Amazon’s Best Books of the Year So Far

Amazon’s Best Books of the Year So Far

Amazon was born from the womb of the computer age, employs and releases cutting edge technology, but is, and has always been, at it heart…human.

That statement may surprise some people. Sure, you may have gotten an e-mail response which didn’t seem to understand your question, or you got recommendations for things you already own.

However, it’s clear that humans make most of the important creative decisions. Titles are featured, not through algorithms, but through feeling.

There is a team (and that’s different from a group) of Amazon editors. In the recently announced

Best Books of the Year So Far (at AmazonSmile:benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

they describe a bit of the process: “Then we face off in a monthly Best Books selection meeting to champion the books we think will resonate most with readers.”

Sounds like fun. 🙂

It also sounds like one of those things that would be great to do once…for charity…as long as nothing went wrong. You know, like being an auctioneer or a starship captain. 😉

Reading for work has to be different from reading for fun. There have to be times when something you support just doesn’t get the same reaction from your team or higher ups.

That said, it still must be a great job!

In my day job, I’m a trainer, and I like to tell people that trainers wake up in the morning and say, “Oh boy, I get to go to work today!” That’s really true…a day I work is a good day. I suspect that’s true for the Amazon Editors, too.

So, what have these oh so human beings chosen as the Best Books of the Year So Far?

They have a general category of the top twenty, and then twenty more each in additional categories:

  • Amazon Editors’ Top 20
  • Biographies & Memoirs
  • Business & Leadership
  • Children’s Books
  • Comics & Graphic Novels
  • Cookbooks, Food & Wine
  • History
  • Humor & Entertainment
  • Literature & Fiction
  • Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
  • Nonfiction
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Teens & Young Adults

When I’m looking at lists like this, what do I hope they’ll do for me?


I hope I’ll read about some book I didn’t know existed which really appeals to me.

I also want context and insight. While I’m careful to separate

The art and the artist

there can be more to a book than just the words. Is it unique, or at least a fresh approach? How does it tie into what already exists? Are there circumstances of its creation which inform it in such a way that there is more meaning “between the lines”?

Looking at their top 20…

They are generally what I call “People Magazine” books, books you would have seen mentioned in that magazine. Almost all of them are priced over $9.99 (some well over: one is $17.99 at time of writing, and another is $17.99). A notable exception is The Impossible Fortress** by Jason Rekulak which is only $2.99 at time of writing.

They also all look like they are selling pretty well, or have done so.

That doesn’t feel like a lot of discovery to me.

Now, let me be clear: for me, popular doesn’t equal less worthy. 🙂 I consume mainstream movies, TV shows, and books…although I also certainly like indies (independently published books or released video, and so on). Is it likely to me that all of the best books are mainstream? No, not really…but I would expect that some of them are. 😉

Those are just the featured choices, though.

I would expect that the categories would give me more discovery, and that they would also tend to champion more of the outsider…and that does seem to be the case.

Here’s an example from science fiction (a category where I have a bit more expertise than most, even though I knew it a lot better decades ago):

Battle Hill Bolero (Bone Street Rumba) from Daniel José Older (at AmazonSmile*)

Older is a New York Times bestselling author, but I would guess the average reader probably doesn’t know it.

There are only twelve reviews (with a 4.7 average).

It’s the third book out of three, but appearing on this list will perhaps encourage people to read Older who might not otherwise have done so, which is one of the real values of a list like this.

I do recommend that you look at the

Best nonfiction of 2017 so far (at AmazonSmile*)

That’s where you are more likely to have discovery. While non-fiction books can certainly be bestsellers and get media coverage, they have to break through before that happens. More fiction seems to get more coverage. There is a lot of variety here: space, cowboys, the future, murders, and dictionaries.

Now, I know some of you don’t read non-fiction, and that’s up to you. I get that reading can be escapism, and the relationship with a book is so intimate that encountering something there which you might encounter without that safe distancing can be particularly…unnerving. However, for me, not reading non-fiction would be like saying I’m only going to be friends with characters on my TV. 😉

As always, a fascinating list! I appreciate that Amazon lets their human employees have their say. 😉

What do you think? Any books on this you’d particularly recommend? Any books not on this list which you would say are some of the best of 2017 so far? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 
** I didn’t link to this book because the publisher, Simon & Schuster, has chosen to block text-to-speech access. I think purchasing books where that decision has been made is a personal choice, but I choose not to link to them mysef.


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