What I Read in 2017

What I Read in 2017

01.02.18
Books and Reading

Happy 2018 friends! I fiercely hope that the coming year is much better than the last. The time has come to recap my reading from the past year. I have been so thrilled to discover that you all have enjoyed these posts in the past and that you look forward to them so much! As we are all aware, this year was fairly disastrous on many fronts. I found myself so emotionally exhausted by absorbing and processing the daily news that I vacillated in my reading from wanting to become more informed about issues related to current events to yearning for a total escape.

Below is my reading list from the year, along with very brief summaries and my thoughts on whether they were worth reading or not so much. (A few of my reviews were copied from my holiday gift guide, because I said what I wanted to say and didn’t feel the need to add anything.)

The Kid by Dan Savage
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Evicted by Matthew Desmond
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
Trainwreck by Sady Doyle
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Sold by Patricia McCormick
Embers by Sandor Marai
Shrill by Lindy West
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
Wine. All the Time. by Marissa A. Ross
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
Theft by Finding by David Sedaris
Geek Girl Rising by Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens
What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
The Potlikker Papers by John T. Edge
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The State of Affairs by Esther Perel
01/30
The Kid by Dan Savage/Goodreads

This book was published quite a while ago and as such, I wasn’t sure it would be worth reading. In fact, it is a brutally honest, funny, and heartwarming account of a personal adoption journey told by Dan Savage, sex and relationship advice podcaster, columnist, and writer who I adore. Dan and Terry’s adoption story turns out to be timeless, both in the beauty of the creation story of this particular family, as well as due to the current political climate and continued threats to LGBT rights.

  • Worth Reading
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson/Goodreads

This is one of those books that changes you. Bryan Stevenson recounts finding his passion in representing the wrongly accused and condemned, and those victimized by the systemic flaws of our criminal justice system. The stories of the men and women he represents and the grave injustices perpetrated against them are unforgettable and heart wrenching. We all must be aware of these issues so we can advocate for meaningful change.

  • Must Read
Evicted by Matthew Desmond/Goodreads

This book weaves thorough research of America’s housing crisis and poverty with personal experiences of the cycle of homelessness. Though most of us likely have assumptions related to these topics, this book was quite illuminating for me and I learned so much from it.

  • Must Read
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah/Goodreads

We all know and love Trevor Noah for his brilliantly cutting comedic commentary on The Daily Show. Born a Crime is the story of his childhood as a mixed race child growing up in apartheid South Africa, his very existence a crime. Despite the extreme poverty they experienced and the serious environmental tensions, he manages to maintain his unparalleled sense of humor and also highlights the beautiful bond he shares with his mother.

  • Worth Reading
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer/Goodreads

I’m convinced Amy Schumer and I could be and should be best friends. I had no doubt that I would love her book, and like most books I read written by comedians and public figures, I opted for the audio version. This book was wonderful and gave an illuminating glimpse into her background. It was more serious than I expected it to be, but I found this to be a good thing. It only reinforced my deep appreciation for Schumer as a pioneering feminist comedian, highlighting the intelligence behind her provocative routines.

  • Worth Reading
The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu/Goodreads

I don’t exactly recall how this book landed on my to-read list, perhaps from other year end lists I read around the internet last year. Though I almost always enjoy books of short stories when I read them, I rarely do so. This collection of stories from Ken Liu is breathtakingly beautiful. Many of the stories have a sci-fi or surreal slant, and while that is normally not my cup of tea, these were delightful (with a few exceptions – I found the first story very strange and it did not engage me, but press on!) I find myself many months after reading this collection still recalling many of the stories within its pages. It’s a true work of art and a good escape.

  • Worth Reading
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood/Goodreads

I can’t believe I had never read this book before. It has been on my to-read list practically as long as I have had said list, but I always skipped over it in favor of something that seemed more relevant. Now more than ever with a government consisting largely of old white men who prefer to keep women as second class citizens meant for domestic pursuits and procreating, I decided to pick it up. I tore through this book, and every detail is seared into my brain. It is chilling how Atwood’s dystopian account written over 30 years ago seems so relevant today. I haven’t yet watched the Hulu adaptation but am hoping to do so soon. However, I’m a firm believer that the book is nearly always better, and I’m glad I read this first.

