The 15 Best Books I Read in 2017

I tried for a top 10 list, but couldn’t narrow it down that far.

I finished 132 books, abandoned 5, and am still working on 1. (I had to return it to the library midway through and haven’t gotten it back yet.

26 of them were re-reads, which means I read 106 new books, which is record number of new books for me. I read 43,326 pages last year, which is 5,134 pages more than the year before. 9 of the books I read at least partly as audiobooks.

I don’t have high-brow tastes, but I do like an entertaining tale with good writing. Of the 100+ books I read in 2017, I liked 15 of them enough to recommend to others. Honestly, that’s not bad odds.

  1. The Sun is Also A Star, by Nicola Yoon (YA literary) At this point, I’m convinced anything Nicola Yoon writes will be amazing. This is a book about a young lady who’s family is from Jamaica. They’re about to be deported, and she’s trying to figure out a way for them to stay in the country. She meets a young Korean man, and they end up spending the day together. The book is from the point of view of the two main characters, but also from other characters, whose lives these two touch for a moment here and there. This is a book about love and culture and identity, but also about how sometimes we don’t realize how much of an impact we can have on a person by just a momentary encounter.
  2. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stievfater (YA fantasy light) This is a series of 4 books. I’ll be totally honest; the first one took me awhile to warm up to it. I was listening to it on audiobook, and I thought the language was odd. I was actually going to stop listening to it, but I was driving through the middle of nowhere, still had miles to go, and couldn’t get reception to download a different book. I figured it was better than nothing and kept going. I’m so glad I did! It merges myth and legend against a modern day setting. I fell in love with the characters, their romances, and their adventures. I will warn you that I did not love the ending. A bad ending can ruin a book for me, and this one wasn’t bad… it was just somewhat disappointing. It’s still worth reading, but be careful if endings are a thing for you too.
  3. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell (YA real world) Rowell is another YA author who, in my mind, writes consistently good books. Bonus recommendation: Carry On. This book is about a nerdy girl who writes fan fiction and struggles with anxiety. When she gets to college, she has to stop using her safety nets (getting lost in fan fiction, her sister) and start participating in real life.
  4. Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, Edited by April Genevieve Tucholke (YA horror) This is a book of short YA horror stories. I have my favorites, like In The Forest, Dark and Deep, Sleepless, and The Dark Scary Parts and All, but every single story in the collection was good. They mixed big names, like Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake with less famous authors.
  5. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi (memoir) Not going to lie, I cried, even though I knew full well that the author died before I even picked up the book. It was a beautiful meditation on an interesting man, and what it means to be human.
  6. A Piece of Cake, by Cupcake Brown (memoir) This is a difficult read. Not because of the language, which was simple and direct, but because the subject matter is so tough. Cupcake (her real name) ends up in foster care after her mom dies, which is where she’s raped by the foster mom’s son. No one seems to care, and she spirals into self-loathing and drugs. Only because of an inner core of steel does she manage to get herself clean and become a successful lady. I already knew that everyone’s got a story, but this just reinforced the idea that you can never know what someone’s gone through unless you’ve lived it or they tell you.
  7. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett (literary) I couldn’t put this book down. It was sad and funny, about a group of people who are trapped together when terrorists take them hostage. But after awhile, the line between captor and captured blurs, and they all start to find out that they’re just a group of people trying to figure things out in the world. I can’t really describe it, but if you like literary fiction, you should read it.
  8. The Female of the Species, by Mindy McGinnis (YA horror) Alex’s sister was killed by a predator. When the police don’t charge him, Alex kills him. Three years later, she’s used to being an outcast and keeping her secrets. But when she develops a friendship, and then starts dating a popular boy, she realizes that she can’t keep her secrets (or her rage) to herself anymore.
  9. The Emperor of Anyplace, by Tim Wynne-Jones (YA literary with fantastical elements) This book was chosen by YA book club, and it’s so many different things. I didn’t expect to like it, but loved it. It’s part family drama in modern day, part mystery set during World War II. Two men from opposite sides get trapped together on a small island during the war and must deal with being trapped with the “enemy.” When Evan finds the book detailing what happened after his father dies, he tries to solve the mystery of who his grandfather really is.
  10. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert (self-help) Are you a creative person who feels stuck, or feels like you need permission to create? Then read this book. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about why the world needs more people who are passionate about art, all kinds of art. (Notice I didn’t say, “who are good at art.”)
  11. When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon (YA romance) Dimple and Rishi’s parents have arranged for them to get married, when they’re older. But Dimple wants to be her own person, to learn more about web development, and not even think about romance. Their parents throw them together at a web development workshop and expect everything to work out. This is just a sweet but fresh romance. It’s light reading, but good light reading.
  12. The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas (YA literary) This is what I’d call an “issue book.” That is, it’s meant to present an issue to the reader. Some of them get so heavy into their message that they forget to also provide an entertaining ride. This book, however, delivers. It’s clear what Angie Thomas wants to say, but she doesn’t overshadow the author’s protagonist, Starr, when she does it. Starr speaks for herself and tells us what it’s like to navigate between two different worlds, especially when someone you love was killed for reasons you don’t understand.
  13. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon (historical fiction) The first 100 pages are sloooooow. They’re all set-up, but it’s important set-up. Once I got past those pages, the rest of the story flew by. I’ve read the first two so far and have loved them both. These books have a bit of everything: history, war, romance. It’s a non-stop thrill ride.
  14. A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold (memoir) I truly believe this is an important book. When tragedies happen by human hands, we all seem to point fingers and say, “Someone should have known.” The problem is that most of the time, people didn’t know. Sure, they might have known something was off, but let’s be honest, who ever thinks that someone they love is capable of brutal violence? Sue Klebold confronts those statements and more in her book about her son, Dylan, one of the shooters at Columbine High School. Sometimes it seems like she’s talking to herself, still trying to understand what could have happened. She blends her own recollections with information from experts. It’s haunting, but hopefully eye-opening as well.
  15. On a Pale Horse, by Piers Anthony (fantasy) When Zane shoots Death, he finds out that he has to take over the job. As he’s collecting souls, he finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy. A fun, fast-paced book.

