Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Year in Review: Best Books of 2017

For those who celebrate, I hope you had a great Christmas holiday! Since we are in the final week of the year (how!!), it's time to post a couple of 'year in review' posts.

One of my favorite parts about this time of year is all the'best of' lists that get released - especially best books lists! It's fun to look through them and see where I agree and disagree. So to kick off my 'year in review' posts, here are the 10 best books I've read (out of the 80+ I've read so far this year!). 

1. When Breath Becomes Air (Best 2017 Read): This is a memoir written by a neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. This book is sad and heavy but it's so beautifully written. Warning: do not read the afterward by Paul's wife in public - unless you are comfortable ugly crying in front of others. I think this book should be read by all medical residents as he talks about how much he learned about patient care when he went from being the doctor to being the patient. This was the best non-fiction book I read in 2017.

2. Her Every Fear: This is as page-turner thriller that I had the hardest time putting down. It is very creepy as the story line deals with a stalker, so if that freaks you out don't read this book! This is the second book I've read by this author and both were excellent 5-star reads! I've recommended this to several people and everyone loved it!

3. Homegoing: This is a multi-generational story that starts in the 1700s in Africa with 2 sisters. One is sold into slavery in the US; the other is married to a white British man involved in the slave trade industry. Each chapter follows the next generation of each sister. The book does an excellent job of showing how slavery impacts every generation over the course of nearly 300 years. I recommend reading a hard copy of this book as you'll want to reference the family tree at the front of the book so you can keep the characters straight. This author was in her 20s when she wrote this book. 

4. The Mothers: We meet several characters in this novel. The story is about two friends, Nadia and Aubrey, and a boy they both develop feelings for. There are several narrators but one of the narrators is a chorus of church ladies ("the mothers") who have opinions about everyone and everything and gossip as if their lives depended on it. The writing was so beautiful but it wasn't beautiful for the sake of being beautiful, as is often the case with literary fiction. Instead the writing advanced the story and helped the reader gain a better understanding of the characters and the complexity of the issues they faced. The author of this book is also very young - she wrote it when she was 25.

5. Behold the DreamersThis was a heart-breaking, fictional account of a family that comes to America from Cameroon hoping to build a life. They could not afford to pay for immigration lawyers and such, so the husband comes as a visitor, extends his stay, seeks asylum and eventually brings his wife and son over. It is fiction but the author is from the same town in Cameroon that the characters in the story are from, and she, too, immigrated to the US. So it has an authentic feel given the author's first hand experiences. 

6. We Were the Lucky Ones:  This was a late addition to my best-of list as I just finished it mid-month. It's a WWII novel about a Jewish family living in Poland at the start of the war. The parents and siblings all experience different tragedies so it is a heavy read, but it was so well-written. It's especially moving since it's based on the story of the author's family. It's a powerful book and it will upset you to read about the capacity man has to be cruel to others. 

7. Expecting BetterThis is a unique pregnancy book as it is written by an economist and mother of 2. When she was pregnant with her first child, she became frustrated when her midwife wasn't able to explain the risk behind the things they were telling her not to do, from not drinking any alcohol, to not eating sushi, to not eating sandwich meat. So she looks at many research studies behind many of the decisions a woman needs to make in pregnancy and makes a decision for herself based on what the data says. Will I make all the same decisions as her? No. But it was interesting to read a book that took an evidenced-based approach to pregnancy recommendations.

8. Bear Town: This is such a timely read as it addresses the topic of sexual assault. The story is set in a hockey-obsessed town in Sweden. The hockey players are basically gods in this town (I could so relate to this since I grew up in a small town where high school jocks could do no wrong). But something happens at a team party that shakes this community to its core. I couldn't care less about hockey and I still loved this book so don't let the hockey theme prevent you from reading it. 

9. This Is How It Always Is:  This is a beautifully written book about a couple that is raising a transgendered child. The title of the book alludes to this quote about making decisions as a parent: 

 '...You never know. You only guess. This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands, who trusts you to know what's good and right and then to be able to make it happen. You never have enough information. You don't get to see the future. And if you screw up, if with your incomplete, contradictory information you make the wrong call, well, nothing less than your child's entire future and happiness is at stake. It's heartbreaking. It's maddening. But there's no alternative.'  

10. Little Fires Everywhere:  I was worried that Celeste Ng's sophomore novel would be a disappointment since I loved her debut novel, "Everything I Never Told You." But she hit it out of the park again. This this novel she tackles topics such as families living in different socioeconomic conditions and interracial adoption.  It would be a great book club book! 

What were your best reads of 2017?


Gracie said...

I really enjoyed When Breath Becomes Air. He was a talented and touching writer, and his insight as both physician and patient made the reader so much more acutely aware of the dying process. Heartbreaking to read, as you said.

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

I got a book for Christmas, which is right up my alley ... "Before You Know It" by John Bargh, PhD. I will likely read that and one other book while we're in Mexico. I am always so impressed by how much you read. 80 + books in one year is phenomenal. You must be so knowledgeable girl!

Stephany said...

I'm revealing my top 10 books on Friday, so you'll have to wait for my answer then. :) But some of your top 10 books are on my list and a lot of these are also on my TBR and I'm hoping to read them in 2018.

I *want* to read When Breath Becomes Air, but man, I don't think I'm ready for the emotions. I have to wait until I'm in the right space for it!

Jeanie said...

what a great list! I have to do that -- hoping to finish one more book before the end of the year so it will probably come in 2018, but early! Some good titles here to look into.

Amber said...

I have read 7 out of the 10 books on your list and a few of them will be on my best books of 2017 list as well! I believe I gave ALL of them 4 or 5 stars! I am excited to read We Were the Lucky Ones as I love WWII books.

San said...

I love reading everybody's booklist... When Breath becomes Air was also on my top ten list for 2017 (which I will reveal next week). I read 59 books and was finally able to pick my favorites from a longer list this year :)

Thanks for the suggestions - quite a few to put on my to-read list.

Linda said...

Can't wait to read Ng's second novel in 2018!

I enjoyed When Breath Becomes Air in 2016. Adding Mothers to my neverending list!

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

I love reading the best of books lists! I read a few of these but there are still some I need to check out in 2018 :)