  • Must Read
Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge/Goodreads

Gun violence to the degree that we experience it here in American is a public health problem unique to the U.S. in comparison with all other developed nations, thanks to a government bought and paid for by the gun lobby.  As the description states, “This is not a book about gun control, but about what happens in a country where it does not exist.” This book examines a single day of gun violence and the lives of those affected.

  • Must Read
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance/Goodreads

I heard such rave reviews of Hillbilly Elegy and I was really excited to read it. While Vance’s firsthand account of growing up in rural Appalachia provides a somewhat deeper understanding of the disenchantment and anger in working class people in areas where their former industries have dried up, I didn’t find it especially useful. It may give a personal voice to the bitterness of those who helped elect 45, but it doesn’t offer many suggestions for remedies or ways forward. All in all, it was a good read, but I felt like it was the first half of a longer book that needs to be written.

  • Good, Worth Considering
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas/Goodreads

The Hate U Give is a fictional story that unfortunately seems entirely plausible about an unjustified police killing of a young black teen. This story masterfully examines the many nuances of this charged topic, and I think it is a very important read for all people but especially for white people to gain perspective they might otherwise lack. Despite the heavy topics addressed overall, this is a very enjoyable and highly readable novel.

  • Must Read
The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates/Goodreads

I fell hard for Coates after reading Between the World and Me, so I was eager to read this book. This is the story of his upbringing in Baltimore with a father highly active in the Black Panthers. Though the account is of times past, it sheds light on the experience of black boys becoming black men in our country. While overall this missed the mark somehow for me, the writing is still beautiful and I definitely gained useful perspective from a world quite different from my own.

  • Good, Worth Considering
When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris/Goodreads

I find it impossible to describe David Sedaris’ work to others who are unfamiliar with him. He…writes dry humorist essays about everyday life in a way that is somehow completely relatable and highly eccentric. His books are always a joy, and always worth listening to the audio version. His delivery elevates the experience tenfold. This was another solid Sedaris collection for me. I simply adore him!

  • Worth Reading
Trainwreck by Sady Doyle/Goodreads

This book is SO fabulous. If I had six books on my top reads of the year list, this would be on there! This book was simultaneously illuminating, unsurprising, disheartening, and more than anything, a crystallization of the feminist resolve that has been taking place since the election. Even though it didn’t make my tip top list simply due to fierce competition, I still put this on my “required reading list for all of humanity.”

• Must Read

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie/Goodreads

I feel certain that if I have an author soulmate, it’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her novels are irresistible to me and I feel utterly transported while reading them. They stay with me for long after the book is finished. I read this over the summer and just like her other books, I simply adored it.

  • Worth Reading
Sold by Patricia McCormick/Goodreads

Written in a series of vignettes, Sold is the story of a Nepalese girl sold into sex slavery. It is a short, searing, and heart wrenching read that shines a light on this very real occurrence that is still happening today to a horrifying number of girls.

  • Must Read
Embers by Sandor Marai/Goodreads

This is another book that I’m not quite sure how it found its way onto my to-read list. This was possibly the most unique story I read this year, with an unusual structure, a relatively spare plot which still manages to have twists and suspense in the smallest details. Intriguingly, it was originally published in 1942 and recently rediscovered. This is a beautifully written work of art.

  • Worth Reading
Shrill by Lindy West/Goodreads

Every time I read an article or essay by Lindy West, I am blown away. To me, she is one of the greatest present day writers, period. I want to say that she is wickedly smart, funny, articulate, and deeply good, but even those words feel inadequate for describing her. Shrill was one of the very best things I read this year (full recap coming at the end of the year as usual). I normally prefer physical books but I highly recommend the audio version for this masterpiece.

  • Must Read
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys/Goodreads

Historical fiction, it seems, will never tire of World War II novels. There are endless stories to be told from so many perspectives. Salt to the Sea is another good one with multiple stories intertwined within.

