The Best Books of 2017, According to Independent Bookstores

Here’s what local bookstore employees loved this year.

It’s been a banner year for books. Real Simple asked some of our favorite independent bookstores across the country to share their memorable reads of 2017. Here’s what they recommended:


History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund

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"A punch to the heart lies at the center of History of Wolves—a punch readers may not see coming until some critical point when they look up from the page and realize what Fridlund has been doing to them all along: setting them up to knock them down. Hard. In this tremendous debut, she writes with unbelievable craft and depth of feeling about girlhood, sexual awakening, guilt, belief, and above all the shattering limits of faith. The result is a novel of huge power, one destined to be among the most talked-about of the year." —Brandon Stout, marketing director at Changing Hands in Phoenix, Arizona

To buy: $11,; or $25,


Heather, the Totality, by Matthew Weiner

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Heather, the Totality is engaging and well-paced with a familiar, old school American-story feel to it; a perfect stage for subversion that builds in a satisfying and compelling way. If you were a fan of Mad Men, you'll recognize the same sort of tight, confined subtlety in the characters and plot that you might not immediately realize is outrageous until you've stepped away from the story.” —Will Worley, owner of Porter Books and Bread in Indianapolis, Indiana

To buy: $15,; or $25,  


The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden

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“My pick would have to be The Bear and the Nightingale, a beautiful fantasy set in medieval Russia by debut author Katherine Arden. [It] is breathtaking in its sumptuous beauty and lush prose. Author Katherine Arden effortlessly constructs a medieval Russia where winter rules, both figuratively and literally, as Morozko, the cruel Winter King.” —Heather Herbaugh, bookseller at Mitzi’s Books in Rapid City, South Dakota

To buy: $11,; or $16,


Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

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“This is a sweeping saga that follows four generations of one Korean family beginning in the early 1900s through the 1980s. The novel weaves history into its pages in a way that creates two storylines: One that follows the important historical eras from the early 1900s to the end of the 20th century, and the other that tells a personal story of one family and their struggles to survive and endure the challenges life bestows on them. This is a novel that is relevant in today’s world as it is quite frankly a novel of outsiders, minorities, familial roles, and the politically marginalized. This is a book for fans of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, or just anyone that loves historical fiction and family epics but wants a different cast of characters and a different historical viewpoint than what they are used to or have grown to expect.” —Josie Danz, manager at Zandbroz Variety in Fargo, North Dakota

To buy: $11,; or $15,


Hum If You Don’t Know The Words, by Bianca Marais

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“Set during the Soweto uprising, this [novel] features a young white girl and her black caretaker. I think a lot of readers today are not as aware of the days of apartheid and the people that were fighting to end it in South Africa. It's a great historical novel with very strong characters and packs an emotional punch. And it is definitely not a white savior narrative. Plus I love the cover (it kind of looks nice next to Sing, Unburied, Sing).” —Daniel Goldin, proprietor of Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

To buy: $15,; or $26,  


A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

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“The book is an intimate portrayal of a Russian aristocrat, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, sentenced to permanent confinement at a hotel. As an aristocrat, he is assumed to be against the Communist regime. The book follows the various relationships that the Count builds at the hotel including political ties, friendships and a "daughter" who is left with him at five years of age by a friend. Readers are smitten with the Count due to his elegance and kindness. They are also educated on post-revolutionary Russia (1922).” —Leslie Finkel, store and events manager at Wellington Square Books in Exton, Pennsylvania

To buy: $18,; or $27,


Anything Is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout

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“[Strout's] ability to write about the beauty and pain in everyday life feels like catching up with an old friend.” —Cal Morris, co-owner of Church Street Coffee and Books in Mountain Brook, Alabama

To buy: $18,; or $27,


Ungrateful Mammals, by Dave Eggers

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“Whimsical, yet moving, Egger’s drawings of mammals are the perfect antidote for our uneasy times. Eggers has been one of our more prolific and creative book artists over the last dozen years. He continues to make us re-think the chaos around us.” —Greg Danz, manager at Zandbroz Variety in Fargo, North Dakota

To buy: $16.50,; or $30,