Monday, December 11, 2017

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017


I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

In years past I've broken up my favorite books into two different top ten lists, one for fiction and one for nonfiction. This year, though, was just not one of my best years for reading. For five months out of twelve I had no 5-star reads. My 2017 goals also meant I read fewer books than in past years. And I ended up rereading quite a few books, which (though excellent) I'm not going to repeat from previous years' lists. So I'm going to throw all my choices together into a single list of the top ten books I read this year!


1. American Hookup by Lisa Wade
This overview of "hookup culture" on college campuses could have taken an alarmist approach, but the author instead focused on making room for the voices of actual college students about the good, bad, and ugly of hookup culture. She provided historical and sociological context for the stories and synthesized them into topic areas, but overall did a great job of keeping the students' personal experiences front and center — which also made for a better and more interesting read.


2. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
I absolutely loved this unconventional YA romance. It takes places the summer after high school graduation, so while it has the voice of a YA novel, it doesn't fall into any of the well-known tropes of a "high school" story. There's a mystery, and a huge undertaking, and messages about family and loss and independence. I had tears rolling down my face at the end.


3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book manages to be a fantastic dive into the issues driving the Black Lives Matter movement while also just being a great book, with relatable characters, funny lines, suspense, drama, and a surprisingly satisfying ending. I also love that Thomas didn't try to pander to white audiences with the book; ultimately, she didn't need to.


4. How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King
This recent publication co-authored by Adele Faber's daughter takes the techniques from Faber and Mazlish's classic books and focuses them on kids ages 2-7. Through example scenarios and concrete suggestions, they provide a toolbox of ways to deal with the challenges of parenting. I'm already looking forward to rereading it now that my son is just old enough to start using their techniques.


5. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
I found this more compelling and readable than some other true accounts of former slaves, though her experience was different enough from many others that you wouldn't want to read this in isolation. In Jacobs' case, she wasn't subjected to the worst parts of chattel slavery, so you're left to deal with the fact that her experience in slavery was wrong because it's slavery.


6. The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
This book handles the topic of suicide much more skillfully than some other recent YA novels and does not romanticize it. It speaks honestly to the process of grief and to the emotional mess that's left in the wake of someone's suicide. It's not free from YA clich├ęs, but overall it's well done and worth a read. (Bring tissues!)


7. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
With masterful organization and clear prose, Alexander lays out the case that the War on Drugs has created a "racial undercaste" that aligns with the cultural stereotype of the "criminalblackman," disenfrancishing an entire swath of the American people in much the same way that the Jim Crow era did. This is a painful but highly necessary read.


8. The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob
Jacob manages to weave together fantastic writing, a number of important themes, and a cast of complex, believable characters in this novel that took her a decade to complete. I laughed out loud more than once, and I cried near the end. It wasn't perfect, but I genuinely enjoyed the read and missed the characters when I was done.


9. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
I didn't really understand people saying about an author "I'd read her grocery list" until I encountered Becky Albertalli. This book made me look back on my high school self with fondness, in the same way Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda did. (It contains minor spoilers from that book, so start with Simon!) Very sweet, very relatable, and a nice example of a realistically diverse cast of characters. I'm ready to read the third book in this universe as soon as it comes out.


10. Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson
Wilson is a talented storyteller, and I was surprised at how relatable I found most of her childhood stories. I'm glad I took the chance of picking up this book based on nothing more than my love for Matilda.

Look at that — all female authors! That was unintentional, but I guess it says something about what kinds of voices spoke to me this year.

What were your best reads of the year?

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