In 2017 I read 60 books; as usual almost all of these were novels, primarily in the genres of mystery/thriller and fantasy/science fiction. Interestingly, the books that I read in 2017 were dominated by the mystery/thriller category (33) with the rest pretty evenly split between the genres of science fiction (15) and fantasy (9) with a few books falling into both categories or neither. 2017 was more like 2014 when mystery/thriller predominated my reading list while in 2015 more than half the books I read that year were science fiction. In 2016, surprisingly no particular genre dominated. This is surprising (to me) because generally if I were to list my favorite genres in decreasing order it would be 1) science fiction 2) thriller 3) fantasy 4) mystery. One issue is that thriller can really be any genre (even though most of the thrillers I read are also mysteries).
I was introduced to several new authors in 2017 (Stuart MacBride, John Sandford, Blake Crouch, Dennis Taylor, Justin Cronin, Rachel Caine, Val McDermid and Susie Steiner; I definitely look forward to reading more of books from many of these authors in the future. In 2017 I followed up my 2016 read of my first Stephen King novel (11/22/63) with the Bill Hodges trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch).
Happily in 2017 I also read lots of book by authors whose work has previously been some of my favorite reads (Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbø, Louise Penny, Brian Staveley, Michael Connelly, Patrick Tomlinson, Peter Robinson, Brent Weeks, Adrian McKinty, N.K. Jemisin and Greg Iles). In 2017 I read not one but two books from what is currently my favorite series, i.e. The Expanse by James S.A. Corey. The sixth book, Babylon's Ashes, was released in December 2016 but I didn't read it until my Hawaii vacation in January 2017 and when the seventh book Persepolis Rising was released in December 2017 I gobbled it up soon afterwards. Another favorite author, Peter V. Brett, published the fifth and final book in the Demon Cycle, The Core, nearly 9 years after the first book, The Warded Man, came out in 2009.
I'm always looking for more good books and authors to add to my "To Be Read (TBR)" pile! Feel free to make suggestions of books or authors you think I would like in the comments after seeing what books have resonated with me previously.
Below are my favorite reads for 2017 in the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and Thriller.
Favorite Science Fiction Novel Read In 2017: Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
Runner-Up in Favorite Science Fiction Novel Read In 2017: Death's End by Liu Cixin.
Death's End is the third book in the space opera trilogy written by Cixin Liu who won the Hugo award for Best Novel for the first book in the series called The Three-Body Problem. The story is about an invasion of Earth by aliens known as Trisolarians (because their home world is surrounded by three stars). All three books are excellent and very different in their own way. The first two books (The Three-Body Problem and The Dark Forest) also appeared on my end-of-year favorite reads list for 2015 so it shouldn't be surprising that the third book appears on one as well. In Death's End the stakes for humanity grow even higher (and this is after the threat of alien invasion is resolved in quite an unexpected way!) and the time scale of the book grows longer and longer. There's not much more I can say about Death's End without revealing plot details but I can mention that it has a main character that is a female scientist and strongly encourage you to read the book. It is well-written, complicated science fiction at its very best. If it wasn't for N.K. Jemisin's The Obelisk Gate I am fairly confident that Death's End would have likely won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel instead.
Honorable Mention (Science Fiction): Children of the Divide (Children of a Dead Earth, #3) by Patrick S. Tomlinson.
One of my favorite books from a few years ago was The Ark by Patrick S. Tomlinson, the first book in the Children of a Dead Earth trilogy. As I have said earlier, I like specific genres of fiction (mystery/thriller and science fiction/fantasy) and one of the things that drew me to The Ark is that it is a rare example of a book which combines mystery and science fiction in a clever and engaging way. Children of the Divide is the third book in this series and it does an excellent job of continuing (and possibly completing) the story that began in The Ark while still maintaining its commitment to blurring genre boundaries of science fiction and mystery. Children of the Divide is about a former detective who is now part of a small human colony on a planet trying to engage with the indigenous alien population and uncover corrupt and criminal conspiracy among the colonial leaders.
