba-diver in a hotel beset by guerrilla warfare. What follows includes Japanese pop groups, killer bees, and The Velvet Underground.

Courtesy George Braziller, Inc.

Nothing by Henry Green

One of the more obscure titles by Loving author Henry Green, the recently-republished Nothing is secretly the masterful writer’s best and most bizarre novel. Almost completely written in dialogue, it portrays a conspiracy to break up a marriage using idle talk, rumormongering, and the subtle art of implication. The result is a one-of-a-kind experience, a book about both everything and nothing in one.

Courtesy NYRB Classics
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