There you have it. If you read something on my recommendation, stop back and let me know what you thought.

What was the best book/ books you read in 2017?

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things Released in Paperback Today!

Version 2With Banned Books Week taking place last week, it feels like perfect timing to have the paperback version of All The Ugly and Wonderful Things released today.

There aren’t many books I own in both paperback and hardback, but this is one of them.

I adore this book. It’s a book that presents a polarizing topic in a way I hadn’t thought of before. I love books that make me see reality in a new and different way. I don’t necessarily have to agree with the point of view; it just needs to be well thought out and show me something different.

As I said last week, literary fiction “analyzes the nature of reality.” I don’t always love literary fiction because it’s hard to tell an entertaining story with vibrant characters and still analyze reality.

But this book does that. It’s told in multiple points of view; I’m not even sure how many there are. But the point of the multiple points of view is to show different perspectives about what’s happening during the story.

What’s most interesting to me in this book is the things that are implied but left unsaid.

I know I’m being deliberately vague about what the book’s about, but I think that for anyone who hadn’t read it, it’s an experience best left to unfold. Because while I could tell you what the book is about, what it’s about on the surface isn’t really what the book is about.

If you’ve heard about it and have been putting off reading it, this week is a great time to start! Grab your paperback copy today!

And if you end up being a superfan like me, if you subscribe to her newsletter, Bryn Greenwood has released all the “deleted scenes” from the book. I’m hoping that one day she releases a book with all of them back in there, where they belong.

 

What I Read in November

Apparently, I was in an eclectic mood again this month.

