I am so excited to share my selections for best books of 2017. It is always incredibly difficult to narrow down my favorites and this year, in particular, is a tough one because of all the incredible books that came out this year. After reading 100 books this year (!!!), I am looking forward to sharing the books that I can’t stop talking about.
A Few Quick Reflections on My Year in Reading
Joining GoodReads has been an incredible motivator to keep on track with my reading goals. As you can see, I am reading more and more each year and trying to keep reading a priority and goal. I doubled the amount of books I read from 2014 to 2017. How do I read so much? You might find this article helpful!
It is also no surprise that this was my highest amount of pages read. GoodReads offers a great end-of-year report to reflect back on your reading which gives you an opportunity to reflect on your favorite books of the year.
Traditionally, I move my goals up for the next year, but I have decided to stick to 100 again for 2018. I felt a little rushed at the end and it impacted my book choices and enjoyment of the books because I wanted to just hurry up and read so I could make it across the finish line. If I’m on a faster pace than I expect, that will just be a bonus next year!
If you want to see more of what I am reading, please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.
Looking to add some variety to your stack? Feel free to join our book club! I announced our selections (starting with this one) and you can find them pinned at the top of the group page. These will be added in a blog entry for January, but book club participants get the list a little earlier. It’s just one more perk to enjoy with this free club!
PS- I know I have had MULTIPLE requests that we offer another reading challenge sheet for the year. I am working on that for you so please stay tuned! I’m so happy to hear you found the 2017 reading challenge printable to be so much fun to work through! The feedback has been that it was challenging, but maybe a little TOO challenging so it will be a shorter one for next year with categories provided by our book club members- woohoo!
Let’s get to it-
The Best Books of 2017:
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
This book was just EVERYTHING and reminded me a lot of one of my all-time favorites , A Little Life. At almost 600 pages, I was worried if this book would hold my attention, but Boyne crafts the perfect boyhood friendship as it sprawls decades of time in this gorgeous and gripping saga.
You may be familiar with Boyne’s work, but I was not. I picked this book up on a whim and devoured it in just a few days.
A faithful Catholic Irish family casts out their daughter when they discover she is pregnant. Knowing she is not in a position to raise a child alone, she gives him up for adoption to his new parents…
That love to remind him that he is not their real son.
He is their adopted son.
This dark humor is layered so beautifully as the boy, Cyril, becomes dear friends with a boy named Julian. The problem is, as Cyril gets older, he realizes he has a deep and undying love for his best friend. Cyril must keep his sexuality under wraps and keep his affection for him a secret which ends up costing him a lot.
The book follows these two through the decades, beginning in 1945 and ending in Cyril’s elderly age. It finishes in the present day while tackling everything from being closeted to the AIDS epidemic to what it really means to be family.
I laughed and got a little teary-eyed following Cyril as he goes through this identity crisis and finds love. I was really swept away in this story and Boyne builds a beautiful supportive cast.
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about Goodbye,Vitamin, but I noticed it had made its way on so many best-of lists this year that I just had to read it.
I am not a big fan of correspondence or diary entry books, but it works SO well in this smart, funny, and heartwarming story of a 30-year-old daughter who returns to live at home and care for her father with Alzheimer’s, following a break-up with her fiancée.
Told in sparse quips, Khong breathes fresh air into new ways to think about life and love lost. Sentences like, “You know what else is unfair, about Joel? That I loosened the jar lid, so somebody else could open him up,” or, “It was grotesque, the way I kept trying to save that relationship. Like trying to tuck an elephant into pants,” beg you to read them twice.
Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge
I’m a sucker for a good love story and I can’t rave enough about the beauty of, Castle of Water. I knew that this would be on the top ten list of 2017 and I have a feeling, if you read it, it will be on yours too.
A small plane crashes in the middle of the South Pacific leaving two of the passengers stranded as they both washed ashore on a small island. If you think this sounds a bit predictable, I did too, but Huckelbridge writes a story that is anything BUT predictable as the two castaways work together to try to remain alive in the face of numerous hurdles.
The writing is surprisingly witty and laugh-out-loud funny, while still giving you that ache in your heart at all they have lost. Being stranded on an island requires a writer to really drive this story with strong characters. This character development is the heart of the story as these two seem to lift off the pages.
While the ending didn’t bring all that I had hoped, it felt truthful to the storytelling and didn’t overshadow this beautiful story! Run, run, run and get this one!
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Before We Were Yours absolutely blew me away and is a book that brings ALL THE FEELINGS, if you are looking for a historical fiction escape that will absolutely crush you.
Wingate shares the story of two little girls who become a part of one of America’s most notorious real life scandals of children being kidnapped and sold to wealthy families by Georgia Tann, a director of a Memphis-based adoption organization in the late 1930’s.
I was unfamiliar with the scandal or the heartbreaking stories of children being separated from their families and the tragic things they had to endure while under Tann’s horrific care.
This fictional story is built around the stories of real-life orphans and will just rip your heart to shreds. Moving backward and forward through time, the reader gets to solve the mystery of two unlikely women with a bond that could never be broken and the granddaughter that must unravel it all, even at the expense of her family’s high society position.
I predicted that this would be in my top ten reads this year. Beautifully written and researched, it pulled all the right heartstrings.
Note- triggers include physical and sexual abuse.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Everything I Never Told You was Celeste Ng’s gorgeous debut (you can read my interview with her over here) and I couldn’t wait to see what she had next in store for us. I was thrilled when the publishing house reached out to see if I would like to take a peek at her next book and this one did not disappoint.
This novel is a perfect read for Jodi Picoult fans as it explores the intertwining stories of a picture-perfect family and a single mother & child who end up disrupting what has always seemed ideal.
