A Year in Books: 2017

You are correct. It is 2018, and the list I ought to be posting is of books I’ve read this past year. However, 2017 was also an amazing year of reading, so I’m going to jumpstart this blog restart with going back a year. If I find the enthusiasm, I may even tackle 2016 (no promises!).

The basics:

 Excerpt from my 2017 reading log Excerpt from my 2017 reading log

  • My reading style tends towards light and escapist, or meaningful drama; well-written; and please, not scary. I like to learn but can only get so far if the book is to dense.

  • I started around 144 books in 2017, finishing about 125 (I tend to abandon fiction earlier in the page count than non-fiction, but am more likely to skip chapters in non-fiction).

  • I read e-books for the first time, downloading free ones on my iPhone and scanning quickly through pages as I walked to the bus, to work or between meetings. Most weren’t that great, but did I mention compulsive reader?

  • A couple were re-reads, but I have found over the past few years that there are so many amazing new books that I don’t have the time I’d like to revisit favourites.

There were a lot of books that I loved. I’m grateful for all the authors that made possible so many hours of enjoyment. Here are some of my favourites from different categories (designated by ME, not by any of the authors).

Fiction

  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend—Katarina Bivald (Alice Menzies, translator) (2013). Travel to the US from Sweden and come across a bookstore in a small town. What more could you want?

  • The Newlyweds—Nell Freudenberger (2012). Cross-country and cultural love and all the challenges it can bring.

  • Today Will Be Different—Maria Semple (2016). Fun, reflective and continually moving.

  • Hannah Coulter—Wendell Berry (2004). Exquisitely described rural life with beautiful characters and a moving depiction of what community could be.

  • First You Try Everything—Jane McCafferty (2012). Disturbing look at marriage, its break-down and our actions spinning out of control. This is one that keeps appearing in my imagination.

  • All the Way Home—Sarah Creech (2017). Nashville, music, relationships and much more.

  • The Summer Before the War—Helen Simonson (2016). This starts just before WWI and follows a complex set of characters at home in England and in the war.

  • The Idiot—Elif Batuman (2017). Brilliant coming of age story that goes from Harvard to Eastern Europe with insight and humour.

  • A Man Called Ove—Fredrik Backman (2013)

  • The Remains of the Day—Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)

  • Attachments—Rainbow Rowell (2011)

  • The Copenhagen Affair—Amulya Malladi (2017)

  • The Almost Sisters—Joshilyn Jackson (2017). So many layers of interest: Southern Gothic, comic books, intergenerational relationships and mysteries, race relations, relationships.

  • The Sunlit Night—Rebecca Dinerstein (2015). Post-soviet and the far north meet.

  • Unless—Carol Shields (2002)

  • The Signature of All Things—Elizabeth Gilbert (2013)

Writing/Creativity

  • Story Genius—Lisa Cron (2016). This was the first book that helped me grapple with creating a central meaning/problem/conflict that moves a novel through to completion.

  • Steal Like an Artist—Austin Kleon (2012). Great advice to build a creative practice.

Memoir

  • American Philosophy: A Love Story—John Kaag (2016). Lovely weaving of the history of American philosophy with a personal narrative.

  • Love Warrior—Glennon Doyle Melton (2016). Honest sharing about addition, marriage, self-image and more.

  • When Breath Becomes Air—Paul Kalanithi (2016). Memoir covering the last few years of a young doctor’s life.

  • The Dead Ladies Project—Jessa Crispin (2015). She travels in Europe and writes about artists/philosophers and her own life.

  • Everything You Ever Wanted—Jillian Lauren (2015). Adoption and the challenges of parenting.

  • The Year of Living Danishly—Helen Russell (2015). Funny, lovely and real year in rural Denmark.

  • Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House—Alyssa Mastromonaco with Lauren Oyler. An insider’s look at working for President Obama.

  • What Falls from the Sky—Esther Emery (2016). With her life and marriage falling apart, the author steps away from the digital world for a year. Her insights and growth are profound and inspiring.

  • Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses—Claire Dederer (2011)

Romance

 Some fun books from the last couple of years. Some fun books from the last couple of years.

  • The Hating Game—Sally Thorne (2016). There are no slow moments or info dumps. The characters have character, and things keep moving forward at top pace.

  • Jenny Colgan. I discovered her this year and LOVE her and her books. Ones read this year include the first two in the Class series (Welcome to the Little School by the Sea—2008; Rules—2009); The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris—2014; The Bookshop on the Corner—2016; Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe—2013; Summer at the Little Beach Street Bakery—2015; The Cafe by the Sea—2016; and Sweetshop of Dreams—2012. Love these books for England, small town life, alternative/micro entrepreneurship, endearing love stories and real-world characters.

  • Kristan Higgins. Similarly, a newly discovered writer and I read MANY of her books. Again, the joys of small towns, realistic characters, good writing and plots that move but in effective ways. Books read include In Your Dreams—2014; Fools Rush In—2006; Waiting on You—2014.

  • Jojo Moyes. Also excellent! Real characters, moving plots. I read Paris for One—2016; One Plus One—2014; Sheltering Rain—2002.

  • Landline—Rainbow Rowell (2014). Excellent characters and a “what if?” surreal element throughout.

Non-Fiction/History

  • Secondhand Time—The Last of the Soviets—Svetlana Alexievich (Bela Shayevich, translator) (2013). Dense but powerful. I didn’t finish this one but plan to return to it.

  • The Road to Little Dribbling—Bill Bryson (2015). Funny, irritated at bureaucracy and much else, yet also full of love for the beauty of England. My one hesitation is that there are a few sexist and transphobic .

  • Stasiland—Anna Funder (2002). She goes into the archives and memories of people from East Germany.

  • Never Split the Difference—Chris Voss (2016). Surprisingly readable advice about negotiating from a hostage negotiator. Plus real stories of hostage situations.

  • Rising Strong—Brene Brown (2015). How to get up after failure, with lots of stories to show you how.

  • Tiny Beautiful Things—Cheryl Strayed (2012). Collection of her advice columns, and they all hit.

Futuristic or Post-Apocalyptic

  • Not Forgetting the Whale—John Ironmonger (2015). Cornwall, and the system starts to collapse. The author created a strong sense of immediacy and reality but was not terrifying (thank you for that!).

  • Golden State—Michelle Richmond (2014). In a future where California votes on secession, a doctor tries to navigate a day filled with personal and social conflict.

  • Tell Me How this Ends Well—David Samuel Levinson (2017). Slight-future LA sees three siblings move through a gathering of their dysfunctional family from three unique and converging perspectives.

Young Adult

  • The Sun is Also a Star—Nicola Yoon (2016). Gripping, moving, beautiful.

  • A Study in Charlotte—Brittany Cavallaro (2016). First in a series that reimagines Holmes and Watson as young adults in America. I was intrigued and invested in the characters.

  • The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling—Maryrose Wood (2010). More middle grade than YA, a funny and intriguing first book in a series about a governess and three semi-feral children.

Wishing you wonderful reading adventures in your coming year!