Home > About reading, Personal Posts, TBR20, Translation Tragedy, Translations > 2017 in books: highlights of my reading year.

2017 in books: highlights of my reading year.

Let’s face it, the TBR is still out of control. I read 56 books in 2017, half of them came from my TBR, the rest were new acquisitions. Oh well, they’ll keep, all these books, right?

My Reading Bingo billet already gave you a vision of my reading year through my bingo card. This is a more personal list of categories to highlight part of my 2017 literary journey.

The book I’d love to find a translator for.

Les harmoniques by Marcus Malte. This crime fiction book resonates with the sultry notes of a jazz club in a black and white movie and dives into the horrors of the war in ex-Yugoslavia. A tribute to jazz, to classic noir novels and films and a sobering reminder of that war.

The book that may change your vision of the emigrants that run aground on the coasts of Sicily.

In Eldorado, Laurent Gaudé shows us two sides of the problem. Through the eyes of an Italian naval officer, we see the weight of rescuing so many people and finding so many bodies. Through the eyes of an immigrant, we see what they’re ready to live through to get to Europe. A very moving book that puts this delicate question at human’s height

A 1930s book that reminded me of Trump’s America.

A Cool Million by Nathanael West. A rotten politician tells speeches whose rhetoric sounds like Trump. Chilling.

A book that will show you another side of Paris.

In Black Bazaar, Alain Mabanckou takes the reader in the black communities in Paris. His vivid descriptions of the 19th arrondissement in Paris will walk you away from the museum Paris that tourists see first.

The book that blurs the lines between literary fiction and crime fiction.

Elle by Philippe Djian. I’m a huge Djian fan and he gets better as years go by. Elle is one of his bests with Michèle as a venomous femme fatale.

Bleak but brilliant.

Caribou Island by David Vann. I wasn’t initially attracted to Vann’s books because they seemed too bleak for me. But after hearing his interview at Quais du Polar, I decided to give this one a try. And I’m so glad I got over my reservations. Alaska is not a place you want to visit after reading Caribou Island, though. The cover of the French edition is stunning as it pictures perfectly the relationship of the older married couple.

Books with unexpected modernity.

I never expected the feminist streak of The Dark Room by RK Narayan and Doctor Glas by Söderberg raises questions about the right to conjugal duty, euthanasia and birth control that I never suspected in a book published in 1905. Both books are novellas and their writers managed to say a lot in a few pages.

Journey into the past.

Monsieur Proust by Céleste Albaret. Proust’s last housekeeper relates her memories of her years at his service. It pictures an outmoded world that died with WWI. She was too fond of him to be objective in her stories but she doesn’t hide his flaws. What a pain he must have been. A fascinating one, certainly, but still a pain with his upside-down way-of-life.

Most crazy book in its plot and characters.

Aller simple by Carlos Salem. Sadly, it’s not available in English. It’s a crazy road trip through Marocco and Spain with a poor fellow who’s afraid to be charged for the murder of his wife and the ghost or reincarnation of the famous tango singer Carlos Gardel.

Best blind date with a book.

Dominique Sylvain was present at Quais du Polar. When I discovered that she comes from my region and that The Dark Angel opens with a quote by Romain Gary, I had to read it. Billet to come where you’ll encounter a great duo of female investigators.

Best Sugar Without Cellulite Book

The Three Miss Kings by Ada Cambridge. I finished it on December 31st and I will write the billet in a couple of weeks. It reminded me of The Romance of a Shop by Amy Levy. It’s one of those 19th century books about love and marriage with incredible twists and turns.

Worst reading experience of the year.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. Truly awful, a crime to fiction, to quote my billet.

The billet you liked the most.

Last year, your favorite billet had been Literature in relation to American paintings in the 1930s. This year, it is Book recommendations needed: Australian literature. It was inspiring, I received recommendations for 80 different books.

The billet you missed.

Not a lot of comments or likes for Letters from England by Karel Čapek and I find it unfair. It’s a short book about his travels in Great-Britain. It’s delightful and witty.

