My 14 Favorite Books from 2017
I love evaluating each year based on the books I read. This year, I read exactly 100 books (my most ever) and reread 11. Of those 100, 45 were fiction and 55 were nonfiction. While picking my favorites, I didn't aim for a certain number but rather just went through my list and wrote down the ones that stood out to me. This year, that number came to 14, with a few notable mentions at the bottom.
1. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
I have written about this book quite a bit on this blog (see this post) and it is so good. It is a slow, thoughtful look at one woman's life in a small town in Kentucky. It begins with her looking back at childhood and going all through her seventies, with plenty of reflections on love, grief, marriage, friendship, and raising children.
2. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
This book was gripping and heart-wrenching. Alice was such a likable character and it was both sad and fascinating to read about her descent into early-onset Alzheimer's. I loved the way Genova lays out the disease progression from Alice's perspective; it really helped me understand how disorienting and confusing it must be.
3. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
I love immigrant stories (you can read this post for some of my favorites of that type) and this one is an excellent addition to that list. The story covers an immigrant family from Cameroon and a wealthy American family living in New York, and both of their stories highlight the range of American experiences.
4. Watership Down by Richard Adams
I have a soft spot for this novel because it was the one I started reading right after Calvin came home from the hospital. I have all these sweet memories of snuggling a baby and reading about brave rabbits. I was heavily invested in their struggles despite my initial surprise that so many people raved about this book of talking rabbits.
5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Usually I'm not a fan of short story collections, but this one was a series of generations in Africa and America that captivated me. I listened to it on audiobook, which really made the characters come alive and left me pondering on the ramifications of slavery that are felt to the present day.
6. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
To be transparent, this one took about 50 pages to get into, but as soon as I was hooked I could not wait to read about how the mystery unfolded. It was long and kind of complicated with tons of characters, which are all things that thrill me about novels.
7. Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen
Definitely one of those books that is for me. It has interesting, likable characters, plenty of analyses throughout, and the ending felt so satisfactory. I enjoyed it immensely.
1. My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman
It's hard to explain why I love this book so much, but I really do. Foreman covers his year of marathons and his first ultra-marathon (50 miles) and even though I'm not a runner I felt so invested in his progress. It was a feel-good, well-written read.
2. All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
Bragg's book can best be described as evocative. He was born in Possum Trout, Alabama in 1959 in fairly dire poverty, and the way he writes makes you feel like you can really see everything he saw. He brought up interesting and complicated issues that helped me understand pieces of America better.
3. The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz
I hesitate to talk about food in a public space because I know it can be a hot topic, but reading about the background of the fat-free diet completely changed the way I eat. This book isn't an easy read, but digging deep into the research was eye-opening to me.
4. Suburban Nation by Andres Duany et al.
In the same vein as Walkable City, this book deconstructs the way American suburbs are being built and how that affects quality of life. It's a topic I love analyzing and thinking about and I kept thinking "YES! YES!" while reading.
5. The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs
This was definitely my favorite memoir from this year. Riggs, at the time of writing, was undergoing treatment for cancer, and her thoughts are both deep and funny. Her life was bursting with meaning and I am so glad she spent her last months writing this beautiful book.
6. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Talking about love languages is so interesting to me, and I'm so glad I actually read the book to help me get a good handle on what each of them are. I wrote about my own experience with figuring out my love language here.
7. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Technically, this one is a reread from 2016 but it was so good I had to include it here. For whatever reason, this one clicked more with me when I listened to it on audio, and suddenly all of Coates's arguments made more sense. The status of racism in America is so well-explained here and it made me re-evaluate much of my preconceived notions.
A few notable others:
1. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
Notable mostly because it was 1350 pages. Yes, over ONE THOUSAND pages. It took me forever to finish but I really enjoyed it
2. Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki
Notable because I potty-trained James this year. It was a huge trial but this book helped me out so much
3. Anne Tyler's novels, specifically The Amateur Marriage and Digging to America
Notable because I love Anne Tyler and this was the first year I discovered her. I read 4 of her books and have at least 3 more on my TBR list.
If you're interested, here are my 2016 favorites.