The 7 best books I read this year

I read. A lot. This year, seven books earned five-star reviews from me on Goodreads. I know 2017 isn’t over yet, but I’m seeing a lot of year-end lists already, so I thought I’d get going on mine.

These aren’t necessarily the best books of 2017, as many were published earlier. Rather, these are the best books I read this year. They include nonfiction titles as well as some spectacular fiction.

Here they are, in alphabetical order by author. Click on the link to see my brief review:

  1. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman
  2. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  3. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
  4. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
  5. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  6. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  7. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

If you’re only going to read one of these, make it the Coates. If you have time for two, then add Ward’s novel, which just won the National Book Award.



We love to read

Eric and I are so proud of the progress Sophie has made with reading during the past few months. She has had a small roster of sight words for more than a year and quickly began building on that list once kindergarten began. Now we’re seeing her developing an ability (and a willingness) to sound out words and read not just sentences but even whole books. Sophie and I read from the Junie B. Jones series most nights before bed. She has also started working her way through many of the early-reader books on her shelf. You can get a feel for Sophie’s progress in this video of her reading the super-suspenseful Mittens.

Not to be outdone, Charlotte now wants to “read” by herself, too. She isn’t yet in complete command of the alphabet, but that doesn’t stop her from mimicking her big sister. See for yourself in this video, in which she “reads” Goodnight Moon, one of her all-time favorites.

These aren’t the best books of 2009

I read some fantastic books this year. Some I gulped down quickly (like The River Wife by Jonis Agee); others required a bit of a warm up (like The Book Thief by Markus Zusak) but then proved quite enjoyable.

And then there’s a third category: The books I began but never got around to finishing. Four of them for 2009, to be precise. They mock me as they sit on the shelf, bookmarks tucked into place, waiting for me to return. They all came highly recommended; I’m sure they’re all wonderful books. But they’re just not doing anything for me, and I’ve decided to admit defeat and start 2010 with a clean slate.

Here they are, in no particular order: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz; Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi; and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen.

I know, I know. Greg Mortensen? He’s so inspiring! Junot Diaz is an incredible author! Yada, yada, yada. I just can’t seem to get into these books. Maybe it’s my mommy brain, which used to be able to digest the entire Iliad in a day or two and now is crammed full of the entire Fancy Nancy series. Maybe it’s my work, which requires me to read scientific papers and journal articles. Maybe I spend too much time on Facebook.

But maybe, just maybe, there’s nothing wrong with me. These books are good books; I’m still a good reader. We’re just not a good match for each other. Ah well.

Just to assure you (and me) that I haven’t given up on reading, here are some of the books I did finish (and enjoy) this year: That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo; The Best American Science Writing 2008; Unwind by Neal Shusterman; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer; The Last Secret: A Novel by Mary McGarry Morris; Peace Like a River by Leif Enger; When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris; The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger; Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut; My Life in France by Julia Child; The River Wife by Jonis Agee; New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer; Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson;  and The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.