  • Worth Reading
Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick/Goodreads

This book is based on the account of a real Cambodian advocate, Arn Chorn-Pond. Captured by the Khmer Rouge as a young boy and placed in a labor camp, he survived amidst unimaginable atrocities which this book recounts in excruciating detail. This is a very heavy book, but also very important.

  • Must Read
Wine. All the Time. by Marissa A. Ross/Goodreads

Disclaimer: if you are remotely stuffy, easily offended, or believe that profanity and sexual references instantly invalidate the wealth of knowledge being imparted simply because of their inclusion, this is not the book for you. However, if you recognize great comedic writing for what it is AND want to learn about wine in a totally engaging, not at all snotty book, READ THIS. I have tried to be interested in wine before, even taking a trip to wine country, but it all fell flat. Marissa is the one who truly sparked my interest. I first heard her on the Bon Appétit podcast and decided to check out this book. It is a book that needed to be written, and she did it so well. Just read it! You’ll see. Laughing out loud on most pages and starting to not feel like an idiot about wine feels pretty awesome.

  • Worth Reading
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante/Goodreads

This book and the next three in the slideshow are all part of  series known as the Neapolitan novels. Written by a formerly anonymous author who has sadly been outed, these four epic sagas are the lifelong tale of a friendship between two girls born in Naples as they grow into women, and all of the dramas that their lives encompass. I find it very hard to describe the experience of reading these books but I can stay that the stories and the characters will stay with me for a long, long time. That speaks to the true brilliance of Ms. Ferrante, as many books, even those I enjoy quite a bit, quickly fade from my mind. Normally when I read books that are part of a series, I don’t read them sequentially but take breaks in between. However, I couldn’t stop reading these. I tore through them one after the other until the whole story was revealed to me. As such, I won’t add additional commentary for the other books in the series beyond what I write here. If you want to enjoy true escape in the form of a series, I highly recommend these books.

  • Worth Reading
The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante/Goodreads
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante/Goodreads
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante/Goodreads
Theft by Finding by David Sedaris/Goodreads

Different from Sedaris’ other works, this book is not a collection of essays but a selection of his own diary entries throughout his life. I’m not sure this would appeal to someone who isn’t already a Sedaris fan, but I found it at times funny, depressing, hilarious, charming, and mostly an illuminating glimpse into the life of this writer I so adore.

  • Worth Reading
Geek Girl Rising by Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens/Goodreads

This book had such potential but ultimately missed the mark for me. The title conjures up notions of women in STEM fields but throughout the book, the focus was much more on female entrepreneurs growing various technology related businesses. While that is an important topic, and this book was very well researched, I found it to be fairly disjointed and more of a chaotic jumble of power women kicking ass in their careers. I’m all for that! But a sense of cohesion was lacking and sadly I can’t recall specifics of many (any) of the women or businesses featured. I was also really disappointed that in this book meant to highlight these women trailblazing new companies and shaking up the status quo, there were a massive number of minute descriptions of each woman’s appearance, wardrobe, and general aesthetic. I obviously respect each woman’s choice to present herself as she sees fit, and I understand the need for professional women to look put together, but I was way more interested in what these women were accomplishing rather than what they were wearing while doing it.

  • Worth Considering (mainly for practical info)
What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton/Goodreads

Like many people, when I first learned that this book was being released, I was skeptical and conflicted. I wasn’t sure I wanted or needed to read it. I am very glad that I decided to give it a chance because this too was one of the best things I read this year. Yes, it is heart breaking and painful to read, not just because it recaps the disastrous 2016 election and its ramifications, but also because it gives us a true look into this brilliant, caring, very real person who could have been our leader. It’s a travesty that this view of her wasn’t portrayed in the misguided coverage of the election cycle. As someone who wasn’t sure I wanted to hear what this book had to say, I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

  • Must Read
The Potlikker Papers by John T. Edge/Goodreads

This book is so interesting! For someone who is by and large a moron when it comes to history, the perfect way to engage me is to make it about food. Edge does this beautifully, starting out with descriptions of food sustaining those organizing the Montgomery boycotts during the civil rights movement. He chronicles the inception and evolution of fast food, documents changing perceptions of the South through the lens of the region’s cuisine, and examines the notion of what exactly “real” Southern food is and who claims it as their own. This book is insightful and very well researched, and I’m very glad to have read it.

