Like clockwork, with each year’s end comes that time when we book-lovers take stock of all the books we’ve read throughout the year: the good, the not-so-good, and the rare few (OK, if you’re anything like me, the not-so-rare many) that you’ll be loving and re-reading for years to come. You know the drill: some get passed onto friends, others wind up in the Little Free Library down the block, and still more make their way onto your already overflowing shelves. But, to every book-lover’s dismay, there’s often one more list to be cataloged: the list of can’t-miss books you, somehow — though nobody really knows exactly how — missed throughout the year. Don’t fear; there’s still time to check out at least a few of 2017’s best books before 2018’s new releases start making their way onto your shelves come January — and a lot of those best books were written by women.
From short story collections and novels to memoirs and nonfiction, women have been killing it in the book world this year: writing and publishing reads that highlight the lives of a myriad of girls and women. These writers, and their characters, seem to be responding directly to the current political and cultural moment — and readers are definitely responding.
Be sure to check out these 17 books that every woman should read from 2017 — all written by and about girls and women who definitely belong on your bookshelves this year.
'Little Fires Everywhere' by Celeste Ng
In the mesmerizing prose that Celeste Ng has become known for, Little Fires Everywhere is a slow burn of a novel, taking readers to a Stepford-like Cleveland suburb, where the town’s newest residents — Mia Warren and her teenage daughter Pearl — disrupt the status quo before becoming divided in a conflict of their own.
'This is How It Always Is' by Laurie Frankel
A necessary and lovable family novel about the unexpected curve-balls of parenting and what love really looks like, This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel introduces readers to the Walsh-Adams family, whose youngest child, five-year-old Claude, is transgender — loved and accepted by his parents but facing a world that won’t always understand, or want to understand, what being a young, transgender girl means.
'The Power' by Naomi Alderman
An utterly timely novel that subverts the physical power dynamics between men and women, The Power by Naomi Alderman transports readers to a world where teenage girls suddenly have superhuman physical powers and can cause debilitating harm to those around them — a twist of nature that disrupts centuries of ingrained misogyny and changes the world entirely.
'Her Body & Other Parties' by Carmen Maria Machado
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado is a must-read story collection of 2017: perfect for anyone who loves the work of writers like Karen Russell and Kelly Link, each of the eight stories in this collection blend magical realism, science fiction, comedy, horror, fantasy and more to tell a fierce, feminist story about how women’s bodies exist in the world.
'The Floating World' by C. Morgan Babst
Tackling racism, violence, natural disaster, familial bonds, and more, The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst has been called the Hurricane Katrina novel that readers have been waiting for — telling the story of the Boisdorés family, who are separated when one daughter refuses to flee the storm with her parents and is later discovered deeply and mysteriously traumatized upon her family’s return.
'I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter' by Erika L. Sanchez
A YA novel that will have readers laughing out loud even while they’re tearing up, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez introduces readers to Julia, a Mexican-American teen reeling in the wake of her sister’s death and fighting her sister’s legacy of being “the perfect Mexican daughter”, all while trying to resist pressure from her grieving family, find herself, and discover how she’d like to make her own way in the world.
'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness' by Arundhati Roy
Complex, multilayered, and vividly described, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy is a novel that spans years and miles of India and enters the lives of seemingly-disparate characters who are all linked by their lives of heartbreak, the losses they’ve endured, and their unparalleled resilience.
'Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud' by Anne Helen Petersen
Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen is the nonfiction book you definitely want to read right now, amid all the disheartening headlines coming out of Hollywood — celebrating the modern female celebrities who are breaking boundaries, smashing barriers, and subverting the stereotypes and standards that have plagued women in media for decades.
'Sing, Unburied, Sing' by Jesmyn Ward
A finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing is a breathtaking and expansive novel that takes readers through the generations of one Mississippi family: the violence, the losses, the myriad ways family members can and do fail one another, the ways race and surrounding racism can complicate family struggles, and the ways that the love and bonds of family endure over generations.
'The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays' by Megan Stielstra
Are you obsessed with Megan Stielstra yet? If not, it’s definitely time to pick up her essay collection, The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: a beautiful and viscerally-felt series of essays that are both deeply intimate and universal — looking at some of the big questions that plague our current moment and our headlines as well as questions that humans have been grappling with since the beginning of time: how do we love, can we bear to lose, what keeps us going, and more.
'The Lauras' by Sara Taylor
Telling the vividly-rendered story of an agender teen named Alex and Alex’s mother, Sara Taylor's novel, The Lauras, takes readers on a years-long road trip across America: to makeshift apartments, southern truck stops, Appalachian Mom-and-Pop shops, Florida surfing towns, and beyond, as this mother/child duo spend Alex’s coming-of-age years fighting and fleeing and loving one another in all the rough, complex ways that parents and children do, as those children stumble their way through their teens and beyond.
'The Book of Joan' by Lidia Yuknavitch
Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan is like no other novel you’ll read this year — or possibly any year: set in a near-future, post-apocalypse dystopia wherein human beings have evolved into sexless, hairless creatures living on an above-earth, police state space station ruled by a ruthless dictator. It's a world that’s only hope is a group of resisters led by a radical and rebellious Joan of Arc-inspired figure, Joan of Dirt.
'No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need' by Naomi Klein
Award-winning journalist and rebellious writer Naomi Klein's latest title, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, explores our current political and cultural moment: who we are, how we got here, and what a future of resistance can both look like and lead to.
'Difficult Women' by Roxane Gay
This is one of those books that kind of sneaked by while readers everywhere were eagerly awaiting Roxane Gay’s memoir, Hunger. Difficult Women is a short story collection filled with women who defy stereotypes, challenge the status quo, love and lose and suffer and fail, and do the best they can with whatever it is they’re facing in life: poverty, racism, bad marriages, past crimes, violence, betrayal, the pitfalls of love, and so much more.
'Abandon Me' by Melissa Febos
A moving and inquisitive memoir that interrogates father/daughter relationships, the dynamics between lovers, and the inherent need for love that most humans experience, Melissa Febos’s Abandon Me looks at the different men Febos loved and lost in various ways throughout her life, and how those relationships informed the woman and the writer she is today.
'I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad' by Souad Mekhennet
A blend of memoir and investigative reporting, I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhennet takes readers — and the journalist herself — where few women have gone before: behind the headlines of terrorism and into the heart of jihadi networks in the Middle East and North Africa, in an account that is terrifying, illuminating, at times unexpected, and occasionally ominous.
'What Happened' by Hillary Rodham Clinton
The book that asks, and attempts to answer, the question that we’ve all been asking since the 2016 election, What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton is more than an exploration into Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign — it’s a profile of the little-known facts of Clinton’s life in politics: the unrelenting sexism and double-standards, her experiences during her husband’s political career, and the staggering loss that few people saw coming.