My Favorite Reads of 2017

It’s fitting that my first blog post in a year and a half is one of my favorite posts to read.

 I give you my end-of-year book list!

I’m sharing not only my favorite reads of 2017 but the list of every book I read cover to cover.  {If I didn’t read every word, its not on the list.}

Though I hate admitting it, unfinished/abandoned reads are frequent for me, and most often, no reflection on the book.  They’re usually just not for me at that moment.  I’m most definitely not a person who finishes books under any obligation.  {I’ve been known to set aside a book, then pick it up and finish it sometimes years later.}   All of the books I read are minimally a 3 out of 5 stars read because if I’m not interested or connected to a book, I don’t waste time finishing it.

Below my favorite titles are my runner-up faves as well as the list of titles I completed.   The book links are my affiliate links – which if used, may generate pennies of credit back to me, at no additional cost to you.  Affiliate programs help keep my blog lights on, so my sincerest thanks if you use them.

These titles are in no specific order—if they are on the list, they are a favorite.

My FAVORITE 2017 Reads

 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Why I Loved It:

This fast-paced novel sucked me in almost immediately.  I loved this book because I thought about the premise for months after reading it – the trippy theory that there are many alternate universes in which you could be living your life in a million different ways.  This novel utilizes physics theory the way The Martian uses science to drive the plot forward.  This was one of my favorite fiction reads of the year.

 

 

Come To The Edge: A Memoir by Christina Haag

Why I Loved It:

Though I read some amazing memoirs in 2017, I think this might have been my favorite one that has lingered with me the most after reading it.  I discovered this book through an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next.  Episode 62, What Should Anne Read Next?,  found the podcast listeners recommending reads for Anne herself, and the minute I heard the premise of this book, I was intrigued.

The narrative drive and Haag’s beautiful writing were an immediate hook,  as she described a life that was both fascinating and surprisingly relatable.  Though I didn’t grow up in New York City, her journey as an actor resonated with me as a fellow creative.   From the tales of her life on the Upper West Side to her relationship with JFK Jr, and even his mother Jackie, it was the farthest thing from a gratuitous celebrity tell-all, full of honesty and introspection. I hope Haag writes more books because she is a stunning writer.  I will be first in line to read anything else she shares with the world.

 

 

Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro

Why I Loved It:

This may be a cliched way to explain a favorite read, but its TRUE: If you love memoir and you love beautiful writing, you need to read this book!  I’ve become a big fan of Dani Shapiro’s writing in the past few years, starting with Still Writing, and most recently, her memoir on her mid-life faith crisis, Devotion.

All things considered, and her impressive body of work aside, I think Hourglass is her best book yet.  Shapiro is vulnerable and honest as she lays bare scenes of her life and her marriage to screenwriter Michael Maren.  I loved this book because I related to so much of her thought life, though we are different as can be.  I also particularly loved the flow and structure of the book, which could have felt jumbled and confusing without chapters, but is nothing short of miraculous.  From the first page, I couldn’t put it down.  I underlined and took notes about life {and how to write, because she’s amazing} on almost every single page.

 

At Home In the World by Tsh Oxenreider

Why I Loved it:   This memoir will probably stand as one of my favorite travel memoirs I’ve ever read, up there with all-time favorites like Under the Tuscan Sun and Four Seasons In Rome.  I first heard this book was going to happen before Tsh even took her round-the-world romp. I heard Tsh speak of her upcoming adventures at a blogging conference and knew then and there, I would be waiting with bated breath for this book.

I’m happy to say after the year and a half of waiting for this book, it didn’t disappoint in the least.   Tsh and her family traveled the world for an entire calendar year, as their online businesses allow them the incredible luxury of working remotely.  I appreciated the details about each place, randomly underlining passages that reminded me of my past world travels.    I also loved that I found myself completely wrapped in her story without any envy or traveling FOMO. (I’m not proud to admit to at least a few cases of FOMO when hearing of extreme traveling adventures  I’d love to take.)  Though I don’t have children, those with a family who feel that this type of epic adventure would not be possible will find inspiration and practical examples of how it can be done.

