SO… How about some books to read while you’re busy trying to stay warm/dry this weekend?!?! Below is a list of the 22 books I read in 2017, plus two books I read last year that I think EVERYONE SHOULD READ.
True to my normal preferences, I’ve read a lot of “Bestseller” titles and books that have gotten a lot of attention in pop culture, blogs, etc. (Most of my recommendations, come from Modern Mrs. Darcy, Mom Advice, and Laura Tremaine online and a couple of close “bookish” real life friends. I’m also a big fan of the “New Releases” and “Recommended Titles” sections at the bookstore and library.) I don’t read a ton of super “literary” books because I do that all school year, but I like a good mix of fluffy and thought-provoking. I’m particularly drawn to memoirs and “realistic fiction” as a genre, but I also appreciate a good thriller or ChickLit read once in a while – especially in the summer. For the most part, I don’t keep reading books that I don’t like, so – with a only a couple of exceptions – the books that made this list are ones I like and would recommend. And, finally, during the school year, I do most of my “reading” via audio (especially nonfiction) because it’s so much easier when I’m picking up my classroom, packing lunches, etc. but I love a good Kindle read on the beach (or in my big comfy chair) when I have more time. In addition, this year, for the first time in a while, I took advantage of my public library and read several hard cover paper books – it felt nostalgic and comforting even if also a bit clunky and inconvenient (having to keep a reading lamp on, not wanting to get the pages sandy, etc.), and I think I’ll try to work that in more regularly moving forward as well.
I know 22 books isn’t a super impressive number, but there was a time not too long ago when I was barely reading anything outside of what was required for work. Life is busy you guys. I’ll take what I can get…
<< Want to know more about my reading habits and “procedures”? Check out this post. >>
So, here’s what I read in 2017…
The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower (Audio) — I really enjoyed this intimate look at the White House and the first families (from the Kennedys to the Obamas) from the perspective of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doorman, etc.
The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner (Audio) — Powerful memoir about a girl who grew up in a polygomist sect of the Mormon faith. It reminded me a lot of The Glass Castle.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (Audio) — Great topic/message about the dangers and seriousness of social media, but I found it a little dry. I just couldn’t relate to most of the examples. Still, it was definitely thought-provoking.
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans (Audio & Kindle) — I LOVED this book. I first “met” Evans through The Liturgist Podcast where she is a regular guest, and her story of growing up in church and then really exploring her faith to make it her own as an adult really resonated with me. Evans said SO many things I’ve felt in the last year or so about faith and the church, and the overall message of hope was one I needed.
Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham (Kindle) — Super light and fun read with great insight into her time on Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, and her real-life romance with Adam (I mean Peter Krause). I love her even more after this!
Hunger by Roxane Gay (Audio) — This was an intimate and powerful memoir about Gay’s emotional and physical relationship with her body. It was not an “easy” read (listen?), but it was good.
American Fire by Monica Hesse (Audio) — A story of arson in a tiny town on the Eastern shore and SO much more than that. I was drawn to this because I had a friend living in this area, and I had visited a couple of times when this was actually going on, but I ended up really enjoying the read. It reminded me a lot of the S-town podcast.
Reading People by Anne Bogel (Audio) — You know I’m a huge Anne Bogel (of Modern Mrs. Darcy) fan, so reading this was a no brainer. It’s a great overview of the main personality frameworks (i.e. Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, Strengths Finders, etc.) all in her familiar, friendly voice with lots of personal insight and stories.
The Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins (Audio) — I saw so many people raving about this, and I’m a sucker for a good “self help” / “get motivated” book, so I had to read this one. I liked a lot about it – the basic premise makes a lot of sense and I have herefound myself using the 5 Second Rule – but I think a short pamphlet or just her Ted Talk () would have given me everything I needed to know.
What Happened by Hillary Clinton (Audio) — Curiosity got the best of me on this one… Plus, it was 16 hours which felt like a real bang for my buck with an Audible credit. 😉 I thought the first 1/3 of this book was excellent… Clinton (who narrates it herself) was incredibly vulnerable and down to earth (a side I wish we’d seen more of in the election) in her description of election night, the cold, sad days that followed, and Trump’s inauguration. Then, honestly, I was a little over it… There’s only so much you can say about one election. You know? Still, the first 1/3rd was well worth my credit.
I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi (Audio) — This story really drew me in, but I was super disappointed with the “twist.”
