Whether you prefer your reading sexy and satirical, political and polarizing, or simply amusing, the year’s best releases are guaranteed to hit the spot by providing some much-needed escapism, while challenging the status quo and sparking timely conversation. The best books of 2017 (so far, that is) will guide us through this messy year with the opportunity to see the world beyond our close confines, allow us to learn more deeply about the human experience, or simply offer valuable entertainment. We live in exhausting times—why not escape for a bit with a book?
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
A self-described professional explorer, Levy likens the exhilaration of orienting herself amongst new people and new surroundings to the euphoric early weeks with a new lover—think heightened senses and heady in-the-moment intensity. She’s crisscrossed the globe in search of these unique experiences as a staff writer for The New Yorker since 2008, and now turns her interrogative eye on herself. What results is profound, and lasting. Growing out of an essay called “Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” Rules Do Not Apply reveals what happens when nature decides to smash the plans you’ve made, and derail what you thought was your life.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
“In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.” This opening sentence sets the scene for this swiftly told love story between Nadia and Saeed, whose relationship is pressurized and contorted by war. In this unnamed city, suspended somewhere between the past, the present, and the future, text messages and one hour of daily internet connection link Nadia and Saeed with the world beyond a home that is disintegrating day by day. First the rich flee, then communication halts, and as the violence escalates they must decide how and when to escape their crumbling homeland. This timely novel brings the frightening reality of war outside your window up close and makes it deeply personal.
Celine by Peter Heller
Though born in New York City, Peter Heller has turned himself into an inveterate adventurer, eco-pirate, and surfer whose life and work has been defined by the remote parts of the globe he’s explored. In his new detective novel Celine, he returns (momentarily) to the place of his childhood, with a story inspired by the life of his own remarkable mother, a stylish and rule-breaking private eye. Celine wrestles with themes of family, loss and privilege—and when a photographer’s mauled body shows up in Yellowstone National Park, a cold trail gets warmer and a daughter’s need for the truth ratchets up the suspense.
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco
How does a fastidious IGA check-out chick and public school kid from upstate New York, with no connections and no Ivy League education, end up a few feet from the Oval Office, working as the youngest-ever woman to be deputy chief of staff for the president of the United States? Mastromonaco shares the memories and mishaps that shaped her journey, from desperately trying (and failing) to get a job in politics after college to finding herself joking with Obama about his penchant for black mock turtlenecks. This relatable memoir is packed with juicy on-the-road stories and crisis management advice, and presents a strong case for embracing a sense of humor in the face of humbling setbacks.
The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn
Ever fantasize about “opening up” your relationship or marriage? If so, you can live vicariously through another couple’s experiences in Dunn’s comedic novel before you give it a whirl yourself. When Lucy and Owen’s friends reveal that they’re giving open marriage a shot at a boozy dinner party, Lucy shudders at the thought. Still, she can see the appeal of indulging in some no questions asked rendezvous’ in the city—just for six months, as an experiment, of course. What could go possibly wrong? This funny and relatable tale from the writer who crafted many of the mishap-laden stories on Murphy Brown and Spin City delivers the perfect escapist read in these angsty political times.