Well, my friends, we’ve reached the finish line of 2017. A year ago, I reflected that 2016 was a great reading year for me despite how incredibly difficult it was in other ways, and I feel much the same now as I did then. With a cartoon villain in the White House, what else can we do but gird our loins and soldier on in defense of what we know to be right and just?
Reading has continued to be a way for me to live out my values--by supporting authors from marginalized communities and seeking out minority viewpoints, I’ve engaged with issues I care about and learned a lot in the process.
In March, I started the Give a Sh*t Book Club as my little form of resistance. It’s been a great way to hold myself accountable for reading about tough topics I might otherwise avoid. Sticking one’s head in the sand of privilege is tempting, no? But it also makes it hard to breathe. This year we read novels, a memoir, and non-fiction, and each book taught me something and made me a better person. You can click here for the full list, but out of all the books we read for the Give a Sh*t Book Club this year, I think I learned the most from White Rage. It’s not easy reading, but I can’t recommend it highly enough. (Big shout-out to my mom for being the most faithful book clubber ever. She read every single book with me, even though I know they weren’t always titles she would have picked up on her own and she has her own busy life going on. I’ve loved reading and discussing books with you, Mom! You don’t know what it means to me that you were always up for whatever I picked. You’re the best.)
And now for my favorite part, the statistics! This year I read 160 books. As usual, I made good use of my public library, with over a quarter of my books read coming from the library’s shelves. 51.25% of my books were written by people of color, and a whopping 83% were written by women. I hope you can tell with just a quick survey of this website how important it is to me to feature women writers and authors of color. If you haven’t tried expanding your bookshelf to include marginalized voices, please consider this my heartfelt invitation. Your world will open up in amazing ways, I promise.
Without further ado, here is my list of top 11 books read in 2017! (Yes, I always give myself one extra--it’s a tradition and I’m the boss.)
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Tiny Beautiful Things was a cathartic reading experience for me. I started listening to it on my way home from work and cried so hard I thought maybe I should pull over because I couldn’t see. Life is hard. Harder for some people than others. But hard for everyone. People are messed up and make bad choices and shit goes wrong. But there is honor in owning our mess and working to make it better. Most of the advice in the book starts from that place. Read the original post.
March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
What a humbling, hopeful, and unbelievably timely trilogy this is. John Lewis is an American hero, and what’s most amazing to me is that he refuses to quit. In the face of opposition, he keeps going. This is a man who believes change can still happen, even after all he’s seen and endured. That kind of strength baffles me even as it inspires. These graphic novels will fill in all the holes in your education when it comes to the Civil Rights Movement. Read the original post.
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Mary Addison was nine years old when she killed a baby. Allegedly. She’s never told anyone the story of what happened that night. She’s now fifteen, has transitioned to a group home, and is trying to think about her future. When she finds out she’s pregnant and the social workers tell her she won’t be allowed to keep her baby, she decides it’s time to tell her story. She needs to clear her name so that she and her boyfriend and their child can be a family. And that’s all I’m going to say about the plot, because DUDE you need to experience this for yourself. Read the original post.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
The world of this book is so warm and inviting I want to curl up in it with a blankie and never come out. Science fiction isn’t necessarily my first-thought genre for “books with a lot of heart,” but that’s exactly what The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is. It’s about a diverse, somewhat misfit group of travelers aboard a ship whose job is to drill wormholes in space. The crew of the Wayfarer may be a ragtag bunch, but (deep down at least) they’re all good people who care about and respect each other. It’s the kind of ship where you can be your own brand of weird and accepted unconditionally. Read the original post.
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
If the idea of a drunk guy passing out on his face in the midst of an important confession on his wedding night and then surprising his new bride in the morning by turning into a horse in the middle of their bedchamber sounds hilarious to you, you will probably like My Lady Jane. The story is loosely--very loosely--based on English history, but deviates so immediately and thoroughly from historical fact that you don’t need to know anything about what really happened to have a great time reading it. The skinny is, Edward the king is dying and he names his cousin Jane as heir to the throne--somewhat controversially, it turns out, as Edward’s older sister Mary is vying for the crown, and the man Edward has married Jane off to has an embarrassing, ahem, equine habit. Read the original post.
The Seven Realms Series by Cinda Williams Chima
These books are everything I want—detailed worldbuilding that’s worked in organically with the story, court intrigue with shifting alliances and constant plays for power, complex but ultimately super-lovable characters, serious external conflict instead of silly problems manufactured by the characters themselves just to drive the story, and (of course) juuuuust enough romance to keep it interesting. No one’s flinging their bra off a rooftop here (did the characters wear bras, since it was kind of a medieval setting? I am going with no). But you could cut the sexual tension with a knife! My favorite kind of sexual tension, cut-able. Read the original post.
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
I read Three Dark Crowns in February of this year, and I loved it so intensely I read it again in July. I don’t know that I have ever in my life read the same book twice in a year. I am not a rereader by any stretch—I always want to move on to the next shiny new book. But these three teen queens totally captivated me. Kendare Blake is not following any of the rules—it’s not clear to me even now which of the three, if any, I should be rooting for. See the original post--a video I did with Adam!
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Admit it: that title caught your eye, didn’t it? If you’re one of those people who “doesn’t read romance,” let me quickly say before you tune out that this book has so much going on beyond the steamy stuff. There are generational clashes, sisterly complications, challenges to gender roles, and even an unsolved crime. This is one of those books that is hard to categorize because it does so many things (and does them all really well). It’s a shot of female empowerment straight to the bloodstream. Read the original post.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Powerful men who have used their positions to hurt women are being called out left and right these days, which is exciting and empowering but also distressing because we’re finally seeing how pervasive that kind of behavior is. This book ponders what would happen if women were able to physically overpower men. Teenage girls throughout the world suddenly have the ability to send electric shocks from their fingertips, and as the mysterious power spreads to adult women as well, the balance of the world begins to shift. Told through the eyes of a handful of compelling characters, The Power will make you question everything you think you know about gender politics. Read the original post.
Jade City by Fonda Lee
Mobster-style crime families in an east Asian-inspired fantasy world where jade gives people superhuman powers is not something I knew I wanted, but now that I’ve read this bonkers awesome book, it seems obvious because OF COURSE how could that not be incredible?! I am notorious for avoiding long books, but the 500 pages flew by with zero lags in the action. Even the fight scenes are so beautifully written they seem choreographed--and I hate fight scenes! The only thing that would make this book better is if a TV or film adaptation already existed. This is the kind of big, sprawling, action-packed story that begs to be put onscreen. One of the best and most effortless reading experiences of my year, hands down. Read the original post.
Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
I don’t have a post for this book because I just finished it yesterday, but I had to include it on my list of favorites. I read some great romance this year, and I raved not too long ago about my love for Courtney Milan’s historical romances, but typically I shy away from contemporary romance. That is, until Alisha Rai. This is the first in a new series, and it’s been getting a ton of hype--I feel like I’ve seen that beautiful cover all over the place. Well, I’m here to tell you ALL the hype is justified. Rai’s characters are so real, her writing is so good, and yes, the steamy parts are so steamy. Her books are effortless to read without feeling like junk food, which is the kind of reading experience I’m always looking for but rarely find. You better believe I’ve already bought the second book in the series with my Christmas money.
So there you have it! I’m thankful for the varied and beautiful reading experiences 2017 brought me, and I look forward to tons more fun and enlightening books in 2018.
Best wishes to all of you in the new year!