  • Worth Reading
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead/Goodreads

I’m a bit torn on my opinion of this book. Overall, it is a powerful account from the perspective of a runaway slave during the times of the Underground Railroad. By and large, it is every bit as heart wrenching and agonizing as you might imagine, and I think it does a beautiful job of illustrating the narrator’s account. My one qualm with this imagining is that the author chose to incorporate a literal underground railroad used to transport the runaways. I didn’t exactly see the utility of this and it didn’t seem to add anything to the story. Despite this detail, I enjoyed the book overall.

  • Worth Reading
The State of Affairs by Esther Perel/Goodreads

The very notion of this book may rub some the wrong way, but it is probably the most thought provoking and intellectually brilliant book that I read this year. Perel is a therapist with decades of experience counseling couples related to many issues including infidelity. Given its widespread prevalence, she reexamines this transgression and its many facets while also analyzing historical and cultural shifts related to marriage as an institution. Perel did a marvelous job addressing this challenging subject. Audio is a must for this book, in my opinion.

  • Must Read
View as a List
  • The Kid by Dan Savage
    The Kid by Dan Savage/Goodreads

    This book was published quite a while ago and as such, I wasn’t sure it would be worth reading. In fact, it is a brutally honest, funny, and heartwarming account of a personal adoption journey told by Dan Savage, sex and relationship advice podcaster, columnist, and writer who I adore. Dan and Terry’s adoption story turns out to be timeless, both in the beauty of the creation story of this particular family, as well as due to the current political climate and continued threats to LGBT rights.

    • Worth Reading
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
    Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson/Goodreads

    This is one of those books that changes you. Bryan Stevenson recounts finding his passion in representing the wrongly accused and condemned, and those victimized by the systemic flaws of our criminal justice system. The stories of the men and women he represents and the grave injustices perpetrated against them are unforgettable and heart wrenching. We all must be aware of these issues so we can advocate for meaningful change.

    • Must Read
  • Evicted by Matthew Desmond
    Evicted by Matthew Desmond/Goodreads

    This book weaves thorough research of America’s housing crisis and poverty with personal experiences of the cycle of homelessness. Though most of us likely have assumptions related to these topics, this book was quite illuminating for me and I learned so much from it.

    • Must Read
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
    Born a Crime by Trevor Noah/Goodreads

    We all know and love Trevor Noah for his brilliantly cutting comedic commentary on The Daily Show. Born a Crime is the story of his childhood as a mixed race child growing up in apartheid South Africa, his very existence a crime. Despite the extreme poverty they experienced and the serious environmental tensions, he manages to maintain his unparalleled sense of humor and also highlights the beautiful bond he shares with his mother.

    • Worth Reading
  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
    The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer/Goodreads

    I’m convinced Amy Schumer and I could be and should be best friends. I had no doubt that I would love her book, and like most books I read written by comedians and public figures, I opted for the audio version. This book was wonderful and gave an illuminating glimpse into her background. It was more serious than I expected it to be, but I found this to be a good thing. It only reinforced my deep appreciation for Schumer as a pioneering feminist comedian, highlighting the intelligence behind her provocative routines.

    • Worth Reading
  • The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
    The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu/Goodreads

    I don’t exactly recall how this book landed on my to-read list, perhaps from other year end lists I read around the internet last year. Though I almost always enjoy books of short stories when I read them, I rarely do so. This collection of stories from Ken Liu is breathtakingly beautiful. Many of the stories have a sci-fi or surreal slant, and while that is normally not my cup of tea, these were delightful (with a few exceptions – I found the first story very strange and it did not engage me, but press on!) I find myself many months after reading this collection still recalling many of the stories within its pages. It’s a true work of art and a good escape.

