Vann R. Newkirk II

The Restless Staff Picks Our Favorite Books of the Year

Dear Readers,

At the end of a crazy year, we wanted to share some of our favorite reads—both from books we've published and from what we've been reading outside of the office. It's been a year in which books have been especially important: a means of strength, resistance, enlightenment, escape, and inspiration. We're thrilled to have been able to share so much extraordinary writing from around the world with you!

Happy reading,

The Restless team

Restless Highlights from 2017

The Wild Book

by Juan Villoro

Translated from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel

Introducing Yonder: Restless Books for Young Readers

“It’s so much fun. If you like books, if you like books about books, it’s great for anyone at any age… It’s like Shadow of the Wind or Mr. Penumbra“The Early Years”—it’s really fun!”

Book Riot Podcast

Temporary People

by Deepak Unnikrishnan

Winner of The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing

“This debut novel employs its own brand of magical realism to propel readers into an understanding and appreciation of the experience of foreign workers in the Arab Gulf States (and beyond).... challenges readers with a singular inventiveness expressed through a lyrical use of language and a laserlike focus that is at once charming and terrifying. Highly recommended.”

—Henry Bankhead, Library Journal, Starred Review

The Souls of Black Folk

by W. E. B. Du Bois

Introduction by Vann R. Newkirk III

Illustrations by Steve Prince

“Presented by Restless Classics, with a pointed introduction by journalist Vann R. Newkirk II, the newest edition of Du Bois’s work presents itself through the lens of today’s political and social climate, highlighting the ugly truth that white supremacy’s roots still grip America…. Newkirk’s introduction... examines the immortality of what can be considered the most important piece of literature to date.” Essence

The End

by Fernanda Torres

Translated from the Portuguese by Alison Entrekin

The End, a riotous, sex-stuffed novel by Torres, which takes Technicolor pleasure in detailing the deaths of five incorrigible old beach bums of the Bossa Nova generation…. Her five men, whom she kills off in reverse chronology, are ‘united by male allegiance, women, and the beach, in that order’.... With America undergoing a mass reckoning with male sexuality, a novel like this feels both taboo and gleeful, a guilty kind of reprieve.” The New Yorker

The Old King in His Exile

by Arno Geiger

Translated from the German by Stefan Tobler

“Clear-eyed and lyrical… Arno Geiger’s memoir is a gift to the very many of us who love someone with Alzheimer’s disease. The author’s message is one of humble gratitude that this debilitating disease has not entirely extinguished his father’s warmth and kindness nor the quiet dignity of this exiled king.” Asymptote Journal

Beyond the Rice Fields

by Naivo

Translated from the French by Allison M. Charette

“The best historical fiction shines light on past horrors through the eyes of everyday people who have to find their way forward no matter how tortuous the path. Naivo’s debut, the first novel from Madagascar to be translated into English, does just that…. Naivo has created a sharp and memorable tale of young lives caught in the crossfire of seismic events, and a significant novel that deservedly shines light on a little-known chapter of world history.” Booklist


Here's What Else We've Been Reading....

"It has been a year of polarization but also of insight. Age and work have pushed my return to the classics. I spent precious time with Montaigne, whose personal essays grant me solace. Dismayed by how the United States is polarized, I have been reading Tocqueville’s wondrous Democracy in America. It is astonishing what an outsider can see that a native can't. I have also reread Susan Sontag’s late essays,  rediscovered Sor Juana Inés de La Cruz's sonnets, and, implausible as it might seem, delved into Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal." 

—Ilan Stavans, Publisher


"I've been diving with exquisite pleasure and horror into the prescient histories of Barbara Tuchman, beginning with The Proud TowerThis riveting exploration of the years leading up to the First World War was published over 50 years ago but feels forebodingly suited to our times: long-standing cultural and class structures came into explosive conflict with changing times. Let's hope our own fate will be different."

—Nathan Rostron, Editor and Marketing Director


"I've been reading Maggie Nelson to get through this time rife with revelations of sexual violence and “the knee-jerk quarantining of the feminine ... from the realm of intellectual profundity.” In The Argonauts, the author picks up the different threads of her life—falling in love, writing, giving birth, and witnessing the transformation of her partner's body—and articulates their rhythms with defiant, intimate precision."

—Alicia López, Editorial Assistant


"Because I enjoyed our Naivo book so much, I revisited to some African—mostly South African—writers: Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, so painful in its description of a Zulu father and son in apartheid South Africa; Nadine Gordimer’s wonderful short story collection Beethoven was One-Sixteenth Black. During the past weeks I have delved extensively into Simon Schama’s Story of the Jews, a magnum opus of popular history of the Jewish diaspora until the year 1900 (2 vols.). Extremely well told, though there's so much martyrology that it explains why it is rarely taught anywhere. Heroic times are more popular.

Orphan Pamuk’s A Strangeness in My Mind is as quietly, thrillingly romantic as his other books. It too tells of Istanbul, though this time through the eyes and the life of a street vendor. This is not Erdogan's city, but an older, more compelling, more human town. For anyone who loves Istanbul it also painfully reminds us of the growing divide between the wonderful city and the current dictatorship that keeps us at bay.

—Annette Hochstein, Editor-at-Large


"Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones, translated by Clarissa Botsford, is a searing tale of immigration, identity, sexuality, and culture. Moving from Albania to DC is difficult enough, but for Mark Doda, there is the added complication of shedding the male identity he assumed years ago as part of an Albanian custom in his remote village. Now Mark must not only adapt to his new surroundings, he must also learn how to be Hana once again. Dones beautifully captures the internal and external struggles of identity and self that will make you question notions of gender and patriarchal society at large."

—Alison Gore, Publishing Intern


"I think of all the non-Restless books I read this year, my favorite was The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, because it took two very disparate cultures and belief systems and wove them together in a way that not only gave equal voice to all sides, but allowed each one to enrich the the role of the other and create an overall beautiful environment and story."

—Cliff Robbins, Publishing Intern


"Though it feels like an impossible task to pick a favorite, I'd say that I deeply enjoyed reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X. In these times of political uncertainty I think it's paramount to look back and find the roots of our culture and the resistance that has always acted as a force of change."

—Noah Bierbrier, Publishing Intern