One of my goals for this year was to read 50 physical books. That totally didn't happen. I only read about 27. But I did listen to approximately a zillion audiobooks, so my book total for the year is currently 109. You can see all the books I read in 2017 here.
I keep track of everything I read and everything I want to read on Goodreads, which is a really awesome social media for books, basically. I don't actually know anyone who uses it as much as I do, but I have no regrets about it either, so whatever. Anyway, Goodreads holds the "Goodreads Choice Awards" every year, and all the users can vote for their favorite books published that year in several different categories. It's pretty fun, though I've usually only read a few nominees in any given category, and there are many categories that I've read none of the nominees for. But this year I was PISSED about the results. Because there was a book that I thought absolutely should have won for the Nonfiction category and it didn't. It was in the semifinal round and then got eliminated in the final round of voting. And it felt like a cataclysmic tragedy that it didn't win.
So I decided that I was going to make my own collection of the best books I've read this year. Mine were not all published within the past twelve months, which is the stipulation of the contestants for the Goodreads Choice Awards, but they were all books that I read within the past year. So there you have it. And, to rectify the grievous error that was made in the Nonfiction category of the Goodreads Choice Awards, let's start off with:
Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown (2017)
If there is one book to read in the current world climate, this is the book. Brené Brown talks sense into a world that feels like it makes no sense at all these days. This animated video of her ted talk about empathy vs. sympathy is one of my favorite things to watch over and over and over. Anyway, Braving the Wilderness is about how important it is to treat people with decency and respect even when we find it exceptionally challenging, even when we disagree with them politically, even when we find their opinions on things completely abhorrent. It’s also about calling out bullshit in a way that is productive and beneficial to everyone involved. It is absolutely worth reading.
The Moth Presents: All These Wonders (2017)
Have you heard of the Moth? It’s an ongoing live storytelling event. So people get up on stage and tell stories about their real life experiences without using notes or anything. They are gritty and real and emotional. They are powerful and unbelievable. This story by Ed Gavagan is the most powerful story I’ve ever heard in my life. Though it’s not in this collection of transcribed Moth stories, you should totes take 17 minutes out of your day and listen to it. And then you should read this book because there are lots of other great stories in it.
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (2017)
Imagine a world where the energy crisis was solved before it ever began to be an issue and how much time and energy that would have freed up for people to invent newer, greater things. That is the world that All Our Wrong Todays begins in. This book is written very much in the style of Kurt Vonnegut, who is one of my favorite authors, and it was really great to read a book that evoked that same feeling I had the first time I read one of his books. I loved every minute of reading it, and was very satisfied with the story in its entirety. The ending did not disappoint, and the action throughout was really engrossing.
The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay (2012)
Obviously this was geared toward people my age, and I don’t think it would be particularly beneficial to, say, people my parents’ age, but if you’re currently in your twenties or even early thirties, it is worth reading, I think.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)
I’ve already written a blog post about why I loved this book, which you can go read if you want to find out more about why I loved it so much. It is a timely novel. It is important in the America of 2017. It is important. It also won the Goodreads Choice Awards for the categories “Debut Goodreads Author” and “Young Adult Fiction”. Obviously other people loved it, too.
Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur (2014)
So, funny story, in high school I liked poetry a lot. Then I went to college and found out that you’re supposed to read poems like 30 times and pick them apart to find the six different meanings that the poet buried into the words and it killed poetry for me. I was like “Oh, actually, maybe I hate poetry. Huh!” And then I read this book. And I decided again that I do, in fact, love poetry. Just maybe not the really highbrow, stuffy stuff. And that’s okay. It’s okay to like the poetry that is immediately relatable and evocative and makes me think YESSSSSS every time I turn a page. It’s okay that there aren’t six different meanings behind every line. That doesn’t make it less powerful, less true, less important. After this book, I also read “The Princess Saves Herself In This One” By Amanda Lovelace, and then “The Sun and Her Flowers” came out this fall, and both of those were also wonderful. But Milk & Honey, being the book that convinced me to like poetry again, will always have a special place in my heart. I also started following more short form poets on Instagram, like Nayyirah Waheed, and Rudy Francisco, then started following Button Poetry too, and found people like Melissa Lozda-Oliva and Sabrina Benaim. It’s been a good year for me and poetry.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014)
This book is excellent. That’s really all I have to say about it. It’s kinda long but it didn’t even take me long to read because it was so damn good.
Colors of Madeleine Trilogy by Jaclyn Moriarty (2012, 2014, 2016)
Jaclyn Moriarty has written a several other books, a few of which I’ve read and really enjoyed, but this trilogy is definitely my favorite of her work. It is fantasy and really very well done. The world she created was completely believable and I got fully pulled into the story and was intensely invested into listening to the audiobooks, even when I was on vacation in Europe.
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory (2017)
Spoonbenders is about a family of people with supernatural abilities who all find themselves in various predicaments throughout the story. In a lot of ways it was a very normal, average sort of story, but it was also one of those books where you don’t figure out exactly what is happening until the very end because there are all sorts of pieces that you can’t really figure out how to fit together. You follow all of the different family members at different points, and their stories weave and intersect really interestingly and it was overall a really excellent read.