It comes as no surprise that our co-operative's best selling titles from 2017 reflected the turbulent social and political atmosphere of a year that felt conflictual, dangerous, and altogether unprecedented. Our readers reached for titles that drew from history (real and imaginal) to make sense of the world around them. And while dystopian fiction captured the headlines (think Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and George Orwell's 1984), our favorite books were hopeful, healing, and unabashedly resistant.
Beyond the politics of "non-compliance," but certainly intersecting it, another theme emerged from our literary year: the Witch. The Feminist Press' Witches, Midwives, and Nurses was our most selling title by a landslide. With black-robed covens hexing Trump's inauguration, local activists throwing spooky dance party fundraisers, and brujxs showing up everywhere in pop culture, witchcraft may finally have made the move from the margins to the mainstream.
“An ‘unabashedly partisan’ history of militant antifascism in Europe and the United States, as well as strategies for resistance during the Trump presidency and beyond. Based on interviews with 61 current and former antifascists from 17 countries… Bray’s arguments are incisive and cohesive, and his consistent refusal to back down from principle makes the book a crucial intervention in our political moment.”
– Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, author of The End of San Francisco
“If you have ever listened to Neil deGrasse Tyson speak, you will know one thing about him: he is really good at blowing your mind… NDT has a gift for communicating complex ideas and theories in a way that is not only understandable, but interesting. This is the perfect book to dip in and out of to give your brain some space to absorb the baffling discoveries within.”
– Sophia Khan, BookRiot.com
“Okorafor's storytelling is vivid and thorough, and no doubt that the spot on writing of the outsider experience is personal to her. Underneath the action and advanced technologies, this story is the equivalent of an out of body, sci-fi experience in regards to black womanhood. She introduces a beautiful world of space and technology through the eyes of an amazing young woman and does not shy away from the complexities of human emotions or experiences.”
– Antoinette Scully, BlackAndBookish.com
"Smith, a contemplative writer of gratitude and reverence who names her muses in poems, memoirs, and songs, deepens her inquiry into the nature of inspiration in this slender, trenchant volume, the first in Yale's Why I Write series... Gracefully improvisational, as always, Smith offers an unusually poetic, mystical, and transfixing perspective on the mystery of literary creation."
– Donna Seaman, Booklist
A truly unique and beautifully written story. The prose tilts toward poetry and the narrative feels dreamlike at times, yet the emotions and relationships in this book ring so true and feel so raw. It's impossible not to fall in love with the characters in this vivid, imaginative, trans coming-of-age story!
With a blend of believable characters, an unpredictable story-line, and a fantastical-demonic backdrop – what's not to love? This page-turner, written by an Asheville-based author, will leave whomever you gift it to with a story they can keep coming back to. And it's got anarcho-punks in it. Double-win!
“Emil Ferris’s debut graphic novel, illustrates the empowering subversiveness of horror, especially for queer people. The book tells the story of Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old half-Mexican tomboy who is obsessed with horror films and detective comics… an incredibly complex book, and will doubtlessly be considered a groundbreaking classic right alongside Fun Home and Persepolis.”
– Michelle Hart, Autostraddle
“Gaiman’s characteristically limpid, quick-running prose keeps the dramatic impetus of the medieval texts, if not their rough-hewn quality. His telling of the tales is for children and adults alike, and this is both right and wise, it being the property of genuine myth to be accessible on many levels.”
– Ursula K. Le Guin, author of The Dispossessed
“Exciting, full of incredible technology, and powered by a dark historical mystery. It's something you can read to escape, or to ponder philosophical questions in our own world. In short, it's that rare series that appeals to a love of adventure, and to the urge to reflect on the unseen forces that drive our civilizations.”
– Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous
“The style of the sun and her flowers combines short poems of a few lines with longer narratives, recounting issues such as the beauty found in her parents’ broken English and self-reclamation after sexual abuse… A literary revolutionary, fighting against oppression through fragmentation and the dismantling of taboo.”
– Juliet Garcia, The Oxford Student
“Like unexpectedly getting knocked over by a steamroller. We are accustomed to euphemisms, taking around issues, and rarely being honest about them because reality is too often painful. We understand that Ta-Nehisi Coates’ unvarnished picture of America’s cancer has threatened to destroy us in the past. We are less comfortable admitting that the disease still resides within us, that our future is just as precarious as the past.”
