Favorites From 2017

Happy New Year & 2018! I’ve been looking back at what I read and listened to last year and came up with these numbers and favorites below. I finished two books during the Christmas holiday — the first being Sebastian Barry’s novel “Days Without End,” which is a pretty violent frontier saga set during the American Indian and Civil Wars that surprisingly snuck up on me in a good way. I also read classicist Mary Beard’s short book “Women & Power: A Manifesto,” which is based on a series of lectures she gave, that is very timely and astute. So alas, I ended the year having completed 61 books — not much for some per se, but perfect for me. It was a great reading year.

It’s sort of hard to pick book favorites, though for some reason nonfiction was easier for me to pick this year — as I thought Jeffrey Toobin’s “American Heiress” and Jeannette Walls’s memoir “The Glass Castle” were easily 5-star, outstanding reads. I don’t know why I waited till this past year to read them. As for my three top fiction picks, I decided to go with novels that pleasantly surprised me in ways that I did not expect. It’s always neat to come across a book where you’re not expecting much and then boom: you’re taken away by it, or awed in a way that’s way beyond what you imagined. The three picks also dealt with timely issues in clever and heartrending ways, which completely captured me. So congrats to them and to my top pick Kamila Shamsie’s “Home Fire”  for making my reading experience so awesome this year — as well as my honorable mentions.

In the final section below, I break the books I read in 2017 into categories to see what kinds of books I’m mostly picking up. And it seems I’m quite balanced between books from female and male authors, and it’s true too that I seem to be a contemporary literary fiction kind of reader that enjoys a good story no matter the genre or topic. Take a look at my 2017 lineup:

  • Books Completed in 2017 : 61
  • Fiction: 49
  • Nonfiction: 12
  • Print: 32
  • Audiobooks: 29
  • Female authors: 33
  • Male authors: 28
  • American authors: 39
  • Canadian authors: 7
  • British authors: 5
  • Asian authors: 5
  • European authors: 2
  • African authors: 2
  • Australian : 1

Favorite Fiction:

  1. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (2017)
  2. Purity by Jonathan Franzen (2015)
  3. Brother by David Chariandy (2017)

Honorable Mentions:

  •  The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (2016)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (2017)
  •  A Separation by Katie Kitamura (2017)

Favorite General Nonfiction: 

  1. American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin (2016)
  2. The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman (2007)
  3. The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel (2017)
  4. Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard (2017)

Favorite Memoirs:

  1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (2005)
  2.  Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (2016)
  3.  Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal Al-Sharif (2017)
  4. It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario (2015)
  5. Unstoppable: My Life So Far by Maria Sharapova (2017)
  6. I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives    by Roberto Canessa (2016)
  7. Reckless: My Life as a Pretender by Chrissie Hynde (2015)
  8. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (2017)

Favorite Classics:

  1. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (1911)
  2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
  3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908)

Favorite Debuts: 

  1. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (2017)
  2. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (2017)
  3. Holding by Graham Norton (2017)
  4. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (2017)

Favorite Fiction Audiobooks:

  1. The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens (2014)
  2. Holding by Graham Norton (2017)
  3. The Circle by Dave Eggers (2013)
  4. Purity by Jonathan Franzen (2015)
  5. Sourdough by Robin Sloan (2017)
  6. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (2013)
  7.  A Separation by Katie Kitamura (2017)

Satirical/Funny or Quirky Novels:

  • Sourdough by Robin Sloan (2017)
  • The Circle by Dave Eggers (2013)
  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner (2014)
  • All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg (2017)
  • Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis (2015)

Novels Made into Movies or TV shows: both read & watched:

  • The Zookeeper’s Wife
  • The Sense of an Ending
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • The Glass Castle
  • The Nightingale (movie coming in 2019)
  • Last Days of Night (movie coming in 2018)

Darkest Bleakest Stories or Endings:

  • American War by Omar El Akkad (2017)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (2017)
  • Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (1911)
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (2017)

Novels involving Family Ties:

  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2017)
  • Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong (2017)
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (2017)
  • The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol (2017)
  • Benediction by Kent Haruf (2013)
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (2013)
  • Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler (2010)
  • Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan (2017)
  • Before the Wind by Jim Lynch (2016)
  • Everybody’s Son by Thrity Umrigar (2017)
  • The Locals by Jonathan Dee (2017)

Coming of Age Novels:

  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (2017)
  • Brother by David Chariandy (2017)
  • Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen (2016)
  • The Unseen World by Liz Moore (2016)

Mysteries and/or Crime Novels:

  • The Dry by Jane Harper (2017)
  • The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (2017)
  • Holding by Graham Norton (2017)
  • The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens (2014)
  • Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane (2017)
  • Bear Town by Fredrik Backman (2017)

War, Terrorism & Immigration Novels:

  • 

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (2017)
  • The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller (2017)
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (2015)
  • The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (2016)
  • American War by Omar El Akkad (2017)
  • The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (2017)
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (2017)
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (2017)

Relationship Novels:

  • White Fur by Jardine Libaire (2017)
  • The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close (2017)
  • The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (2016)
  • Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebeyo (2017)
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011)
  • A Separation by Katie Kitamura (2017)
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk (2015)

Historical Fiction & Science Novels:

  • Last Days of Night by Graham Moore (2017)
  • The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron (2017)
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017)

Short Story Collections:

  • Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides (2017)
  • The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel (2016)

Favorite 2017 Movies I’ve seen so far:

  1. Darkest Hour
  2. Dunkirk
  3.  Mudbound
  4. Battle of the Sexes
  5. Get Out
  6. The Glass Castle

(I haven’t seen “Lady Bird,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” or “The Post” yet among others)

Favorite 2017 Albums:

  1.  U2: “Songs of Experience”
  2. Rose Cousins: “Natural Conclusion”
  3. The Weather Station: “The Weather Station”

What about you — did you like or dislike any of these? Or what were your favorites for 2017?

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23 Responses to Favorites From 2017

  1. Brian Joseph says:

    You read an impressive list of books. Many of them I want to read also. I will probably read American War soon. I read less books then you did. I take solace in the fact that I read a lot of long books.

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    PS – Happy reading in 2018 and Happy New Year’s!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Brian. Happy New Year to you as well. I think you read more classics, histories & sci-fi than I do — all of which take more time than what I read. I’m impressed by the classics you read. I need to add a few more of those to my yearly reading. Beware of the ending on American War. Cheers.

  3. I read The Glass Castle years ago and loved it. Hillbilly Elegy will be on my list of favorites. Happy New Year!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Kathy, so glad I finally got to the Glass Castle, what a writer! & I agree that Hillbilly Elegy was quite good; his life is quite a phenomenal story; it surprised me. & I enjoyed it. Happy 2018 to you!

  4. Carmen says:

    Happy New Year, Susan! You read an impressive amount and great quality too. Me, not so much. I noticed that some titles in different lists overlap. Here’s to 2018 being equally good or even better reading-wise, as well as in any other area of your personal life. 🙂

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks much Carmen. I’m glad you told me there was an overlap — I’ve gone back & cut some of those out — but I’m still pondering about Home Fire … it’s a bit family ties and also terrorism, hmm. I enjoyed your titles & themes that you explored this year on your site. I liked the connections & areas you covered that I never got to. Happy 2018 to you.

  5. Hi Susan, Happy New Year! May 2018 be filled with books and bicycle rides and memorable moments. This survey is fantastic. You have read fantastic books in 2017 and of course, some lovely movies. I have added some of your books to my list. I hope to share my thoughts soon.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Deepika — thanks much. If I hadn’t written down my 2017 reads & books on Goodreads during the year, I would never have been able to remember or do this list! I hope we both get in a lot of good bike rides & reading for 2018! I will think of you in India there — bicycling when I am. Right now there’s too much snow though, ha! Happy New Year to you.