    • Worth Reading
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood/Goodreads

    I can’t believe I had never read this book before. It has been on my to-read list practically as long as I have had said list, but I always skipped over it in favor of something that seemed more relevant. Now more than ever with a government consisting largely of old white men who prefer to keep women as second class citizens meant for domestic pursuits and procreating, I decided to pick it up. I tore through this book, and every detail is seared into my brain. It is chilling how Atwood’s dystopian account written over 30 years ago seems so relevant today. I haven’t yet watched the Hulu adaptation but am hoping to do so soon. However, I’m a firm believer that the book is nearly always better, and I’m glad I read this first.

    • Must Read
  • Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge
    Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge/Goodreads

    Gun violence to the degree that we experience it here in American is a public health problem unique to the U.S. in comparison with all other developed nations, thanks to a government bought and paid for by the gun lobby.  As the description states, “This is not a book about gun control, but about what happens in a country where it does not exist.” This book examines a single day of gun violence and the lives of those affected.

    • Must Read
  • Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
    Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance/Goodreads

    I heard such rave reviews of Hillbilly Elegy and I was really excited to read it. While Vance’s firsthand account of growing up in rural Appalachia provides a somewhat deeper understanding of the disenchantment and anger in working class people in areas where their former industries have dried up, I didn’t find it especially useful. It may give a personal voice to the bitterness of those who helped elect 45, but it doesn’t offer many suggestions for remedies or ways forward. All in all, it was a good read, but I felt like it was the first half of a longer book that needs to be written.

    • Good, Worth Considering
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas/Goodreads

    The Hate U Give is a fictional story that unfortunately seems entirely plausible about an unjustified police killing of a young black teen. This story masterfully examines the many nuances of this charged topic, and I think it is a very important read for all people but especially for white people to gain perspective they might otherwise lack. Despite the heavy topics addressed overall, this is a very enjoyable and highly readable novel.

    • Must Read
  • The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates/Goodreads

    I fell hard for Coates after reading Between the World and Me, so I was eager to read this book. This is the story of his upbringing in Baltimore with a father highly active in the Black Panthers. Though the account is of times past, it sheds light on the experience of black boys becoming black men in our country. While overall this missed the mark somehow for me, the writing is still beautiful and I definitely gained useful perspective from a world quite different from my own.

    • Good, Worth Considering
  • When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
    When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris/Goodreads

    I find it impossible to describe David Sedaris’ work to others who are unfamiliar with him. He…writes dry humorist essays about everyday life in a way that is somehow completely relatable and highly eccentric. His books are always a joy, and always worth listening to the audio version. His delivery elevates the experience tenfold. This was another solid Sedaris collection for me. I simply adore him!

    • Worth Reading
  • Trainwreck by Sady Doyle
    Trainwreck by Sady Doyle/Goodreads

    This book is SO fabulous. If I had six books on my top reads of the year list, this would be on there! This book was simultaneously illuminating, unsurprising, disheartening, and more than anything, a crystallization of the feminist resolve that has been taking place since the election. Even though it didn’t make my tip top list simply due to fierce competition, I still put this on my “required reading list for all of humanity.”

    • Must Read

  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie/Goodreads

    I feel certain that if I have an author soulmate, it’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her novels are irresistible to me and I feel utterly transported while reading them. They stay with me for long after the book is finished. I read this over the summer and just like her other books, I simply adored it.

    • Worth Reading
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick
    Sold by Patricia McCormick/Goodreads

    Written in a series of vignettes, Sold is the story of a Nepalese girl sold into sex slavery. It is a short, searing, and heart wrenching read that shines a light on this very real occurrence that is still happening today to a horrifying number of girls.

    • Must Read
  • Embers by Sandor Marai
    Embers by Sandor Marai/Goodreads

    This is another book that I’m not quite sure how it found its way onto my to-read list. This was possibly the most unique story I read this year, with an unusual structure, a relatively spare plot which still manages to have twists and suspense in the smallest details. Intriguingly, it was originally published in 1942 and recently rediscovered. This is a beautifully written work of art.

