Backlist Beauties: The Best Backlist Books I’ve Read in 2017 So Far

Since my Fall reading has been so lackluster, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the best backlist books I’ve read in 2017 so far. When new releases aren’t working for you…dive into the backlist for some relief!

I always say I’m going to make more time for backlist titles and, every year, I don’t follow through. My goal is to read enough additional backlist titles by the end of the year to warrant another Backlist Beauties post!

This post contains affiliate links.

The Best Backlist Books I’ve Read in 2017 So Far

Books for Living by Will SchwalbeBooks for Living by Will Schwalbe
Nonfiction – Essays (Released December 27, 2016)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Knopf)

Plot Summary: The author of The End of Your Life Book Club‘s collection of essays featuring individual books and how they impacted his life.

My Thoughts: Each chapter of this introspective collection focuses on one book and how it impacted and contributed to Schwalbe’s life. He covers classics (Stuart Little), nonfiction (The Importance Of Living), serious books (A Little Life), and lighter fare (The Girl on the Train). I certainly hadn’t read all the books he discusses, but I related to many of his points about life. And, I’m now in the process of reading a couple books Schwalbe talked about in Books for Living (What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott). This book would be a fantastic gift for serious readers or someone who is reflecting a bit on life. 

Reading is a respite from the relentlessness of technology, but it’s not only that. It’s how I reset and recharge. It’s how I escape, but it’s also how I engage. And reading should spur further engagement.

Dark Matter by Blake CrouchDark Matter by Blake Crouch
Fiction – Thriller / Sci-Fi (Released July 26, 2016)
354 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Crown)

Plot Summary: After college physics professor Jason Dessen is abducted at gunpoint one night, he awakens in another world.

My Thoughts: Despite the hype, I avoided this book for quite awhile because I’m decidedly NOT into sci-fi. But, Dark Matter is sci-fi like The Martian (my review) is sci-fi (i.e. it has broad appeal). There’s definitely some science in it, but the story is deeply human and is more about life choices than the science. The story begins with a “WTF is going on here” vibe reminiscent of The Beautiful Bureaucrat (my review). I had no idea what was going on for awhile, but could not stop reading. Dark Matter is a page-turner in the purest sense…with an action-level on par with an episode of 24

No one tells you it’s all about to change, to be taken away. There’s no proximity alert, no indication that you’re standing on the precipice. And maybe that’s what makes tragedy so tragic. Not just what happens, but how it happens: a sucker punch that comes at you out of nowhere, when you’re least expecting it. No time to flinch or brace.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam HaslettImagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
Fiction (Released May 3, 2016)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Little, Brown)

Plot Summary: A multi-generational family saga of the impact of depression and mental illness on a family.

My Thoughts: Incredibly sad, but poignant, this 2016 National Book Award Long-Lister is beautifully written and captures the frustration, resentment, and crushing sense of responsibility and worry that come with having a family member who suffers from mental illness. While extended sections from Michael’s perspective are hard to read and nonsensical at times with long tangents on esoteric music, they serve a distinct purpose (allowing the reader inside mind of someone suffering from depression). And, the second half flows beautifully toward the inevitable, yet still drama-filled conclusion.

There is no getting better. There is love I cannot bear, which has kept me from drifting entirely loose. There are the medicines I can take that flood my mind without discrimination, slowing the monster, moving the struggle underwater, where I then must live in the murk. But there is no killing the beast. Since I was a young man, it has hunted me. And it will hunt me until I am dead. The older I become, the closer it gets.

Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake by Anna QuindlenLots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released April 24, 2012)
182 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Random House)

Plot Summary: A combination memoir/essay collection covering marriage, girlfriends, motherhood, faith, loss, work, and much more!

My Thoughts: Listening to Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake was like seeing a therapist and falls into the same category as Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. Quindlen just has such a grounded, practical outlook on life that really puts things in perspective for me. Highly recommend for anyone craving a “life wisdom” type read!

Being a parent is not transactional. We do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward: We are good parents, not so they will be loving enough to stay with us, but so they will be strong enough to leave us.

Mothering Sunday by Graham SwiftMothering Sunday by Graham Swift
Historical Fiction (Released April 26, 2016)
177 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Knopf)

Plot Summary: While the staff of British estates has time off for Mothering Sunday of 1924 (a Protestant and Catholic religious holiday that was somewhat of a precursor to our current secular Mother’s Day), Jane (a maid) and Paul (an heir to the neighboring estate) meet to continue their illicit affair.

My Thoughts: Mothering Sunday is a technically a romance, but is so unconventional that I hesitate to call it a romance at all (maybe also because I’m not a romance fan). It’s a quiet, gorgeously written story about the evolution of a woman (Jane) from the Mothering Sunday tryst with her illicit lover to late in her life. The story is unique, yet not weird and I could say the same about Swift’s writing style. Mothering Sunday reminded me a bit of Brian Morton’s Florence Gordon (my review) and would be an excellent choice for fans of Downton Abbey.

