Staff Picks - Recommended Reads from 2017

Staff Picks - Recommended Reads from 2017

Our annual roundup of our favorites. We hope you love these reads as much as we did.

And for even more of this year's best, you might like the Best Fiction list at NoveList Plus, the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2017, or the Best of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews.


Compiled by:
Paula G. O.

Fiction

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari

James Morrow
Adult Fiction - Morrow

American artist Frances Wyndham teaches art therapy in an insane asylum where Dr. Caligari’s masterpiece incites soldiers to rush into battle. A slightly sacrilegious romp through World War I that looks hard at the use of propaganda in wartime.


Borne

Jeff VanderMeer
Science Fiction & Fantasy - SF Vanderm

Rachel scavenges in a dangerous, ruined city littered with discarded experiments from a defunct biotech firm. One day she finds a green lump (plant or animal?) and takes it home. As Borne grows, Rachel becomes more attached, and he threatens the balance of power in their city.


Caroline: Little House, Revisited

Sarah Miller
Adult Fiction - Miller

Experience the adventure and peril of the Little House series through the words of Ma Ingalls. A fresh look at the beloved original stories that stays true to their spirit.


Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Gail Honeyman
Adult Fiction - Honeyma

Eleanor, a young woman with few social skills, lives a boring, very-planned life, until she helps rescue an old man on the street one day. Through this accidental encounter, she learns secrets from her past, and finds a new joy in the everyday.


A Gentleman in Moscow

Amor Towles
Adult Fiction - Towles

House arrest in one of the most magnificent hotels in Russia might not seem like a severe punishment, but as decades of Count Rostov’s life pass by under confinement in the Metropol Hotel, he must find ways to bring dignity, grace, and integrity to his extraordinary existence.


God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls

Jaime Hernandez
Graphic Novels - Hernand
Series: Love and Rockets

Hernandez usually explores slice-of-life situations, but this superhero romp both lovingly explores the medium and holds itself outside it. Amazing art in a graphic novel that appeals to adults as well as to teens.


Hadriana in All My Dreams

René Depestre
Adult Fiction - Depestr

A very different kind of Zombie story, set in Haiti in 1938. A beautiful novel of magical-realism with serious themes of race and colonialism.


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Jamie Ford
Adult Fiction - Ford

A novel about families, cultural differences, friendship, and a serious wrong in our history. In 1940s Seattle, a Chinese-American boy develops a strong bond with his schoolmate: a Japanese-American girl, who is soon interned, along with her family, by the government.


In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper

Lawrence Block
Adult Fiction - In

Hopper’s art is a glimpse into a story, and in this book seventeen authors expand that glimpse into a variety of tales. Color plates of Hopper’s paintings help pull the reader more firmly into this clever mashup of art and story.


The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

Julie Klassen
Adult Fiction - Klassen
Series: Tales from Ivy Hill

First in a series of gentle reads about the inhabitants of Ivy Hill, England, circa 1820. When Jane, a young widow, wants to modernize the coaching inn she inherits, conflict with her family arises. Will a horse race decide the fate of the Bell Inn?


The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Leigh Bardugo
Young Adult Fiction - Y Bardugo

Classic tales reimagined and filled with themes of empowerment and choice. Paired with stunning illustrations that enrich and expand the story.


The Prophet

Michael Koryta
Adult Fiction - Koryta

The Bloomington author scores another win with this thriller. Two brothers lose a sister to murder; many years later, a teenager is killed in their town. Did one of them commit the crime?


Saga. Volume 7

Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
Graphic Novels - Vaughan
Series: Saga

Tribalism and war occur engulf a remote comet that Wreath and Landfall have fought over for decades. A space fantasy full of action and interesting characters, with a refugee theme that brings it close to the here and now.


