Last year, I compiled a list of The 105 Best Philosophical Novels. Since then, many new philosophical novels have hit the shelves. More will do so with each passing year. In order to keep my list up-to-date, here is a roundup of the best philosophical novels of 2017. The final rankings are based on curated lists from Amazon, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Publishers Weekly and The Washington Post, suggestions from readers on Goodreads and Reddit and ratings on Goodreads and Amazon.
For more philosophical fiction, download 1) the favorite works of philosophical fiction from twelve contemporary philosophical fiction authors and 2) a one-page PDF shopping guide to The Best Philosophical Novels using the form below. And now, here are the best philosophical novels of 2017!
5. The Locals by Jonathan Dee
Publisher’s Weekly named this novel one of the best fiction books of 2017. It depicts the collision between an ambitious home restorer and a powerful investor/politician in a small New England town. The novel also captures many of the trends of twenty-first-century America: rising inequality, working-class decline, and a new authoritarianism.
4. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
Bestselling author Neal Stephenson and critically acclaimed novelist Nicole Galland combine on this Goodreads Choice finalist for best science fiction. This near-future thriller follows an academic linguistics expert thrust into a shadowy government military operation to restore magic and also questions the foundations of the modern world.
3. Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Shusterman’s first in the Arc of a Scythe series was a Goodreads Choice finalist in YA fantasy and science fiction. It depicts a world without hunger, disease, war and misery, in which two teenagers are assigned to learn the “art of killing” at the risk of losing their own lives.
2. The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish
Amazon editors picked this novel as one of the best in 2017 literature and fiction. The story connects two brilliant women—the first, a London immigrant who scribes for a blind rabbi just before the arrival of the plague in the 1660s; the second, an ailing twenty-first-century Jewish historian—and follows the choices and sacrifices they make to reconcile love and reason. Download Rachel Kadish’s philosophical fiction recommendations using the form at the top of this post.
1. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
The first novel by the renowned short-story writer and essayist Saunders earned him the 2017 Man Booker Prize. In addition, The Washington Post, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Goodreads and Amazon ranked it one of the best novels of 2017. The book centers on Abraham Lincoln and his son Willie in the aftermath of Willie’s death, as Willie inhabits the bardo—a Tibetan concept of an intermediate space between life and rebirth—in the midst of a struggle for his soul with a cast of ghosts looking on and his father mourning his loss. Given its critical and popular reception, it is not just one of the best philosophical novels of 2017. It also would have ranked sixtieth on my original list of The 105 Best Philosophical Novels (ahead of Life of Pi and behind Invisible Man).