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  1. Another Man’s Moccasins & The Dark Horse, by Craig Johnson (Longmire 4 & 5) It’s the continuing chronicles of Walt Longmire.
  2. The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black This was a reread for me. It’s an excellent YA book about a town where fae folk live, and one day one of them breaks out of the glass coffin where he’s been imprisoned. Hazel has to solve the mystery before the monster from the forest kills all the townspeople.
  3. This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab This may be one of my favorite books I read this year. It’s about a town overrun by monsters, and how the daughter and son of the opposing factions meet and, after a failed kidnapping attempt, go on the run together. My only complaint about this book is that there’s a sequel, but it doesn’t come out until summer 2017. This can be read as a standalone book, but that’s not much consolation when you get to the last page.
  4. The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware This book got rave reviews, and lots of people loved it. But it just didn’t do it for me. I liked it, but I didn’t get caught up until about halfway through the book. It’s good, worth reading once, but I found the main character somewhat annoying.
  5. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George This was a surprising hit with me. The main character runs a bookshop and is the book apothecary, dispensing books like medicine for what ails people. But the main character has a secret, that he’s been pining for a lost love for 20 years. And when he finally starts to process it, he ends up going on a journey and finding out he’s not the only one with secrets. An interesting, life affirming read. (Plus, I loved the idea of a book apothecary.)
  6. Infomocracy, by Malka Older A friend and I both started reading this book together, and we both hated it. To be fair, we both abandoned it about 10% in, so maybe it gets better. I’m not entirely sure what it was supposed to be about, but something about politics set in a future where everyone is wired in to information.
  7. I,Robot, by Isaac Asimov There’s a reason he’s considered one of the best science fiction writers of all time. Plus, he came up with the three laws. While the movie of the same name is quite a bit different from this book, there’s enough similarities that I can see how the book inspired the movie. I love all the robot psychology in the book. I can’t believe I’ve never read this before.

What’s the best book you read this month?

What I Read in 2013, and Other Stuff About Books

San Tan Regional Park; Photo Credit Doree Weller

San Tan Regional Park; Photo Credit Doree Weller

I made a few resolutions in 2013, one of which was that I was not going to keep compulsively purchasing books.  I made good use of my library, and managed to practice self-control, for the most part.  Some of the reason I buy books is that I find them in used book stores, and I want to read it, but I know that if I put it on a list of stuff to be read, I’ll probably never get around to getting it from the library or buying from Amazon.  But if I bring it home, I’ll read it eventually.  It sort of works.

One of the things I did to stop myself from buying books was to keep a list of everything I read in 2013.  It was fun, and if I ever wonder, “Did I read that book?” I can go back and look at my list and see the book, along with my thoughts.

I read 76 books in 2013, less than I’ve read in other years, though I don’t actually have the numbers on that.  I just know that in previous years, I’ve read one book after another, reading up to three or four books in a week.  While that’s great and all, I decided I had to stop.  I needed to do more writing, cooking, walking… things you can’t do if you’re just inexhaustibly consuming one book after another.  I’m trying to read more mindfully.

Of the 76 books on my list, 44 were new, 27 were re-reads, and 5 I didn’t finish.  Of the 5 I didn’t finish, 3 were because life is too short to read boring books, and the other two, I just haven’t finished yet.

I’ve included the complete list, along with some notes I made for my own benefit.  Because of my book club, I found 2 new favorite books and took some risks with books I wouldn’t normally read.  Some of them were great, and I’m so happy I tried them.  Others were not books I enjoyed at all, and actually 2 of them were ones I didn’t finish.  I highly recommend reading stuff others recommend.  After all, it doesn’t hurt anything to put a boring book down.  But discovering a new and wonderful book is like an adventure.  I would never have read Beautiful Disaster or The Fault In Our Stars on my own, but I love both books so much now that they’ll be going on my special bookshelf for favorites.

*This is a book I’ve read before.

+This is a book I didn’t finish.

X Book suggested by my book club.

1.  Words Get In The Way by Nan Rossiter  About a boy with autism, pretty good

2.  *Pollyanna by Eleanor M. Porter

3.  *Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

4. X 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster (1/12/13-1/13/13)  A man with Asperger’s… good

5.  Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul (competed 1/15/13)  🙂

6.  The good dream, Donna VanLiere (completed 1/24/13). Women’s fiction, pretty good.

7.  +Invisible Monsters, Chuck Palahniuk- just didn’t hold my interest… I tried!

8.  Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake (1/28/13)  Loved it!

