This week we launch our list of the Best Nonfiction books of 2017. These 100 books were chosen through an admittedly unscientific method that combines the assessments of our reviewers and my discretion as the nonfiction editor. While all 100 books are undoubtedly worthy of attention, these five books made a particularly lasting impression on me this year. They appear in alphabetical order.
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood: “A noted young poet unexpectedly boomerangs back into her parents’ home and transforms the return into a richly textured story of an unconventional family and life….A linguistically dexterous, eloquently satisfying narrative debut.”
Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli: “A heartfelt plea to change the dialogue on Latin American children fleeing violence in their homelands to seek refuge in America….Luiselli effectively humanizes the plights of those who have been demonized or who have been reduced to faceless numbers, the ones caught in the web of gang violence fueled by drug wars and the American arms trade.”
Gorilla and the Bird by Zack McDermott: “A tale of madness, self-destruction, and the stalwart presence of a family that, while not exactly the Waltons, is always there….If the Joads were tanked up on Bud Light and Haldol and Steinbeck were under Hunter S. Thompson’s influence, this might be the result—rueful, funny, and utterly authentic.”
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael Twitty: “Food historian Twitty, creator of the Afroculinaria blog, serves up a splendid hearth-based history, at once personal and universal, of the African-American experience….An exemplary, inviting exploration and an inspiration for cooks and genealogists alike.”
Tenements, Towers Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City by Julia Wertz: “In busy cartoons and archly entertaining prose, New Yorker artist Wertz serves up a grandly alternative history of Gotham….A delight for New York aficionados. Every city needs a version of this artist and her book.”
Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.