It was called “relaxation,” she thought, a word that did not commonly enter a maid’s vocabulary. She had many words, by now, that did not enter a maid’s vocabulary. Even the word “vocabulary.” She gathered them up like one of those nest-building birds outside. And was she even a maid any more, stretched here on his bed? And was he even a “master”? It was the magic, the perfect politics of nakedness. More than relaxation: peace.

One True Thing by Anna QuindlenOne True Thing by Anna Quindlen
Fiction (August 30, 1994)
315 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Random House)

Plot Summary: Ellen Gulden returns home from her prestigious job as a New York City journalist to care for her mother as she’s dying of cancer…only to be accused her mercy killing.

My Thoughts: I’m a bit late to the Anna Quindlen party, but she’s fast becoming a go-to author for me whenever I’m craving some “life lessons/perspective” in my reading. She just gets life…especially marriage, motherhood, and women’s work/life balance. One True Thing explores the relationship between Ellen (an ambitious career woman) and her mother (a Stepford-style stay-at-home mother) and their efforts to understand each other as people before it’s too late. This novel is heartfelt, sad, moving, and thought-provoking and reminded me a bit of My Name is Lucy Barton (a novel about a mother and daughter getting to know each other during a hospital stay) and Home is Burning (a memoir about children serving as caregivers for their parents). 

But in the end what was important was not that we had so misunderstood one another, but that we had so misunderstood her, this woman who had made us who we were while we barely noticed it.

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. I see three favorites here – Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, One True Thing, and Mothering Sunday. So glad you loved them, too. Need to get to Books for Living soon!

    Posted 10.10.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Anna Quindlen is maybe my hero!

      Posted 10.10.17 Reply
  2. I haven’t read any of these, but have been looking at Dark Matter, so I’m happy to hear you liked it. Mothering Sunday is one I really want to read and had sort of forgotten about. I know it’s short, so that’s a plus these days. Great idea for a post AND for finding some great books!

    Posted 10.10.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Oh definitely fit in Mothering Sunday…it’s so short and unique.

      Posted 10.10.17 Reply
  3. Rebecca wrote:

    I really enjoyed Dark Matter and I’m so glad you did too! That one threw me for a loop. Completely dizzying.
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review
    Follow me on Bloglovin’

    Posted 10.10.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I had NO idea what was going on for awhile!

      Posted 10.10.17 Reply
  4. Angela wrote:

    Dark Matter is one of my favorite books of the year. I too was a little leery because I don’t read a ton of sci-fi, but it was so much more than a sci-fi book. I recommend it to everyone!

    Posted 10.10.17 Reply
  5. Ooo.. I like the sound of Books for Living; I’ll have to look into that title.

    I’ve found since being a book blogger that I don’t read as many backlist books as I once did, but definitely don’t forget about them with all the new releases as some gems are to be found. One of my favourite things is finding a new favourite author and reading through their backlist.

    Great post – good luck with the goal of making another before the year is out.

    Posted 10.10.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Agreed – I’ve definitely cut my backlist way down since starting to blog. It’s hard to resist all the new books!

      Posted 10.10.17 Reply
  6. Pretty much all the books I read are backlist books, so I’m happy to see some love for the backlist. Imagine Me Gone sounds really good. I might have to read that one.

    Posted 10.10.17 Reply
  7. Gabby wrote:

    Yessssss backlist reading! I really do feel like my backlist reading works out better than my new release reading usually…when a book has stood the test of time, there’s something there. Not that I haven’t read some real backlist stinkers, but I can usually understand at least why it continues to be a thing even if it didn’t work for me.

    Posted 10.10.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Yep – I feel like the books you’re still hearing about years later tend to be the great ones that have bubbled to the surface and stayed there.

      Posted 10.12.17 Reply
  8. renee wrote:

    I loved Dark Matter! I have a friend who hesitantly suggested it to me because I don’t read Science fiction and I just saw this same friend today and we discussed my current slump and he suggested giving science fiction another go with Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven. At this point I haven’t read a book in 2 weeks, I’m willing to go with it!! I’ll let you know!

    Posted 10.10.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I haven’t read Le Guin, but hear her name all the time and would love to hear your thoughts! Jumping to a totally different genre generally helps me get out of a slump. I jumped to nonfiction this week and it helped a lot!

      Posted 10.12.17 Reply
  9. Books for a Living was really good. I’ve had a copy of Mothering Sunday for ages and I still haven’t read it but now I feel like I really need to!

    Posted 10.11.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      You can read it in an afternoon..get on it!

      Posted 10.12.17 Reply
  10. carrie wrote:

    I’m so glad you liked Dark Matter! I had the same reservations as you, but was proven wrong.

    Posted 10.13.17 Reply
  11. These all sound so good! I loved The End of Your Life Book Club, but I haven’t yet picked up Books For Living. And yours is the second review I’ve read today praising Dark Matter and it sounds interesting to me, so I should probably bump it up my to-read list 🙂

    Posted 10.14.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I actually liked Books for Living better! And Dark Matter is perfect for whenever you need a straight-up page turner.

      Posted 10.17.17 Reply

Get Weekly Email Updates!

Join our mailing list to receive all new blog posts in one weekly email. Plus, news of special updates and offers!

You have Successfully Subscribed!