Books·Books of the Year

The best international fiction of 2017

What were the best books published this year? Here are the best international fiction books of 2017.

What were the best books published this year? Here are CBC Books' picks for the best international fiction books of 2017.

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

The Idiot is a novel by Elif Batuman. (Penguin Random House, Beowulf Sheehan)

The Idiot, which borrows its name from the Russian classic by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, is a coming-of-age tale that dives deep into an adolescent's college experience, touching upon issues of identity, communication and heartbreak. Elif Batuman's debut novel is witty, charming and expansive. 

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan is an American novelist and short story writer. (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Manhattan Beach is a surprising and beautiful work of historical fiction set across the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the Great Depression. Jennifer Egan's follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad is a daring study in love, loss, discrimination, crime, hardship and injustice. 

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Future Home Of The Living God is the 16th novel by the National Book Award-winning author. (Canadian Press/HarperCollins)

Louise Erdrich's Future Home of the Living God is a dystopian novel about an apocalyptic world where pregnant women are being captured by the government, for reasons not immediately clear. It's a provocative look at female agency, natural rights and self-determination in a future that Erdrich posits could easily become our own. 

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid's Exit West is a love story that's entrenched in issues regarding refugees and migration. (Ed Kashi/Riverhead Books)

Mohsin Hamid's Exit West, shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker prize, is a masterfully written love story that examines issues regarding refugees, migration and the fleeting nature of status and belonging in modern society.

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

Hari Kunzru is a British novelist and journalist. (Knopf/Clayton Cubitt)

Hari Kunzru's novel White Tears is a satirical look at white privilege and cultural appropriation through the lives of Seth and Carter, two fictional New Yorkers bound by their obsession with African-American musical culture. It's a thrilling read that is dark, deconstructive and haunting in its look at race and politics in a modern world. 

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Min Jin Lee is a Korean American writer whose work frequently deals with Korean American topics. (Elena Seibert, Grand Central Publishing)

Min Jin Lee's Pachinko is a thoughtful look at the experience of Koreans in Japan, most of whom were born and grew up there, but are still classified as "resident aliens." In examining the complex relationship between Japan and Korea, Lee has crafted a tale that is passionate, dramatic and moving. 

Augustown by Kei Miller

Kei Miller, author of the novel Augustown, is a poet, essayist and fiction writer. (Pantheon, Kei Miller)

Kei Miller's Augustown is a rich and layered modern fable of sorts. Its account of Alexander Bedward, the eccentric founder of Bedwardism and one of the most successful preachers of the religious movement known as Jamaican Revivalism, is mystically vibrant in its look at race, spirituality, culture and faith. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng is an American author. (Kevin Day Photography, Penguin Random House Canada)

The meaning of motherhood is explored in Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere. Community, race, adoption, morality and family dynamics are a few elements that Ng uses to construct a compelling narrative around an abandoned child found in a small American town. 

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo is the first novel from acclaimed American author George Saunders. (Penguin Random House/David Crosby)

George Saunders is the winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize for his debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo. This experimental fiction around the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln's presidency and the afterlife of Lincoln's young son is steeped in meaning and explores empathy, legacy, faith and sacrifice. 

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward is the author of Sing, Unburied, Sing. (Beowulf Sheehan, Simon & Schuster Canada)

The latest from Jesmyn Ward is both timely and urgent in its look at race relations in the United States. The road novel, which won the U.S.-based National Book Award for fiction, is set against the 2005 historical backdrop of Hurricane Katrina. It provides a tempered look at hope, loss, beauty and horror — as it seeks to make sense of racial dynamics in the American South. 


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