I wish I could go through all 62 books I read last year and tell you about them, but neither of us have time for that, so here is a condensed version. If you want to see all the books I read in 2017, you can see them on Goodreads here!
Top 10 (not counting rereads of favorites)
This is really difficult because there is such a wide range of reason why I love any given book. Sometimes it is the plot, sometimes it is the emotions it evokes, the things it teaches me, the characters and more. Sometimes I love books because of one of these things, sometimes for a combination. I read a lot of great books this year, so if I made this list another day it might look slightly different, but these are the top ten that most stood out to me when I went through the books I read last year today. In no particular order:
Captive Prince short stories - The Summer Palace and The Adventures of Charls the Veretian cloth merchant by C.S. Pacat
I’m counting these as one since they are so short and are part of the same work. I was so happy when C.S. Pacat announced she would be releasing a series of short stories set in the same story universe as her Captive Prince series (one of my all time favorites) and these short stories have not disappointed. They read like amazingly well-written fanfiction, but they are canon and thinking about the fact that they exist and what they add to the story universe makes me smile.
If I love a certain author, I will read anything they work on. When C.S. Pacat announced she was working on a comic in the style of sports anime like Yuri!!! On Ice (one of my favorite TV shows) I knew I would love it. The first installment was amazing, so I was super excited to hear that Boom! Studios has picked it up as an ongoing series since the preorders for the first few issues were so successful.
The Year of Four by Nya Jade
This is one of my favorite books I was asked to review this year. It is one of those quintessential Young Adult novel set at a supernatural boarding school. There are plot twists, a forbidden romance, and the sense that the protagonist doesn’t know as much about her identity as she thinks she does. This felt like something a major publisher would pick up in a heartbeat, and I am surprised more people haven’t heard about it. If you’re a YA person, I highly recommend this one. I’m reading book two right now and can’t wait to see what happens!
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
I was really excited to start this book since I loved the authors previous book Between Shades of Gray. Both these books are set around WWII, but in areas that do not get a lot of air time – probably because it paints the US or its allies during the war in a bad light. (Between Shades of Gray takes place in a Siberian prison camp and this book takes place around the maritime tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff.)This book was beautiful and heartbreaking and full of history. I’ve grown to love historical fiction, because when it is done well it tells an amazing story, but also educates me about history in an in-depth way that might get glossed over in text books.
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde
I read this book for my Queer Literature and Theory class and is one of the books that has gotten me more interested in memoirs lately. One of the things I am very grateful for about taking that class is being exposed to books by and about queer people that were published longer ago than just a decade. These older queer books exist, but since many aren’t “mainstream” I hadn’t known about them. I had heard of Oscar Wilde and that was pretty much it. This book chronicles Audre’s life as a black, queer woman living in the middle of the twentieth century talks a lot about the intersections of these identities before the term “intersectionality” was coined. The prose is also beautiful and I loved how the events of the book were structured. If you haven’t read this book, I really recommend you do!
Peril at End House by Agatha Christie
This was my first Christie novel and I read it for my Crime Fiction class. I loved how clever the puzzle of the plot was. It had one of those endings that I did not see coming at all, but as soon as it ended, I looked back and realized the answer was right in front of me all along! Christie also does some really interesting things with gender expectations that I enjoyed.
Along with C.S Pacat, Leigh Bardugo is my other favorite author right now. I want to be her when I grow up. Although her Six of Crows duology is still my favorite, the ending to her Grishaverse trilogy was amazing. Her world-building – especially her ability to draw on real life history and mythology to create a history and mythology in her story world – is amazing. And the characters are all amazing. I love them. I love her.
Keep Her by Leora Krygier
This is another one of my favorite review books I read this year. I read this author’s other fiction book, When She Sleeps, when I was in middle school and it made a big impression on me. Krygier has this magical quality about her writing that makes things skirt between realism and magical realism that is really beautiful. I loved how Keep Her was told through an alternation of regular narrative and letters, also the cover is gorgeous. Keep Her is one of those books that even though it is published by a small press and not many people have read it, it feels like more people should have read it by now since it is that good.
On Being Insane by Elliot Keenan
This is a memoir published by Dreaming Big Publications, where I work as an intern. It’s hard to believe that the author of this book is my age, because he is so insightful and reflective. I really liked how his story of his life was not always linear, but somehow flowed really, really well. The main focus of his memoir are how his intersecting identities as a person with Aspergers and bipolar depression and being trans have shaped his life so far. Given my interest in reading and boosting Own Voices works, I knew right away that this is a book I wanted to review for DBP and now it is one of my top ten for the year. I highly recommend you check it out (and other books by Dreaming Big Publications) its only about 100 pages, so it’s a quick one!
