Books

Stylist’s pick of the best new books for 2017

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Sarah Shaffi
Published

2017 is determined to spoil us when it comes to books, so where do you start?

There are a slew of novels that place intimate family stories against the background of huge social, political and cultural change - Min Jin Lee's Pachinko, Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing and Ayobami Adebayo's Stay With Me are all stunning.

Emma Flint's Little Deaths and Sarah Schmidt's See What I Have Done both take their inspiration from real-life crimes, and create addictive stories full of depth and great characters, while Sarah Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes will have you tearing through the pages to get to the shocking ending.

Roxane Gay tackles short stories in her new collection, all focusing on strong, complex women, while Laura Barnett's Greatest Hits is as readable a story as her debut The Versions of Us.

In non-fiction, two very different yet equally important reads should be on your radar next year - Omar Saif Ghabash's Letters to a Young Muslim and June Sarpong's Diversify.

Happy reading.

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

    This is, hand on heart, a completely brilliant novel. Starting with two sisters - one the wife of a slaver and one sold into slavery - we track the families of both women from the 18th century to the present day in chapters that blend character portraits, action and historical, political and cultural context seamlessly.

    A brilliant debut, if this isn't shortlisted for some prizes next year I'll be disappointed.

    Available 5 January 2017 (Viking, £12.99)

  • Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

    Both intimate and sweeping, Stay With Me is the story of Yejide and Akin, in love but torn apart by not only their own desire to have children, but the weight of expectation from their families and community. Adebayo's exploration of grief, motherhood and how sometimes you just can't stop loving someone is exquisite.

    Available 2 March 2017 (Canongate, £14.99)

  • Little Deaths by Emma Flint

    In the summer of 1965 Ruth Malone wakes up in her flat in Queens to find her two young children missing. Later, they are found killed, and Ruth is the number one suspect. This is both a crime novel - could Ruth have killed her babies? - and a look at the treatment of women in 1960s America. Your blood pressure will rise at the way the men in this novel view and deal with Ruth.

    Available 12 January 2017 (Picador, £12.99)

  • Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett

    I loved Laura Barnett's debut novel, The Versions of Us, and she's back in the summer with her second book, Greatest Hits. It follows Cass Wheeler, a British singer-songwriter who has disappeared from the music scenes. We join her over the course of one day as she selects 16 songs from the hundreds she has written, and delves into her past. A perfect summer read.

    Available 15 June 2017 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £12.99)

  • Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

    There's a reason that the hashtag for Behind Her Eyes is #WTFthatending, and it's because you'll never guess the ending. Single mum Louise finds her new boss David is the man from the bar she kissed. He's married to Adele, who needs a friend, and Louise is available. David and Adele seem like the perfect couple, but Louise soon discovers appearances are not all they seem.

    And that's all I can say without spoiling anything. Everyone will be talking about this book come next year.

    Available 26 January 2017 (HarperCollins, £12.99)

  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

    Another book following generations of the same family through history. In 1911 Busan, Korea, we meet Hoonie, born with a club foot and a cleft lip, and married to a 15-year-old girl. When the couple's one daughter, Sunja, falls pregnant by a married yakuza, salvation comes to her and the family in the form of a young Christian minister, who offers to marry Sunja and take her to Japan.

    This is a long novel, but it never feels it - Min Jin Lee's storytelling is effortless.

    Available 23 February 2017 (Apollo, £18.99)

  • Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

    This collection of short stories comes from the talented Roxane Gay, who is the author of, among other things, the essay collection Bad Feminist. The story the collection takes its title from is different to anything I've read before examining as it does different types of "difficult" women.

    The title also refers to the protagonists across the collection, who live complex or unusual lives. Be warned, it can get a little dark at times, but the collection is worth it.

    Available 3 January 2017 (Corsair, £12.99)

  • Diversify: Six Degrees of Integration by June Sarpong

    Yes, this is TV presenter June Sarpong, who has worked with Professor Anthony Heath, head of the centre for social investigation at Nuffield College, Oxford University, to consider how we create and use stereotypes, and how they negatively impact our social interactions both overtly and covertly.

    Following in the footsteps of The Good Immigrant essay collection, Diversify is another must-read book in the discussion about diversity, belonging, difference and togetherness.

    Available 18 May 2017 (HQ, £16.99)

  • See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

    A great historical novel that takes a real life crime as its starting point. See What I Have Done is a gripping family drama and a whodunnit about two unsolved murders.

    On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden finds her father brutally killed, and soon after her mother's body is discovered. Lizzie's strange behaviour makes her a suspect. Chapters alternate between Lizzie, her sister Emma, Irish maid Bridget, the girls' Uncle John and the mysterious Benjamin. The short timeline of the novel helps create a chilling and claustrophobic setting.

    Available 2 May 2017 (Tinder Press, £12.99)

  • Letters to a Young Muslim by Omar Saif Ghobash

    Important books can often not be very engaging, but that's not the case with Omar Saif Ghobash's Letters to a Young Muslim.

    Ghobash is the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Russia and the book is a series of letters to his son about what it means to be a Muslim in today's world. Covering everything from terrorism to sexuality, family to the mosque, freedom to education, Ghobash encourages his son to form his own understanding of his religion based on debate, knowledge and context. I can't think of a more important time for this book to be released.

    Available 12 January 2017 (Picador, £16.99)

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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is online editor and producer at The Bookseller, and co-founder of BAME in Publishing. She tweets @sarahshaffi and blogs here.

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