2017 wasn't a bad year, but it was a hard year. My 2017 book list reflects that. I didn't seek out a lot of challenging reading because real life was challenging enough. From my books I just needed guaranteed happy endings and/or a guaranteed escape into another world. Fantasy series fit the bill perfectly, which is why I did so much rereading this year.
A lot of readers don't believe in rereading. Which I get—reading all the books is already a hopeless goal, and rereading something only sets you back.
But rereading books is worth the sacrifice. Rereading has allowed me to reconnect with the books that made me an avid reader in the first place. And when the book is good, no two reading experiences are the same—good literature grows with you.
That being said, I still had more "first reads" than rereads this year. And I never did get around to reading Lord of the Rings again, despite best intentions. Next year.
But before I set a plan for 2018, let's talk about what I read in 2017.
Goal: 52 books
Books read: 78
Books I didn't finish: 11
Pages read: 29,969, which averages to 384 pages per book. I read a lot of chunksters this year. Three were over 1,000 pages (thanks, Brandon Sanderson), and 20 were over 500. If I had limited myself to more normal-sized books, I might have hit 100 books again. But where's the fun in that?
- 5 stars: 20
- 4 stars: 28
- 3 stars: 27
- 2 stars: 3
- 1 star: 0
First reads: 56
Books by female authors: 50
Books by male authors: 23
Books by multiple authors: 5
Longest book: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson, 1243 pages. Not the longest book I've ever read, but it's probably in the top five.
Shortest book: Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments by Jeffrey R. Holland, 37 pages. My bishop recommended this one a couple times, but I have to admit it's not my favorite Holland thing.
Favorite book, fiction (besides Harry Potter, obviously): Picking just one favorite book is a monumental challenge for any reader, but it gets easier when you find that special book that was written just for you. For me, that book is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. No other book has nailed what I want and need from a book like that one has.
But since The Snow Child was my top pick for 2015, I've picked a different book for 2017: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I enjoyed this book the first time I read it, but I didn't love love it until I reread it this year. The Stormlight books are rich and complex, and it's just impossible to grasp everything the first time you read it. Since I was already familiar with the world and characters this time through, I was able to appreciate how masterful Sanderson's writing is. Catch things I missed the first time. He's waited his whole career to crank this series out, and that wait was worth it. This book, and the ones that follow it, wouldn't be what it is without the experience he gained from writing his other books, including Wheel of Time. Rereading this book was one of the most satisfying reading experiences I've ever had, and my love for these characters is very high.
Have I convinced you to give Brandon Sanderson a try yet? Good. Except, don't start with The Way of Kings. Read the Mistborn books first, or Elantris. And then you're going to want to read Warbreaker. Diving into Stormlight first might be overkill.
Favorite book, nonfiction: The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel. This book was fascinating. I have more than my fair share of days where I just don't want to interact with anyone, but this guy lived alone, in the woods, for 27 years. JUST BECAUSE HE FELT LIKE IT. I just can't get over how crazy and cool that is.
Favorite reread: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling. Of all the Harry Potter books, this is the one I tend to forget the most. Probably because of the horrendous movie adaptation. So I actually have moments where I can't remember what is going to happen next or that I haven't thought about since my last read—which is a tender mercy, if I'm being entirely honest. This book was once my least favorite of the series, but it climbs a spot in my favorites rankings every time I reread the series. Don't overlook this one; it's great.
Author challenge: After reading What Alice Forgot last year, I wanted to read the rest of Liane Moriarty's backlist. I ended up just reading two—Big Little Lies and The Husband's Secret—both while traveling to/from Florida. They're perfect airplane books. Big Little Lies was my favorite of the two.
The great American novel (aka, the book that just begs to be read in a literature class): The Secret History by Donna Tartt. You want to discuss ethics and morality? This book has plenty of fodder for that discussion. Looking for complex characters who make questionable choices? This book has them in spades. Need some good writing? Look no further. Watching the events of this novel unfold is fascinating, disturbing, engrossing—I would have loved to discuss it with a class of pretentious English majors for a few weeks. I finished it almost a month ago and I still think about it a lot.
Best escape: I'm going to risk my reader's credibility a bit and go with the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. This series does what it's supposed to do really well—gives you a compelling love story that's easy to get lost in. Sometimes it's just nice to indulge in an over-the-top romance. #TeamEdward
Funniest book: Any of the Harry Potter books. J.K. Rowling's humor is the first thing that endeared me to this series. Without it, I wouldn't be the fan I am today.
Saddest book: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. This was a hard book for me. It's well written and everything, and I appreciated the insight it provides on Korean and Japanese lifestyle/culture, but it's just bleak. Nobody really gets to be happy much. I definitely wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading it, but it's not a book I'll revisit.
