I’m glad 2017 is over. I’ve said my goodbyes to that loser. I’ve deleted its number from my phone and unfollowed it on Twitter. But there’s one last thing I have to do to let it go: I have to write this post. I should say I GET to write this post because I totally look forward to my yearly book wrap-ups. I’m such a book nerd that I set yearly reading goals for myself and keep track of every book I read on Goodreads. This post is the culmination of an entire year of reading and it’s lit, bro. Total party up in here. A bad overall year begat a great reading year and I am happy to celebrate it.
(If you want more book recommendations, check out past posts from 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 or wow, 2012. Whew, that’s a lot of years, I got tired just typing that.)
This year I read 63 books, down 7 from 70 in 2016. I think I read less because I was reading so many news articles. I mean, weren’t we all? The books I loved the most in 2017 were mainly fiction. I guess I needed the escape for some reason. So if you’d asked me what my 2017 reading was all about before I started researching this post, I would have said “novels novels novels.” But, when I looked at the books I read all together in one big list, I noticed a different theme. I read a ton of great non-fiction books by women: M-Train by Patti Smith, Shrill by Lindy West, Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen, What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton and every Carrie Fisher book I could find just to name a few. In 2017 I reckon I needed some lady power.
These books gave me hope but it truly was fiction that kept me going and fed my soul in 2017. With the exception of I think two books, this list is heavy on the fiction. Hope you enjoy it. Here we go!
- Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders: It’s not a secret that I’m obsessed with ghosts and the supernatural but one thing I am in no way obsessed with is American history. I’m usually Tudor history or GTFO. So I didn’t expect to love this. Well, guess what? I loved it. Once you understand what’s happening and get used to the strange and rapid narrator changes, it’s just amazing. It’s odd and moody and completely absorbing. I’m still thinking about it and I read it in June.
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Good god, I loved this book. A friend sent it to me and declared that I would love it so of course I was like, yeah, probably not, buddy, I am a complicated woman with complicated tastes but then I read it and fell head over for the characters. (You were right, Drew, you wonderful know-it-all, you.) I devoured it over a weekend. It brought back that sharp gut-punching emotion from my teenage years. I cried many times. In a GOOD WAY, guys.
- Night Film by Marisha Pessl: I loved her other novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, so a friend loaned me Night Film and I gotta say, I liked it even more than her first book, which I didn’t think was possible. I couldn’t put it down. It’s rich and suspenseful and creepy AF. Everything I love wrapped in a wonderful tale about an enigmatic film director.
- Hunger by Roxane Gay: It’s not for the faint of heart but it is for anyone who has struggled with eating habits or self-confidence or finding a way to make sense of life and how to live it after trauma. I found this to be a cathartic and illuminating read and I wish I could spoon feed it to everyone I know, especially the women. I’m sold on Roxane Gay and I’m grateful we have her.
- The Nix by Nathan Hill: This book was somehow both delightful and gutting. It pops from present-day video games to the 60s riots and you’re SO along for the ride. I was especially struck by how funny The Nix is. And it’s his first novel! Can’t wait to see what Nathan Hill writes next.
- Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan: I, like, a ton of readers, rabidly look forward to Jennifer Egan books so I started this the second it came out. And while I didn’t have the immediate emotional response to it that I usually have to her work, I’ve been thinking about it ever since, which says a lot. Especially during the last year, when there were so many other things occupying my brain. It’s sweeping and historical and the characters are so real that by the end you feel like you know them, like you could meet them for lunch and know what they’re gonna order.
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: This was one of my goal-books for 2017 and I’m so glad I read it. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ writing is powerful and to the point. The book is written as essays, letters to his son, and I dare you to read this book and not sob and flinch and cry out with rage. It deals with race and violence in a way that spells stuff the fuck out. Necessary and timely.
- Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin: I read several of her books after finishing The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and this was my favorite. A teenager dies and finds herself on a train to, well, somewhere. This view of the afterlife is so clever and comforting that reading it felt like a big hug from your grandma followed by all the warm cookies you can stuff in your face.
- The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang: I was so into this story about a rich family who loses everything that I kept giving Tim updates like “The Wangs are in New Orleans now and shit is getting crazy,” or “Ohmygawd, I love the dad.” I think Tim could probably tell you the plot at this point. Let’s just say I was charmed. Grab this if you need something to read on a plane or on a beach; it’s just adorbz.
- Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley: Speaking of adorbz and charming, this book is both and I am HERE FOR IT. It’s about a dog and her writer-owner in Los Angeles. (Hmmm, wonder why I liked it?) I don’t want to reveal too much but let me just say that the story is magical and surprising in the best possible way. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll adopt a dachshund.
I don’t normally do this but I have a tie for the Honorable Mentions spot. (Just think of these two sharing number 11.) Two of my all-time favorite writers co-wrote books with their sons (good writers in their own rights) this year and I loved them both. Weird, right? Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King is riveting and creepy and sooo timely. Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra by Anne Rice and Christopher Rice -the sequel to the wonderful novel The Mummy that I loved as a teenager- is so sexy and fun I couldn’t put it down. I think you should read both immediately.
And that’s my list. I hope you get some ideas from it. I wish you all good times and great reads in 2018!
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