2017 reads

This past year, I've really tried to spend more time reading. I do actually read a fair amount, but having a screen-based job (especially now that I am working in social media) has made me want to be more intentional about it. I've also been making more of an effort to read books by authors who are people of color or not from the U.S.

I know the year isn't over yet so my final number isn't in yet. But so far I've read 24 books. (Soon to be 25).

While I have enjoyed everything I've read, there's been a few that have stuck out in my mind as being exceptional pieces of literature. So much so, that I decided to post my recommendations here. That's how much I loved these books!

Book 1: Tomorrow here will be Apricots by Jessica Soffer

Why I loved it: The story centers around food, specifically Iraqi cooking. But it also is about the unlikely relationship between a traumatized teenage girl and a recently widowed elderly woman.

Book 2: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Why I loved it: I don't read a lot of books in the magic realism genre, but I am so glad my sister told me to read this YA novel. As with all magic realism, there are some super strange elements in this book but I found it fascinating. My favorite description of this book can be summed up in this line:  "A story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are." Beautiful. 

Book 3: Beartown by Fredirk Backman

Why I loved it: Backman is currently my favorite author. I eagerly grab his latest book off the library's selves. (His book My Grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorry is one of my favorite books of all time). Backman's past 3 novels all had series edge to them but with lots of humor mixed in. This was not the case for Beartown. It is a story about rape culture in sports. At points it is heartbreaking and so raw. But it is a beautiful story and from a literary stand point, maybe his most important piece of literature to date. This book is so important. Please read it.

Book 4: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Why I loved it: This was another recommendation from my sister.  (From time to to time I try and read some children's chapter books, that why I can give books I love to my nephews and niece. And my sister, an elementary educator, usually knows what's up in the world of kids lit). This book is written completely in verse, which is why I had originally put off reading it. But when I finally gave it a chance, I was completely swept away by Woodson's writing.

Book 5: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Why I loved it: I picked this book up by random at the library (mostly because I liked the title). I was completely surprised by this story of this very quirky woman dealing (or not dealing) with the trauma of her past. I read this book in 4 days. I couldn't put it down. It reads like a "light read" while at the same time dealing with hard topics like abuse, loneliness and loss. It was one of those books where I "missed" the characters long after I finished reading it.

Book 6: Goodbye.Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Why I loved it: This was another book I picked up because I liked the cover. It is a story of a young woman named Ruth who returns to live with her parents after her  Dad is diagnosed with dementia. The story is written in diary entries. But it's the last several pages of daily spinets of their every day lives together that really made this book stick with me long after it was over.

Book 7: The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/2 years old by Hendrik Groen

Why I loved it: I picked up this book because I really wanted it to be similar to Backman's book A Man called Ove. It wasn't. But I was not disappointed. This was a humorous commentary on nursing homes, getting older and enjoying life to the fullest. I still think about Hendrik.

Book 8: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Why I loved it: I picked this book up several times at the library but kept putting it back because it is a story told over several generations. Trying to keep up with the family history felt like it was going to be a ton of work. What convinced me was a list on NPR about women of color authors you should be reading. They were correct. Gyasi is a powerful storyteller. This stunning novel gives us glimpses into various family members lives, broken by conflict and slavery.

Honorable mention: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Woof. This book is work. (Although to be fair, I thought it was significantly less work then reading something like Withering Heights, which I have read and hated). At this point, I am like 40 pages from the end. I actually decided to give this classic novel a chance after watching the film adaptation (with Keira Knightley)/ I liked the movie way more than I thought I would. Turns out, I can see why this is a classic. Even though this book was written  in the 1800s, the commentary on the double standard of how men's and women's sexuality is treated still rings true. I was fascinated with many parts of this story. (But to be fair, I wish there were some parts edited out of it. It goes off into a lot of Russian rabbit trails that I don't quite get). My cousin Heidi is about ready to read it too. I can't wait to discuss it with her in the near-ish future.

So if you are searching for something to read, I highly recommend any of these. Happy reading.