Here we are, nearly halfway through January, and I’ve finally made my list of favorite books that I read in the second half of last year. (See favorites from the first half of 2017.)
There’s really no need to confine it to a list of ten, is there? Here are some books I really enjoyed over the second half of 2017.
Children’s/Teen (not picture books, that will have to be a whole separate post, there are SO MANY GOOD ONES, this truly is a golden age of picture books)
All the Bright Places and Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (audiobooks): Really top-notch realistic teen fiction set in normal high schools. These kids aren’t as clever and quippy as John Green characters; they’re damaged and struggling, but they find and help each other. Reminded me a bit of Cammie McGovern (Say What You Will).
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (audiobook): Pure, perfect fairytale/fantasy, truly inventive. Every character has their reasons for doing what they do, good and bad. Magical.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (audiobook): A prose poem that is easy to listen to, the story of a young girl who leaves Vietnam with her family (sans missing father) and arrives as a refugee in the American South. Full of imagery, and all the feelings that come from being different in a new place.
The Someday Suitcase by Corey Ann Haydu: I requested this book with trepidation, as a review mentioned Bridge to Terabithia. That comparison is not inaccurate – consider yourself warned.
Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley: Tumble doesn’t believe in curses – until she meets Blue and his family. Beasley (Circus Mirandus) creates an entirely different type of magic in this book: two families, blessed and cursed, vie for a special blessing under a red moon in a place called Muddy Branch.
Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford: I adore Greenglass House and everything about the world of Nagspeake that Milford has created; Ghosts is no exception.
Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore: I read this genre-infused, Choose Your Own Adventure-style novel over the course of three or four days, and it got so thoroughly into my head and my imagination that I thought about it even while I was sleeping. Very different from Graceling but no less brilliant.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green: Just finished reading this a second time, actually. Quite possibly one of the best ways to better understand what it’s like to have a mental illness, and also a really good book. I loved the (unusual, for YA) epilogue-type ending.
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman: Immensely satisfying. I could spend forever (or at least ten years) in Lyra’s Oxford. Can’t wait for the next volume.
When the English Fall by David Williams: An Amish man’s journal entries of a period of time including some type of disaster that wipes out all of our “English” conveniences: electricity, engines, etc. A few English join the Amish, and others protect them, but the community doesn’t want violence done on its behalf.
Among Others by Jo Walton: When I finished this book, I realized that very little had happened, and yet I loved it. Technically a fantasy novel (a witch, fairies, magic), the whole thing is a love letter to sci-fi, and librarians.
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson: A blurb compared this to Jane Austen, and I scoffed, but actually…it’s sort of like Jane Austen meets the first season of Downton Abbey, with a bit of Maggie O’Farrell (The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox) thrown in. A small English town becomes more and more affected by the Great War, first taking in refugees, then losing its own men.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: This is such a brilliant title (if you have to say you’re fine, you’re obviously not) and I loved the cover too. Awkward, cranky, pedantic Eleanor narrates her story of being in the world, a rigidly circumscribed existence due to past traumas, as her routine begins to break down and she forms relationships with other people.
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin: Five perspectives on a Clinton/Lewinsky-type political scandal in South Florida; marvelously, pointedly feminist without sacrificing anything of character or plot. Zevin is great.
The Power by Naomi Alderman: What happens when women become physically stronger than men? (Hint: not a utopia.) A thought experiment with several narrators’ perspectives. Really, really thought-provoking and at times truly visceral.
Paradox Bound by Peter Clines: A time-travel road trip through American history, with our heroes pursued by terrifying faceless men, all searching for the physical manifestation of the American Dream. Fun!
The Moth Presents All These Wonders: I’m not a devoted listener to The Moth podcast, but these stories are amazing even on paper. There’s not a dud in the bunch, and in a collection with this many stories, that’s saying something.
Mama Tried by Emily Flake: So funny, so true, so disgusting. A chronicle of pregnancy, childbirth, and the early days of parenting, all in a quick graphic novel format. The author, a cartoonist for The New Yorker, lives in Brooklyn, a.k.a. hipster/yuppie-parent ground zero.
Hand to Mouth by Linda Tirado: This was on the Arlington Reads Together (a.k.a. Community Read) shortlist, and it got my vote. A straightforward personal story of what it’s like to live at, under, or near the poverty line. If you can read this and not be convinced that we need a better social safety net – particularly better protection for workers, and high-quality universal health care – well then…read it again.
Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen: A thoughtful analysis of ten different modes of “unruliness,” as represented by eleven different women in the public eye. A forceful refutation of the myths that sexism isn’t still powerful and that feminism is no longer necessary.
Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein: A recommendation from an extremely well-read and music-loving friend encouraged me to pick up this memoir about Brownstein’s childhood, adolescence, and life in Sleater-Kinney (Portlandia fans, be warned: the show is mentioned only once). I had “Dig Me Out” and “One More Hour” stuck in my head for days.
So – what were your favorite books of the year? Keeping in mind, of course, that none of us have read All the Books and our opinions are subjective (see this thoughtful, funny piece from The Cardiff Review on “best of year” lists).
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