I am almost never the person reading the latest book. I am often the person buying, reserving, admiring, and Goodreadsing the newest book, but I am almost never reading it. Six, eighteen months later? I’m reading it. So the books I read in 2017 were a good mix of old and new. I read some so-so books and one I wish I hadn’t, but for the most part it was a good year. My top five for 2017 are:
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I do like a book where seemingly different storylines, seemingly unattached people, somehow connect. The paths of the Richardson family, of Mia Warren and her daugher Pearl, and of the McColloughs and their newly adopted child all intersect in messy and heartbreaking ways. As usual, I had trouble jumping right into a story, but after two orthodontist-waiting-room reading sessions, I was hooked and stayed that way throughout.
Hunger by Roxane Gay. My only novel-length non-fiction read of the year. I wrote about it here and while it wasn’t an easy read, I do felt like it had a lasting impact on me. The chapters were of varying lengths, their order non-linear; something about the way it was all organized did make it easier to push through, small pieces, brief glimpses at a time. It’s a luxury that the author allows us that was not allowed her. I finished the book grateful for her honesty.
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord. This is a YA book and the second book I read by this author. Lord is funny and honest on Twitter, and her novel The Start of Me and You was believable and witty. This book was heavier, as the main character Lucy struggles with her mother’s recurring cancer and how that shakes the foundation of her life: her faith. As her mother gets sick again, she is faced with questions for God and wrestles with how the seemingly unshakeable faith of her parents fits into it all. Some of the scenes at camp seemed cliché, but I never went so summer camp so what do I know? The questioning of faith in the face of pain, the realization that life is fragile and parents are real people, the discovery of community at just the right time – those are explored realistically by Lord and I ate it up.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Alice loses consciousness at the gym and wakes up with no memory of the last ten years of her life. Her happy marriage has dissolved, she doesn’t really know or understand her children, and can’t figure out what’s up with her sister. I read this on recommendation from a friend, who said it left her thinking long after. At first, it seemed like a lighter novel but as I watched Alice piece everything back together, I did start to think: Would 29-year old me recognize the life that 39-year old me is living? What if I could peek at 49-year old me . . . would I know that person and her motivations, her interests, her relationships? The answer is probably no on many accounts, as it was with Alice. Life moves so quickly (like sand through the hourglass, eh?) and it’s hard to see the long-term effects of little decisions when you make them; it made this book a really interesting one.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This is not a book I’d usually pick up, but it was one that kept appearing – on friends’ bookshelves, in bookish articles and posts, in calls to “please make it a movie!” on the internet, and – with its alluring cover – on the shelves at Target. The premise seemed interesting enough, so I decided to go for it even though magical realism isn’t necessarily my bag. I was immediately pulled into the story, knowing how it was supposed to end and eager to see how they’d avoid the inevitable. The characters were colorful and fascinating – and many – and the twists and turns and descriptions felt like I was very much in the maze of attractions and tents at the night circus. I’m not sure I loved the ending, but maybe it’s because it came too soon.
I’m picking from my large stock of unread books to cultivate a to-read list for 2018 – it’s anyone’s guess how many of them will end up on next year’s list. I’m hoping to tackle The Miniaturist, The Hate You Give, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and a few short story collections. Catch ya on the flip!