Top Ten Books of 2017

2017, it seems, felt like a struggle for many. I tried to fill my reading life with stories that would help me get to know more people and more nuanced views of social issues, and in this way my life got a lot bigger. Sharing this with my students was a highlight–their passion for social justice was a highlight of my year.

I didn’t write that often because my body felt pretty tired–it was a year that started with IVF drugs and ended, so very gratefully, with a baby girl after years of waiting for her–this is how my life got a bit smaller, in the best of ways.

So we are holed up and hibernating in this cold, reading some picture books (City Cat and We Are Here are my current favorites–thanks Alison and Grace) and ebooks (very unlike me…more on that later) and drinking lots of coffee. And, of course, watching television favorites: the end of Major Crimes (deeply upsetting), making my way through Gilmore Girls (a delight), and American Vandal (hilarious satire on the real crime documentary genre). I have my Anne of Green Gables DVDs ready to go to start off 2018 well.

If you are looking to grow your nightstand stack in the new year, here are my favorites (and here are lists from 2006-2016). Please share your best books of the year–I’m always looking for good recommendations!

March┬áby John Lewis: I’ve recommended this countless times to students and friends, in person and on this blog. This graphic novel trilogy chronicles Congressman John Lewis’s experiences during the Civil Rights movement. I would honestly call this required reading not just for those interested in history, but anyone who wants to understand today as well.

Homegoing by Yaa Guasi: This book is probably the favorite of my book club this year. It starts with two chapters that tell the story of two half sisters in Ghana in the 18th century who don’t know each other. Each chapter following covers someone in the next generation, alternating between the family lines of each sister, until modern day.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger: Set in the early sixties, this is the story about family, coming of age, and loss–it felt like a combination of Stand by Me and To Kill a Mockingbird.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: Having won the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, I imagine most people have heard of or read this book already. This creative book takes the reader on the protagonist Cora’s journey to escape slavery.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: Born to a black woman and a white man, which was illegal in South Africa, Trevor Noah’s story of growing up was eye opening, poignant, and filled with enough humor to break up the heaviness that encompassed much of his life.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: This is another book that should be required reading not just for its young adult audience, but for everyone. The protagonist, a young black woman, witnesses her best friend get killed by a police officer. This story is timely, nuanced, and urgent.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese: I mentioned this is my summer reading conclusion–I can’t believe I missed this book when it came out. Set mostly in Ethiopia, two brothers grow up in an adopted family of medical professionals. Not only is this a powerful story that completely sucked me in, it covers so many complexities about what it means to be human as well as in the medical world.

Small Mercies by Eddie Joyce: This book feels like an “easy read” in that it feels like the characters are your own family and when it ends, you wish that it could keep going. It is about an Italian family on Staten Island and how the different members deal with the loss of one of the sons.

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott: Alice McDermott has a way of capturing the inner conflicts of her characters and the small moments in their lives in a way that feels deeply authentic and artistic. This story felt like the essence of creative writing to me. The main character is a young new mother in an Irish Catholic Brooklyn neighborhood whose husband

The Leavers by Lisa Ko: This is the first ebook I’ve read since I travelled internationally five years ago. The first week home with our new baby, I didn’t read at all and basically had an identity crisis. I realized that there were other options on my phone to occupy my time while feeding and the kindle app saved my life. This is a story about a Chinese American boy in Manhattan whose mother disappears when he is ten and he is then adopted by a white family upstate.

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