Friday, January 26, 2018

And the Best Books I Read This Year (2017)

Yup, that's all this blog is now: annual reviews of the books I liked the best. Sorry I haven't been posting, promise to do better, blah, blah, blah, nobody cares.

So let's get to it. Based on the "would I re-read it" premise, the list is pretty small, so stay tuned for some honorable mentions at the end.

Aiken, Joan. 1963. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.
Last year I was entranced by The People in the Castle, and this year I read and loved several of Aiken's children's books. Somehow I missed these books when I was the "right" age, and that is a bit of a tragedy; the spirit of adventure embodied in Aiken's stories would've done my childhood good. I'll go beyond saying I "would" re-read it to promise that I will re-read it with my niece when she's old enough.

Chambers, Becky. 2014. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. 
I don't seek out much sci-fi and actually picked this up thinking it was something else. What a serendipitous mistake! The story, full of space adventures and imaginative tech, is entirely character driven and addresses intense themes of belonging. And it's well written and just a lot of fun. As soon as I finished Long Way, I immediately read the sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit, which follows characters who were tangential to the first story. I've already placed my library request for the third in the trilogy, Record of a Spaceborn Few, which is scheduled to be released in July 2018.

Dickey, Colin. 2016. Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places.
Dickey approaches American history and culture through our most famous hauntings. He manages to debunk many of our favorite ghost stories but still creep me out anyway!

And that's it. Those are the three books I read in 2017 that I would willingly re-read if suddenly new books ceased to appear.

Here are the honorable mentions I really enjoyed but that don't make the re-read list. Oddly for me, these are all nonfiction. What? Nonfic? No, yes, really. 

Waldman, Ayelet. 2017. A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. 
The drug war is dumb and prevents people from accessing help that could change their lives.

Winter, W. Chris. 2017. The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It. 
I have a secret weakness for self-help books, and sleep is something I have worried about a lot in my eternal quest to become bigger, stronger, faster without having to do anything boring or dumb like exercise or eat well or change my lifestyle in any way. The Sleep Solution gets into the nitty-gritty of how sleep works, but does so in accessible language. The book changed my perception of sleep and I actually became more satisfied with my sleep the very week I finished it. (On a slightly bizarre note, on GoodReads I mildly criticized the author's habit of inserting jokes as footnotes, thereby interrupting himself over and over and over for no good reason. The author responded personally to defend his choice, which was . . . odd. You'd think an internationally known sleep doctor would have better things to do with his time than stalk GoodReads reviews.)

Yang, Kao Kalia. 2008. The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir. 
The Latehomecomer was the 2017 Big Read selection for the Wichita Public Library. Many of my co-workers didn't love this book as much as I did. I was particularly struck by the fact that Yang and I are close to the same age. While I was running around the playground at OK Elementary, she was running around a refugee camp. Our grandmothers even died within a month of each other. So I felt a particular interest in and affection for Yang's well-told story.