 

 

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A Flynn

Why I Loved it:   Can we first just take a moment and gush at the BEAUTY of this cover?! {#swoon}  I am the first to admit that my A-D-D tendencies apply to my fiction reading.  If I start a novel and am not IMMEDIATELY swept up in the story–well, all I can say is ‘Bye Felicia’.  I first heard about this book from Anne Bogel’s  Summer Reading Guide last year, and it only took a quick sample on my Kindle to add this to my Amazon shopping cart.

Though I prefer Austen movies to books, this novel sucked me in right away because I connected to the heroine Rachel, and was interested where her relationship with fellow scientist and travel companion Liam was going to go.  I also enjoyed the element of magical realism meets sci-fi, as this pair of scientists travels back in time to meet Jane Austen and her family and influence circumstances in her life that affect future events.  Farfetched?  Maybe, but I was hooked from the first few pages, and was able to suspend disbelief because of the crystal clear prose and interesting historical details in Jane Austen’s world.   This is the perfect beach read, and I hope first-time fiction author {and New York Times writer} Flynn is working on another book because I’m a fan.

 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Why I Loved it:  I’ll be honest, a book with this type of cover is not my usual go-to fiction pick, as it conjures up in my mind Harlequin romance.   {Isn’t it beautiful though?  Once I started reading this book, I gained an appreciation for the cover stylization.}  This is the PERFECT beach/summer read!  I read it in the middle of July at a family reunion, and {no lie!} I had to force myself to attend reunion events because all I wanted to do was curl up and binge read this fascinating story!

The plot involves a woman hired by a famous aging actress to write the details of her life in a tell-all biography, but that’s just the jumping off point.  The details of both stories– the woman writing the book and the celebrity herself–are not what you’d expect, and their stories merge in a fascinating way.  I don’t want to give too much away with this novel, just know if you like a good story that grabs you from the get-go, add this one to your summer reading stack.

 

Goodbye To All That: Writers On Loving & Leaving New York; edited by Sari Botton

Why I Loved it:  This essay collection will forever have a special place in my heart.  I picked up my copy in New York City, at the famous New York Public Library bookshop. {One of the BEST places as far as I’m concerned, for book lover souvenirs in Manhattan.}

I was in New York this summer to write, and specifically, to write about a time in my life, when I lived in Gotham.  Every single one of these essays had at least one nugget of wisdom, reflection or revelation about living in and leaving New York that pulled at my heartstrings.  As an actor who once dreamed big dreams in NYC, each of these writer’s stories felt painfully familiar.  This book was also a master class on the art of the essay, for a novice writer like me.   If you have interest in the subject matter, you won’t be able to put this one down.

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Why I Loved it:  I hesitated to read this novel when it first exploded onto the bestseller scene, and as soon as I picked it up, I wondered why I took so long to read such a fun romp and loving ode to 80’s culture.  This book is being made into a movie by Steven Spielberg, coming to the big screen in spring of 2018, so if you love reading the book before the movie, pick this one up immediately.

Set in an apocalyptic future where the world sustains itself in virtual reality, this read was both futuristic and fascinating, yet felt chillingly close to a version of reality perhaps even just a few generations from now.  I rooted for the hero in this story, and read aloud many of the 80s references to my husband with glee. (Who, as a rare reader, is now is reading it.)  This was just plain fun, and one of the quickest fiction reads of my year.

 

Runner-Up Favorites

What Falls From the Sky: How I Disconnected From the Internet & Reconnected with the God Who Made the Clouds by Esther Emery

Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature; edited by Meredith Maran

Fast Talk & Faith (A Gilmore Girls Devotional) by Mary Carver

 

The rest of the titles I read in 2017 {These are listed in the order I read them and I enjoyed every one!}:

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Chasing Slow: Courage To Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner

The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper by Sark

What Now? by Ann Patchett

English Lessons by Andrea Lucado

Holy Is the Day: Living In the Gift of the Present by Carolyn Weber

The Writer’s Desk by Jill Krementz

The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith

Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave

Devotion by Dani Shapiro

Murder On the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love & Heartbreak In the Stacks by Annie Spence

Letters To A Young Writer by Colum McCann

Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly

 

What did YOU read in 2017? 

Let me know in the comments below!

 

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