We’re almost the end of 2017, and I think it’s a good time to look at the good, the bad and the weird of my 2017 reading. I read 162 books in the year, similar to last year, although I feel like I’ve read far more nonfiction and audiobooks than my usual paper fiction from past years. As reading evolves, here’s what stood out…
1) Best of…
I’ve been splitting my “Best of” books for the past few years, so that I can highlight the ones that were best in very specific ways.
1A) Best Premise: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
We’re the dystopia, and the ‘50s visions of the idyllic future really happened in another universe that’s supposed to be the real world. The book was good, but that premise is just brilliant.
1B) Best World Building: Read My Mind by Kelly Haworth
I loved the religion-building especially, but this entire alternate world with a pantheon of gods and generally accepted magical abilities was so interesting and so vividly, clearly brought to life. Wonderful.
1C) Best Romance(s): The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon and Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Surprisingly enough, two of my three favorite romances this year were in contemporary YA books. In the first, Natasha and Daniel have a Before Sunrise like experience, spending one day together and falling in love (I hate instaromance, except in the rare case when it’s done really, really well). In the second, Libby and Jack are two struggling characters who find out they can accept and complement each other. Very fun romances both. And that third book I mentioned? Makes the list elsewhere…
1D) Best Hero(ine): Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
I’m reading so much more nonfiction that I think it fits to choose a real person as my favorite heroine of the year. A very inspiring book, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s existence in a troubled world is deeply reassuring.
1E) Best Series: The Star-Touched Queen and The Crown of Wishes by Roshani Choksi
These are beautiful, vivid books in a wonderful world I enjoyed spending two books in. Might’ve taken best world-building, but since there’s two of them I slotted them in here instead.
1F) Best Nonfiction: I’d Say Yes, God, If I Knew What You Wanted by Nancy Reeves
I’ve probably recommended this book a half-dozen times since I read it. It gets into a depth and practicality and tangibility in spiritual direction that I feel like I’ve been looking for in every spiritual direction book I’ve read before or since. Honorable mention here to The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt, which did a lot to help me make sense of the world and how people form their morality.
1G) Best Audiobook: Believe Me by Eddie Izzard
This wouldn’t have been a best book in print—but Izzard’s rambling, ad libbing, conversational reading of his book was simply delightful.
2) Worst Book: I seem not to have a good (bad?) contender for this slot this year. I had an unfortunate run of cool-sounding sci fi books that turned into contemporary YA angst rather than focusing on said-sci fi element…but none were so bad as to deserve this spot. I think I’ll be kind and let this one go this year!
3) Most Disappointing: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher’s “making of Star Wars” diaries were obviously too good to be true. Some parts were interesting but far, FAR too much devolved into relationship angst, and I’m way more interested in hearing about acting opposite a Wookie than about Fisher’s affair with Harrison Ford. Sigh. On the other hand, I have friends who loved this, so it may just be a problem of what I was looking for.
4) Most Surprising (in a Good Way): After Many Days by L. M. Montgomery
A funny thing here…this is a collection of short stories about time passed, usually centering around lovers parted for fifteen or twenty years due to circumstance or misunderstanding. I first read this at eighteen or twenty, and always remembered it as rather sad, people wasting their whole lives and finally reuniting when it was so late. So now I reread it at thirty and realized…most of these people were courting at 16 or 20, meaning they reunite at 35 or 40…which now seems perfectly young with lots of life ahead of them! I don’t think this was all a product of my age changing—Montgomery writes them as old because in her time social norms were different and life expectancy was less. But I still have a different, happier view on these stories now.
5) Can’t Believe I Waited Until 2017 To Read It: The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander
I read a lot of Lloyd Alexander as a kid, but never read these. I finally listened to all five audiobooks because the last book is a Newbery Medal winner. It’s good to get a fairly major series in children’s fantasy finally read!
6) Most Hilarious Read: How to be a Normal Person by TJ Klune
A surprising upset here—for what I think is the first time since I began these lists, this category doesn’t go to Terry Pratchett, even though I read five of his books this year. Instead, TJ Klune’s hysterical contemporary LGBT+ romance was my best laugh out loud book of the year, and the third contender for favorite romance too.
7) Most Satisfying Read: Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
I’d never read Wodehouse before, and this proved both funny and delightful—plus all sorts of stereotypes suddenly seem to make a lot more sense.
8) Surprisingly Great Reread: Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading this one the last three (four? five?) times, but I really liked it this time. On this particular reread of the Anne of Green Gables series, this one emerged as my surprising new favorite…less about Anne and more about the wonderful, surprisingly dark and complex characters surrounding her.
9) Most Looking Forward To in 2018
I’m fortunate to have several friends who, hopefully, will have new books out next year. I’m looking forward to the last book in KD Blakely’s Chimera series, the next Under the Empire book by Kelly Haworth, the sequel to Protector of the Refugee Planet by Dennis Mahoney, the next Changeling Wars novel A. G. Stewart, and the sequel to Pucker Up by R.A. Gates. I’m not positive all of these will be out in 2018, but I know they’re all promised or in-process…so I’m hopeful!
I always love looking back at the reading adventures I had over the previous 12 months. What have you been reading? What were some of your best and worst of 2017?