I have done a TON of reading in 2017! And I have read some fantastic books. If you are looking for some books to put on your 2018 reading list, I hope this will be a place to start for you. Without further ado, here are my favorite books of 2017 and when I read them.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
I listened to this one on Audible, usually while driving for work, and have been working on it for a couple of months. It was wonderful! I was surprised repeatedly by turns in the story, which was refreshing after feeling like so many stories are predictable. I would recommend this one, especially on audio book. But be aware that it’s quite a long audio book.
I heard about this book in one of Anne Bogel’s (Modern Mrs. Darcy’s) What Should I Read Next podcasts, as well in one of her book recommendation lists. After hearing it described by one of her guests as ‘the book that describes and explains Trump voters’ I almost didn’t listen to it as that seemed very patronizing. But I’ve had good luck before with books I’ve found out about in the podcast so I gave it a shot. Vance’s story is engaging; and the narration is fantastic. The people in his life are complex, and I found my self loving them despite (or because of) their flaws. His descriptions and explanations make perfect sense, and help to understand a culture of poverty that is prevalent in Appalachia, and elsewhere. I really loved this book!
Submerged: Adventures of America’s Most Elite Underwater Archeology Team by Daniel Lenihan
On the What Should I Read Next podcast, there was a recent episode where readers suggested books for Anne Bogel to read. One reader suggested this book, which was interesting to me because Mike was reading it at the time and telling me how much he thought that I’d enjoy it. It is a memoir of sorts of Daniel Lenihan who started the underwater archeology unit of the National Parks Service. The descriptions of the dive sites were evocative; and the stories were so fascinating. I mean, this guy dove with scuba rock stars like Sheck Exley, and really knows his stuff. A great read if you’re a scuba diver, but still recommended even if you’re not.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
This book is likely going to be one of my favorite books of 2017…I just know it. I really loved it. It follows a white girl in the 60s in the South who is seeking information about her deceased mother. She finds that information in the home of black sisters, who are beekeepers. The description actually sounds quite weird or dull, but I promise that the story is fantastic.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
I really love Lowry’s books, but have only really started reading them as an adult, which is strange for books geared more toward children. The Giver was amazing. I’d had Number the Stars in my wish list for quite some time, and read it this month due to Amazon’s newest program, Prime Reading. With Prime Reading, there are a whole host of books that can be downloaded for free, and this was one of them. So it was a perfect opportunity to read it.
The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp
I’m a really big fan of Ann Voskamp, and own all of her books. They are beautiful to look at, and are simply beautiful to read. I took this one slowly and enjoyed the language that she used which made the words come alive in my mind. I recommend her other books as well, One Thousand Gifts and The Greatest Gift, in case you decide to read this one and like it as much as I did.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
This was a $1.99 Kindle deal, and had been on my wish list for quite some time, so I snapped it up and read it almost immediately. I previously saw the movie and loved it, but the book truly is even better. The movie stayed pretty true to the story, but there were some changes that would be necessary to cut the story down to a reasonable length movie. The perspectives of the main characters felt authentic. I really loved it!
A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
I first heard about this book (and the book Columbine, which is on my overdrive waitlist) on the What Should I Read Next podcast. And boy it did not disappoint! The subject matter, and Sue’s description of her meeting with law enforcement and learning in detail about what her son and Eric Harris did, thought, and said is horrifying. But most of the book focuses more on her reaction and the worlds response to Columbine. I also appreciated the amount of research that the book contained, as it was clear that Sue really did everything possible to understand how her son could become a mass murderer. This book is enlightening, and makes you realize that what you thought you knew with respect to The Klebolds and Columbine is probably. Or accurate.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I LOVED this book, truly loved it. I think it’s probably my new favorite book that I’ve read in quite some time. The language and descriptions were lovely to read, even when the subject matter was difficult. This one will stand up to re-reading, and I’m not typically a ‘re-reader.’ The book follows two primary characters, a German orphan boy and a blind French girl during the years leading up to, through, and following World War II. The timeline jumps around a bit, but was never difficult to follow, and this is because the timelines begin to move closer together and ultimately intersect. Simply astounding how good this book was. The Pulitzer was definitely well deserved.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
This book was SO intense! It followed Krakauer’s journey to and up Mt. Everest in 1996, one of the most deadly climbing seasons in the history of Everest. It was informative, but also fast-paced and exciting. At times it was also extremely sad, and I wished that the outcome might change. I also really liked the short chapters, making it really easy to pick up and read when I had a few minutes.
I purchased Division of the Marked quite some time ago, probably through a BookBub deal, but I honestly don’t know. I’d rediscovered it when scrolling through my Kindle Fire and bumped this one (causing it to pop up to the top of my list), and I’m so glad. I found Division of the Marked to be so intense and engaging, that I purchased Elevation of the Marked, and then also Maturation of the Marked (which is a novella that falls between the other two books). I can’t wait for the next book in the series to come out, so hopefully March is writing quickly!
The second, third, and fourth books of The Giver Quartet, these books follow different characters in different places. They weren’t very long, no I was able to read all three in less than a week. I found them to be as beautifully written as The Giver, and as engaging. I’d recommend all four of them, as well as pretty much anything else by Lois Lowry.
The Sky Below: A True Story of Summits, Space, and Speed by Scott Parazynski
One of the Kindle First books for July, I couldn’t wait to read it. Although simply ‘reading’ is not what you do with this book. The book has photos and GIF clips embedded into the book, so it’s an immersive type of experience to read Scott’s account of growing up all over the world, scuba diving, mountain climbing, and his career as a NASA astronaut. I truly loved this book, and recommend it.
