Best Books of 2017

I met my goal of reading 32 books in 2017! With about two weeks to go before the end of the year, I am optimistic that I will surpass by goal again this year. (Read about last year’s challenge here.) You can see all the books I read in 2017 on Goodreads, which helps me track what I’m reading and gives great recommendations.

I did add some qualifiers to my reading challenge: 11 must be by men, 3 must be non-fiction, 2 must be translated from another language into English, and 1 must be more than 500 pages long. I must admit that I just barely squeaked out some of these qualifiers. For example, the edition of Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass that I borrowed from the library was just over 500 pages. It counts!

Deciding on my favorite reads of the year has been more of a challenge. I have ranked my favorites, in no particular order, based on if I still think about the book, how absorbed I became in the story and overall enjoyability.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

I wanted to read this because I was heading for Maine, and gobbled it up while I was there. I definitely see why this won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. I watched the mini series on HBO and found it followed the book very well. Paul Newman is also in it if that piques your interest. I’ve read Russo before (That Old Cape Magic), but this was so much more impactful. Russo may seem slow going but I find his work absolutely worth the challenge of tiny font. I’m currently reading Everybody’s Fool by Russo and have been really enjoying it as well. 

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

This exceeds my “I still think about the book” well after I’ve finished it. It’s an intense, dark depiction of prisoners of war that I likely would not have picked up had it not been a staff pick when I visited Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine. If you’re looking for a non-American, non-European perspective of the experience of WWII, this is it. The book is centered around an Australian P.O.W. and the Japanese leader of the prison camp in Burma, and you follow their bitter struggles during the war and after. 

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I have never read The Great Gatsby, but I imagine if you enjoyed that story, you’ll enjoy this. And Towles at least gives you a reliable narrator. I read this at a time when I needed something lighter (maybe you can imagine after my first two picks), and it was greatly satisfying. The story wasn’t weepy, a problem I’ve had recently with love stories, and the main character Katie was very likable and relatable. I would recommend this for the beach or if you’re like me and find yourself needing to escape the dark and heavy novels. This book isn’t without it’s own moodiness. 

Also see my reviews/summaries from earlier this year of Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny and The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz.

Honorable mentions in audiobooks include Modern Lovers by Emma Straub and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

For my 2018 reading challenge, I want to read 30 books and five must be non-fiction. I want to push my non-fiction reading past the memoirs and biographies I read this year. That will be my only qualifier this year even though I enjoyed hitting each category last year. I just want to read to learn and for reading’s sake.

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