2017 Book Wrap Up
Every year I set a goal of reading 52 books, once each week. The past two years, I've come close (47, 48) but haven't hit my goal. This year, I'm right on track to finish up 52 by January 1. This is a terribly incomplete list of my reading this year. There are many other books I loved and others that underwhelmed me as well. You'll notice I say that there are the 5 best and the 5 not best. This is because I didn't truly dislike in any strong way any of the books I read this year. Even the ones that weren't for me, I have an appreciation for because I know the writer put time and effort into a story they believed in. How do you tell someone that's terrible? My explanations will be vague-ish because I want them to remain spoiler-free, but I am ALWAYS happy to chat about books!
1. LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE by Jessica Knoll
A friend of mine sent me this book in the mail with a few others that she thought I'd love. It was the first book I read this summer, and it was one of the first books I read in a long time that actually surprised me. It's dark and unforgiving, but it's also sharp and compelling. I think I read it in about three days because I could not put it down.
2. MEN WE REAPED by Jesmyn Ward
I read this book for my nonfiction workshop and absolutely loved it. Ward paints a picture of poverty and racism and the catastrophic effects those two systems have on a life, a person, a community. It puts faces to the news stories that have become familiar without being contrived. Fun fact: Jesmyn Ward follows me on Twitter.
3. PIECING ME TOGETHER by Renee Watson
Y'ALL. THIS BOOK. This is the book I wish I had been able to use in my classroom, the book I wish had existed when I struggled to speak to the issues my students faced. It is elegant and raw and absolutely worth the read. Seriously, RUN and buy it right now.
4. THE RED TENT by Anita Diamant
I'm about twenty years behind with this book, but I read it for class and was captured from the first line. This retelling of the story of Dinah (Genesis 34) is told in such rich prose, and the imaginative aspect of the story combined with the historical creates a story that is just breathtaking. Even if you think "biblical" books aren't for you, read this one. It speaks to the power of communities of women carrying each other through life.
5. THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead
My dad lent me this book, so I bumped it to the top of my reading list so that I could return it to him. The story is told from the point of view of a runaway slave, and her observations about her world are not so far from our own. I was stunned at how Whitehead was able to show how things have actually not come as far as we thought without making the book feel damning.
5 NOT BEST
1. THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger
I started reading this book in high school but got bored and put it away. I ended up listening to it as an audiobook, and I kept waiting for something to happen. The story moves so slow and without the allure of time travel, the love story honestly wasn't that compelling to me.
2. GIRL IN TRANSLATION by Jean Kwok
This is another book that I felt had such a slow pace. While I think it does an excellent job in showing how immigrant life in the US is not glamorous, not typically what is "promised," and is full of challenges, I found myself wanting more from the story. The overarching plot didn't really do it for me.
3. ONE OF US IS LYING by Karen McManus
I can't really explain why I dislike this book without totally spoiling it, but I'll just say that it is misleading. As I've learned in my classes, there's a difference between creating suspense and just leading the reader on/confusing them. The payoff at the end was not worth it.
4. ALL THE UGLY & WONDERFUL THINGS by Bryn Greenwood
This book has a lot of mixed reviews because it has a "forbidden" love story in it. Honestly, that love story is the main reason I didn't love this book. It was well-written, and I kept wanting to know what would happen next. But I couldn't get past the way that main relationship progressed. I do think this author was brave in putting this story out there, though, and I commend her for that.
5. SPEEDBOAT by Renata Adler
Again, a book I read for class, and a book I'm years late on reading. The book is written in vignettes that have little relation to one another, which I found hard to follow. Some of the vignettes, by themselves, were beautifully rendered and funny, but overall, I wanted a cohesive story. This book didn't give me one.