For the past few years I’ve done the goodreads 50 book challenge. This year I reached 50 books pretty easily although I did read a good chunk of graphic novels. I had an amazing year of reading and had a difficult time picking my top ten. These books were not all released in 2017 but a good number of them were thanks to my new addiction to Book of the Month club.
And now what I like to call, “I read a ton of books so that you don’t have to”, here are my top 10 reads of 2017! (in descending order! stick around til the end!)
Here’s a sneak peek and if you want to keep up with my reading in 2018 follow my cat on Instagram @tonksreads :
10. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
What it is: A laugh so hard you pee memoir graphic novel about dogs, cake, depression, and more by the amazing Allie Brosh famous as “hyperbole and a half”.
Why I liked it: I’ve never laughed so hard while reading while simultaneously thinking this was the best text I’ve ever read about the realities of serious depression.
Memorable quote: “To reiterate, no matter how much pepper you eat, it won’t undo the ludicrous amount of salt you ate before it.”
9. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
What it is: A young adult novel in which our heroine, Frankie, is an average high schooler who starts dating a popular boy and, through a series of events, becomes a criminal mastermind.
Why I liked it: I wish I read this in high school but I’m happy to have read it now. It’s awesome reading about a female protagonist seeing what the men around her are able to accomplish with their gender alone and then taking power into her hands. Frankie is an amazing, flawed but brilliant protagonist and there’s an important lesson in here about not losing yourself in any relationship and claiming your brilliance.
Memorable quote: “She will not be simple and sweet. She will not be what people tell her to be. That Bunny Rabbit is dead.”
8. Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
What it is: A series of mind-bending, time-warping, math-defying, heart-wrenching sci-fi stores (including the short story that inspired the movie “Arrival”)
Why I liked it: When sci-fi is done right I end up contemplating the repercussions for weeks. These stories questioned what I thought I knew about time, math, intelligence, love, life, everything!
Memorable quote: “My message to you is this: pretend that you have free will. It’s essential that you behave as if your decisions matter, even though you know they don’t. The reality isn’t important: what’s important is your belief, and believing the lie is the only way to avoid a waking coma.”
7. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
What it is: The story of a Nigerian woman immigrating to America and how she navigates her new “blackness” in context to her appearance, jobs, and relationships with white Americans, black Americans, and black Africans.
Why I liked it: It dives into the experience of being black in America through the story of one of my favorite protagonists ever, Ifemelu. Part of why I liked Ifemelu is that she was far from perfect but she felt so real. I felt every piece of her story as if it were happening to me (and let’s be clear, I am a white woman so I have not experienced much of what she experiences in this book). While it dives deep into the experience of being black in America it is also a beautiful and complex love story. I was fighting for love the whole time.
Memorable quote: “Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.”
6. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
What it is: An eerie, environmental sci-fi exploration book in which four women, a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist venture into Area X, a mysterious place that no one has come back from sane and healthy.
Why I liked it: I’ll warn you now, you wont’ get all the answers to this one. And I didn’t read the sequels because I heard they were not good. But, I don’t know if I’ve ever been as glued to the page as I was for this book. It stands alone. It’s spooky. It’s exciting. The narrator is awesome. And a movie is coming out so get ready!
Memorable quote: “That’s how the madness of the world tries to colonize you: from the outside in, forcing you to live in its reality.”
5. Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
What it is: A novel about an 8-year-old girl who’s mother dies while sleep-swimming and how her and her family deal with their grief all in different ways.
Why I liked it: Best. narrator. ever. You’d think this would be an incredibly sad novel but because of Elvis’s unique perspective, the book is absolutely hilarious in its sadness. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel everything in this perfect little book. (My top 5 books are always PERFECT in my book and I have a hard time ranking them!)
Memorable quote: “It’s not easy to label people one illness or another. We’re all different combinations of crazy.”
4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
What it is: Sixteen-year-old Starr’s life changes dramatically when she witnesses her unarmed black friend shot by a white police officer. She has to navigate her two lives as a member of her black community and as a minority in her mostly white private school in relation to the shooting.
Why I liked it: It’s definitely not pleasant or comfortable to read about a white police officer killing an unarmed black man with a teenage girl witnessing the whole event. But, Angie Thomas has turned the subject of police racism and brutality into a thoughtful, moving, yes, even funny at times, tragic and uplifting story. It pays respect to black lives that end too early while also celebrating culture, family, standing together, and fighting back. I don’t know how she did it but she’s written a perfect book.
Memorable quote: “Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
3. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
What it is: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” is the first line of the most gorgeous, tragic story about a Chinese-American family living in a small town in Ohio in the 1970’s searching for their missing daughter.
Why I liked it: This book defied all my expectations of what a mystery could be. I wanted to know what happened to Lydia and when I found out I cried all over my book in the climactic scene. An absolutely stunning novel that will make you want to hug all your loved ones close and treat everyone you meet with kindness PLUS EVERY SENTENCE IS BEAUTIFUL. Celeste Ng is a marvel of a writer.
Memorable quote: “What made something precious? Losing it and finding it.”
2. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
What it is: The story of Leonie, a black woman, and her two kids as they go on a road trip to pick up the kids’ dad, a white man, from jail.
Why I liked it: Similarly to the last book I could not believe how perfectly written this book was from start to finish. This book illustrates how many black folks carry ghosts of the past with them every day because of the gruesome and violent realities of racism past and present. How do you move forward while carrying the heavy burden of the past with you? A ghost story and the story of a family trying to move beyond the past, this book won the national book award for a reason and I want to read everything else Jesmyn Ward has written.
Memorable quote: “Sorrow is food swallowed too quickly, caught in the throat, making it nearly impossible to breathe.”
1. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
What it is: 16-year old Aza suffers from OCD and anxiety, and is constantly battling the thought-spirals in her brain while also navigating high school, beautiful and scary social situations, first love, a captivating mystery, loss, and change.
Why I liked it: Sometimes you find a book that is not only brilliantly written, engaging, unique, thought-provoking, funny and tear-jerking, but also you identify with it on a deeply personal level. That’s this book to me. This book is heady because Aza is always in her mind thinking and re-thinking her identity, her choices, her perspectives, her life, and everything around her. I can’t tell you how much I loved this book and connected with Aza’s story. I wish I could give it 6 out of 5 stars. I didn’t know how John Green could top The Fault in Our Stars but he did it with this book. My favorite book of 2017 and one of my favorites of all time.
Memorable quote: “We never really talked much or even looked at each other, but it didn’t matter because we were looking at the same sky together, which is maybe even more intimate than eye contact anyway. I mean, anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”
Honorable Mentions (and there are a lot this year!)
- Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie
- Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
- The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. LeGuin
- American Gods – Neil Gaiman
- Ms. Marvel – G. Willow Wilson
- Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volumes 4 & 5