    • Worth Reading
  • Shrill by Lindy West
    Shrill by Lindy West/Goodreads

    Every time I read an article or essay by Lindy West, I am blown away. To me, she is one of the greatest present day writers, period. I want to say that she is wickedly smart, funny, articulate, and deeply good, but even those words feel inadequate for describing her. Shrill was one of the very best things I read this year (full recap coming at the end of the year as usual). I normally prefer physical books but I highly recommend the audio version for this masterpiece.

    • Must Read
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
    Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys/Goodreads

    Historical fiction, it seems, will never tire of World War II novels. There are endless stories to be told from so many perspectives. Salt to the Sea is another good one with multiple stories intertwined within.

    • Worth Reading
  • Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
    Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick/Goodreads

    This book is based on the account of a real Cambodian advocate, Arn Chorn-Pond. Captured by the Khmer Rouge as a young boy and placed in a labor camp, he survived amidst unimaginable atrocities which this book recounts in excruciating detail. This is a very heavy book, but also very important.

    • Must Read
  • Wine. All the Time. by Marissa A. Ross
    Wine. All the Time. by Marissa A. Ross/Goodreads

    Disclaimer: if you are remotely stuffy, easily offended, or believe that profanity and sexual references instantly invalidate the wealth of knowledge being imparted simply because of their inclusion, this is not the book for you. However, if you recognize great comedic writing for what it is AND want to learn about wine in a totally engaging, not at all snotty book, READ THIS. I have tried to be interested in wine before, even taking a trip to wine country, but it all fell flat. Marissa is the one who truly sparked my interest. I first heard her on the Bon Appétit podcast and decided to check out this book. It is a book that needed to be written, and she did it so well. Just read it! You’ll see. Laughing out loud on most pages and starting to not feel like an idiot about wine feels pretty awesome.

    • Worth Reading
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
    My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante/Goodreads

    This book and the next three in the slideshow are all part of  series known as the Neapolitan novels. Written by a formerly anonymous author who has sadly been outed, these four epic sagas are the lifelong tale of a friendship between two girls born in Naples as they grow into women, and all of the dramas that their lives encompass. I find it very hard to describe the experience of reading these books but I can stay that the stories and the characters will stay with me for a long, long time. That speaks to the true brilliance of Ms. Ferrante, as many books, even those I enjoy quite a bit, quickly fade from my mind. Normally when I read books that are part of a series, I don’t read them sequentially but take breaks in between. However, I couldn’t stop reading these. I tore through them one after the other until the whole story was revealed to me. As such, I won’t add additional commentary for the other books in the series beyond what I write here. If you want to enjoy true escape in the form of a series, I highly recommend these books.

    • Worth Reading
  • The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
    The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante/Goodreads
  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
    Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante/Goodreads
  • The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
    The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante/Goodreads
  • Theft by Finding by David Sedaris
    Theft by Finding by David Sedaris/Goodreads

    Different from Sedaris’ other works, this book is not a collection of essays but a selection of his own diary entries throughout his life. I’m not sure this would appeal to someone who isn’t already a Sedaris fan, but I found it at times funny, depressing, hilarious, charming, and mostly an illuminating glimpse into the life of this writer I so adore.

    • Worth Reading
  • Geek Girl Rising by Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens
    Geek Girl Rising by Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens/Goodreads

    This book had such potential but ultimately missed the mark for me. The title conjures up notions of women in STEM fields but throughout the book, the focus was much more on female entrepreneurs growing various technology related businesses. While that is an important topic, and this book was very well researched, I found it to be fairly disjointed and more of a chaotic jumble of power women kicking ass in their careers. I’m all for that! But a sense of cohesion was lacking and sadly I can’t recall specifics of many (any) of the women or businesses featured. I was also really disappointed that in this book meant to highlight these women trailblazing new companies and shaking up the status quo, there were a massive number of minute descriptions of each woman’s appearance, wardrobe, and general aesthetic. I obviously respect each woman’s choice to present herself as she sees fit, and I understand the need for professional women to look put together, but I was way more interested in what these women were accomplishing rather than what they were wearing while doing it.

