Best Books of 2017: Jeff’s Picks
Ali Smith’s Autumn is a tremendously good and timely novel and one that should have knocked George Saunders’s incredible (but let’s face it, pretty weird) Lincoln in the Bardo from the Man Booker Prize’s top slot. Autumn tells the story of an art-history buff named Elisabeth and her lifelong friendship with her elderly neighbor Daniel, and together they delve into some poignant-but-forgotten threads of contemporary culture. It’s a stunning meditation on memory and modernity, reconciling loss in our contemporary age of excess. This a perfect novel for the post-Trump, post-Brexit era, a time when history is developing faster than it can be canonized. A full review can be read here.
Mrs. Osmond is an inconceivably-good sequel to Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady. The novel feels like a long-lost literary classic, and Banville’s voice is so pitch-perfect that his Isabel Archer feels like canon. It’s a fine return not only to a beloved volume but to the humble, simpler dramas of nineteenth century literature. Banville wisely touches on the feminism of The Portrait of a Lady and pulls the nascent suffragette movement into the background of his story. Banville’s sequel not only continues James’ story but re-centers his novel firmly where it belongs. This is a story about a woman regaining control of her life, love, and liberty, a story of relevant importance even over a hundred years after it began. A full review can be read here.
Perhaps the most visually stunning books of the year, Chris Ware’s Monograph is an oversized, beautifully produced retrospective of Ware’s exquisite work in comics. Author of Jimmy Corrigan, Building Stories, and the Acme Novelty Library serial, Ware has inspired a generation of rising comics enthusiasts and Monograph shows the ambition, artistry, and critical theory behind these major achievements. This book is particularly special because because of its text, which is penned entirely by Ware. Charmingly self-deprecating and at times mind-expandingly brilliant, Monograph is a must for fans of the genre. A full review can be read here.