Best Books of 2017
Another year is wrapping up which means another year of reading is wrapping up!
I’ve added a couple books to my favorites list this year but I also struck out on several books. I found gems in unexpected places and was disappointed in stories that I thought would be “slam-dunks.” I struggled with finding fictional stories that I enjoyed, while I was completely amazed and altered by some nonfiction. For some reason, there was an overarching theme of justice in most of my reading this year, which was completely unintentional and yet very timely with everything going on in the world these days. I heard somewhere that people turn to books for answers, when the world is going nuts, and I think that was very true for me this year.
There are many good books and stories but a truly great book will teach you something about yourself or the world. The books below did that for me and I’m thankful for the new perspective and tidbits of knowledge.
I’m terrible at writing story summaries so instead I’ll explain the things I took away from these stories…and why you might like them. As usual, these are books that I read this year, but not necessarily published in 2017.
“Behold the Dreamers” by Imbolo Mbue– I wasn’t prepared for how much this story would get under my skin and make me rethink my version of happily ever after and white picket fences. It’s the story of two families; one is a poor, immigrant family, the other is a wealthy, privileged family. A series of events shakes both of these families with lasting consequences. I loved that it tells a very important story, without feeling like it’s telling an important story, and gives voice to a neglected part of our society. Most of us don’t have to think about the struggles of poor immigrants, that are barely getting by and living in a constant state of uncertainty. On the flip side, the story also shows the duplicity that money can cause. It was a very thought-provoking story without feeling weighty or heavy. I think this would make for an excellent book club pick.
“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern – THIS is the book to read if you ever find yourself in a reading rut. It completely grabbed me and sucked me into a romantic fantasy world filled with magic, duels and a Romeo and Juliet-inspired love story. I loved all the characters, even the creepy ones – which really says something! Anyone can make an unlikeable character that no one likes, but only the most skilled writers can craft a likeable villain – and I cheered for the main characters on their quests for success and love. Such fun reading!
“Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson – The author, Stevenson, is somewhat disillusioned with law school until he finds himself taking on a death row appeal case during one of his internships. He’s in over his head, but intrigued by the task, and thinks this is where he might be able to find some meaningful work. Thus begins his career. In the book, he tells the story of several cases but one case is woven throughout. It’s a fascinating story, think real-life crime drama, but also frightening and frustrating. It completely shattered any rose-colored glasses I had about our legal system. It wasn’t an easy journey to go on, but I’m glad to at least be aware of these stories and issues now. After I read it, I passed it along to my husband, who also loved it, and then he passed it along to his co-worker.
“Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah – I love a good memoir but I’ve been disappointed with the string of memoirs written by comedians in the past couple of years, so I hesitantly picked this book up at the library and gave it a shot. I was completely hooked before I finished the first chapter! Noah’s stories from his childhood in South Africa were funny, sometimes sad, but always fascinating.
“Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell – I love how Malcolm Gladwell takes what you think you know and turns it upside down. Outliers is a fascinating read that examines how and why certain things and people rise to success. There’s a lot more to it than random success. Surprisingly, I found that several parts of the book were very applicable to parents: reasons for success at sports and school, how age and birthdays make a difference, and how other countries do math better than us.
“Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile – Thanks to this book, I’m now obsessed with the Enneagram. If you’re not familiar yet, the Enneagram is an ancient personality diagram with eight categories. For me (and others agree), the Enneagram is one of the most accurate and complete personality assessments. It’s interesting because it looks at inward thoughts and motives, not just outward actions. It was like being sliced open and having someone show me my insides – equal parts amazing and horrific! Since reading “Road Back to You,” I’ve read several other Enneagram books, but I still think this one is the best. It’s written with keen insight yet includes lighthearted stories to keep it engaging. I also appreciate how it incorporates a spiritual aspect to it as well.
“Echo” by Pam Munoz Ryan – Echo follows the story of three individuals connected by a magical harmonica and how their lives are transformed by music. It seems the magical harmonica falls into their hands at a time of great difficulty or when the characters are at a crossroads. The story had some fantasy, which made it fun, but also some hard realities of life – war, poverty, loneliness, etc. I wouldn’t recommend to anyone younger than fourth grade. The audiobook version is excellent; the voices and music bring the story to life. I say that with a caveat – I nearly ran a red light while listening because I was so engrossed into the story! Be careful, readers!
“Come On, Seabiscuit” by Ralph Moody – The beloved racehorse, Seabiscuit, and his unlikely climb to success, grabbed the attention and affection of the entire country. This book tells Seabiscuit’s story in a way that’s engaging to younger readers, or in my case, listeners. My family listened to this story as an audiobook on a road trip. It was the perfect length for the drive and it kept everyone’s interest. I highly recommend it as an audiobook because the narrator did a fantastic job bringing the story to life and he often sounded like a radio announcer at a race, which was so fun. Seabiscuit had such a sweet, stubborn, loveable personality and his story of overcoming the odds against him was inspiring. It was also an interesting reminder of how horse racing was not only a national pastime, but also practically a national obsession at the time. Things have changed since then but this story will still capture your heart and make you smile.
Those are my top picks from this year! I’d love to hear what your favorites were…please share in the comments!
And here’s to a new year of reading!