Most intriguing premise: The Blinds by Adam Sterngergh. I don't read a lot of thrillers, but this one sounded too cool to pass over. It's about a town of criminals—only they've had their memories altered so they don't remember what they've done. Everyone still knows they're surrounded by people who have done horrible things, but it's hard to reconcile that fact with the nice old lady who runs the library, for instance. Lots of potential here, and the book mostly lived up to my expectations.
Book that changed my way of thinking: Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger. Readers of this blog know I'm an unapologetic introvert. If I have the option of doing something alone, I will, and I'm all the happier for it. However, this book makes a compelling case for banding together in tribes, and Junger's reasoning for why veterans have a hard time returning back to "normal" society or for why depression and anxiety seem to be more of a modern problem actually had me rethinking my "alone is better" mantra a bit.
Pleasant surprise: Be Frank with Me by Julia Clairborne Johnson. Books/movies featuring characters on the autistic spectrum have been pretty popular—and therefore controversial—of late. On the one hand, I get why people are annoyed. It's frustrating when someone tries to take a real challenge or life situation just to shoehorn in diversity or to feature a quirky character. But when it's done right, I love stories featuring characters with autism. I remember having a conversation once with my sisters years and years ago where we were lamenting the fact that we had never come across any characters—books, movies, any medium—that reminded us of our brother. Which is a shame, because my brother is one of the most unique people I know. It's not fair that others should have to miss out. Now, I am NOT insinuating in any way that everyone with autism is the same. I am merely glad that I can occasionally come across a book or TV show with a character that navigates the world a little differently, in a way that's uniquely familiar and relatable.
I probably should say something about the book now. . . . I loved it. Read it.
Biggest disappointment: Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull. I enjoyed the Fablehaven series quite a bit, but this first book in the follow-up series wasn't exactly enthralling. A bit of character growth over the original series would have made it a lot better for me, but, yeah, that's not really something middle grade novels aim to deliver.
Most in need of an editor: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani. I adored The Shoemaker's Wife, but this book was not on that level at all. It might have been if there were a few more heavy rounds of editing to clean up the sloppy pacing and underdeveloped storylines and relationships. It always baffles me when an established author puts out a book with so many rookie flaws.
Bookish treasure: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Any avid reader can relate to the plight of wanting to read every book on the planet but having to balance that urge with meeting real-world responsibilities. The protagonist in this novel—a queen!—lives that life in this short satire, and it's delightful.
Book I'd like to see as a movie: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. If they ever finish making the Narnia movies, I want them to do this one last, and bring back all the original Pevensies. Wouldn't that be awesome?
Book I'd love to live in: Gonna have to go with Narnia again. Obviously I wouldn't turn down a chance to go to Hogwarts, but Narnia is more the type of place you go to when you want to relax, you know? Especially if it's early Narnia in The Magician's Nephew before all the wars start: peaceful, pretty, no need to rush through anything. Can I just retire right now?
Book I don't want to live in: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. I love reading about the worlds Sanderson creates, but I wouldn't want to live in any of them. Roshar, the world of the Stormlight Archive, is pretty much doomed in this book, what with the constant hurricane-level storms and threat to humanity's existence. It makes Earth look rather peaceful.
Favorite character: The main reason I love Sanderson is because of his characters. Kaladin is my favorite Stormlight character—and my favorite character of the year—despite how frustrating he can be. (Sometimes, I just want to smack him and send him to the corner for a time-out.) He and I have a lot of similarities, which is probably why my heart goes out to him. Watching him triumph is incredibly fun and satisfying.
Least favorite character: Sadeas, definitely (another Stormlight character). He's the snakiest snake that ever lived. Although *spoiler alert* Moash sucks too.
All the 2017 books (bolded a few more I loved but didn't talk about above):
- A Bestiary by Lily Hoang
- Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn
- Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland by Cynthia Clampitt
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling
- American Justice on Trial: People V. Newton by Lise Pearlman
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
- Garage Criticism by Peter Babiak
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
- Part of the Family: Christadelphians, the Kindertransport, and Rescue from the Holocaust by Jason Hensley
- Faithful by Alice Hoffman
- Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments by Jeffrey R. Holland
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
- Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery
- Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery
- A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
- The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
- The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
- This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
- Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull
- The Best American Essays: 2015 ed. Ariel Levy
- Girl in the Moon by Janet McNally
- Women of the Book of Mormon by Heather B. Moore
- Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
- New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
- Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
- Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
- Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn
- Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn
- Divinity of Women by Heather B. Moore
- Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper
- The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
- The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
- The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
- Be Frank with Me by Julia Clairborne Johnson
- Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
- Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
- Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
- The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
- The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
- The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
- Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
- Landline by Rainbow Rowell
- The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner
- Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
- Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
- Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks
- Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
- The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
- The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh
- The Changeling by Victor Lavalle
- Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
- Autumn by Ali Smith
- Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
- Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase
- The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller
- Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
- The Burning Girl by Claire Messud
- Beauty by Robin McKinley
- The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
- 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories ed. Heidi Pitlor
- Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani
- Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
- Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
- Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
- The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
- Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn
- Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts