My favourite books of 2017

With only two days left of 2017, I think it should be safe to post my books of the year list now. I always enjoy putting this post together, looking back over my reading year and picking out favourites. As usual, the list I’ve come up with is a long one, though not as long as some from previous years! I’ve also given a special mention to some books which didn’t quite win a place on the list – and re-reads have their own separate section this year too.

Here they are, in the order that I read them:

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The Red Sphinx by Alexandre Dumas (1865)

From my review: “Well, it may be only January but I think I already know one book which will be appearing on my books of the year list this December! Bearing in mind that this is a later Dumas novel, written towards the end of his career on the urging of his publishers, I was pleased to find, almost as soon as I started reading, that it was living up to my expectations!”

The Red House Mystery by AA Milne (1922)

From my review: “I had always thought of A.A. Milne solely as the author of the Winnie the Pooh stories and it had never occurred to me to wonder what else he had written. It turns out that The Red House Mystery, originally published in 1922, was his first and only detective novel – which is a shame, because it’s excellent.”

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet (2015)

From my review: “I loved His Bloody Project; although it’s not a traditional crime novel and there’s never any mystery surrounding the identity of the murderer, it’s the sort of book that leaves you with more questions at the end than you had at the beginning.”

Lost Horizon by James Hilton (1933)

From my review: “I’m very happy with the way my reading is going so far this year. I’ve read some great books already and this is another one…It’s a fascinating story and very absorbing – I started it on a Saturday and was finished by Sunday; at just over 200 pages it’s a quick read but also the sort of book that leaves the reader with a lot to think about after the final page is turned.”

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1952)

From my review: “I found East of Eden a surprisingly compelling read; I honestly hadn’t expected to love it as much as I did or to find myself wanting to turn the pages so quickly. I now feel much more enthusiastic about reading more Steinbeck…”

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (2016)

From my review: “I would like to tell you more about the plot of Golden Hill, but I’m limited as to how much I can say without spoiling things for future readers. I think it’s enough to say that it’s a hugely entertaining story involving duels, card games, imprisonments and a chase across the rooftops of New York…There’s so much to love about this unusual, imaginative novel.”

Wintercombe by Pamela Belle (1988)

From my review: “Although I was looking forward to reading it, I have to admit that after being so captivated by the adventures of the Heron family, I doubted whether I could possibly enjoy this book as much. Of course, I was wrong. What I found was another beautifully depicted setting, another moving story to become absorbed in and another set of characters to fall in love with (or to hate, as the case may be).”

I also loved the second book in the Wintercombe series, Herald of Joy.

They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie (1951)

From my review: “This book is not one of Christie’s Poirot or Miss Marple mysteries – it’s a standalone and actually much more of a spy novel or thriller than a mystery. With an exciting plot involving kidnappings, conspiracies, impersonations, disguises and secret messages, I found it a lot of fun to read – one of those books I genuinely didn’t want to have to put down until I was finished!”

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull (2017)

From my review: “This wonderful story of a young woman with a passion for aviation is the first book I’ve read by Rebecca Mascull, but I enjoyed it so much I will certainly be going back to read her previous two novels. Set in the Lincolnshire town of Cleethorpes in the first two decades of the 20th century, The Wild Air is both fascinating and inspirational, with a heroine I loved and connected with immediately.”

Towers in the Mist by Elizabeth Goudge (1937)

From my review: “Not all of Goudge’s novels are historical, but it’s the historical ones that I’ve been drawn to first. Towers in the Mist is set in Oxford in the Elizabethan period and, like the other two I’ve read, it’s a truly beautiful novel.”

Song of the Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull (2015)

From my review: “Song of the Sea Maid is a wonderful exploration of what it was like to be a woman trying to forge a career in science in a period when it was not considered normal or socially acceptable to do so…There’s really nothing negative I can say about Song of the Sea Maid; even the use of first person present tense, which I often dislike, didn’t bother me – in fact, I barely noticed it because I found Dawnay’s voice so strong and real.”

The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb (Ship of Magic; The Mad Ship; Ship of Destiny)

From my review: “Having become quite attached to the characters and swept away by the story over the course of the three novels, I’m sorry to have come to the end..I loved the world Robin Hobb created here and I was impressed by her ability to handle multiple storylines and keep track of who knows what! Also, as someone who doesn’t read a lot of fantasy, I found the dragon element fascinating.”

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (2016)

From my review: “This is a fascinating exploration of the harm that can be done, often unintentionally, by superstition and a lack of understanding and the basic knowledge we take for granted today. I thought The Wonder was…well, wonderful. Highly recommended!”

Long Summer Day by RF Delderfield (1966)

From my review: “Long Summer Day is one of my books of the year so far, without a doubt. It’s written in the sort of warm, comforting, old-fashioned style that I love, and despite its length I felt that the pages were going by very quickly because I was so absorbed in the lives of Paul and his friends – it’s one of those books where you truly feel as though you’ve escaped into another world for a little while!”

Soot by Andrew Martin (2017)

From my review: “You know when you can tell as soon as you start reading that you’re going to enjoy a book? That’s how I felt about Soot, Andrew Martin’s new historical mystery set in 18th century York. The plot, the characters, the atmosphere, the writing style…I loved them all!”