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (Kindle) — This was super popular last summer, and I kept getting it from the library but never reading it. Once I finally did, I was mad at myself for waiting so long! In short, I LOVED it. It was the perfect light summer romance. Super cute, quick, and a very well-done modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I’ve recommended it to lots of friends – especially friends that want to read, but aren’t big readers, and they’ve enjoyed it too! It is worth noting though, that this is nothing like Curtis Sittenfeld’s other books (which I loved) Prep and American Wife.
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (Audio) — This book was compared to Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, but it didn’t have the same punch to me as those two. I found the story a little slow; BUT, I liked it enough that I bought it on Audible when my Overdrive check-out ran out 3/4s of the way in so…
Every Wild Heart by Meg Donohue (Kindle) — This was on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide AND on Kindle sale, so I couldn’t pass it up. It is said to be based on the real life of Delilah (you know, from the sappy radio show), which sounded interesting enough. Honestly though, it wasn’t my favorite — just a little predictable and cheesy for my taste.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Kindle) — This is currently being made into a movie which is always fun! (There are two more books that come after this one, but I haven’t read either of them yet. I *might* this summer.)
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Paper) — This totally surprised me… It wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be; but I really enjoyed it. Kind-of like a sophisticated tabloid read if something like that can exist. Haha!
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Audio) — This book got a lot of positive attention and, while I liked it, I didn’t love it. Only after I read it – and heard lots of other people talk about it – did I come to value the character development and the depiction of the modern, messy family in this story.
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (Paper) — This is a quick read (I knocked it out in one rainy weekend) about a young congressional intern who has an affair with her boss (the congressman). It wasn’t as deep as the topic might sound, but it did make me think about the “other side” of every side.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (Paper) — about a teenage girl with severe anxiety/OCD. Not my favorite John Green, but good nonetheless. (This interview on Fresh Air made me appreciate the book SO much more!)
When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen (Kindle – free on Unlimited) — I thought I would really like this one – it’s about a small-town high school that loses three cheerleaders in a car accident and another student is to blame – but I just never got super into it. I did think it was a pretty accurate description of high school life, though, and an interesting look at parenting teenagers.
And the two titles I think you really MUST read?
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (Audio) — This is about a transgender child, but it’s told from the perspective of her parents in alternating voices. I don’t know how to describe how much I loved this book other than to say that it just felt very REAL. (It turns out the author does some have experience with this, so that helped, I’m sure.) Yes, the parts about raising a transgender child were interesting and made me think; but, even more than that, I just loved this book’s commentary on marriage, motherhood, secrets, families, and identity. It was BEAUTIFUL and – eight months after I finished it – I still haven’t stopped talking or thinking about it.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Kindle) — This National Book Award winning story is told from the perspective of a 16-year old girl who is a witness to her friend’s murder by a police officer (if I’ve turned you off because it sounds too “political,” I promise it’s not). More than that, it is about being torn between two worlds (the poor neighborhood she lives in and the fancy prep school where she is a student) and being a voice for change even when you are young, and it is scary. This theme comes up a lot these days, but I really loved this perspective. It was fresh and raw and took me WAY beyond what I see on the news and read in the papers. I needed to read this book. (I’d actually love to teach this one too… Any teachers have thoughts on that?!?)
For me, reading isn’t so much about escape (though I do like that sometimes too), as it is about exposure. Through characters and stories (some true, some not), I love being able to get an inside look at people’s lives/lifestyles that are DIFFERENT from mine and be challenged in the way I think about certain subjects etc. These two books did that for me in a BIG way this year, and they both covered topics that we NEED to be talking and thinking about today. If you read nothing else in 2018, I strongly recommend these… Email me if you want to chat when you are done! You’ll probably have LOTS of thoughts/feelings!
So there you go! What have you been reading lately? What’s next on your list?
P.S. I’m currently listening to Sing, Unburied, Sing on Audible for my Book Club next week, and reading The Bright Hour (because of this article) and The Road Back To You. I just finished Jamie Ivey’s new book, If You Only Knew, and The Almost Sisters is next on my list (when I catch up a little). I never used to be someone who had multiple books going at once, but now I kind-of love it.
<Don’t forget to search Books under the “Life In-Between” tab on my header (or just click here) for more book reviews and recommendations.>
Erika B. says
Oh man, so much to say! I’ve read most of these, so I have lots of thoughts. Hahaha. I will say that I LOVED I Liked My Life. I felt the same as you about Little Fires Everywhere- not as amazing as I’d thought it would be, plus gave me some queasy adoption-related moments. I loved Crazy Rich Asians and keep meaning to read the sequels! I definitely feel the same about The Hate U Give, and I have not read This is How it Always is, so I will add that to my list right now!!