Books

The best new books of 2017

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Sam Diss
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The best new books of 2017

You want to read more. You say it all the time. “I want to read more, Sam. I want to read books.” Who doesn’t? Books make us feel smart and cool, make us feel like adults. They look nice on coffee tables, on bedside cabinets, on desks, and on the train – the last one especially. We want people to know that, yes, we have to make this journey to our hell-hole office with its awful air-con and worse coffee, but we’ll be damned if we’re not going to do something constructive while we make our descent.

If you need recommendations then look no further – or look slightly further, downwards, towards our carefully tailored list of books for the modern man or the modern woman who reads men’s lifestyle/interest websites.

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Whoever said don’t judge a book by its cover was a boring piece of shit, as Chabon’s Moonglow gladly proves. If you wouldn’t stop and stare at a cover like that then an intellectually nourishing list of books is wasted on you: Moonglow explores identity and modern masculinity with often excruciating intimacy and detail but always with a deftness of touch and supreme skill that never makes you feel like you’re being preached at.

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

Some early-morning whodunit never hurt anyone, and Emma Flint’s debut novel is a sweaty, claustrophic tale of murder and mystery – a bit like the Central Line. Little Deaths centres around a tight-knit working-class neighborhood in sixties New York and a single mother cum cocktail waitress who finds that her children have been abducted and that she is the main suspect…  Fuck, amiright? Flint’s story is based in fact and so will your fears.

Selection Day by Aravind Adiga

A story of two brothers battling their way out of the Mumbai slums by being really great at cricket, but have to break through the thick-as-fuck membrane of parental and societal pressure on their way to get there. Adiga’s already won a Man Booker prize for his last novel White Tiger, and Selection Day spreads an age-old tale of sporting rivalry over the delicious thematic roll that is a colourful urban society in a state of serious flux.

The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed the World by Michael Lewis

From the bloke who brought you Moneyball comes The Undoing Project, and while this one won’t be as useful for your Football Manager save, it could prove just as worthwhile. It’s a true story about two young Israeli psychology professors who were dead good at behavioural economics – the analysis of psychological insights into human behaviour to explain economic decision-making – and then applied that to change the way pretty much every major thing in the world works, from finance to football. Might sound a bit dry but Lewis’ writing is always snappy and accessible and easily regurgitatable, and who doesn’t want to sound like the smartest bloke in the pub?

The Fat Artist and other stories by Benjamin Hale

Short stories are great for your commute because you feel a sense of completion pretty much every time you get on the train. Hale’s stories are weird and hallucinatory, often fucking mad scary and – are you reading this, Waterstones? Feel free to quote me – frequently unforgettable. With more than a bit of David Foster Wallace influence in the mix, the wry prose might not be for everyone but if you want asides you’ll be happy to nick for your own – “There is nothing that brings two people closer together faster than doing something wrong together...” – then it’s got you covered.

Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein by John Nixon

Ooh, serious! Yeah, actually, a hard-hitting non-fiction book that everycunt will be talking about – or all the smart everycunts, anyway – written by the guy who literally interrogated Saddam is quite serious but this is an engrossing, terrifying, and vital look at the self-protective distance that the president experiences critical, controversial world events. The callous plausible deniability of the upper echelons of government is just one aspect to the book which tears into American foreign policy and the shadowy world of the CIA, and it’ll be good to get a handle on what dark-art shit Donald Trump is going to be getting his grubby little fingers over next month.

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Hillbilly Elegy by J D Vance

Not new but certainly newly extra-relevant, Vance – a former marine and lawyer, but don’t hold that against him! – has written a powerful look at white working-class exasperation and the decline and desperation in America’s Trump-heavy Rust Belt. Although the book has proven divisive with commentators both Republican and Democrat (overly romanticised say the right, while others rightly brings to light Vance’s possible conflict of interests working with Trump supporting tech billionaire Peter Thiel) and goes some way to explaining why they voted in a bloke who looks like he has nofuckingidea what he’s doing. The Economist said "You will not read a more important book about America this year" and who are we to argue with The Economist

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Dystopian fiction in the mould of Margaret Atwood, The Power is about what would happen if millennia of sexism was swapped and women were suddenly in control and able to inflict great pain on idiot men at the snap of their fingers. It’s all a bit Whoa! High concept! Cool! which could be awful in the hands of a less talented writer but Alderman’s smart, crisp writing is bold and fluent and never gets weighed down by Super Worthy platitudes: there’s lessons to be learned but there’s also a whole bunch of mayhem and drug-running too.

(Main image: Wikimedia Commons / ‘Philosopher laughing at Magic’ by David Teniers the Younger)

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Sam Diss

The Associate Editor of New Projects at ShortList, Sam enjoys making up words to annoy editors, writing features about sports, music, weird things, and cool people, and listening to Mark Morrison's 'Return Of The Mack'. He's also a fairly capable centreback. Follow Sam on Twitter: @SamDiss

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