Buyer's Corner: Best of 2017 So Far

Hard to think that half the year has gone by already. But I know it has, because, as Brazos Bookstore buyer, I'm already thinking about Christmas. Let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet, though! There have already been so many amazing books released in 2017. And I'm bound to leave many deserving titles off this list, but these are the ten titles--in chronological order--that have affected me the most this year. There is so much more to look forward to, but, if you've missed any of these, I recommend you remedy that oversight immediately.

Here are my picks for best books of 2017 so far...

Human Acts: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101906729
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Hogarth - January 17th, 2017

The recent winner of the Man Booker International turns out a shockingly emotional take on a national tragedy little known outside of Korea--a 1980 student/worker uprising that was violently put down by the military police, resulting in 100s of deaths. Kang's portrayal of this event is at once immediate and visceral, while also focusing on how the aftermath has reverberated through individuals and the nation over the subsequent three decades. A whirlwind reading experience that explores the nature of oppression and resistance, and the psychological toll of immense violence.

Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity Cover Image
By Carlo Rovelli, Simon Carnell (Translated by), Erica Segre (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780735213920
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - January 24th, 2017

An expanded version–actually published first in Italy–of Rovelli's SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS. Accessible and astounding, this book provides an excellent introduction to the history of physics, its major contributors, achievements, lessons, and our best current understanding of how the natural world works. Rovelli even manages to find common ground between Dante's and Einstein's conception of the universe. Fascinating science writing.

To Name Those Lost: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609453497
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Europa Editions - February 7th, 2017

A violent and heartbreaking revenge story that winds up being about the relationships between parents and children, especially the mistakes and sacrifices committed to give the young a better chance in a cruel world. All of the characters are memorable, caught in intricate ethical webs that pit their consciences against their circumstances. The slow burning plot revolves around the dual, colliding narratives of Thomas Toosey–an itinerant bush outlaw looking to collect his son from a lawless frontier town, and the Flynns–a father and daughter doggedly searching for Toosey in order to right terrible wrongs their family incurred at his hand.

300 Arguments: Essays Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555977641
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - February 7th, 2017

Manguso is a master of the minimalist form. She can do more with a sentence than many authors can do with an entire book. In this collection of brief ruminations, she covers everything from sex and mortality, to ambition, mental illness, writing, desire, and motherhood. These "arguments" are aphoristic gems, in which a seemingly random thought has hardened into a bold, cutting, crystalline truth. There is no exposition. Manguso lets these minute statements stand on their own, and the reader is left with nowhere to hide from direct engagement with a most remarkable literary mind.

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812995343
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - February 14th, 2017

Saunders' first novel is a historical phantasmagoria narrated by a chorus of voices–both living and dead–whose input adds up to a commentary on life, morality, love, and loss framed against a most crucial turning point in the American saga. Quite simply an amazing novel told in a unique way from one of our time's greatest storytellers. Utilizing real historical sources and tantalziing flights of imagination, Saunders has created a true gothic masterpiece that scrapes right up against Great American Novel territory. Hilarious, grotesque and touching.

Animals Strike Curious Poses Cover Image
ISBN: 9781941411391
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Sarabande Books - February 28th, 2017

From wooly mammoths to headless chickens, Pasarello's second collection of essays chronciles some of the most famous, revealing and odd animal/human interractions in history. She muses over our broken connection with the natural world, exposes our exploitation and cruelty towards animal life, and marvels at the latent wonders of spiders and horses alike. But it is Pasarello's inimitable voice, always inventive and playful, that is the real attraction. Who else would explore the history of natural science from the perspective of a lovelorn tortoise? Humorous and quirky without being fluff, critical and unflinching without being didactic, there is no one writing nonfiction like Pasarello.

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

A nuanced, insightful and human perspective on the "immigration crisis" from one of the brightest young stars of Mexican Literature. Luiselli criticizes both US and Mexican public policy, while also providing a voice for those rarely heard: immigrant children. This is a timely take on one of the most pressing humanitarian crises of the 21st century. Without a doubt the most essential read of the year, this slight book can do some real good in the world. Luiselli is a badass.

Camanchaca Cover Image
By Diego Zuniga, Megan McDowell (Translator)
ISBN: 9781566894609
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coffee House Press - March 7th, 2017

A sparse, innovative and heartrending study of a broken family. The story jumps back and forth between a young man's divorced parents in small chunks of prose that Zuniga ingeniously juxtaposes on each facing page. The reader follows along as the recent past and the present inevitably collide in a startling climax. A debut novella that is quite stunning in its compact emotional heft.

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

An unsettling waking nightmare of a novella that captures all the strange wonder and nascent cruelty of childhood. It's set in an all-girls' orphanage where they play a strange game of affection and punishment once the lights go out, and boasts an ending that will make your jaw drop. A big house favorite across the board for Brazos booksellers this year, you won't soon forget this book.

Imagine Wanting Only This (Pantheon Graphic Library) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101870839
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pantheon - April 18th, 2017

The managing editor at Sarabande Books turns out a bravura performance with an intensely personal and philosophical graphic memoir. Weaving together the early death of a beloved uncle, a fascination with modern urban decay, and an existential bildungsroman narrative, Radtke delves into the idea of impermanence and our emotional connections to people and places that will all eventually be severed. Her images are mesmerizing in their simplicity and directness. The storyline is perfectly relatable, yet complex and idiosyncratic enough to standout against most other memoirs and/or graphic novels. A terrific work that raises the bar for both genres.

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