It’s my annual “books I read this year” post! I had so much fun doing this last year, and I got some great recommendations from y’all on books to add to my reading list!
I read 28 books in 2017. This was fewer books than in 2016 (I have a shorter commute now, and the majority of the books I “read” are actually audio versions that I listen to in the car). I am still incredibly proud of this number! That’s slightly more than two books per month!
You will notice that while some of the books on this list are similar in terms of genre, there are some that are quite different. I belong to a monthly book club that often forces me to read books that I might not always choose on my own. I have discovered a lot of wonderful and unique books this way and am so grateful for it!
Without further ado, here are the books I read in 2017, along with my opinions on each. They are in alphabetical order, and the ones that are *starred are ones that I highly recommend adding to your own reading lists! I felt like I was overly generous with my stars last year, so I tried to be more conservative with handing them out this year. Only a book that I would enthusiastically recommend got a star.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. This coming-of-age novel was good, but not something that I raved about afterward. I did appreciate being placed into the perspective of someone different from myself (male, Mexican-American, teen) and the way that diversity and differences of all types were affirmed in this book!
At Home by Bill Bryson. This book is essentially a history on our homes–how homes have evolved over the years, why we build rooms the way we do, etc. While it was a bit dry at times, I also learned a great deal from it!
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. This book is all about habits and how to successfully (or unsuccessfully) form them. Rubin’s four tendencies framework was very helpful in terms of understanding myself and others. However, habits aren’t something I struggle with much (due to my tendency!), so the rest of the book wasn’t particularly helpful to me. It was good information, but not truly needed.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I had a hard time getting into this feminist WWII novel at first due to a lot of the technical war speak, but the ending was absolutely fabulous!
*Defending Jacob by William Landay. This courtroom drama was really unlike anything I had ever read before. It is incredibly interesting (I mean, who doesn’t find murder and family drama interesting??). I was hooked and did not want to put it down.
The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott. This book is historical fiction set during 1912. It’s got romance, history, and feminist undertones, and I enjoyed it.
Fat is the New 30 by Jill Connor Browne. I’m a big fan of sassy Southern firecracker Jill Connor Browne. There were some funny parts in this book of comedic essays, but overall I didn’t find it as drop-dead hilarious as other Sweet Potato Queens books.
*For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. Jen is one of my absolute favorites, and this book about extending grace to others and ourselves was no exception! I love how she is sassy one moment, then speaking profound truths the next. The second half of the book is when it got really good, so keep going even if you aren’t totally in love after the first chapter!
*The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. I loved this book! It is a short fictional depiction of heaven and hell as imagined by Lewis. It stretched my mind and offered perspectives I had not considered before.
The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. I LOVED this book for the majority of the way through! The author was clearly writing for a Western audience and does a great job of explaining buddhist principles in an easy-to-digest, relatable way. I’m sure one of the reasons I loved it so much is because I’m a big believer in a lot of these principles. I did think that the book ended up getting a little repetitive by the end. But, it’s still a great “Buddhism 101” if you’re ever looking for one!
*In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. If you read my 2017 superlatives post, you already know that this book was responsible for scaring me a good deal! It’s actually not that scary of a book–more suspenseful and thrilling. I’m just easily scared! It’s also a major page turner. I couldn’t put it down! Highly recommend.
*Inferno by Dan Brown. Dan Brown has yet to write a novel that I dislike. The way he weaves together science, art, and religion is always fascinating! I fly through his books, and this one was no exception. The topic of human overpopulation is something I was introduced to during an environmental science class in high school and have long been interested in. I highly recommend this book!
Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. This book follows Jen’s spiritual journey as God “wrecks” her comfortable Christianity and turns her faith upside down. It is actually more of a precursor to Jen’s book 7 (one of my all-time favorite books!), but I ended up reading it well after reading 7. Some if the content was discussed in 7, so it wasn’t new to me. But, there were some really amazing parts that had me nodding along in agreement. At other times, the language was much more evangelical than I am comfortable with. I ended with mixed feelings!
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey. This book was good, but I think I was hoping for more than it delivered. It didn’t delve in as deeply as I had hoped! Still a good read, though.
*Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle. This is a repeat from last year…I read it again for my book club! I will say that it read slightly differently this time around given Glennon’s new relationship status, which was not public knowledge the first time I read it. Still one of my all-time favorite books.