Lamentation of the Marked by March McCarron
The latest in the Marked series, I couldn’t wait to read this one. It picks up immediately after the previous, so it’s necessary to read the series in order starting at the beginning. Now I can’t wait to see what McCarron comes up with for the next entry! I don’t really want to say more about what happens in the book, as it would be full of spoilers if you haven’t read the previous entries. But if you like Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, this is probably right up your alley.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
I’ve been waiting to read this book for quite some time. The bit that I heard about it (you’ll like it if you’re a fan of Stranger Things on Netflix) made it irresistible. And the book absolutely did not disappoint. It was a totally mind-bending and mind-blowing at the same time. And just when you think that things will be wrapped into a nice tidy ending, Crouch sends you reeling yet again. So, so good!
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
After reading The Roanoke Girls, I needed a palette cleanser, and Fannie Flagg’s books feel that way to me. I’d seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, but had never read the book previously. I loved it even more than the movie, and about as much as The All Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. Wonderfully written with characters that are incredibly loveable, if you’ve not read this book or anything by Flagg previously, you should start now.
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Prior to Grissom going on the What Should I Read Next podcast, I’d never heard of her or this book. Her description of her writing process (which you can find in the back of the book as well as on the podcast) struck me as so interesting, that I immediately put The Kitchen House on my To Be Read list. And then when I was able to pick up the book at the local Friends of the Library book sale, I was sold. This book is a page turner from the very beginning, as it follows the stories of two women thrown together in unlikely circumstances. Lavinia is an Irish indentured servant who goes to work on a plantation in the kitchen house with Belle, a white-looking black slave and her family. I loved this book so, so much, and know that many others will as well.
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
After reading, and enjoying Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, I didn’t hesitate to pick up two of her other books at the Friends of the Library book sale. This one is much shorter than The Poisonwood Bible, clocking in at only 232 pages. It follows the story of a girl from Kentucky who decides to move far away in search of a new and more exciting life than she can find in her small and predictable town. In her travels, she finds more than she bargained for. I found the characters to be lovely and likeable. I would recommend this book to others, probably even before I would recommend The Poisonwood Bible.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
This book was so intense! From page one I wanted to know what was happening, and could scarcely stop reading or thinking about this book. In the story, you meet Shadow when he’s in prison nearing the end of his sentence. You don’t know what he’s in for, but you know it’s something serious. And some weird and probably bad things are happening around him. He doesn’t know what’s happening, and therefore you as the reader don’t either. But it is gripping stuff. I really, really enjoyed this book and would recommend it strongly!
The Passage by Justin Cronin
I’ve been working my way through this one for a couple of months because it is quite long. But I very much enjoyed it, and intend to read the next book in the series. The book at first seems to jump forward from character to character, but in the end ties the pieces together. This book begins in a few years in the past, moves forward to present day, and then jumps forward approximately 100 years and is clearly a piece of dystopian fiction. I don’t really want to describe anything else about the plot for fear of ruining the surprise and the suspense, but I do recommend this book wholeheartedly.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
I’d heard great things about this book, and had previously read Night Road by the same author (which I found to be engaging and thought-provoking). So I was excited to find this on Overdrive without any wait. The book is set in France during World War II and primarily follows two very different French sisters through the war. It starts out a bit slow and I wasn’t sure I’d love the book. But by the end I was ugly crying and thoroughly invested in the story. So ultimately that’s a major win.
About Grace by Anthony Doerr
After reading All The Light We Cannot See, I’m an Anthony Doerr fan for life. I want to work my way through everything that he’s written, and this was available on Overdrive. The book is about a man named Winkler who has dreams about things that will happen in the future. I found it to be a perfect winter read, as he is also a scientist who studies snow. Not as good as All the Light We Cannot See, but still a fantastic book.
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
The tale of Lucy Barton as she recovers from an illness in the hospital and is visited by her mother. Lucy is a woman who had a difficult and neglectful childhood. She is strange to the world, and the world is somewhat strange to her. But the tale is beautiful, and shows life to be complex. I really, really liked this book, and recommend it.
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood (Cleveland Ohio)
I read and enjoyed immensely The Handmaid’s Tale. In fact I really want to renew my Hulu subscription for a month to see their adaptation of the story (Have you seen it? What did you think?). So I was looking forward to reading more by Margaret Atwood. I didn’t know anything about this book prior to reading it, which perhaps made it an even more exciting and disturbing ride through the story. I don’t want to say anything about the plot, because I really do think that it’s best that way. But if you liked The Handmaid’s Tale, I’m confident that you’ll like this one as well. And if you’ve not heard of or read either, check them both out!
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Roatan)
I am a huge fan of Amor Towles after reading A Gentleman in Moscow. I just love his writing style and the fact that I don’t see his twists and turns coming. Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended both of these books, and I’m forever grateful, as they are both way up on my favorites list. Because the book is primarily set in the 1920s-30s, it has a bit of the feel of The Great Gatsby, but is very much its own book. I don’t want to talk about the plot, as I really enjoyed discovering it for myself.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (Roatan)
The book follows the story of a retarded man who is given the gift of intelligence and the ability to learn through medical research, and how he deals with the uncertainty of his future. All I can really say is, wow! This book is so incredibly powerful, and moving, and sweet, and also incredibly sad. I loved it.