A book for the Romain Gary aficionado that I am.

In Un certain M. Pielkieny, François-Henri Désérade writes an autofiction book about looking for M. Piekielny, a person mentioned in Gary’s autobiographical book, Promise at Dawn. Billet to come. I loved it.



2017 has been a good reading year, but not an excellent one. I didn’t read any Thomas Hardy, and I still want to read all of his books. My work life has been quick paced and it drained part of my energy. I turned to easy books and tried to read in French as much as possible. It took me a month to read the 750 pages of Bánffy’s They Were Counted. I hope I’ll be able to read more engaging books in 2018. As mentioned in my Happy New Year billet, I will read at least one Australian book per month among my selection and my Book Club reads. (The list is here, if you’re curious about it)

If you published your Best of 2017 already, links in the comments are welcome. And of course, I’m curious: what are your reading plans for 2018?

  1. January 2, 2018 at 9:57 am

    I should take a look at my stats to see if they were similar to yours – I suspect so even though I had started the year determined to read from my own collection of books rather than buy yet more.
    The Mabanckou sounds interesting, I read Broken Glass by him a few years ago and thought it inventive. This one sounds a different style.


    • January 2, 2018 at 11:03 pm

      I had good resolutions too but alas…
      The Mabanckou is great, I recommend it warmly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. January 2, 2018 at 10:01 am

    I love the fact that several of the books on that list are ones that we got together at Quais du Polar. And I certainly bought the Letters from England book on your recommendation and loved it! You’ve reminded me that I need to read the David Vann book I bought as well…


    • January 2, 2018 at 11:06 pm

      We had good picks at Quais du polar. I should have added Comme un blues by Aníbal Malvar. Also a great pick.
      The Vann is superb, great style, perfectly orchestrated plot…
      I’m currently reading one of our other picks: The City of the Dead by Sara Gran.


  3. January 2, 2018 at 11:59 am

    What good books. I should read (insert long list). Onward to the 2018 Quais du Polar.

    Thanks for the various suggestions and advice this year, about books and about Lyon..


    • January 2, 2018 at 11:08 pm

      How fun it’s going to be to have you at Quails du polar this year. I’m going to post soon about the festival, see if other bloggers are interested in coming and going to diner together.


  4. January 2, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    I plan to have no plans again – I really find that works best for me!!


    • January 2, 2018 at 11:10 pm

      That works for me too. I only have the Book Club books already planned. For the rest, we’ll see.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Vishy
    January 2, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    Beautiful post, Emma! I want to read Elle by Philippe Djian! Glad you liked R.K.Narayan’s The Dark Room. Sorry to know that Death Comes to Pemberly was not good. So sad. Hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2018!


    • January 2, 2018 at 11:16 pm

      Thanks Vishy
      I highly recommend the Djian, it’s good one.
      Thanks for introducing me to Narayan, I will read the other ones of my omnibus edition.

      Have a great reading year too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vishy
        January 3, 2018 at 12:32 am

        I will try to get Djian’s book soon. Hope you enjoy the other books in the Narayanan collection. Happy reading! Thank you for the wishes!


        • January 4, 2018 at 10:31 pm

          I hope you’ll like the Djian, Vishy. Looking forward to your review.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Vishy
            January 7, 2018 at 2:24 pm

            Thank you, Emma! Looking forward to reading it soon.

            Liked by 1 person

  6. January 2, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    You mentioned David Vann, and I immediately though of a movie I watched recently, ‘The Lost City of Z’. However that novel was written by David Grann. Perhaps in 2018 I can learn to tell these two writers apart.


    • January 2, 2018 at 11:18 pm


      I recommend the David Vann, really. And Craig Johnson again.


  7. January 2, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    Les Harmoniques sounds excellent. It’s one I’d love to read so hopefully it will get a translation.

    I had planned to read Broken Glass as my next Mabanckou, but will maybe bump up Black Bazaar instead. Either way I do plan to read it certainly.

