My favorite books of 2017

My Favorite Books of 2017

For maybe the first time in my life I legitimately crushed one of my Resolutions! Last year I made the goal of reading 60 books in 2017… and I ended the year having read 72!!!

This of course means  that I had to bump up the goal for this year, which I’ve set at 80 books, or almost 7 every month. Sheesh. 

But something about knowing I conquered my goal last year gives me the confidence that I’ll do it again this year!

Anyway, here are my favorite books of 2017:

1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Completed: 9/4/17 
Format: eBook through Overdrive

Y’all, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Told in the narrative non-fiction style, it documents the illness of the African American woman Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells have been used to test develop scores of cures and treatments to other diseases. HeLa cells, as they are known, are used every day all over the world, and are famous for their ability to continue multiplying, despite the fact that their “donor” died 66 years ago.

In fact, the slice of Henrietta’s cervical tumor that birthed the cells was taken from her without her permission, and her family has never seen a penny of the proceeds from all the medicines they enabled. Instead, the Lacks family continues (at least at the time of the book’s writing) to live in poverty in rural Maryland. This book was heartbreaking and inspiring, and really made me think. 
Recommended for: Everyone. Just read it.

2. Shoe Dog

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/13/17
Format: Hardback borrowed from a friend

Shoe Dog was recommended to me by my friend Blake who is one of the biggest sports fans I know. It’s a memoir by Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike about the beginnings of the company. The dude is now worth $24.1 BILLION, but for years the company struggled to make a profit. 

We kind of take Nike for granted now, but it almost didn’t happen… about 50 times. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but mostly I enjoyed Knight’s palpable love of his company and the small team who willed it into being.

Recommended for: if you have an entrepreneurial bone in your body you should read this book.

3. Truly, Madly, Guilty

Completed 2/21/17
Format: Hardback borrowed from the Library

Holy wow. This was SO good. I’ve been seeing it pop up on recommended lists pretty much since it was published last year, and now I’m bummed I hadn’t started reading more by Liane Moriarty sooner. The lady knows how to turn a somewhat ordinary event with ordinary people into something absolutely enthralling. 

Just wow. It was so well written and exciting. More of her books are on my to read list now!
Recommended for lovers of thrillers and mysteries. 

4. All the Light We Cannot See

Completed: 4/7/17
Format: Hardback from the Library

There’s a reason this Pulitzer Prize winner has been on top of everyone’s to-read list for the last year. 

This beautiful story follows two young people during WWII, a blind French girl whose father leaves her with an incredible secret, and a brilliant German boy forced to work for the Nazis. They are destined to meet near the very end of the war. 

Very beautifully written, heart breaking, and just wonderful. Exceptional historical fiction that made me want to put Anthony Doerr’s other novel on my reading list.
Recommended for: everyone. 

5. The Nightingale

What I read in November and December

Completed: 11/21/2017
Format: Audiobook through OverDrive

Speaking of excellent WWII stories… WOW! This one is one of my favorite books of 2017. Thanks to my sister-in-law Anna for recommending it! This novel set in France follows two sisters as they brave German occupation in their own ways. Heartbreaking and inspiring, this novel should definitely be on your list to read. The audiobook
Recommended for: everyone.

6. Forty Autumns

Completed 6/29/17
Format: Hardback from the library

Something thing we don’t really talk about anymore in the US is just how shut off East Germany was for forty years. This is the true story a young woman who escaped from the communist regime and made a life in the West, as well as the story of the family she left behind. Two sisters and their daughters separated by an oppressive government. Heartbreaking, but with a happy ending, and so well written!
Recommended for: Cold War history buffs and lovers of narrative non-fiction.

7. Between the World and Me

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/11/17
Format: Audiobook borrowed through Overdrive

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s long letter to his son is a heart-wrenching look into the realities of being a black man in America today. It wasn’t an easy read, but it was a good one, and an important one. Our nation needs real healing, and I don’t think we can get there without a real understanding of what it is that needs to be healed. 

To get to that understanding, I believe white people (or like Coates would say, “people who who believe they are white”) need to sit, listen, and learn. 

Recommended for: all Americans praying for racial understanding and reconciliation.

8. Ready Player One

Completed: 5/24/2017
Format: eBook through Overdrive

SO. NERDY. But very very good! This was 100% my favorite read of May. Set in 2044 when the world has gone to crap and everyone takes refuge in the OASIS (think virtual reality on steroids), a billionaire’s death leads the whole world on a massive digital treasure hunt. The designer of the hunt was raised in the 1980s, and the book is riddled with 80’s trivia and memorabilia. 

There were several things that were a tad over my head, but over all it was fantastic, and made all the more fun by a TWO AND A HALF HOUR LONG EPISODE OF MY FAVORITE PODCAST!!!

No Dumb Questions is hosted by Smarter Every Day’s Destin Sandlin (who happens to be from Huntsville, AL) and Matt Whittman who runs an excellent YouTube channel called The 10 Minute Bible Hour.

They are where I originally heard about the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed their chapter-by-chapter analysis.
Recommended for fans of geeky dystopian novels. Make sure you read it before the movie comes out 🙂 

9. The View from the Cheap Seats

What I read in October 2017

Completed: 10/6/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This and the Graveyard Book have me eager to read lots more by Neil Gaiman. This collection of speeches, introductions, and essays gave a great look into Gaiman’s personality and values. I also found it immensely encouraging as a writer and aspiring novelist (shhh, it’s a secret!). His Newbery acceptance speech and his speech on why libraries are important (daughter of a librarian here!) were some of the most inspirational pieces I’ve read/listened to in a long time. Reading and writing are a huge part of who I am.

(I’ve rolled my full thoughts on this into a separate post, because this one is already too long and I have a lot to say.) 
Recommended for: writers, readers, humans.

10. Native Speaker 

Completed 1/11/17
Format: Paperback previously owned

Wow. This is my favorite book I’ve read in quite a while. It is beautifully written, and a compelling look into the experience of a first generation American, with a little bit of mystery mixed in. James bought it several years ago for a class in college he ended up dropping and it’s been sitting on our bookshelf ever since. I picked it up the weekend of the ice storm when we were stuck up on the mountain and I couldn’t get to the library to swap out my books from the previous week. So glad I did!
Recommended for everyone, but especially those who are interested in reading about the perspective of first generation Americans.

Those were my favorite books of 2017! Keep checking back to see what I’m reading this year and how it stacks up 🙂 Have a recommendation for me? Leave it in the comments!

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