  6. Judy Krueger says:

    Your reading list is so full of great books. You know how to pick them! I just got Home Fire from the library, after a long wait. I too enjoyed the movie adaptations of The Glass Castle and The Zookeeper’s Wife. I loved that you did stats too. Because so do I!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Judy, luckily I noted books down on Goodreads this year or else I’d never be able to list any stats. It took a while to compile, lol. I hope you like Home Fire but I’m okay if it’s not your cup of tea. One blogger told me she didn’t like it, so who knows. I both read it and listened to it, ha — so it must have gotten to me somehow.

  7. Darlene says:

    Wow Susan!! What a great list!! Congratulations on a super reading year!
    I read 28 this year, which is about average for me because even though I read eveeyday and I love it, I am s-l-o-w. Im so jealous of people who can read a novel in a day or two. So I choose my titles carefully. This year though, I feel a surge coming on and I’ve started out strong. I’m inspired!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Darlene, yeah if you start the year inspired I’m sure your reading will gain in bounds. I’m quite slow myself so I have to make sure to dedicate time to it each day. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Laila says:

    As a newer reader of your blog, I didn’t know you were a U2 fan! I adore their new album. They’re one of my two favorite musical acts (along with Bruce Springsteen.)

    I’m also a big fan of The Stranger in the Woods – it made my top ten list for the year. I want to read Alexie’s memoir, and Home Fire and Brother are on my TBR as well.

    You’ve had a great reading year! Hope 2018 is just as good!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Laila thanks, it seems our musical tastes are aligned since I’m a huge U2 & Springsteen fan. Hooray. The Stranger in the Woods was interesting read; I enjoyed the author’s research into hermitic life. I hope you have great reading in 2018 as well!

  9. The Stranger in the Woods and Daring to Drive were two of my favorites as well. Women and Power is on my TBR list. I almost bought a copy a few weeks ago but was distracted by other feminist books (namely, Rebecca Solnit).

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Kate, thanks for stopping by and for the tip about Rebecca Solnit’s book. I will have to check it out. I’m a bit sad your leaving your website but wish you well with your new endeavors. I think I learned about Daring to Drive perhaps from your site — so then I got it and liked it. Happy 2018 to you.

  10. You had a great reading year, and I hope that 2018 will be just as great for you! At a quick glance, I think I read only Beartown and Fifteen Dogs from your list, but I liked both of those.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks TJ. I was at least somewhat steady last year in reading. Truth be told, I wasn’t thrilled with Beartown but I thought Fifteen Dogs was quite clever & astute. Happy reading to you in 2018!

  11. I must have missed this post during our packing and travels last week, but you’ve had a very impressive year! Your picks always get special attention since our reading tastes so often coincide. I wrote off American Heiress after reading a few lukewarm reviews, but will put it back on my list now. Have also added Home Fire and Brother (when it becomes available)… and I STILL haven’t read Purity after purchasing a hardcover the day it was released. Sigh.
    Happy 2018, Susan!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi JoAnn, thanks. I think you’d like the audio of American Heiress – as I tore through it. The days of Patty Hearst were just crazy. Get that audio for sure, ha! Enjoy your reading in 2018. Home Fire & Brother captured me too.

  12. Naomi says:

    I enjoyed reading the breakdown of your reading… it’s interesting to look at it all in more detail, isn’t it?
    I’m happy to see that Brother was a favourite. And I’ll have to be sure to add Home Fire to my list!
    My daughter and I watched The Circle on the weekend. We liked it, but were kind of confused at the end as to what actually happened. It seemed like there should have been more to it. But maybe I just don’t understand all that crazy tech stuff. Have you seen the movie yet? I’m curious to know how it compares to the book.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Naomi, thanks for your thoughts on The Circle. I guess I was bombarded by negative reviews of the movie so I never saw it (even though it’s on TV now). I think the book & movie diverged quite a bit. I’m guessing where the book was a satire mostly, the movie tried to become a thriller-ish thing. I’m trying hard to recall the ending of the book; I think it became pretty crazy at the end, but I liked the gist of the satire about tech & social media stuff on our lives (having to be seen & heard all the time & what that does etc.). Maybe I should watch the movie?

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