The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

Hannah Tinti
Adult Fiction - Tinti

This novel—a compelling, offbeat crime drama, wrapped in a coming-of-age narrative centered on love, loss, and grief—could have been the love child of Elmore Leonard and John Green. After years on the run with his daughter Loo, Samuel Hawley settles in his late wife’s hometown. As Loo investigates the mysteries of her parents’ lives, she uncovers their dark history.


When the Moon Was Ours

Anna-Marie McLemore
Young Adult Fiction - Y Mclemor

A story about a boy who paints paper moons, a girl with roses growing from her wrists, and four sisters who may or may not be witches. Beautiful, breathtaking, and compulsively readable. 


The Women in the Castle

Jessica Shattuck
Adult Fiction - Shattuc

Another WW II novel, but one with an intriguing twist: it’s about Nazi resisters—and those married to them. After their husbands are killed over an assassination plot, three women share a decrepit castle, and, despite their varied backgrounds, share the parenting of their children, and try to survive the dangerous war years together.


For the Young At Heart

The Murderer's Ape

Jakob Wegelius
Juvenile Fiction - J Wegeliu

Sally Jones, a gorilla, lives among humans as an excellent engineer on a ship. But when her captain is accused of murder, Sally handles the case. A mystery-adventure tale set in Portugal, Egypt, and India, and perfect for middle-grade readers.


Snow and Rose

Emily Winfield Martin
Juvenile Fiction - J Martin

Sisters Snow and Rose live in a fairy-tale house with spectacular gardens and doting parents—until their father disappears. Based on a traditional tale, this story finds strength in family, courage, and curiosity, and offers hope for the happily-ever-after ending.


The War That Saved My Life

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Juvenile Fiction - J Bradley

The first book tells the story of a young disabled girl and her brother, evacuated in World War II, who find life in the countryside much sweeter than with their abusive mother. In the sequel, The War I Finally Won, Ada and Jamie move into a tense, crowded household, where a Jewish girl from Germany joins them.


Nonfiction


Mindy Véissid
Adult Nonfiction - 778 Vei

Too often, photography guides focus on gear, camera settings, and tried-and-true formulas for “good” images. This book has a deeper objective: to teach you to photograph from the heart—where true creativity and uniqueness lies. For beginners as well as accomplished photographers.


Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

David Grann
Adult Nonfiction - 976.6004 Gra

A true account of over twenty killings, all related to land holdings and oil during the 1920s, of Osage tribe members and those close to them—investigated by the men who would go on to form the FBI. A little-known yet important piece of true crime and injustice in America's past treatment of Native Americans.


Libby Prison Breakout: the Daring Escape from the Notorious Civil War Prison

Joseph Wheelan
Adult Nonfiction - 973.772 Whe

With the help of Virginians loyal to the Union, a brave and daring group of soldiers plan an escape from the former warehouse in Richmond housing hundreds of officers and enlisted men under brutal conditions. Abel Streight of Indiana’s Lightning Mule Brigade plays a part.


Love Africa: a Memoir of Romance, War and Survival

Jeffrey Gettleman
Adult Nonfiction - 070.92 Gettleman Get

A memoir with all the drama and tension of a fast-paced novel. While in college, Gettleman works on a charitable project in East Africa, where he instantly falls in love with its “power and magic.” Along with wars and kidnappings in the changing political landscape of Africa, the author also records his love for a special woman.


The Storm Before the Storm

Michael Duncan
Adult Nonfiction - 937.05 Dun

How success destabilized the Roman Republic, and made possible the great empire’s destruction a generation later by a series of Caesars and their pals. With parallels to today, war, corruption, and class divisions weakened the empire. An entertaining and well-researched history of a seldom-covered period.


White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide

Carol Anderson
Adult Nonfiction - 305.8009 And

As white nationalist activity around Indiana and the nation increases, it’s tempting to understand racism as conspicuous hatred or prejudice. But by outlining a systematic denial of justice and humanity from the end of the Civil War to the present, Anderson demonstrates that the biggest threat to black advancement has not come from outsiders like the KKK and neo-Nazis, but from within our political and social systems themselves.