2017: The Book Report


2017 was a weird reading year for me—I actually read 38 books (a lame amount to many of my reading friends but pretty huge for me) and most likely would have surpassed 45 if I hadn't decided on a whim that I would start rereading Harry Potter from beginning to end. I am a slow reader when I get overly busy, and in 2017, overly busy was an understatement. Here is where I should point out that Bridget decided on a whim to read Harry Potter from beginning to end TWICE this year and just lapped me for a second time. I would get after her for reading it twice so close together (and probably for the 12th time overall) but the child probably reads 200 books a year, so whatever. For me, reading Harry Potter (only for the second time) was mostly an act of rebellion and escape. Hogwarts is the most relaxing literary place I can think of, so it served its purpose well. I didn't finish my Book Bingo card for the first time since I started in 2013; I think I was subconsciously rebelling against the sheer volume of scheduled events this year and just couldn't always be reading something that anyone (or any bingo square) was directing me to read. I will finish books 6 and 7 in 2018.

I also read an astonishing number of 5 star books. Lucky me! A few notes on those:

+ March Vol I-III are graphic novels telling the story of John Lewis's life in the Civil Rights Movement; I will never get enough of reading about the Civil Rights Movement. Though I'm not a huge graphic novel fan, these were so well done.


+ Hillbilly Elegy was the first book of the year for my local book club and it's a great book to discuss. Also, very eerie in so many ways to me because of where it's set—because I went to Miami and also spent a summer working with kids from Hamilton and Middletown, I knew many of the geographic references. Some of Matt's family tree follows a similar migration path as the author's relatives, and that was super interesting. It was not exactly a hopeful book, but an important one to at least raise the conversation of struggles in southwestern Ohio and Appalachia overall.


+ The Fortunes: a random library pick because of the cover (superficial but true). I wasn't sure I liked it until I suddenly loved it.


+ Another random library pick because of the cover (and also because I like the author, who often works with Melissa Sweet): The Trial, which is a jFiction book about the Lindbergh kidnapping. I grabbed it because I forgot my actual book on one of the days I had to kill 27 minutes this summer during summer band, and wow was it ever good. I learned a lot about the Lindberghs and of course, the trial that followed the kidnapping. It's an older book, but worth tracking down.


+ Gracie, Bridget, and I read The Crossover together and we all gave it five stars. I LOVE books written in verse.


+ Maddie recommended All We Have Left and I was able to overcome my usual avoidance of YA fiction because it was less about teenage angst and more about September 11. It was very good.


+ While Sara-sitting this summer, I grabbed The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian from Abby's bookshelf and read it in almost one sitting. I've been meaning to read it for years and just... haven't. (See YA avoidance which I probably need to get over once and for all.) It was just so good. Heartbreaking and funny and well-written, just like everyone says it is. I need to listen to everyone more often.


+ I gave Matt News of the World for Christmas last year because the description seemed loosely similar to one of his favorite movies ever, True Grit. It wasn't exactly like that, but it was still excellent–a good, old-fashioned story.


+ I have not yet seen I Am Not Your Negro but after reading all this material that contributed to the making of the documentary, it's high on my list.


+ What would a list of mine be without a Melissa Sweet book on it! Some Writer! is a biography of E.B. White and I LOVED IT. The story, the illustrations, all of it. Other books about E.B. White exist, but no one had as close access to his work as she did, and it shows.


+ I have been impatiently waiting YEARS for Ashes, and was so happy when it finally was released that I almost forgave Laurie Halse Anderson for taking so long to finish her trilogy about the Revolutionary War.


+ It's hard to pick a top book of 2017 because I read so many good ones, but The Hate U Give is definitely up there in the top three for me. It isn't an easy book, but it is timely and so well-written that you fall into the story like I imagine putting on virtual reality gear must feel like. It's a read-it-again book, which I will do in 2018 because my book club picked it for April, I think. 


+ I've been meaning to read Mudbound for a long time and finally picked it up this year. It wasn't about what I thought it was going to be about for some reason, but whoo boy. INTENSE. Here is part of what I wrote when I reviewed it on Goodreads:

This was an absolutely engrossing, excellent, and hard novel. Sometimes the blurbs on the back of the book are corny to me, but in this case some of the words used: heartrending, tragic, breathless—are the best way to describe it.

Not too shabby for good books. Here are the ones I rated as four stars: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger; The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi; Epitaph for a Peach by David Mas Masumoto; Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende; New Boy by Tracy Chevalier; The Mothers by Brit Bennett; Native Son by Richard Wright; Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate; The Extincts by Veronica Cossanteli; The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker; Commonwealth by Ann Patchett; Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.



I also had a Least Favorite Book of the year: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. It won the 2017 Newbery Award. I DON'T UNDERSTAND. After I finished reading it, I obsessively read book reviews trying to figure out what I'd missed or what was wrong with me. The bare bones premise was actually great, but everything that came after that just didn't work for me. I guess you can't love everything, though I really don't like hating a book and I just did hate this one. You should read it and tell me what you think, because I'm dying to know. Barnes and Noble likes to spit out a recommendation slip with your receipt and on our traditional New Years' Eve bookstore trip, I giggled to myself when it spit out this one:


Nope. Not likely. You've pegged me completely wrong this time, booksellers. Heh. What are your favorite books from 2017? Any good recommendations for the new year? Do tell!

Story gives people enough space to think for themselves.

ANNETTE SIMMONS

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Cheyenne, Wyoming

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