A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman. I enjoyed the dry humor and curmudgeonly main character in this Swedish novel a good bit–enough to pursue another book by the same author (below)–but not quiteeee enough to get this book a star.
*Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I know, I know…I’m late to the “Me Before You” train. If you are as well, I highly recommend you pick it up and read it! The medical/ethical controversy and the love story made for a compelling read, despite the occasional cheesiness/poor writing.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. This book is a collection of essays about what Lewis views as the basic tenets of Christianity. It was definitely thought-provoking, though I disagreed with much of it.
*My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman. This is the second Frederik Backman novel I read this year (A Man Called Ove was the first). It is a masterpiece! So well-written with amazing characters. It made me laugh out loud more times than I could count.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. The only reason I didn’t give this book a star is because I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to all people. You probably will find it more useful if you are an introvert or if you have an introverted loved one who you struggle to relate to! I thought that the author was a little negative toward extroverts at first, but it got more balanced around the middle of the book. I took a lot away from Quiet. It gave me a lot of insight into why I experience the world the way I do and was very normalizing for me!
Rising Strong by Brene Brown. This book, which was about struggling and the ways that struggle makes us stronger, was very academic and research-focused at times, but at other times very relatable. I liked it but didn’t LOVE it. I probably would have found it more helpful if I was reading it during a time of adversity. I did appreciate that the book made me more aware of some of my actions and the emotions behind them, as well as the reasons for those emotions.
*Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. For anyone who is a questioner or doubter when it comes to faith (Rachel writes about her experience with Christianity, but I think people of other faiths or faith backgrounds could relate to her story as well), this book is a must-read. Her story brought me great peace about my own internal struggles. I think this book would also make a great read for people of other generations who want to understand why so many millennials have left or are leaving church. Highly recommend!
*Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I LOVED this book, as you all already know from my 2017 superlatives! Racism is a central theme of the novel, which was incredibly timely for me in particular, as I started it right around the same time as the national confederate statue controversy this past summer. There were a few parts of the book that may have been a bit cheesy (such as the ending), but otherwise, I found it to be an incredibly well-done novel.
A Sudden Light by Garth Stein. I was close to giving this book a star simply because it is so unique; really unlike any book I’ve read before. It’s an interesting plot line and has some dramatic family dynamics, which I always love. However, my ultimate verdict is that it is a good read, but not earth-shattering.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. This Pulitzer Prize-winning book was not a favorite of mine. It’s not an easy read in lots of ways–it took a lot of concentration and focus, it was very long, and it also contained some unpleasant content. While it did do a good job of introducing me to a time period/series of events that I didn’t know a lot about (the book is historical fiction based during/after the Vietnam War), it also wasn’t very interesting to me at times. Not sure I’d recommend it unless you’re really into war novels.
*A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir. This is the second book in the “An Ember in the Ashes” young adult fantasy series. I read the first book last year and couldn’t put it down. The second book did not disappoint! It’s got action, romance, plot twists…everything you could want! The only thing I can complain about is that the third book has not yet been released…agh! It is due out in June of this year.
The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews. Mary Kay Andrews is my mother-in-law’s favorite author, and she is always raving about how funny her books are. I was in the mood for an easy fiction read, so I picked this one up. I’m guessing it may be a bit darker than Andrews’ other books? It definitely fit the bill for an easy read and was still relatively light-hearted considering the main topics were murder, addiction, and financial troubles, but I’m not sure I’d put it in the humor category. If you’re familiar with eastern NC, you’ll love all of the local references. I’m excited to try another one of her books as a beach read in the future!
Wonder by Raquel J. Palacio. I have sat here for about 10 minutes debating about whether to give this book a star. Regardless of whether it technically does or does not my star criteria, just know that this is a book you will not regret adding to your reading list. You’ve probably already seen or heard something about it, as it was made into a major motion picture this past fall (which I haven’t seen yet)! Wonder is about a boy who has an unusual appearance and is starting public school for the first time. It is written for a teen or pre-teen audience but is 100% still a good read for adults. You can’t go wrong with a message about about loving those who are physically different. It brought tears to my eyes at times, but leaves you with a feel-good ending!
Alright, that’s a wrap! Leave me a comment if you also have thoughts on the books listed. And, be sure to tell me what I should add to my reading list for 2018! You can see what’s already on my list on my Pinterest board.