Best & Worst 2017

Best & Worst 2017: Books

BEST

The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Roy returns to fiction after 20 years with this magnificent, sweeping work about a divided India, from the military occupation of Kashmir to the conflict between Hindus and Muslims. A motley crew of characters - a middle-aged transgender woman who lives in a graveyard, a low-caste Hindu who decides to call himself Saddam Hussein, an enigmatic woman with ties to Kashmiri rebels - is brought together by the discovery of a dark-skinned baby abandoned at a protest site.

Through splendid chaos, it endeavours to tell the many stories of a country in pieces.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

In an unnamed country on the brink of civil war, a young Muslim couple begin looking for a way out of their collapsing society. They find it through a mysterious door in a dentist's office, one of many such portals opening up to migrants across the world.

Pakistani author Hamid's fluid, fantastical take on the global refugee crisis is a layered and, ultimately, hopeful ode to migration.

Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders

The American short story maestro's highly experimental debut novel was rewarded with this year's Man Booker Prize.

This strange, transcendent work takes place in a cemetery after the entombing of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln, son of United States President Abraham Lincoln.

Featuring a staggering 166 voices - the ghosts of reverends, soldiers and slaves, as well as Lincoln himself - this meditation on death and love achieves far more than the sum of its very many parts.

 

WORST

Sad Girls by Lang

Leav Leav is known for her brand of social media-friendly poetry, but her debut novel does not even have that brevity to recommend it.

Half of it is superfluous verbiage. The other half looks like someone threw a bunch of trigger warnings, including anxiety and suicide, into a blender.

Teenager Audrey, an aspiring writer, told a horrible, random lie that caused her friend Ana to kill herself. At the funeral, she gets the hots for Ana's boyfriend - despite being attached herself.

Audrey is the kind of insufferable narcissist that gives millennials a bad name and her knack for spouting cringeworthy cliche is unparalleled.

This book left me a sad girl because of the time I lost reading it. Young adult fiction deserves better. Girls deserve better.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 17, 2017, with the headline 'Books'. Print Edition | Subscribe