– Charles R. Larson, Professor Emeritusof Literature at American University
“Raw and truthful, painfully funny, inspiring of outrage, and alive with the wonder and magic of a feminist awakening. One single mom becoming woke, struggling, and triumphing on her own outsider terms, We Were Witches is a new feminist classic, penned by one the culture’s strongest authors at her most experimental and personal.”
– Michelle Tea, author of Black Wave
"One of the side effects of your continual aging is that now you’re like the grown-up in some little kid’s life. And maybe that kid’s life doesn’t revolve around the intense consumer fest that is 'the holidays,' but it probably does, and you should probably buy that kid something. And that something should probably be books."
– Maggie Block, Mask Magazine
"A beautifully wrought hero's journey story about Sunny, a young girl with albinism born to Nigerian parents in America, and then returned to Nigeria, where she discovers that she is a Leopard Person, a born sorcerer... A marvellous and uplifting read, heartwarming in its portrayal of true freindship, heartbreaking in its portrayal of headstrong youth and the perils of pride."
– Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
Young Adult, Fantasy
"The Book of Dust passes by in one tumultuous wave of literature that leaves you queasy, but wanting the next volume as quickly as possible. It deserves not only a reread, but an unpacking. It is not a one-and-done novel, something that, in a time where binging and passing is the status quo. This is a novel to digest."
– Brittany Lovely, Hypable
Goats of Anarchy: One Woman's Quest to Save the World One Goat At A Time by Leanne Lauricella
All Ages, Non-human Animals
Get ready to party—the goats are back in town! Based on the popular Instagram account, Goats of Anarchy takes you on a tour of Leanne’s goat rescue farm, a place where special-needs goats can heal, grow, and butt heads to their hearts’ content.
"One hundred extraordinary women are profiled in mini biographies alongside striking full-page portraits by female artists... Beautiful production makes this a book to keep, treasure and read again, and the end pages are a call to arms: space for readers to write their own story and draw their own portrait."
– Fiona Noble, TheGuardian.com
Gorilla Gardener: How To Help Nature Take Over the World by Jana Christy and John Seven
Picture Book, Gardening
In these colorful pages, happy little Gorilla Gardener shows us how by secretly dropping seeds in sidewalk cracks to sprout flowers and green the city. Gorilla Gardener goes even farther, building a delightful world where nature rules and humans of all ages enjoy life outdoors, while having creative fun and adventure! With instructions for making your own seed-burst, with a glossary of gardening terms.
"One of the biggest young adult novels in the country, having sold more than 63,000 copies since its debut in February, deals with a young girl facing off against an institutional conspiracy to oppress her people... The Hate U Give is, yes, a novel about race, but it is also a dystopian young adult novel that happens to be set in reality.
– Adriana E. Ramírez, author of Dead Boys
Deeply and powerfully moving, Moon Bear is an unforgettable story of compassion, hope, and bravery against overwhelming odds, and brings to light the real-life, heartwrenching plight of Asia’s endangered moon bears.
The feminist folktales collected in Sea Girl upend any notion that women are doomed to be sentimental, meek, or submissive. In these classic tales, heroines unflinchingly wade monstrous rivers, escape ogres' nests, and outsmart desperate sharks and hungry tigers.
In the epic third installment of Robert Beatty's #1 bestselling series, Serafina takes her rightful place among literary champions as she battles fiercely to defend all she loves and become everything that she is meant to be.
"This book by Ransom Riggs features all-new stories that will take us deeper into the Peculiar world.... With a Victorian style for writing and a capacity for subtle humor, the tales read as cautionary fables, rich with peril and phantasy, and will be enjoyed by teens and adults alike."
– Mariana Ruiz, GeekDad.com
What We See in the Stars: An Illustrated Tour of the Night Sky by Kelsey Oseid
All Ages, Science, Mythology
"This book is a beautiful way to learn about the science and history of the night sky. Kelsey Oseid’s beautiful paintings seem to be speckled with starlight and truly bring to life facts about astronomy, astrology, and mythology, from the mechanics of meteor showers to the tools used to map and name ancient constellations. What We See in the Stars is an amazing resource for anyone who ever looks up at the sky in wonderment."
– Rachel Ignotofsky, author of Women in Science
"This all-ages graphic novel tells the story of Aster, a young boy from a magical clan, where all the boys become shapeshifters and the women become witches... This book is especially timely, as it does a lot to combat patriarchal assumptions of what manhood should be and how it should relate to femininity."
– Mey Valdivia Rude, Autostraddle