Blog | Literature | Non-Fiction

The Best Books of 2017

. 2 min read

Best Fiction

Tom McCarthy: Remainder
Vladimir Nabokov: Speak, Memory. An Autobiography Revisited
Juli Zeh: Unterleuten

Remainder is the only choreography in the form of a novel that I know of. I was chuckling throughout because after the first chapter I sort of expected how the novel was going to unfold and I was delighted when it did so. Unterleuten is one of the best contemporary German novels and a future classic. Fifty years from now it will be hailed as the defining novel of Germany in the years after the financial crisis.

Most Useful

Brian Christian & Tom Griffiths: Algorithms To Live By

While I was already familiar with much of the material covered in the book it hadn't occurred to me to apply it to everyday situations. It has greatly enhanced my life. Highly recommended.

Most Eye-opening

Peter Wohlleben: The Secret Life of Trees

I live close to a forest and I enjoy hiking. After reading this book I have a much better understanding of my surroundings. I will never look at a forest or a tree with the same eyes again.

Best Science

Carlo Rovelli: Reality Is Not What It Seems
Siddhartha Mukherjee: The Gene. An Intimate History

Reality Is Not What It Seems by Carlo Rovelli is indeed a superb book and a joy to read. The same goes for The Gene. An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Is this the golden age of non-fiction?

Best Economics

Sven Beckert: Empire of Cotton. A New History of Global Capitalism

I have little to add to the praise that has already been heaped upon Empire of Cotton.

Best Book About the USA

Joshua B. Freeman: American Empire. The Rise of a Global Power, the Democratic Revolution at Home

Two years ago I included a category Best Book About Russia so this year I thought I'd include a Best Book About the USA. American Empire is an excellent book and I learned a great deal about the post-war history of the US. Various recent developments turn out to have a long history.

Most Disappointing

Helen DeWitt: The Last Samurai
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Americanah
Kang Han: The Vegetarian

The Last Samurai was recommended to me by two persons whose judgement I normally value. However, this time I have to disagree. I kept thinking that perhaps I was missing something. Anyone can copy something from a textbook or Wikipedia and since I speak multiple languages myself I wasn't impressed by DeWitt's showing off of her linguistic skills. Americanah demonstrates that sometimes it's best to ignore sales rankings and reviews, no matter how good. I'm tired of love stories and should simply have left it unread.