It’s best-of-the-year time: our roundup of 2017 titles covers all the genres — memoir, sci-fi, essay, and literary fiction — with each selection offering a blend of superb writing and compelling narrative. Have a look and choose a book — or two. You still have time to read them while they’re hot.
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Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
The winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize, Saunders’s first novel is a rich and complex story that blends history and magic, humour and pathos. Above all, it is about the most heartbreaking of subjects: the grief of a parent who loses a child. After Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son Willie died of tuberculosis in 1862, the 16th president was reported to have visited the crypt several times so as to hold the dead boy’s body. “Bardo” in Buddhism is an intermediate stage between life and death, and Lincoln’s son isn’t the only one whose soul is stuck there in this book. So yes, it is a ghost story, but because it’s told by Saunders, it also happens to brim with compassion and humanity. —D.I.