KCLS unveils its Best Books for 2017

Have you read any of the books on the list?

  • Friday, December 15, 2017 8:30am
  • Opinion

By Stephen A. Smith

KCLS Interim Director

And the envelope, please…

Continuing an end-of-year tradition that dates back more than 15 years, the King County Library System has chosen its Best Books of 2017.

Each year, librarians in the KCLS Selection Department compile a list of their favorite books in each of four categories: fiction, nonfiction, teens and children’s. Starting with nearly 400 titles, it takes a lot of reading to whittle the list down to 100, but no one is complaining. The best books list is something we bibliophiles look forward to each year. Everyone is curious about what books make the list and enjoy comparing notes on each other’s favorites.

As the KCLS collection has grown over the years, so too has the Best Books list. In 2017, it features 25 titles in each category (at one time, there were only eight per category) and incorporates a balance of topics and genres to appeal to KCLS’ broad audience of readers.

So how do our librarians choose the Best Books? There are many factors. Surprisingly, circulation is not necessarily one of them. For instance, books that may be lesser known but cause children and parents to light up, can and do, make the list. According to KCLS’ readers’ services specialist, Emily Calkins, “best” means something that patrons enjoy. Librarians also consider professional reviews from sources such as Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, and whether a book has been long-listed for the National Book Award, Carnegie Medal or others.

While only librarians nominate books, for the first time this year, all staff were given the opportunity to vote for their favorites and more than 150 responded.

I personally enjoyed Elizabeth Strout’s “Anything is Possible,” one of this year’s fiction selections, and am on a waiting list for another: “Manhattan Beach” by Jennifer Egan. Many “best books” from past years are remarkably relevant today. I’ve found it meaningful to revisit “The Caine Mutiny” by Herman Wouk, Raymond Chandler’s “The Little Sister” and even those that once were banned, such as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”

As many patrons know, an award-winning book doesn’t mean it is, or will become, a favorite. But sometimes an author knocks it out of the park and our librarians know it. Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See,” which was published in 2014, was one of KCLS’ best books for fiction that year and went on to win the 2015 Pulitzer Prize. It was a top five circulated title in print for nearly three years and still ranks among the top five for downloadable or eBook titles.

I hope you enjoy perusing the Best Books of 2017, sharing the list with family and friends and finding many wonderful books to read — if you haven’t already!

To see the list, visit www.kcls.org/bestbooks.

Stephen A. Smith is the interim director of the King County Library System.

More in Opinion

Why we’re supporting our schools on Feb. 13 | Guest editorial

Eastside mayors support LWSD bond and levies.

Frank Shiers
A not-so-funny joke | Cartoon

We could soon be seeing higher energy costs in Washington.

‘Overwhelming’ attendance at Muslim and Immigrant Safety Forum and Dinner | Letter

Last year, the Muslim Community and Neighborhood Association (MCNA) organized a Muslim… Continue reading

For opponents of a carbon tax, an initiative threat looms

If legislators don’t act on the governor’s legislation, a plan could land on the November ballot.

Inslee: ‘It’s our state’s destiny … to fight climate change’

In his State-of-the-State address, the governor made the case for an ambitious carbon tax.

Let’s continue making Kirkland a welcoming community | Letter

Numerous events and grassroots initiatives were held throughout 2017 to support a more inclusive community.

Republicans: what is your obligation to the American public? | Letter

An urge for those in office to consider the greater good.

Support the LWSD bond and levies | Letter

The measures fund needs that are not covered by state funding, including paying for existing staff, current programs and desperately needed facilities.

United States is a health care outlier | Letter

The United States finishes last among the world’s wealthiest 11 nations when it comes to health care.

Most Read