The Best Backlist Books We Read in 2017

The Best Backlist Books We Read in 2017

New releases are great, but sometimes it can be fun to read something from the backlist. An older title, like a fine wine, can age quite nicely. At Bookish, we love new releases and backlist books equally, and we draw heavily from each category when deciding what to read. Here, we’ve rounded up our favorite backlist reads that we dove into in 2017. Who says new is always better?

Big Little Lies

Did anyone else get totally sucked into the HBO series Big Little Lies this year? Normally I like to read the book before watching the movie or television adaptation, but I just couldn’t help myself. I did, however, pick up the book midway through the series (when I couldn’t wait another week to find out what would happen) and I found myself just as riveted. It was interesting to note the small differences between the original and the adaptation. —Elizabeth


This incredible series sat on my TBR list for far too long, and I am so happy that I finally remedied that. I’ve read the first three volumes and each continues to be a new fierce and feminist adventure that makes me laugh and desperately wish that I could enroll in Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. I’m loving the way fantasy is woven into the series, but the true star is the portrayal of friendships in various forms, all important, strong, and relatable. I can’t wait for more wonderfully weird adventures with these girls. —Kelly

Wild Places

If asked to name the greatest sentence-maker in English regularly putting out new work these days, I’d pick 41-year-old Robert Macfarlane, a Scottish author of brilliant nature books currently teaching at Cambridge University. The end-matter pages of my Macfarlane books are stuffed with gorgeous, profound, cinematically vivid language encountered while reading preceding pages and written out again in my own chicken scratch with whatever pen or pencil I have handy. I do this to have a compendium of my favorite sentences, and also so maybe some of his prose magic will slip into my own constitution by osmosis. His 2007 book The Wild Places is the best book I’ve read this year. In it, he seeks to construct a verbal landscape map of the English-Scottish-Irish archipelago whose coordinates are determined by topographical wildness, rather than by towns, roadways, and farmland. In each chapter he journeys to a different wild place—a mountaintop, a rugged island, a vast moor, a dark forest—and explores the terrain and gathers acute observations and roughs it overnight. Later, he writes about his experiences in the finest sentences I know. —Phil


I went hiking in the Sierras for a few weeks in August, and emerged from the experience in love with that part of the country and its terrain. On my trip, I started reading Wild. I was completely engrossed by Cheryl Strayed’s story, and I got a thrill every time I crossed paths with a backpacker or caught a glimpse of the Pacific Crest Trail. —Elizabeth

The Soldier’s Scoundrel

Cat Sebastian has stolen my romance-loving heart. Throughout 2017 I read every book she’s published, beginning with this delightful gem. Jack Turner (with a name like that you just know he’s a scoundrel) uses his special set of skills to help women, for a profit, of course. He prefers to avoid the English nobility at all costs, until he meets Oliver Rivington, a handsome former soldier. Sebastian always delivers unputdownable novels filled with endearing characters and first-class flirting. I know I’ll return to this book time and again just to reconnect with Jack and Oliver. —Kelly

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Jon Ronson’s book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, has been on my radar since it first came out. I’m fascinated by the subject—particularly its ramifications for the way we all behave on the internet. Eerily enough, I found myself having dinner at Cookshop last weekend, where some of the book’s pivotal interviews take place. It was a strange experience to look around and know the author had been in that very room, reporting the book I had just finished reading. —Elizabeth

Snow White

This is the noir Snow White retelling that I didn’t know I needed. Set in 1928, Matt Phelan’s graphic novel cleverly reimagines the classic princess as Samantha White, the daughter of the King of Wall Street, and stepdaughter to the Queen of the Follies. The watercolor illustrations are stunning and wildly expressive, drawing the reader in completely. Though dark and dangerous, I didn’t want to leave the world Phelan had created. I can only hope he decides to give the same treatment to other fairy tales. —Kelly


Berg by Ann Quin is a strange, violent, and consistently inventive novel of family secrets and hatreds; of fathers, mothers, and sons, set in a bleak English seaside town. Originally published in 1964, Berg has become a cult classic, and has influenced many contemporary writers, including Eimear McBride. —Stuart

Luck Be a Lady

2017 is the year that I discovered Meredith Duran. I’m late to the game, which means I have a glorious amount of backlist to read through while I eagerly await her next novel. I’ve read a number of her books this year, and Luck Be a Lady stands out as one of my absolute favorites. Duran is a master at crafting characters who balance, challenge, and bring out the best in each other. It was wonderful to read about two characters who saw each other so clearly: Nick called Catherine out when she’s lying to herself, and Catherine dared Nick to face his own insecurities. I cannot wait to reread this one. —Kelly


staff reads




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