    Dr Glas is great. I don’t recall right now your Narayan review and I’ve long wondered what else to read by him (I read The Painter of Signs centuries ago). One for my list I think.

    That Vann cover is indeed brilliant.

    Anyway, great list! Good but not great covers my 2017 reading year pretty well too, but even so at least we both did hit some greats over the course of the year.

    As for 2018, my main goal is to get back to Proust. I’m also though quite keen to try the Banffy (haven’t read your review yet but I already own the trilogy). Time though as ever will be an issue as Proust and Banffy may be a bit too many big books to easily digest.


    • January 2, 2018 at 11:25 pm

      I’m not sure Les Harmoniques will be translated, it’s not recent. Or it’ll get discovered if someone translates Le Garçon since it won a literary prize.
      I forgot to add other reviews on my Dr Glas post, I need to amend it. I heard of it on your blog when you reviewed it.

      The covers of the publisher Gallmeister are always good and spot on.

      I should finish Albertine disparue and read Le temps retrouvé. That would mean completing La recherche, and that would feel good.
      The Bánffy is rather easy to read, it flows well. It’s “just” 1750 pages to read the three volumes…


  8. January 2, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    Black Bazaar was written after Broken Glass, so I suspect I’ll read glass first then bazaar. I’ll probably skip his latest.

    The Dark Room seems to be out of print in English which is annoying. Not sure yet if that’s true for Narayan generally or just that one for some random reason.


    • January 2, 2018 at 11:27 pm

      I should read Broken Glass too.

      The Dark Room is included in the omnibus edition that I have. Try this if you want to have it. Swami and friends is good too and the other two of the book sound excellent as well.


  9. January 3, 2018 at 9:39 am

    What a great list! I’m keen to read the Laurent Gaudé — it sounds exactly like my cup of tea. As per reading plans: I don’t really have any except to read more of the books I own rather than splurging on new ones.


    • January 4, 2018 at 10:32 pm

      The Gaudé is good. He’s an excellent writer.

      No reading plan is a good plan 🙂


      • January 4, 2018 at 10:42 pm

        The English language edition of the Gaude doesn’t seem to be in print 😢


        • January 4, 2018 at 10:44 pm

          4,39 USD on the Amazon US Kindle Store…


          • January 6, 2018 at 4:27 pm

            Due to global rights issues I cannot buy ebooks from US Kindle store; has to be UK. 😩


  10. Pat
    January 3, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    Hi Emma, just looked over your list, loved Black Bazar, but could not bring myself to write up Sylvain’s Passage du Désir, the characters were too excessive for me, happy new year


    • January 3, 2018 at 3:12 pm

      Happy New Year to you too.
      I found the characters in the Sylvain funny.
      Have you read Sara Gran’s The City of the Dead? Claire DeWitt: THAT is an excessive character for me.


      • Pat
        January 3, 2018 at 3:17 pm

        Can’t say I have but will put it on my ntbr list. I read the Sylvain 18 months ago, the story seemed fine and there was a plan for a series with the same two characters, I don’t know if it ever came to anything though


        • January 4, 2018 at 10:30 pm

          I think that The Dark Angel is the first of the series.


  11. January 5, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Such a diverse and interesting list Emma. I would love to get to Dijan, Mabanckou and of course Gary.

    Happy reading in 2018!


    • January 6, 2018 at 11:11 am

      Thanks Ian. Happy reading year to you too. I’m still open to guest posts if you want to share a particular book.

      Lucky you, Djian, Mabanckou and Gary (at least Promise at Dawn) are available in English.

      About the translations of Gary’s books: I know you have reservations about them.
      I’ve read Chien Blanc & White Dog and the texts are not exactly the same. Both texts were written by Gary. He didn’t write exactly the same way for the French public and for the American one. He spoke English well enough to write novels in the language. It’s safe to say he probably read the translation of Promise at Dawn when it was done. I’d read it thinking that if something was terribly wrong with it, the author would have intervened in his time.


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