This year's book list


I just turned the final page of the book that will most likely be the last one I finish in 2017. I'll probably start a new book tonight, but I won't finish it before the year is out. 2017 may have been a rough year in a lot of ways, but it was excellent for reading:  According to Librarything, where I've been keeping track of what I read since 2009, I read more books this year (53!) than ever. And so many of them were incredible. Here are the ones I think will probably stick with me long after this year is ancient history:

1. Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Not to be cliche, but yes, the book on everyone else's best-of lists is also one of my favorite 2017 reads. And how could it not be? Little Fires Everywhere could be called a domestic drama, but it reads with the speed of a thriller, and it also happens to be achingly beautiful and wise. Don't overlook Ng's debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, either:  It's just as impossible to put down.

2. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
There were two books I could NOT shut up about this year:  Little Fires, and this one. I just wanted to hang out with the characters in Goodbye, Vitamin--which is about a young woman fresh from a divorce coming back home to help care for her father, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's--forever.

3. Version Control by Dexter Palmer
A time travel story that sneaks up on you: Even as you're aware that this book is about traveling through time, you forget what's supposed to be happening as you grow more and more involved in the character's lives and personalities. By the time the event happens, it does so without fanfare--except this is the miraculous trick Palmer manages to pull: The moment of time travel exists for the reader just as it does for the characters; history is "erased" and remade without an explosion or any sort of drama. Also, this book will convince you that driverless cars are the next horror movie monsters.

4. Landline, Attachments, and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
I did a bunch of traveling at the beginning of this year, and Rainbow Rowell was my constant companion. Her books are incredibly readable, funny, and smart, and she creates the MOST relatable characters I think I've ever read, especially her female protagonists. Landline was probably my favorite of the three (possibly because I can't resist a time travel romance), but all three of these novels are completely addictive.

5. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
It was impossible not to have high expectations for Saunders's first novel, but my expectations were met and exceeded with Lincoln. I don't know what possessed (no pun intended) the man to write a book in which Abraham Lincoln mourns his newly dead son, Willie, while Willie himself struggles with the decision to move on to the next realm or stay among the stuck citizens of the cemetery where he's laid to rest--all while those citizens complain and plead and reminisce and lament over their own bizarre existence and the things they lost in life. What a beautiful whirlwind of a book.

6. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
This was a good year to read about powerful women. Now, more than ever, I crave stories about women who are too much and who don't apologize for it. Each in their own way, Gay and Petersen gave me exactly what I needed this year.

7. Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Edan Lepucki's follow-up to California doesn't disappoint: It's fraught with complicated relationships, boundaries that prove too easy to cross, and two complicated, layered women whose paths both run parallel and intersect in the heat-soaked Hollywood Hills one destructive summer. Lepucki demonstrates real skill in depicting the often complicated relationships women have with each other and the way individuals--particularly artists--can live too much inside their own heads, disregarding the needs and desires of others, if they don't make an effort to get outside themselves.

8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
If I was allowed to insist that every single person in this country read one book, it would be this one. The Hate U Give represents exactly what's important about telling stories: It allows readers to get inside the heads of people who may be nothing like them and begin to understand where those people are coming from, their motivations, their fears, and their desires. Plus, The Hate U Give is incredibly engrossing.

9. Kindred by Octavia Butler
This was the year of time travel, evidently, and there was no better time travel tale than Kindred, a half domestic drama, half time-travel adventure set in the 1970s and the 1800s. The protagonist, Dana, finds herself in a seemingly unsolvable predicament when she realizes she has no control over when Rufus, a white slave owner living in the 1800s, "calls" her to him through time. Her lack of control over her body in space and time mirrors the absence of autonomy of the slaves around her, while her modern sensibility (along with her desire to return home and to keep her ancestors safe) drives her to challenge Rufus in ways that threaten to get her killed, or worse.

10. My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
This was my second time reading My Best Friend's Exorcism, and it was just as entertaining and creepy the second time around. If you're looking for a well-written scare that'll take you back to the 1980s to round out the end of 2017, grab this book, light a few candles to ward against the dark, settle in with a hot cup of something, and end the year on a high note.