Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week, I’m showing you my top ten favorite books of 2017. I realize I was supposed to post this weeks ago, but I’m busy and confused, so we’re doing it today. I even organized it backwards like a proper countdown. Not all of the books on this list were published in 2017, but I read them all for the first time this year. Click the title to see a synopsis/review.
Best Books I Read In 2017
A lot of people don’t seem to realize that the world is in the middle of a massive refugee crisis right now. This tiny book shows how the crisis is impacting Lampedusa, an island located between Tunisia and Italy. The Optician of Lampedusa is based on a true story. It’s both devastating and educational. (As all the best books are.) It helped spark my interest in the refugee crisis and made me want to learn more.
“I thought I'd heard seagulls screeching. Seagulls fighting over a lucky catch. Birds. Just birds.” - The Optician of Lampedusa
This memoir made the list for nostalgic reasons. I loathed reading as a kid, but I could sometimes be tempted with a Gary Paulsen book. I loved the Brian series, Winterdance, and My Life in Dog Years. I read them many times. Guts tells the (sometimes hilarious) real-life stories behind Gary Paulsen’s novels.
“We have grown away from knowledge, away from knowing what something is really like, toward knowing only what somebody else says it is like. There seems to be a desire to ignore the truth in favor of drama.” – Guts
This is one of the most beautiful graphic novels I’ve ever read. I know nothing about art, so I’m not sure how to explain why I like it. I guess I like the “feel” of it? It feels primitive and otherworldly, like anything could happen in this story. As soon as I finished it, I opened it again to look at it for a second time.
“Lesson: Men are false. And they can get away with it. Also, don't murder your sister, even by accident. Sisters are important.” - The One Hundred Nights of Hero
I love survival stories, and Shackleton’s Antarctic voyage has to be one of the greatest survival stories of all time. This nonfiction book reads like an adventure novel. It’s an older book, so the author was able to interview Shackleton’s crew. Endurance is better-written and closer to first-hand than the other Antarctic survival books I’ve read.
"Though they had failed dismally even to come close to the expedition's original objective, they knew now that somehow they had done much, much more than ever they set out to do." - Endurance
Setting is massively important to me as a reader. If I can’t picture the setting, I’ll struggle to get into the book. Months after finishing Snow Falling on Cedars, I can still vividly remember the Pacific Northwest setting. This literary murder mystery is set right after WWII, which isn’t a time period I see often in literature. Instead of focusing on the war, it focuses on how the war changed American society.
"The world was one world, and the notion that a man might kill another over some small patch of it did not make sense." – Snow Falling on Cedars
Confession: I didn’t plan on reading this book. When I stumbled across it in the grocery store, I thought it sounded fluffy. I don’t do fluffy. Still, something about it called to me. (Probably the large dog on the cover, let’s be honest.) I’m glad I read it because I ended up loving it. It’s funny, and clever, and deep, and complicated. As soon as I finished it, I bought two more Fredrik Backman books.
“Never mess with someone who has more spare time than you do.” - My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry
I love it when an author can make horrible people interesting. The characters in this massive literary novel are all horrible people, but they’re horrible in ways that kept me turning pages. I wanted to know what they’d do next. This novel is a glimpse into a lifestyle I’ll never have (or want). If you’re rich and well-connected, you can get away with anything. Even murder.
“I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.” – The Secret History
Have you ever come across an author who “gets” you? Marcus Sedgwick is that author for me. His books are bizarre in ways that resonate with me. It’s like we operate on the same wavelength or something. This collection of novellas has cavewomen, spacemen, witches, obsession, death, and weirdness. All the “Me” things.
"It is our minds that give things meaning. It is our minds that create the world for us. And minds can be mistaken. Minds can become confused. Damaged. What then of the world? How does it appear then? It, too, appears confused and damaged." – The Ghosts of Heaven
The kids in this young adult novel are basically me when I was a teenager. They’re creative, quirky, and don’t really fit in anywhere. They’re growing up in a small town that doesn’t share their values. This book is pretty much the story of my high school years. (Well, I didn't have all the death and devastation. I was a sheltered child.)
“If you're going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.” – The Serpent King
If you’ve been on this blog before, you’re not surprised to see Most Dangerous here. I was so invested in this story that I stayed up all night to finish it. It’s another nonfiction book that reads like a novel, and it should be required reading for all Americans. It’s about the ethics of document-leaking and the lies our government tells us. (I promise it’s not boring.)
“They were willing to send men and women to death to avoid being called losers.” - Most Dangerous
These books should be on my list because I loved them, but this is Top Ten Tuesday, not Top Million Tuesday, so they’ll have to be relegated to honorable mentions. Sorry, books. It’s nothing personal.
Fatty Legs – Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton (Children’s nonfiction)
A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin (Fantasy)
Dreamland Burning – Jennifer Latham (Young adult historical/contemporary fiction)
Revolver – Marcus Sedgwick (Young adult historical fiction)
All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld (Literary fiction)
The Book of Strange New Things – Michel Faber (Literary fiction)
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson (Nonfiction)
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit – Michael Finkel (Nonfiction)
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm – Jacob Grimm & Wilhelm Grimm (Children’s fiction)
Thank you to everybody who recommended these books to me!
What’s the best book you read in 2017?