The book is set in a suburban bubble where a wealthy family, The Richardsons, reside. Always with good intentions, they love to help others and one of the ways they help them is by offering a rental home to deserving recipients at an affordable cost so that they can get back on their feet again.
Mia Warren is the lucky recipient of this rental, where she can make rent doing odd jobs so she can pursue her true passion for photography and art. When the Richardson family also happens to have an opening for a housekeeper, they bring Mia further into their lives as Pearl & Mia become fixtures in their home. Everything seems ideal about this family and Pearl, her daughter, immediately is drawn to them and their idyllic life.
Yet, when close friends of the wealthy family decides to adopt a Chinese American baby, sides are quickly drawn leaving Mia & Pearl on the opposing side. It is when the battle becomes fierce that secrets began to unravel and true feelings begin to erupt. And there are secrets….a LOT of secrets.
This is a heartstring puller that I devoured in a little over a day. It would lend itself really well to a lively book club discussion if you are looking for something fresh to add to your group that is guaranteed to get your book club members chatting!
The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall
I love quirky stories that are big on humor and The Book of Polly was everything a good read should be. Beautifully developed characters, loads of hilarity, and Hepinstall’s choice of words and phrasing make these characters, truly, come to life.
Polly has an unexpected surprise in her late fifties and gives birth to her daughter, Willow. Polly is not like any mother that Willow knows at school and the reader experiences her pride and shame at just how little she does fit in. One of Willow’s biggest worries is Polly dying and when she ends up being diagnosed with cancer, it is like her worst fears coming true.
Polly’s not going to exit this world quietly though and Willow decides she wants to know more about Polly’s life from her younger years which lead them on an epic road trip.
I laughed out loud through this book and kept reading passages to my husband who laughed alongside me. Fans of Be Frank With Me and Whistling Past the Graveyard are FOR SURE going to love this hilarious read! I just knew that this would be on the top ten list this year!
Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
I have read a couple of Sullivan’s books and enjoyed them, but this book is unlike anything she has written before and is an exquisite escape that I think most readers will love. This story reads like Brooklyn had a baby with The Two-Family House so if you enjoyed those, don’t miss this one!
This story explores the lives of two sisters who come to America in the late fifties. One sister is wildly enjoying her newfound freedom while the other is promised to marry a boy she doesn’t love, but finds the responsible sister role to be an easier one. When Theresa, the “fun” sister, ends up pregnant, her sister comes up with a plan to save her reputation while making sure her son is loved and safe.
The book explores the past and present as each sister makes life-altering decisions that lead them down very different paths. When Nora’s son dies, it brings the two sisters back together again while unleashing a load of family secrets in the process.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I have read every single book that Taylor Jenkins Reid has written and I have loved each of them in their own way. This book is markedly different than anything she has ever written and is an absolutely spellbinding book filled with old Hollywood glamour, celebrity secrets, and the power of real and true love.
Evelyn Hugo is an aging starlet who has decided to hire a magazine reporter to write her biography. As someone who has been very private, it is the chance of a lifetime for a virtually unknown writer to be given the story that is worth millions of dollars.
Evelyn’s love life has been something that Hollywood has often been speculated on, but no one could ever guess who captured Evelyn’s heart and how she was able, at times, to make her relationship work with the love of her life. Unfortunately, living in the spotlight often gets in the way of real living. This couldn’t be truer in Evelyn’s life and she is ready to divulge all of her secrets to Monique, in exchange for her writing her biography and publishing it upon her death.
I cannot rave enough about Reid’s ability to write real and relatable love stories. Each of her love stories has connected with me in some way and this book is no exception. I was swept away in Evelyn’s retelling of her life and Reid weaves smart plot twists in the end that I have a feeling you will really enjoy. In fact, I’m still thinking about them.
You must add this book to your book stacks stat!
Setting Free the Kites by Alex George
If you haven’t read Alex George’s first book, please do add it to your reading list- it’s beautiful! In his second novel, George weaves a gorgeous coming-of-age story, set in the late 70’s, that chronicles the life and friendship of two boys that find each other in their eighth grade year. This friendship blossoms as a tragic event unfolds in each family’s life and brings them closer together.
It’s hard to say more about this so you can be surprised by these tragic twists, but the setting and characters are so beautifully written that your heart will quickly be wrapped up in this sweet story.
This book reminded me a lot of Ordinary Grace, in what appears to be a simple story, but is told with such beauty, heart, and soul that you can’t help but fall in love with this book . Be sure to have a box of tissues as you read this one as this book dives deep into heartbreak and loss.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Although I have been a big fan of his work on The Daily Show, I have an entirely new respect for Trevor Noah and the survival skills he used during his youth in apartheid South Africa, thanks to his incredible memoir, “Born a Crime.”
Noah is truly, “born a crime,” because his birth is seen as a criminal act since he was born to a white father and black mother. To keep him from not being rounded up for an orphanage, he often was sidelined indoors instead of playing outside with his peers. His mother also employed survival techniques, like pretending to be his maid instead of his mother, to just be able to play at the park with her son.
The reader is taken through the story of his childhood that, even in its darker moments, Noah manages to add heart and humor to each and every story. This brave little mischievous boy’s story will pull at every heartstring and illustrates why he is now so passionate about politics and the world.
DO get this one on audiobook to appreciate every nuance and accent that Noah can bring to the table. It’s like listening to the most polished standup comedy routine to hear him read this out loud.
As soon as I finished it, I just wanted to listen to it all over again.
2017 Honorable Mentions (you know I can’t just narrow my list down to ten, right?)
Need More Book Ideas? Here are my top ten lists from the past seven years!!