I read 44 books this year! Not nearly as many as I would have liked to read, but it’s more than I read last year, so I consider that a successful year of reading.
Like last year I’m going to wrap up the year by picking my favorite…but unlike last year I do not want to shout from the rooftops about the best book of the year (according to me:) Perhaps that book (for me) is still out there somewhere, and I just didn’t come across it yet.
My technique for picking favorites is imagining I can only keep 5 of the books I read in my bookcases – because a true test of the books I love is that I want to keep them in my collection.
So with the disclaimer that I did not read even close to ALL the books (who can??) here are my favorite books that were published in 2017 :
Culturally and emotionally fulfilling, The Prague Sonata: A Novel is a quest set around music and war.
A young musicologist receives a gift of a hauntingly beautiful 18th century sonata manuscript, with the request she locate the other two movements to the sonata and put it into the hands original owner who separated it during WWII to protect it from the Nazis. The work is clearly the composition of a master composer but who?? And because the manuscript obviously has value she isn’t the only one trying to locate it.
If you read the goodreads reviews on Manhattan Beach you will see varied and strong opinions. Many people who loved Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Visit from the Goon Squad, did not like this one. But you can count me in the group who loved this newer book, only the second I’ve read off my fall/winter reading list. In fact I was excited to also add it to my WWII reading list.
“With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Jennifer Egan’s first historical novel is a world of gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men.”
As the above note from the publisher implies, a lot is going on in this book. There is a family story, a strong woman helping the war effort story (the main character is the first female Naval diver), a love story about the sea, and a gangster plot that is integrated into all these other stories. It is sometimes a light read and sometimes not. Parts of it reminded me of several different books, but taken all together I have not read anything like it ( a good thing!).
For me it all worked, and in fact it is one of my favorite books of the year though I still feel my favorite is out there somewhere waiting for me to read it…
I finished reading Love and Other Consolation Prizes: A Novel by Jamie Ford just in time to meet him at my local library. And I just bought his other two books, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (a bestseller), and Songs of Willow Frost so I could get them signed by him before reading them too.
RELATED POST: Meeting the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Sympathizer
The themes of his books appear to revolve around Asian immigrants in Seattle and the stories are on the “sentimental” side, maybe a bit too much for me. But I did still really enjoy this book, which is about a young boy, Ernest, who is auctioned off at the 1902 Worlds Fair to a lady who runs a brothel. The boy ends up loving his new and glamorous life as a houseboy and later a driver for this brothel.
I just finished a wonderful book, one I couldn’t put down and one that made me laugh and cry: The Heart’s Invisible Furies: A Novel is a perfect example of why I love to read new books.
The heart of this novel by John Boyne, known for his bestselling novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is set Ireland, and even when the characters leave Ireland, it is still a novel about Ireland.
I needed a couple of days to work out my feelings for “Denny Malone,” the good cop/bad cop character in The Force: A Novel. Whatever I end up thinking of Malone, a fictional character, it is a testament to a writer and a book that I was so conflicted.
This book was included on my summer reading list and is one of the last I’m finishing up before moving on to making a fall reading list. (My summer reading list is updated with several reviews and reflections.)
Denny Malone is a bad cop in the way that he takes bribes, takes money and drugs from crime scenes, and even sells the drugs back to the street. He does this all supposedly to “provide for his family” even though he usually chooses not to see them. These are some of the problems I have with Denny Malone. Also that “The fuck” without a question mark is often the way he asks a question in the dialogue.
American War: A novel is imaginative and terrifying.
Set from 2075 – 2175, the former “United States” is separated into the “Red” southern states and the “Blue” northern states. They separated over fossil fuels – the reds wanted to keep using, and the blues did not. But now, so much more separates them as they fight a violent civil war.
Also in this new world — a map is included at the front of the book — Florida is completely gone (it fell into the ocean) as is much of Louisiana. South Carolina is completely quarantined for a disease. Scared yet? Recent events (both political and environmental) make this an even more disturbing read.
I added If the Creek Don’t Rise: A Novel to my summer reading list because the setting and description reminded me of Hillbilly Elegy.
This book is fiction, but many of the themes are the same as in Elegy: people in isolated communities, living in poverty, with addiction and violence, and no easy way out.
I was pleasantly surprised by this novel, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
First of all, It includes strong women characters, one is Sadie, who has followed the usual path in marrying a bad husband too young, but she has a plan. And another character who isn’t even mentioned in the publisher’s notes, Miss Shaw, a teacher who comes to the area to attempt to make a difference, was my favorite. No previous teacher has lasted very long in this area.
I stepped away from my summer reading list to read (quickly!!) some non-fiction: Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are.
The author, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, spent several years analyzing Google data.
What is Google data? It is that phrase or question you type into the search bar in the privacy of your own computer or device.
Would you tell people everything you ask google? Probably not. And thus the appeal of this book (to me anyway). I wanted to know what people are asking Google!! Stephens-Davidowitz takes it further, of course, to explain how this data can be used.
The latest selection from my summer reading list is engrossing, informational, and timely; you’ll want to read this before August 21.
He Said/She Said is a psychological thriller set around a complete solar eclipse and characters who chase this phenomenon.
In 1999, Kit and Laura attend the eclipse festival in Cornwall, England. After they behold this rare and beautiful event, Laura witnesses a crime that has lasting implications on their lives and relationship.
The story models the five stages of an eclipse. As usual in modern thrillers (at least the ones I have read), it is told with alternating points of view and chopped-up time frames. This format has become the norm, I suppose, because it usually works to keep the pages turning.