Shadow of the Moon by M.M. Kaye (1957)

From my review: “Whether or not the romance captures your imagination, though, I think there should be something in this novel to interest most readers…the fascinating historical background, the colourful portrait of another time and place or maybe the adventure (plenty of daring escapes, disguises, ambushes and secret meetings by moonlight). I loved it.”

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Three of my reads this year were re-reads…and I loved all three:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)

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And these books deserve a special mention too:

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (2017)
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (2016)
Under the Hog by Patrick Carleton (1937)
Conclave by Robert Harris (2016)
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (2016)
Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton (2017)
Chocky by John Wyndham (1968)
Lament for a Maker by Michael Innes (1938)
Voice of the Falconer by David Blixt (2010)

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Have you read any of these books? Which books have you enjoyed reading in 2017?

38 thoughts on “My favourite books of 2017

  1. jessicabookworm says:

    Another great sounding list of new and old books this year Helen! Sadly I haven’t read any of your new-to-you books but, as you may know, I do love Wuthering Heights and Rebecca 🙂 . I wish you even more wonderful reading in 2018! 😀

  2. J.E. Fountain says:

    Glad to see Lost Horizon here. I’m a bit surprised I don’t see it mentioned more often in our “classics” circles, but I’ve wondered if I could be mistaken – I was probably 12 when I read it and loved it. I’m due for a reread and have wondered if it would lose some of its power to “adult me”.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I am sometimes hesitant to reread books I loved when I was younger. There’s always a risk that they will have lost their magic. I hope that won’t be the case if you decide to reread Lost Horizon. I thought it was a great book!

  3. Lark says:

    All of these books look good! I especially want to read Wild Air, Wintercombe, and Soot next year. (I already read They Came To Baghdad this year and really enjoyed it.) Great list! 🙂

  4. realthog says:

    What a great selection! Before I’d even finished reading this page I’d put in an order for Song of the Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull, which sounds tailor-made for moi. (Can’t think why I missed your review of it first time around, now I come to think of it.)

  5. Pam Thomas says:

    Thank you for another lovely mention, Helen – I’ve got a new Facebook page, is it OK if I post a link to your blog on that?
    I see you’re reading ‘A Falling Star’. Looking forward to seeing what you make of it!

  6. Pam Thomas says:

    ‘Towers in the Mist’ was a particular favourite of mine when I was a teenager, and I’ve also read and enjoyed ‘Shadow of the Moon’, ‘Soot’ and ‘Golden Hill’ – loved the twist in that.

    • Helen says:

      I would have loved Elizabeth Goudge as a teenager…I don’t know why it has taken me so long to start reading her books! And yes, the twist in Golden Hill was a good one.

  7. Carmen says:

    Great list the one you have compiled. I’m surprised there are so few books because you read a lot any given year. I loved the sound of Golden Hill, and The Essex Serpent when I read your reviews. Conclave was good too; we have that one in common. Next year I’ll be reading Rebecca, if I can stick to my reading plan, as well as Jamaica Inn (I think).

    • Helen says:

      My lists used to be longer, but I think I’m getting better at narrowing them down now. Golden Hill and The Essex Serpent are both great books. I’m glad you enjoyed Conclave too – I love Robert Harris and am hoping to read his latest book, Munich, soon.

  8. cirtnecce says:

    Love the list …as you know by now Shadow of the Moon has an absolute love affair with me! 😀 But I also loved the Song of the Sea Maid, Lost Horizon and East of Eden! Especially the last, which I read initially in my formative years and think shaped some parts of who I am. I really enjoyed The Wonder, thanks to your recommendation and I have The Red House Mystery, sitting in my TBR pile, again thanks to you! 😀 Here’s to many more books and bookish adventures in 2018!

    • Helen says:

      I was surprised by how much I loved East of Eden as I had been avoiding reading John Steinbeck for years. I’m hoping to read The Grapes of Wrath in 2018. And thank you for hosting the Shadow of the Moon readalong! I want to read more of MM Kaye’s books next year too.

  9. piningforthewest says:

    I’ve read eight books on your list, and enjoyed them all. I’ll be reading the R.F. Delderfield soon. I intend to read the Dumas too as you enjoyed it so much.

    • Helen says:

      I haven’t read anything yet by Dumas that I haven’t enjoyed! Long Summer Day is still the only Delderfield book I’ve read but I’m hoping to read the sequels soon.

  10. Lisa says:

    I love these lists! You have a wonderful mix here. I’m trying to remember if I’ve read They Came to Bagdad – if so, it’s been decades, and I’m enjoying re-discovering Agatha Christie’s books.

    Happy New Year a little early! I’ll look forward to hearing more about your books in 2018.

    • Helen says:

      I still have quite a lot of Christie’s novels to read for the first time, but They Came to Baghdad is one of my favourites so far.

      Happy New Year to you too! 🙂

    • Helen says:

      Thanks – and Happy New Year to you too! I loved both of the Rebecca Mascull books I’ve read and am looking forward to reading her other one, The Visitors.

    • Helen says:

      His Bloody Project was one of the first books I read this year, but it’s one that has stayed with me. I hope you find it as fascinating as I did, if you do decide to read it.

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