Favorite Fantasy Novel Read Novel In 2017: The Core (The Demon Cycle, #5) by Peter V. Brett
Runner-Up Favorite Fantasy Novel Read in 2017: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
One of my happy discoveries in recent year has been the work of Michael J. Sullivan. His Riyria Revelation trilogy (Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire, Heir of Novron) was on my list of favorite reads for 2016. Sullivan approaches the book industry a bit differently than most authors, since he started by self-publishing his books (quite successfully) and even though his books are now published by major booksellers one is also able to buy them directly from him. He has a new epic fantasy series based thousands of years before the events of the Riyria Revelations called the Legends of the First Empire. Amazingly, he has completed first drafts of the entire 6-book series, so the books are guaranteed to be released on a pretty regular schedule. Age of Swords is the second book in the series and builds upon the setting and characters introduced in the first book, Age of Myth. Unlike the Riryia trilogies, which feature two male characters and are effectively laced with humor, this new series has a female protagonist and is primarily based on an existential conflict between the powerful Fhrey (near immortal, masters of magic and powerfully violent) and humans, who are portrayed in the Bronze age, but inventive and resource. The humans thought the Fhrey were gods until one of them was killed in Age of Myth, but there is still a sense that if the Fhrey decided to invade lands occupied by humans they could exterminate them without much trouble.
Favorite Mystery Novel Read In 2017: Flesh House (DS Logan McRae, #4) by Stuart MacBride
Runner-Up Favorite Mystery Novel Read in 2016: Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly (Sean Duffy, #6) by Adrian McKinty
Honorable Mention (Mystery): Well-Schooled in Murder (Inspector Lynley, #3) by Elizabeth George.
I finally started reading the British police procedurals written by American Elizabeth George in 2017. George is widely known for her Inspector Lynley series (which at one point was a popular BBC television series that also aired on PBS). The Lynley series is now 20 episodes strong and features upper-class DI Tommy Lynley (the 8th Earl of Asherton) and working-class DS Barbara Havers solving crimes with the supporting characters being Lynley's girlfriend Lady Helen Clyde and his best friend Simon St. James. I read the first four novels in the series in 2017 but I think that the strongest of these is the third book, Well-Schooled in Murder. The plot is about a murder that has occurred at a boarding school which is something of a locked room mystery. I definitely intend to read more of these books in the future, even though the romantic tension between Tommy and Helen is a bit off-putting, the class tension between Havers and Lynley is intriguing.
Favorite Thriller Novel Read In 2017: Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges, #1) by Stephen King.
11/22/63 (since as an alternative history about the President Kennedy assassination that involves time travel it is effectively science fiction) and very much enjoyed it. So, when I discovered that King had written a mystery thriller series (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch) I decided to check it out and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. I read all three books in a row; they are very suspenseful, funny and interesting. I don't think King is a great writer, but I do think that he is a fantastic storyteller. I selected Mr. Mercedes as my favorite thriller read in 2017 because the last third of the book is almost impossible to put down. The book begins with the horrible hit-and-run which results in the death of 8 people and the wounding of several more. King tells the story from the perspective of the person who commits the crime, Brady Hartsfield, as well as the police officer who unsuccessfully investigated the crime and who is now near retirement, Bill Hodges. Hodges teams up with two unlikely sidekicks, a gangly teenaged African-American named Jerome Robinson and an obsessive-compulsive recluse named Holly Gibney. Together Holly, Jerome and Bill make an engaging team that are a highlight of the entire series. Although they have a limited role in the sequel Finders Keepers they return in the final entry in the trilogy, End of Watch. The series has been adapted for television but is airing on something called the Audience Network which I don't have access to.
Runner-Up Favorite Thriller Read in 2017: Criminal (Will Trent, #6) by Karin Slaughter
Honorable Mention (Thriller): Mississippi Blood (Penn Cage, #6) by Greg Iles.
The Penn Cage books by Greg Iles have been some of my favorite thriller reads in the last few years. Overall, I think the first trilogy (The Quiet Game, Turning Angel, The Devil's Punchbowl) is even more gripping than the second (Natchez Burning, The Bone Tree, Mississippi Blood) although the stakes and acclaim for the second one are greater in every aspect. Reading the series in order raises the stakes for the reader in how invested we are in the ultimate disposition of the characters. Not all of our favorites survive the end of the series, and it is heartbreaking. There's a real sense of suspense and danger that tragedy could strike anyone, even the eponymous Penn Cage. For me, the imbrication of race, crime, Southern history and journalism in the series is a potent mix and convinced me to keep Mississippi Blood on my list of favorite reads in 2017.