I’m usually set to go with my year in review posts on January 1, but I have been BUSY lately. I’m trying my hardest to finish a king-sized quilt in time to enter it into my first ever quilt show (and of course I’m doing everything at the last minute…though in my defense, this thing has been a work in progress since June). My apologies for the late start!
I had a pretty good year in reading in 2017, though I must admit I was more partial to my nonfiction reading. Still, there were definitely some standouts. In an unlikely twist of events, two westerns won my heart in 2017. The first three books listed are my favorites of the year; everything else is listed in alphabetical order:
The Son by Philipp Meyer (2013)
Spanning three generations, The Son is a Texas-sized story about the rise of the McCullough family. The earliest generation battled Comanches and Mexicans to keep their ranch, while the last generation in the book battled environmentalists and fellow oil tycoons to hold on to their vast fortunes. I listened to it on audiobook, which gave me the added delight of listening to Will Patton and Kate Mulgrew narrate some of the story. It’s a gorgeous book.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (2015)
Civilization has long since collapsed, and the world is on the verge of ending again. Essun, a woman with secret abilities that are feared by all, is now just trying to pick up the pieces of her life. Her husband has murdered her son and kidnapped her daughter, so she’s on a quest to find them. It’s a really smart, mesmerizing book to lose yourself in.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles (2016)
Captain Kidd is hired to take a young orphan girl from Wichita Falls to her surviving relatives San Antonio; she was recently rescued from captivity with the Kiowa Indians and doesn’t understand her old life anymore. They’re an odd pair who form a unique bond along the way. It’s a quiet but entertaining book that was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (2012)
Aristotle and Dante are two Latino teens who become close friends. Aristotle is a sullen loner while Dante is open, chatty, and kind of weird. Dante is also pretty sure he’s gay. It’s a little ridiculous at times, but it still made my ice cold heart feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Added bonus: If you listen to the audiobook, Lin-Manuel Miranda is the narrator!
Deliverance by James Dickey (1970)
Yup, that Deliverance. Four men, led by a hyper-masculine alpha, decide to be one with nature and go canoeing down a treacherous river in Georgia. Victory is within reach when things take…a turn. The story is stressful and horrifying and and thrilling and often left me going, “TOXIC MASCULINITY. STUPID MEN.” but I loved it.
The Fixer by Bernard Malamud (1966)
Wishing for more in life, Yakov Bok leaves his small village in 1911 and moves to Kiev. He’s a Jewish fixer (handyman) who soon finds himself wrongly accused of a terrible murder. Kiev is in the midst of an uptick in violent anti-Semitism, but throughout his brutal imprisonment, Bok maintains his innocence. It’s one of the most emotionally heavy books I read this year, but it’s beautifully written. It won the Pulitzer in 1967.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1856)
Emma Rouault is a starry-eyed girl when she first meets Charles Bovary, but the reality of her subsequent marriage to him squashes any dreams she had of an intellectually stimulating, worldly life. Her days are painfully dull, and any taste that she does get of a better life always leaves her wanting more. It’s a story of chronic dissatisfaction taken to extremes.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (2017)
Jojo is a young teenager trying to become a man. When his drug-addicted mother comes to take him and his baby sister on a trip to pick up their father from prison, he’s forced to grow up even faster. There are ghosts in this book, and the family is constantly haunted by the past. There is a lot going on with the plot, but it’s all executed very well.
What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller (2003)
Sheba Hart is the young new art teacher at a private school. Months into the school year, everyone is scandalized to learn that she’s been having an affair with one of her students. In the ensuing media circus, her friend (and the book’s narrator), writes an account of everything she knows about Sheba in order to set the record straight. The revelations shock even Sheba.
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (2017)
Dimple has her heart set on attending a competitive summer program for web developers. Her parents have different ideas for her future and are already narrowing the field for an arranged marriage. They agree to let to attend the program, but unbeknownst to Dimple, her intended future husband — the dorky, traditional, hopelessly romantic Rishi — will also be there. The two have a hell of a meet cute.