I think among book bloggers, the “best of the year” lists are always among the most anticipated. I’ve been loving all the lists rounding up everyone’s favorites, and taking a guess at what my most-read bloggers’ favorites will be.
As for my favorites, some of these will come as no surprise–they’ve been favorites for many readers and I’m catching up this year. A few others are new in 2017. No matter when they were released, all are worth the read.
Linking up with the Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday. Go read some other best of 2017 lists!
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Here were my favorites:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the much-loved classic about a young girl, Francie Nolan, growing up in poverty in turn-of-century Brooklyn. Francie is a bookish, resourceful child, caught between her dreamer of a father and her work-worn, practical mother. I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn around the same time as I read My Brilliant Friend, and despite being set in different countries and ~50 years apart, the settings seem so similar that I may need a re-read to more firmly tie each to their stories in my mind. Francie’s story, though, feels bleaker, and set in more abject poverty and tragedy. Francie is self-aware and a keen observer of people and the life around her, a heroine who manages to continue to seek beauty even as it seems determined to elude her. More info →
I have a total author crush on Ann Patchett and her latest did not disappoint. She again brilliantly weaves together flawed families who fail one another over the decades but keep trying and trusting in spite of the failures. Where you would expect villains, she instead presents complicated characters struggling with their own hopes, inadequacies, and feelings about the past and how to move forward. Where you would expect broken, bitter relationships, she shows the enduring power of loyalty, love, and forgiveness. This is not an action-packed novel, but one where the subtle emotional tensions will resonate. Highly recommended, along with all of her other books. More info →
While the hype on the back of this book is kind of irritating (it’s not the most magical story ever and it’s definitely not a laugh riot), Little Bee is a beautiful, painful, horrifying novel—one worth reading. The story of the connection between Little Bee, a young Nigerian woman, and Sarah, an English wife and mother, unfolds slowly, alternating between their perspectives. Little Bee’s parts shine with lovely language and humorous insights, while Sarah’s fall a little flat, but I feel like this is part of the contrast of their experiences and how they respond. An important read that brings the horrors, fears, and hopes of asylum seekers to the doorstep. More info →
This Pulitzer Prize-winning World War II novel tells the story of a blind French teen, a young German soldier, and how they come together during the war in occupied France. This is a book to be read slowly to fully appreciate the rich descriptions and sensory-laden language. Almost all of the characters in this book--even the villains--are fully drawn as complicated humans. What I love about it, though, is how Doerr makes the experience of war personal. While the war was global, each person who lived and died experienced it through the small moments made large through their own senses: a girl finds refuge running her hands across the snails lining a grotto; a boy closes his eyes and visualizes the electrons allowing the voices to carry over the airwaves; an old woman whispers a few words to sustain a resistance, finding the only power she has. There are millions of these stories, many forever lost, and Doerr's telling is a reminder that wars aren't just history, but personal and deeply felt. More info →
Wolf Hollow is a strong contender for one of my favorite books of 2017. A Newbery Honor winner, this middle grade novel blew me away with its spare but insightful, searing writing--especially in the first few chapters, so I was hooked from the start. Twelve-year-old Annabelle is content with her life in school and on her family farm until Betty shows up in town. Betty quickly proves herself a cruel bully who has it out for Annabelle and anyone near her, including Toby, a reclusive World War I veteran who has befriended Annabelle and her family. As the stakes rise, Annabelle's strength and compassion are put to the test. More info →
When 16-year-old Starr is witness to a police officer shooting her unarmed best friend, she is torn between staying silent and speaking out. Starr lives in two worlds: the world of her affluent private school and that of her black neighborhood that is rocked by the shooting. The case quickly makes national headlines and as tensions rise, Starr feels the pull to tell her side of the story and refute attacks on her friend's character, even as she faces intimidation from police and local gangs. This powerful novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement delves into the shootings of unarmed black people by police officers, the lack of justice in the aftermath, and white privilege. It is not just for a YA audience but is a must-read for everyone. One of the best of 2017. More info →
The community of Shaker Heights is meticulously planned and picture-perfect, and the Richardson family is much the same. When their new tenants--mysterious, free-spirited artist Mia and her daughter, Pearl--move into town, the four Richardson children are enamored of both, and Pearl of them. As the families becomes more entwined, complications arise when the two mothers, Elena and Mia, find themselves on opposite sides of an adoption case. Elena suspects Mia is not all that she seems and starts digging into her past, rocking the worlds of Mia and Pearl and her own children. Little Fires Everywhere is a study in the characters--their flaws, pasts, dreams, regrets, and fears--and how all of these hidden things affect their relationships and what happens next. Well-written and perfect for anyone looking for a simmering, emotional read. More info →
Homegoing is an epic generational novel following the family lines of two half-sisters born in Ghana 300 years ago: one is married off to an English slave trader while the other is sold into slavery. Each chapter follows a new descendant of the women, illustrating how events and injustices of the past reverberate through the lives and struggles of future generations. An astonishing, emotional novel that deftly answers the question of how the descendants of slaves continue to be oppressed by the institution of slavery, Jim Crow, and systemic racism, even 150 years after abolition. One of my best reads of 2017. More info →
I absolutely loved this retelling of the Little House on the Prairie book, from Caroline "Ma" Ingalls' perspective. When I read and re-read the books as a child, Ma didn't particularly stand out. She was just solid and steadfast, always the voice of reason and sure of what needed to be done (except maybe in the face of Indians, where her weaknesses and prejudices came out). This book moves through familiar scenes while highlighting the challenges and uncertainties of being a young, pregnant mother, alone on the prairie with only her wanderlust-filled husband and three- and five-year-old daughters. Only now, as a mother of daughters of similar ages, do I realize what a terrifying feat this was (and just how young Laura and Mary really were!). Miller's prose is lovely and provides a wonderful grown-up dose of nostalgia. Highly recommended for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder. More info →
Ishmael Beah was a regular 12-year-old boy in Sierra Leone when the war came. He went to school, hung out with friends, and loved to dance and rap in local talent shows. All of that was lost in an instant as the rebels rampaged through villages, killing everyone they found. He found himself on the run. After surviving for months, at times with a small group of boys, at times completely alone, starvation and desperation brought him to a village that seemed safe. Instead, he was pressed into service by the government army, drugged, and trained as a killer. Beah tells his story in a way that is both matter-of-fact and fully cognizant of the innocence that was stolen from him and so many other children. A word of warning: this was so hard to read--at times I struggled to continue, knowing that things were only going to get worse. That it's a true story, for Beah and for thousands of other children, made it feel important to finish. More info →
In this letter to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses how the United States was built on and by the bodies of black people, and how those bodies continue to be endangered, used, and abused to maintain a system that thrives on their subjugation. Coates recalls recent incidents of police brutality as well as the long history of race and its importance to those in power--"the people who believe themselves to be white." Powerful, emotional, and filled with brutal, uncomfortable truths that demand to be known and acknowledged. More info →
I've been hearing about this book for months, and I found it just as delightful as so many other readers. Ove is a solitary curmudgeon who is set in his ways and unreserved in his criticism of anyone who crosses his path. "Hell is other people" could well be Ove's mantra. But behind his rough exterior is a sweet, sad backstory and a soft-hearted man committed to his morals who is about to have his world rocked by several people (and a cat) who refuse to be held off by a few cranky words. More info →
What are the best books you read in 2017?