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I heard about this book through a feature on Vice News and was very intrigued by the premise and the fact that its audiobook got an award for most voice actors used ever. I listened to it on audiobook, and even though it was hard (impossible) to keep track of all those different voice actors, I did like that Nick Offerman was one of the prominent ones. It is much more literary and experimental than books I usually read – it is very metaphorical and interweaves quoted excerpts from historical documents with the text. The end result is a very original story that is touching and surprising.
One I Most want to reread:
Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
This is another work I read for my Queer Lit and Theory class, and it is one of the few books I did not sell back at the end of the term because I knew I wanted to reread it. This is a collection of poetry, but it is so personal that it feels like a memoir. One of the most powerful things about this collection is that, while some poems do make “sense” in a narrative sense, many do not. But these poems do conjure up very vivid images that evoked strong emotions in me, even though I wasn’t always sure why. I’d love to reread it some time when I am not rushing to get it down and digested for class and to take my time sitting with the imagery more.
Biggest Page Turner:
All For The Game trilogy by Nora Sakavic
This is a series that I’ve seen a lot of buzz online for. And while I did not quite like it enough to put it in my top ten, I couldn’t put it down. I’m serious, it was bad. I was reading it during my busiest part of the semester, but I couldn’t work on homework because I had to know what happened next. I spent time putting together a playlist to listen to while I read it and everything. It would make a killer TV series. And this should also go under the category of worst book hangover for 2017 as well. After I finished it I literally felt listless for several days because I had been riding this rollercoaster for so long and suddenly it was over. I couldn’t start a new book for a while because it was All For the Game. Luckily that feeling passed, but, holy cow, it was intense for a minute there.
Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
All these categories are pretty positive because, luckily, I really liked the vast majority of the books I read this year. While I didn’t hate Tell the Wind and Fire, I was disappointed by it. Part of the reason is because I was so excited to read it in the first place. I was approved to get an advance copy from Netgalley, and this was exciting because the author is fairly well known and I had never been approved to read a book on Netgalley by a famous author before. There was also a lot of hype around the book that made me think I’d like it. When I started reading it I noticed that the main character’s name was Lucie Manette and I was like “oh, she’s named after the chick from a Tale of Two Cities,” but didn’t think much of it, since Cassandra Clare, another famous YA author, has a character named Lucie who is also named about the Dickens novel character. As I was reading, though, the plot seemed suspiciously familiar and I felt like I was in a throwback to my high school sophomore English class. I thought it was weird that a book that is so obviously a retelling of ATTC does not mention that anywhere in its promotion. It’s not even inspired by the book, it is a step by step retelling. I knew what would happen next in Tell the Wind and Fire because I remembered what happened in ATTC. It’s not that I have anything against retellings, if they are done well I love them, but the book just didn’t do anything with the original story. It was set in a futuristic, magical New York, but that setting felt like window dressing when it could have been used to add something to the original story, or relate it more to contemporary issues, or propose an alternate ending. Something. I’m sure plenty of people loved this retelling, but it just felt like it was missing something to me.
Angels in America by Tony Kushner
Roaring Girl by Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton
Roaring Girl by Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton
I had several play-heavy classes this semester, so I figured it was only fitting that I have a category to talk about a few of them. The standout by far for me was Angels in America. It is an incredibly emotional and weaves in so many themes about America and life in general. We also watched the HBO series as part of the class, and seeing it performed made me love it even more. I hope I can see it live one day.
I put Roaring Girl as an honorable mention because even though the plot does not stand out in my mind the main character, Moll Cutpurse, stood out quite a bit. She is based on a historical woman who lived at the time the play came out (Elizabethan England) and was known for dressing like a man and fencing. Truly an early queer/feminist icon who needs more attention than she gets.
Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words by Margarita Engle
I loved the history in this book! Again, it is another example of history that is not taught in school that is super important nonetheless. One of the characters is a refugee who moved to Cuba from the US seeking to escape hate crimes against people of Chinese descent. I was also interested by the fact that it is a novel told in verse. I have seen some verse novels out there, but I think this was my first time reading one. I still prefer prose, but I liked having a chance to try something new.
What were your standout reads from 2017?
Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.