2017 Book Review

I take New Year’s Resolutions very seriously. I love goal setting and the idea of a fresh year to make changes, but I try to steer my resolutions to be more practical and specific – usually a small life change that I can maintain. Past resolutions have included not hitting the snooze button, giving up diet soda, trying new restaurants, and using a turn signal.

So, my 2017 resolution was to read more books. I also paired it with a focus word of PRESENT – because my goal was to read more and spend less time mindless on the internet. After a few weeks, I evolved my goal into reading 52 books for the year -averaging a book a week.

I’m proud to say that as of yesterday, December 30th, I finished my 52nd book. Because I read a lot, people often ask for book recommendations, so I thought I’d share my “best of” for 2017 – with a few caveats. First, I didn’t purchase any books, I only read from the library overdrive on my Kindle – so I tend to run my maximum amount of holds and sometimes don’t get new releases for a while. Second, I love nonfiction and some of my books were weirdly specific (a book on sibling rivalry, 3 books on dog training, etc.). Third, I like serious books, but I also read for entertainment and that often comes in the form of Elin Hilderbrand. It’s kind of like when you need to watch House Hunters or Friends reruns after you watch the PBS Vietnam documentary – balance, yo. So I’ve given you a few categories.

Finally, as embarrassed as I am to admit it, until this year I hadn’t read any of the Harry Potter books. I don’t typically like fantasy, I was just a little too old when they came out, and then by the time I thought I should try, 7 books just seemed really daunting (particularly in the years I was teaching and had babies). So this year, once I’d established that I’d be reading a lot, I gave them a try and convinced my husband to do the same. We both absolutely love the series – I’m through the first 5 books and waitlisted at the library for the Half-Blood Prince. I can’t really rank them because you need to read them in order, and I think most people have already read the series, but if you haven’t, I would highly recommend starting. It’s beautifully written, character-driven, and I’ve stayed awake late at night with each book unable to put it down.

Best “Light” Reads:

  1. The Crazy Rich Asians series, by Kevin Kwan – It’s a 3-book series and if you want to be entertained, it’s your best bet. I’ve heard there’s a movie coming, too, which I can see being fabulous.
  2. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – I read it before I watched the HBO series and both are excellent. I also read Truly Madly Guilty, and it was good, but I didn’t like it as much.
  3. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid – A quick, easy read, but I couldn’t put it down and thought about it long after I’d finished.
  4. I love Elin Hilderbrand because she comes out with new books all the time and they’re light, easy reads with interesting characters, but some are better than others. The Identicals and The Rumor were the best two I read this year. I also read the 4-part Winter Street series and it’s great if you need a heartwarming Christmas read.
  5. The Royal We by Heather Cocks – if you’re counting down the days to Prince Harry’s wedding, you’ll love it.

Best Serious Fiction:

  1. Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams – I’m not sure whether it would fall more under historical fiction or a love story, but I couldn’t put it down. I have several more Beatriz Williams books on hold for 2018.
  2. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – Beautifully written and conflicting – my mom and I discussed the outcome for days.
  3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – Look, I was totally turned off by this because the movie looked lame, but I needed something to read late one night and it was on the front page of the library page, so I tried it and I loved it. The sequel was just OK, I didn’t love it.
  4. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – We read this for book club and I was totally into it. It’s historical fiction, but based on actual female spies during WWII.
  5. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – A really hard read, but in our current socio-political landscape, it’s an important, perspective-changing read.

Best Nonfiction:

  1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – It’s hard to recommend a book that makes you ugly cry, but I think it was the best book I read this year.
  2. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – I’ve heard the audiobook is even better as it’s narrated by Trevor Noah. This is not a “how he became famous” autobiography, but rather a dark, honest look at growing up in South Africa post-apartheid.
  3. A Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes – lighter, but if you’re looking to get inspired and Oprahed, this is your best bet.
  4. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari – Do the audiobook. Unexpectedly, this is a well-researched look at modern dating culture around the world, but it’s also funny. If you love Master of None, you’ll love the book.
  5. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzi – You truly can’t imagine that such a person exists in our time. The book is a bit dense with Pakistani and Taliban history, but her spirit and drive is remarkable.

I also loved My One Word, Bread and Wine, Love WarriorSiblings Without Rivalry, and Instant Mom.

Don’t waste your time:

  1. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher – I think she’s an interesting person, but this particular book was terrible.
  2. Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi – I always liked her until I read this book.
  3. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly – A fantastic story, but honestly, the movie is much better.
  4. The Vacationers by Emma Straub – a book with no point.
  5. Class Mom by Laurie Gelman – meh.

So there you go, 15+ books to read this year and 5 to not. Happy reading!