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Whether you prefer your reading satirical, political and polarizing, or simply amusing, the year’s best releases are guaranteed to hit the spot by providing some much-needed escapism, while challenging the status quo and sparking timely conversation. The best books of 2017 (so far, that is) will guide us through this messy year with the opportunity to see the world beyond our close confines, allow us to learn more deeply about the human experience, or simply offer valuable entertainment. We live in exhausting times why not escape for a bit with a book?
Heather, The Totality by Matthew Weiner
From the creative genius behind Mad Men comes a chilling novel about the multitudes of the human psyche. Weiner introduces us to two disparate worlds: privileged Upper East Side Manhattan where Mark and Karen Breakstone live with their beautiful daughter Heather; and the world of former felon, now construction worker, Bobby from poverty stricken Harrison, New Jersey. From the outset, we sense that Heather and Bobby’s paths are destined to cross and they certainly do with sinister and surprising consequences.
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
It’s easy to assume that the mystique and vibrancy of New York is created on the island of Manhattan itself, albeit with its clash of Wall Street bankers, lanky fashion models, grungy college students, and struggling journalists (to name a few of the characters that strut its streets) all of whom Egan has explored in her previous work. In Manhattan Beach, her first novel since the 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning a Visit from the Goon Squad, she explores New York’s maritime history from the Depression era through WWII replete with daring divers, salty sailors, body-sinking stevedores proving that it’s the glistening ocean and often murky waterways surrounding Manhattan that hold some of the city’s most defining stories.
The River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks
Very few people have an asteroid named in their honor, but very few people have contributed to the understanding of science, medicine, philosophy, and psychology the way the late Oliver Sacks did. In the River of Consciousness, we get glimpse of what he was working on up to his death. He examines the fallibility of memory, the nature of creativity, the still monumental insights of Charles Darwin, and more—all with his characteristic sensitivity and spirit of optimism.
Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss
From the bestselling author of The History of Love comes a moving and mesmerizing story about two New Yorkers on a search for meaning. Recently divorced 68-year-old attorney Jules Epstein is giving away most of his money in a quest to free himself of possessions. With the last of it, he decides to travel to Israel to honor his deceased parents. Simultaneously, novelist Nicole, well-known for her authentic Jewish characters, leaves her family in Brooklyn and heads to Tel Aviv to write and analyze her failing marriage from afar. What unfolds in Israel irrevocably alters both of their lives and unlocks a little of life’s mysteries along the way.
Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini
When 15-year-old Eugenia’s family is cast as the face of Italian SPAM (yes, the canned meat), her father, Ettore, decides that the logical next step is to hit up his one contact in Hollywood—the guy who wrote the Phil Collins song “Run to Paradise.” And so, the family moves from Rome to post-riot, early ’90s Los Angeles specifically to the less-than-idyllic San Fernando Valley. Eugenia’s parents quickly begin work on a low-budget psychological horror film (complete with Johnny Depp cameo). Against this wild backdrop, Eugenia begins her own cultural (and sexual) awakening—one that takes her from skipping high school classes to counter-culture Topanga Canyon, the Mojave Desert, and beyond. This hypnotizing and audacious first novel is inspired by Barzini’s own teenage years in L.A., and the unusual details are like nothing captured in fiction before.