    • Worth Considering (mainly for practical info)
  • What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
    What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton/Goodreads

    Like many people, when I first learned that this book was being released, I was skeptical and conflicted. I wasn’t sure I wanted or needed to read it. I am very glad that I decided to give it a chance because this too was one of the best things I read this year. Yes, it is heart breaking and painful to read, not just because it recaps the disastrous 2016 election and its ramifications, but also because it gives us a true look into this brilliant, caring, very real person who could have been our leader. It’s a travesty that this view of her wasn’t portrayed in the misguided coverage of the election cycle. As someone who wasn’t sure I wanted to hear what this book had to say, I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

    • Must Read
  • The Potlikker Papers by John T. Edge
    The Potlikker Papers by John T. Edge/Goodreads

    This book is so interesting! For someone who is by and large a moron when it comes to history, the perfect way to engage me is to make it about food. Edge does this beautifully, starting out with descriptions of food sustaining those organizing the Montgomery boycotts during the civil rights movement. He chronicles the inception and evolution of fast food, documents changing perceptions of the South through the lens of the region’s cuisine, and examines the notion of what exactly “real” Southern food is and who claims it as their own. This book is insightful and very well researched, and I’m very glad to have read it.

    • Worth Reading
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead/Goodreads

    I’m a bit torn on my opinion of this book. Overall, it is a powerful account from the perspective of a runaway slave during the times of the Underground Railroad. By and large, it is every bit as heart wrenching and agonizing as you might imagine, and I think it does a beautiful job of illustrating the narrator’s account. My one qualm with this imagining is that the author chose to incorporate a literal underground railroad used to transport the runaways. I didn’t exactly see the utility of this and it didn’t seem to add anything to the story. Despite this detail, I enjoyed the book overall.

    • Worth Reading
  • The State of Affairs by Esther Perel
    The State of Affairs by Esther Perel/Goodreads

    The very notion of this book may rub some the wrong way, but it is probably the most thought provoking and intellectually brilliant book that I read this year. Perel is a therapist with decades of experience counseling couples related to many issues including infidelity. Given its widespread prevalence, she reexamines this transgression and its many facets while also analyzing historical and cultural shifts related to marriage as an institution. Perel did a marvelous job addressing this challenging subject. Audio is a must for this book, in my opinion.

    • Must Read
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All in all, it was a good year of reading! As always, there were a few books that I started and did not finish because I couldn’t get into them, and a few where I switched from the physical book to the audio version if I had a little trouble staying engaged.

It’s always a little difficult narrowing down the top books from the year, but I love looking back through all that I read and figuring out the best of the best, the top five books from the year.

I can’t wait to hear what books you loved most last year. You have provided me with some incredible recommendations over the years! If you would like to connect with me on Goodreads, send me an email using the contact form and I will add you! (Be sure to include your name and email address so I know I’m adding the right person!) Happy reading in 2018!

Past Reading Lists

  • Kat Moore

    Just bought two of these on Audible. Thanks for the recs!

  • Annie

    I listened to one episode and I didn’t love it, but now I think I’m going to give it another go. I think it was really just the couple that annoyed me, not her or the content. She’s so brilliant though, I think I need to try again!

  • Annie

    No, I haven’t but I’ll look out for her. Any specific recs? That’s hilarious about the McD’s menu :)

  • Lady_Vengeance

    I’m doing the same thing on my blog today! How did you created that book cover grid? Thanks!

  • Annie

    I used Photoshop to create the composite image, but displaying it as I have is part of my custom built site.

  • Erin Daily

    I felt the saaaame way about Hillbilly Elegy. For all the hype, I finished it feeling rather “meh. Sending you a Goodreads request- we seem to have similar taste!

  • Lady_Vengeance

    Thank you!

  • WestOfGrace

    Hi Annie! Thanks for the book recommendations, ordering many of them ASAP!

    Claudia