Mark's Top Ten (Plus Another Ten for Good Measure...)

Truth be told, there’s simply too many good books. And making a list of my top ten just seems cruel, especially in a year that, to me, was packed with great titles. For example, do I exclude the stunning new translation of a classic in favor of a new collection of essays? Do I choose a book I read last week over a book I read in January simply because it’s still fresh in my mind? See? There’s difficulties. So, besides my top ten books of the year I have another ten books that get honorable mention. It only seems fair. After all, books are subjective. What strikes a reader one day may leave them cold the next. There’s not always a rhyme or reason why a book makes a particular connection. So, here are my top ten (twenty) books of 2017.

Old Rendering Plant Cover Image
ISBN: 9781931883672
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Two Lines Press - November 7th, 2017

A highly evocative and poetic novella that speaks to the burdens of history. In sinuous and lyrical prose, an unnamed narrator reflects on the woods outside the small German town where he grew up, later focusing on an old rendering plant (a symbol of the horrors of East Germany). I'll admit it, this book has almost no plot and yet it's my favorite book of the year because it's so beautifully written, so transportive. It begs to be read aloud. Joycean in parts, Edgar Allen Poe in others. I lost myself inside this book, in its ineffable sense of nature and the dense, unsettling prose. A small universe sits within its one hundred brief pages. I adore this tiny masterpiece.

Compass Cover Image
By Mathias Enard, Charlotte Mandell (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811226622
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - March 28th, 2017

A warm, learned and invigorating novel that takes place in a single night of the musicologist and scholar of Orientalism Franz Ritter. As Ritter, fighting an unnamed illness, tries to fall asleep he reflects on a life of travel and love, focusing especially on the cultural intersection of the East and the West. His remembrances, from smoking opium in Istanbul to camping in the Syrian desert, transport the reader and illuminate the made-up lines we draw between different cultures. This is a smart and generous novel, beautifully translated, that will surely stay with you. Insomnia has never been so beautiful.

Return to the Dark Valley Cover Image
By Santiago Gamboa, Howard Curtis (Translator)
ISBN: 9781609454258
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Europa Editions - September 19th, 2017

I love everything by Colombian writer Santiago Gamboa, and his newest book is no exception. A globe-trotting, pulsating thriller that involves poetry, revenge and the impossibility of ever returning home, Gamboa's novels are page-turners for those who love great settings and smart plots. Highly contemporary and endlessly inventive, Gamboa is one of my favorite Latin American writers.

Affections Cover Image
By Rodrigo Hasbun, Sophie Hughes (Translator)
ISBN: 9781501154799
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - September 12th, 2017

A novel that goes all the places you don't expect. Based loosely on Hans Ertl and his family who left Germany after World War II and settled in Bolivia, this is a story of a family living under the burdens of history. Each chapter is told by a different character but focuses especially on Hans' daughters who come of age during the turbulent and revolutionary 60's and 70's in South America. A subtle, often sympathetic and evocative novel that manages to carry the breadth of a big novel but with a third of the pages. Hasbun is a rare talent.

Such Small Hands Cover Image
By Andres Barba, Lisa Dillman (Translator), Edmund White (Afterword by)
ISBN: 9781945492006
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Transit Books - April 11th, 2017

A young child, Marina, is orphaned when her parents die in a car accident. She is put in an orphanage. From this simple premise an eerie and beautiful story emerges. Somehow capturing the almost ineffable strangeness of childhood, Barba weaves a story both illuminating and eerie. In the orphanage a strange ritual begins and Marina, an outcast, somehow casts a strange spell on the other girls. A spellbinding story about childhood, loss and belonging, Barba nails childhood perfectly and the translation by Lisa Dillman is extraordinary.

Belladonna Cover Image
By Dasa Drndic, Celia Hawkesworth (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811227216
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - October 31st, 2017

This book is ferocious. A novel about history that resonates with the here and now because we seem doomed to repeat it. Andreas Ban, a retired psychologist, begins rifling through his apartment and in the process reflects on the last century of Europe. The writing is at once dark and comic. An angry and beautiful book that rails against tyranny, fascism and humanity’s easy slide into forgetfulness.

Fever Dream Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399184598
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - January 10th, 2017

A terrifying and strange little novel that stays with you long after reading it. A woman lays in a hospital dying, a young boy at her side. The boy, David, walks her through the previous days in order for her to understand what happened. A book about environmental disasters, resurrection (I think) and fate. The creepiest little book I’ve read in years, it belongs in its own genre.

In the Distance Cover Image
ISBN: 9781566894883
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coffee House Press - October 10th, 2017

An epic in the very best sense. This ‘anti-western’ tells the story of a young Swedish boy separated from his older brother during their passage to the United States. Alone in California amidst the gold rush, his life’s goal is simply to travel to New York and reunite with his brother, traveling east while the hordes move west. A meditation of solitude, morality and the lost American landscape. This book is for absolutely everyone.

The Magician of Vienna Cover Image
By Sergio Pitol, George Henson (Translator), Mario Bellatin (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781941920480
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Deep Vellum Publishing - April 25th, 2017

I can’t say enough about Sergio Pitol: philosopher, diplomat, author, world traveler and translator. The third book in his ‘Trilogy of Memory’ finds the author ruminating once more on the books and writers, the places and people that have inspired him. A book that makes the reader underline, research and become a better more thoughtful reader. It’s also an enthusiastic reminder why we read literature in the first place.

For Isabel: A Mandala Cover Image
ISBN: 9780914671800
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Archipelago Books - September 5th, 2017

Tadeus, a dead poet, makes circles through different times and places (mimicking a Buddhist mandala) attempting to find a lost love and classmate. The poet travels from Lisbon across Europe, his travels copying the events of Isabel’s life. Tadeus interviews people who knew Isabel at different points in her life. The book has a mercurial, dream-like quality that is stunning in its subtlety. Never heavy-handed, this quiet novel is as beautiful and profound as a landscape painting.


The Book of Disquiet: The Complete Edition Cover Image
ISBN: 9780811226936
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - August 29th, 2017

Exit West Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735212176
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Published: Riverhead Books - March 7th, 2017

A Horse Walks Into a Bar Cover Image
By David Grossman, Jessica Cohen (Translator)
ISBN: 9780451493972
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - February 21st, 2017

These Possible Lives Cover Image
By Fleur Jaeggy, Minna Proctor (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811226875
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - July 25th, 2017

The Iliac Crest Cover Image
By Sarah Booker (Translator), Cristina Rivera Garza, Elena Poniatowska (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9781558614352
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Feminist Press - October 10th, 2017

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions Cover Image
By Valeria Luiselli, Jon Lee Anderson (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781566894951
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Published: Coffee House Press - April 4th, 2017

Translation as Transhumance Cover Image
By Mireille Gansel, Ros Schwartz (Translator)
ISBN: 9781558614444
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Feminist Press - November 14th, 2017

Stephen Florida Cover Image
ISBN: 9781566894647
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coffee House Press - June 6th, 2017

The World Goes on Cover Image
By Laszlo Krasznahorkai, George Szirtes (Translator), Ottilie Mulzet (Translator)
ISBN: 9780811224192
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - November 28th, 2017

The Diaries of Emilio Renzi: Formative Years Cover Image
By Ricardo Piglia, Robert Croll (Translator), Ilan Stavans (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781632061621
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Restless Books - November 14th, 2017

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