You Heard Them First at ALOUD: Best Reads of 2017

ALOUD audiences hear from Roxane Gay about her latest book Hunger: A Memoir of (MY) Body.

‘Tis the time of year when critics, editors, librarians, and book lovers alike compile their favorite reads of the year. Ranging from urgent topics like the environment and politics to lyrical stories that take us into never-seen-before worlds, we’ve noticed one reoccurring theme on these “best of” lists for 2017: many of these authors have visited ALOUD.

ALOUD audiences hear from Roxane Gay about her latest book Hunger: A Memoir of (MY) Body.
ALOUD audiences hear from Roxane Gay about her latest book Hunger: A Memoir of (MY) Body.

Here’s our own compilation of best books where the esteemed authors took the ALOUD stage before topping this year’s favorites. Listen again or for the first time to these fascinating conversations, and check out their work at the Los Angeles Public Library—or look for a signed copy of some of these books at The Library Store.

From the 10 Best Books of The New York Times Book Review:

Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing
“Achieving a level of empathy that is all too often impossible to muster in real life, but that is genuine and inevitable in the hands of a writer of such lyric imagination,” the winner of the 2017 National Book Award for fiction can be seen on almost everyone’s best books list this year. Ward visited ALOUD in 2014 to discuss her previous award-winning novel Salvage the Bones.


James Forman Jr.’s Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America
“A masterly account of how a generation of black officials, beginning in the 1970s, wrestled with recurring crises of violence and drug use in the nation’s capital,” Foreman discussed this urgent work at ALOUD this fall. Listen to the podcast.

Richard O. Prum’s The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World — and Us
“A passionate plea that begins with birds and ends with humans and will help you finally understand, among other things, how in the world we have an animal like the peacock,” Prum shared this fascinating scientific story with ALOUD this past spring. Listen to the podcast.

From The Washington Post’s 10 Best Books of 2017:

George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo
“Everything about Saunders’s first novel, which won the Man Booker Prize, confounds our expectations of what a novel should look and sound like. It’s composed entirely of brief quotations — some real, some imagined — from people who worked for the president, his friends, colleagues, enemies, biographers and, most strikingly, ghosts trapped in Georgetown’s Oak Hill Cemetery…” Another book you’ll see on many lists this year, Saunders visited ALOUD for the second time last winter to discuss his novel. Listen to the podcast.

Robert Sapolsky’s Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
“For any layperson who wants to understand why we behave the way we do, Sapolsky has created an immensely readable, often hilarious, romp through the worlds of psychology, primatology, sociology and neurobiology.” Sapolsky visited ALOUD in May. Listen to the podcast.

From Time’s Top 10 Novels of 2017:

Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach
“The book’s heroine, Anna Kerrigan, is a character perfectly calibrated for Hollywood, with verve, vulnerability, and a tough-as-nails glamour that transitions from her job as the first female diver to work on war ships to her nights in gangster-filled night clubs.” Pulitzer Prize winner Egan visited ALOUD this fall. Listen to the podcast.

Kirkus’ Best of 2017:

Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
“An intense, unsparingly honest portrait of childhood crisis and its enduring aftermath.” Gay talked about this deeply personal work at a special off-site event this summer.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
“Emotionally charged, deftly crafted, and urgently relevant essays.” Coates visited ALOUD in 2015 to discuss Between the World and Me.


From LA Times’ Best Books of 2017:

Nathan Englander’s Dinner at the Center of the Earth
“The fourth book from Pulitzer Prize finalist Englander is a heart-wrenching political fable that takes on the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine.” Englander has shared from previous collections at two past visits to ALOUD. Listen to a podcast.

Percival Everett’s So Much Blue
Prolific author and USC professor Everett’s latest novel is one of his best.” Everett is a frequent visitor to ALOUD.


Masha Gessen’s The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia
“The winner of the 2017 National Book Award for nonfiction, Gessen’s book tracks the lives of four Russians coming of age in a new Russia and three of an older generation from sudden liberalization through the rise of Putin.” Gessen has visited ALOUD twice in the past to discuss her previous books, including a talk about Pussy Riot. Listen to the podcast.


From The Guardian’s Best Fiction of 2017:

Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
“A sprawling, kaleidoscopic fable about love and resistance in modern India.” Roy took part in a special off-site program at the Aratani Theatre in May.


From NPR’s 2017’s Great Reads:

Layli Long Soldier’s WHEREAS: Poems
“Thrillingly, we seem to be upon a moment in contemporary poetry wherein young women of color feel empowered to gather the forms, sounds and spirits of their ancient languages and rework them into pieces of weaponry.” Soldier recently shared the ALOUD stage with two other Indigenous poets. Listen to the podcast.

David Owen’s Where The Water Goes: Life And Death Along The Colorado River
“It’s a restless travelogue of human impact on the natural world and how politics and economics have as much to do with redirecting rivers as any earthwork.” Owen visited ALOUD in the spring. Listen to the podcast.


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