To be honest, I don’t usually write recommendation lists at the end of the year, except for my Aunt Sandy, who sometimes asks me to recommend books around Thanksgiving or Christmas. She is a delightful human and I like being asked for recommendations for books I’ve already read. Much harder is recommending books for people who don’t have my same taste, so… here, in my first attempt at a year-end roundup, I will avoid the challenging task and do the one easiest to me. That’s the privilege of having your own blog and not working at a public-facing desk!
Note: these were not all published this year. As is a running theme in my overall life and specifically my reading life, I often operate on a delay, reading bestsellers from three years ago because I can safely do so away from all the ‘popularity,’ and form my own opinion about a book. [Spoiler alert: I usually love them, so waiting to read them was just a pretentious waste of time when I could have been reading and enjoying it earlier.] I also am on a delay because I mainly get my books from libraries (shocker!) and sometimes wait a little bit longer because there is a queue and I don’t mind waiting for a FREE BOOK. MY POINT BEING: don’t get mad at me that I’m recommending books that aren’t brand new and trending.
Unless you and I don’t agree on politics, if one sounds like you might possibly like it and you only read one book this whole year, I think you’ll be happy that you picked the one you did.
Best of my 2017
Audiobooks (because if you aren’t listening to audiobooks at this point, you should try one):
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty– turned into an HBO series, but I didn’t watch it. I listened to this too, and Moriarty is Australian so the reader is too! It made me want to drive all the time so I could listen to it. It’s a whodunit, mixed with family dramas and is SO GOOD.
- Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches by John Hodgman – I never really cared for John Hodgman or thought he was funny, and I have now been proven wrong. I laughed out loud the entire time. Not the part about his mom who died; that part made me cry, but the entire rest of the book was entertaining and self-aware and hilarious. Great essays and insight. Necessary reading if you love the East Coast.
- Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard – as you will learn, I love books that make me laugh and are deep in the same breath. Eddie Izzard reading this book was everything I could have wanted. There was a whole separate book in the footnotes that he added on to the book text, so don’t read it– listen to him tell you about his amazing life. I love his standup, and his personality, and ugh five stars.
- Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken – I realize this appears to be a political choice given the controversy around him right now, but it was really good. I apparently like listening to books on politics (see next 2).
- Our Revolution by Bernie Sanders – I’m listening to this audiobook right now, and it is giving me hope for politics/humanity. It is also making me very sad about how I voted in the 2016 primary.
- A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren – she writes about her life growing up in the lower-middle-class, as a professor and senator. She writes about her main focus, which has always been regular citizens and protecting them from predatory corporate abuse.
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – I love his voice, and he tells his life story with such factual grace. Is he single? Does anyone know?
Reg’lar books – novels:
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – won the Goodreads Choice Awards this year for fiction. Novel about a mother and daughter moving to *my hometown!* and the wealthy family they rent their apartment from. My affinity for it is not due to it being set in my hometown.
- Plan B by Jonathan Tropper – about a group of friends after they graduated college, one who is divorced, one who is famous and an asshole. Set around the year 2000, so a throwback to a pre-cell-phone era.
- Some Kind of Happiness by Claire LeGrand – children’s book. A young girl whose parents are having marital problems gets sent to grandma and grandpa’s house for the summer, where she meets her cousins and tries to emerge from her imaginary world.
- The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt – happens to be written for children, but was nevertheless delightful for me as a grownup. It is set during the Vietnam War and the main character is a boy who tends to get into trouble and get caught.
- The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart – a story about some mischievous goings-on at a boarding school. Great female main character.
Reg’lar books – essays/memoir:
- The Moth Presents: All These Wonders, collection – Speaking of emotional books, this one is great! The Moth is apparently a storytelling group, and this collection is a selection of personal stories that had been performed at one point. Very moving and a huge variety of content.
- The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy – autobiographical book about some of the best and worst times in Levy’s life, personally and as a journalist.
- One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul – 95% less dark than it sounds. Personal essays about her life: dating, immigrant family, visiting India. She is a writer for BuzzFeed and she is funny. Laugh-out-loud funny.
- The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt – I didn’t know that Anderson Cooper was part of the Vanderbilt family, and this book was lovely. He and his mom discuss the things they never discussed when he was growing up, and it is a touching book where they make sure to talk about things before it’s too late. I bought it for my mom. *This distinction will heretofore be an acronym: SITMM (sent it to my mom).*
- We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby – irreverent essays about topics like sexuality, poverty & adulting.
- The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan – SITMM because she was such a talented, insightful writer. When this book was published, it was huge because she had died 5 days after speaking at graduation as the Valedictorian of her class at Yale. I enjoyed her essays more than her short stories.
- My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul – this woman has had an enviable life (in my eyes!). She lived abroad, she works in Book Reviews at the New York Times… And she is an amazing writer. Book about books & life, just my thing!
- How To Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis – speaking of books about books, this one was amazing. Her essays… are so good. Read it.
Reg’lar books – learnin’ books (true ‘nonfiction’):
- Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz – well-researched and well-meaning book about how the current educational model incentivizes even elite students to memorize rather than question and ultimately pursue careers that earn money rather than do good.
- Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv – about how children (and all people) need unstructured time outdoors.
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson – just what it sounds like. For people who care too much about the what-ifs and/or what other people think. Basically, for people with light social or general anxiety. Aims to relieve some self-induced stresses.
- The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer – I read many sad-Democrat books this year, and this was one of the best. Shows many profiles of cities and people hugely impacted by economic policies and trade policies of recent years, combined with many factors. Gave concrete, real-world faces to governmental policies.
- Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild – a liberal, New York City sociologist goes to Louisiana to speak to residents about the issues that plague them: the environment, healthcare, poverty and employment. She investigates “why…the people who would seem to benefit most from “liberal” government intervention abhor the very idea?”
- Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis – I love anything Michael Lewis writes, and this was no different: about credit bubbles and how investors play with money to the detriment of the general populace.
HOLY MOLY. It was so challenging to whittle down this list, even though it still feels massive. I read a LOT this year. 170 books and audiobooks, approximately, up to this date. I separated these into arbitrary categories, but I do think they all have an overarching, general appeal.
Let me know if you’ve read them or choose to! I love having mini-book club with another person who has read what I have. What were the best books you read in 2017? What should I read??
Thanks for reading!