2017 Book Reflections

booksAll right fellow book worms, time for my annual book reviews/reflection:

I read 71 books in 2017, including:

  • 42 by women (my goal is always at least half by women)
  • 32 by people of color (in April I decided my goal should be at least half by POC, I fell short and will do better in 2018).
  • 39 fiction (including 11 YA & 2 short story collections)
  • 32 nonfiction (including 8 memoirs)

Favorite recommendations:

FICTION:

  1. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas.
    This book is so well-written, timely, and important. At first I was going to list it as the best YA I read this year, but that’s not true enough- it’s one of the BEST books I read this year. I highly recommend it! And shame on Katy, TX ISD for banning it; you cannot sweep police brutality and BLM under the rug. This book tackles it with emotion and grace and Starr Carter (the young protagonist) is beautifully developed.
  2. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
    What an impressive weaving together of narratives and characters spanning 300 years! Brutal history of slavery told from the perspective of people in Ghana and the U.S. and intricate storytelling from multiple generations, complex and rich.
  3. The Nix – Nathan Hill
    I love nonlinear storytelling (a theme in almost all these recommendations) and this is just an all-around humorous and fun read.
  4. Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward
    Beautiful coming-of-age story that tackles challenges of identity and family.
  5. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh – Michael Chabon
    This was a perfect plane read, fun and interesting.
  6. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
    This was a book club favorite for all of us this year! I didn’t like it as much as Ng’s first book, but she does a great job developing the characters and weaving together a simple narrative that feels much more complex.
  7. Bluebird, Bluebird – Attica Locke
    When I was reading it, I thought it was just ok. but it has stuck with me – the descriptions of the small town and the characters were so memorable I felt like I was there. It’s not a perfect book at all, but any book that I think about a month later has done its job.

NONFICTION:

  1. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City – Matthew Desmond
    Ok, this is a brilliant ethnography. The qualitative researcher in me is just so impressed & wants a much more detailed methodology chapter (it’s included in a short appendix)! But also, I learned so much about something I knew very little about & became aware of many biases, ignorance, and blinders I didn’t even know I had. Highly recommend.
  2. Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America – Patrick Phillips
    A really important historical book about the racial cleansing of Forsythe county Georgia that traces several centuries. Really well-researched. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating, I had to turn it off (I listened to the audiobook) several times and just reflect.
  3. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander
    In many ways I already knew the gist of much of this, but I didn’t know the nitty gritty details. I’m really glad I read this because I have a more perceptive and clear understanding of how slavery, Jim Crow, the war on drugs, policing, and the court system are related, as well as the policies that continue to criminalize and marginalize blacks in the U.S. It’s infuriating and such an important read. More academic in nature than Just Mercy (which does something similar, but more in a memoir/storytelling/personal and accessible way), but Alexander’s book works as a nice companion for someone wanting more history/stats/policy analysis.
  4. The History of the World in 6 Glasses – Tom Standage
    This has been on my to-read list for YEARS! It’s a fun, light read that’s very enjoyable and a bit informative.

MEMOIR:

  1. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah
    Incredible storytelling, humor, reflection, and history. I recommend the audio version – there are many, many, languages in this book and it’s great to hear Noah speak them and tell the stories in his own voice. Made me laugh aloud several times.
  2. Love Warrior – Glennon Doyle Melton
    What an honest portrayal of Melton’s struggles. I really related to her in so many ways – and she helped me to better understand struggles that I haven’t personally faced, but friends have. I love her candid introspection.

ACADEMIC/THEORY:

  1. Living a Feminist Life – Sara Ahmed
    So beautiful. So poignant. So insightful. So much what I –
    needed. It’s not even that I learned all that much (it would work well for someone new or new-ish to feminist theory), but it’s really nice to read something that gives language to your own thoughts and struggles in a way you had previously been unable to do. Reading the reviews, I guess not everyone appreciates her writing style – but I LOVED it.

Most Disappointing/Not Recommend:

  1. Uncommon Types: Some Stories – Tom Hanks
  2. Before the Fall – Noah Hawley
  3. Sex Object – Jessica Valenti

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