9.  Girl of Nightmares, Kendare Blake (sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood)… great!

10.  Unforgettable Lady, Jessica Bird

11.  Fantasy Lover, Sherrilyn Kenyon (2/10/13)- Very good, get more by her.

12. X Zoo, James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge (2/10/13-2/12/13)  Good.

13.  Tempting the Beast, Lora Leigh (2/14/13)  Meh… don’t bother

14.  Sweep, Cate Tiernan (2/16/13)  Young adult series, great fun.

15. Cinder, Marissa Meyer (2/16- 2/17)  Great!

16. *Guilty Pleasures, Laurell K Hamilton (2/18-2/23)

17. *The Laughing Corpse, Laurell K. Hamilton (2/23)

18. *Circus of the Damned, Laurell K. Hamilton (2/23-2/24)

19.  *The Lunatic Cafe, Laurell K. Hamilton (2/25)

20.  *Bloody Bones, Laurell K. Hamilton (2/26-2/28)

21.  *The Killing Dance, Laurell K. Hamilton (2/28-3/1)

22.  *Burnt Offerings, Laurell K Hamilton (3/1-3/5)

23.  X Beautiful Disaster, Jamie McGuire (3/6- 3/9)  New for the favorites list.

24. *Beautiful Disaster, Jamie McGuire (3/9-3/11)

25.  X+Swamplandia, Karen Russell (3/11-3/14)  It read too much like literary fiction… boring!

26.  The Charming Man, Marian Keyes (3/15- 3/26)

27.  Calculated in Death (#45), JD Robb (3/27-3/31)

28.  Walking Disaster, Jamie McGuire (4/2)

29.  +Johnny Cash (4/3-

30. X The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh (4/13-4/14)

31.  Sweet Rains, Nora Roberts (4/22- 4/23)

32.  Scarlet, Marissa Meyer (4/23-4/27)

33.  Blithe Images, Nora Roberts (4/28)

34.  Lover at Last, JR Ward (5/1- 5/4)  Great, of course.

35.  Law of Love, Nora Roberts (5/5-5/8)

36.  *High Noon, Nora Roberts (5/9- 5/11)

37.  Empty Chairs, Stacey Dansen (5/15- 5/18)

38.  *The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (5/18- 5/20)

39.  *Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins (5/20)

40.  *Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins (5/21)

41.  Shards & Ashes, Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong (5/21-6/4)  Anthology,paranormal  🙂

42.  *50 Shades Darker, EL James (5/30- 6/2)

43. *50 Shades Freed, EL James (6/4- 6/6)

44.  X The Good House, Ann Leary  Not great, worth reading once.

45.  *Someone to Watch Over Me, Judith McNaught (6/22- 6/24)

46.  X The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon (7/8)

47.  This Book is Full of Spiders, David Wong (7/10-7/14), sequel to John Dies at The End

48.  *Blue Smoke, Nora Roberts (7/16- 7/17)

49.  Deeply Odd, Dean Koontz (7/23-7/26)

50.  Whiskey Beach, Nora Roberts (7/27-7/29)

51.  *Northern Lights, Nora Roberts

52.  Blue is for Nightmares, Laurie Faria Stolarz

53.  White is for Magic, Laurie Faria Stolarz

54.  *Walking Disaster, Jamie McGuire

55.  *Ice Castles, Leonore Fleisher

56.  *Remember Me, Christopher Pike (9/1-9/4)

57.  Cesar Millan’s Short Guide to a Happy Dog, Cesar Millan (9/5-9/7)

58.  *Love Story, Erich Segal (9/10)

59.  *Where The Heart Is, Billie Letts

60.  *The Silver Link, The Silken Tie, Mildred Ames (9/16)

61.  The First Prophet, Kay Hooper (9/24- 9/27)

62. X The Lion is In, Delia Ephron (9/30)

63.  A Street Cat Named Bob: And how he changed my life, James Bowen (10/7)  Nice story

64.  X The Fault in our Stars, John Green (10/8- 10/10)  New for the Favorites List.

65.  Sarah, Plain and Tall, Patricia MacLachlan

66.  Emma, Jane Austen (10/20- 10/28)

67.  Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending,Elizabeth Dunn&Michael Norton (10/26)

68. X My Name is Memory, Ann Brashares (10/30-11/2)

69. X Wild, Cheryl Strayed (11/4-11/11)  Unexpectedly good, memoir

70.  Allegiant, Veronica Roth (11/12- 11/19)

71.  Mirror, Mirror, JD Robb

72.  Thankless in Death, JD Robb (12/10- 12/11)

73.  Innocence, Dean Koontz (12/12- 12/13)

74.  A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog, Dean Koontz (12/14- 12/16)

75. X +In The Woods, Tana French (12/17-12/22)- Nothing happened, so I gave up.

76.  1984, George Orwell (12/23- present)