I haven’t done one of these since January of 2015, but it’s the end of the year again and I’m back on the reviewing bandwagon. So here is my annual roundup of my 2017 reads – my top five favorites, as well as some notable books that didn’t make the top 5 and the top 5 books I’m looking forward to reading in 2018.
None of these lists are in any particular order.
Top 5 of 2017
1. The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
Sea monsters + pirates + a protagonist of color + lesbians = fantastic. The Abyss Surrounds Us has everything I look for in a book: amazing characters with great arcs, skillfully-done romantic tension, one of the best settings I’ve ever read (did I mention training sea monsters?), a delightfully complicated and fast-paced plot, and an ending that made me feel Epic Battle Feelings. This is one of the first explicitly queer books I read, and it was a great start.
2. Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Court drama books have never really been my thing, but this book changed that. I loved the juxtaposition of the friendship (and later romance) between the smart, capable, bookish princess and the unconventional tomboy princess. The setting seemed like a pretty standard high fantasy setting, but at the same time unique and interesting. The magic system (and even the prejudice against magic users) was cool and interesting. And there’s a little bit of trope-smashing. I don’t have enough good things to say about this book.
3. Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Rising Strong is … powerful. I love Brené Brown as an author and have adored every one of her books that I’ve read so far, but in my opinion Rising Strong is the most valuable (and that’s saying something). It goes over a research-based process that Brené has discovered/developed for dealing with failure and emotional setbacks. And it really works (I can say so from experience – see my review for potentially triggering details). I learned so much from this book and it’s now my go-to gift for people graduating from high school.
4. The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Probably the most creative book I’ve read in a while. I picked it up expecting a thin paperback and not a 500-page epic, but it’s worth every page. There’s a strong female friendship between two polar opposite girls (one who’s selflessly “good” but doesn’t think she is and one who thinks she’s good and is obviously too self-centered to be) and both girls get some absolutely AWESOME character growth. The setting is also fantastic, with a lot to explore, and honestly I’d love to go there. Overall, a great book.
5. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
I’ll confess: I read this back in July and I still haven’t used any of these principles to tidy up my living space, even though I’ve been in my new house since August. But I’m including it here anyway because it was an extremely inspiring read. It made me want to get my crap together – or, more accurately, get rid of my crap. It was also a thoroughly enjoyable read. My opinion may change after actually putting these principles into use (although I doubt it), but for now, it makes my top five favorite reads of the year.
2017 Books Worth Mentioning
Book I Wanted to Love
Essentialism by Greg McKeown. This came highly recommended, and I was really excited about it. Unfortunately, I’ve followed a blogger (Michael Hyatt) who teaches similar principles for many years and I learned nothing new. Worth reading if you’re not a major Michael Hyatt fan, but I got nothing out of it.
Weirdest (Possibly Ever)
Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz. I described this in my review as “It’s a dystopian novel and a fever dream and Alice in Wonderland if Alice was part lizard and Wonderland was an agricultural camp,” and that kind of describes it. This book blends imagination and reality into something very unique and totally weird. Not necessarily a good book, but definitely an interesting one.
The Class Consciousness Award
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I have a lot of problems with all of Malcolm Gladwell’s work that I’ve read (mainly that it’s more theoretical than practical), but I loved that Outliers talked about how being born into a specific set of circumstances affects your eventual success. Though it’s not very nuanced, it’s a good starting place to learn about class privilege.
I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. It’s rare that a book I didn’t finish makes a “year in books” list, but I had to mention this one because it’s incredibly bad. Financial books often fall into classism and fatphobia, but this one also somehow included misogyny and didn’t even put on the usual veneer of pretending not to be classist. It was also pretentious and condescending despite presenting no unique information. Overall: bad.
Must-Reads for 2018
- Circle Unbroken by Zoraida Cordova. I enjoyed the first book in this series, Labyrinth Lost, and I’m excited for the second. (Also hoping it has more gay than book one.) It comes out in April.
- Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. As I’ve said, I absolutely love Brené Brown, and this is her new book. (I actually already own a copy, I’m just really excited to read it.)
- Body Respect by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor. This book is highly recommended by my favorite eating disorder recovery blogger, and I’m hoping to get a lot out of it. (Also hoping to get some talking points for when weight/diet conversations happen.)
- Fight for You by Kayla Bain-Vrba. This is only a novella, but it’s lesbian romance between a dancer-turned-gladiator and the best gladiator in the arena, so it sounds exactly like the kind of thing I would love.
- The Second Mango by Shira Glassman. A fantasy queen searching for a girlfriend, a female warrior with a dragon, and an evil sorcerer all sounds like fun. Plus it’s written by a bisexual Jewish woman and I’ve heard it’s pretty feminist.