Archives: Books Read in 2017

Summary of the Year

It was a big year for reading: I finished 64 books. Admittedly, a lot of them were trashy, so I probably need to do a better job seeking out quality literature in the new year. Here’s my summary while they’re still (relatively) fresh…

  • Best Overall Book: The Nix
  • Best Non-Fiction: The Giant of the Senate
  • Best Novel You’ll Think About for Months: Heat & Light
  • Required Reading for Americans: Small Great Things
  • Honorable Mentions:
    • The Christodora
    • What Happened
    • Underground Airlines
    • Scrappy Little Nobody
    • Waking Up White
  • Most Over-Rated Waste of Time: Sleeping Beauties

January

  • The Nix, by Nathan Hill (B+ – fun mystery across generations – could’ve scored higher if an editor had chopped the page count – unnecessarily long)
  • The Good Goodbye, by Carla Buckey (B- trashy beach book about two cousins on life support)

February

  • Here I Am, by Jonathan Safran Foer (C – he’s a good writer but this one was bo-ring)
  • Run, by Ann Patchett (B+ – a story of family and politics set in 24 hrs around Boston)
  • The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, Kelli Estes (D – good elements but clumsily executed and heavily relied on far-flung coincidences)
  • The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood (B – wild ride that involves selling organs, Elvis impersonators and a lot of sex – hard to believe Atwood isn’t 20)
  • With Love from the Inside, by Angela Pisel (C – death row drama  with compounding lies)

March

  • White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga (C – interesting novel about life in India, but very dark)
  • Scrappy Little Nobody, by Anna Kendrick (A – great autobiography: funny, clever, interesting)
  • The Chemist, by Stephanie Meyer (D+ – throwaway spy novel with a far-fetched romantic story line – dumb)
  • The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas (B+ – YA book focused on BLM told by a girl who has one foot in the hood and one in a fancy school)
  • When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi (A – beautiful reflection on chasing a meaningful life and dying on the cusp of one’s prime – well written)
  • The Christodora, by Tim Murphy (A – Portrait of NYC spanning 40 years from the 80s to the near future with a focus on family, HIV, and addiction; reminded me of A Little Life)

April

  • All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood (A- – disturbing book with a premise that will challenge your thinking)
  • The Girl in the Red Coat, by Kate Hamer (B – liked the contrasting stories of the mom in England and her kidnapped daughter stuck in religious America)
  • The Rules Do Not Apply, by Ariel Levy (B+ – a look at love, loss and fertility for women pushing 40)
  • Not My Father’s Son, by Alan Cummings (D – I know a lot of people loved this book, but – not knowing Cummings – I wasn’t interested in discovering his lineage)
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See (C- – I liked learning about Chinese village customs and tea – but too much coincidence)

May

  • The Fireman, by Joe Hill (C – interesting concept but way too long – just learned this is Stephen King’s son: WHAT?!)
  • The Haters, by Jesse Andrews (B+ – YA story with hilarious dialogue)
  • Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni (B+)
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, by Ashlee Vance (B+)
  • The Widow, by Fiona Barton (B – pageturner about the widow of a pedophile)
  • Underground Airlines, by Ben Winters (A – former slave turned bounty hunter in a modern world where the Civil War never happened)

June

  • Radical Candor, by Kim Scott (A – great read for managers)
  • Notorious RBG, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (B – fluffy but interesting)
  • The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena (D – trashy page-turner with unbelievable twists)
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,  by Cathleen McCarron (C+)
  • The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff (C – a circus in France during WWII? So much potential but poorly executed – save yourself for “The Nightingale”)
  • I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh (B – I’d give the first half of the book an A because it was subtle and reminded me of Broadchurch, and the second half a D because of sloppy character work, but if you’re looking for a compelling page-turner on the beach – I’d still recommend it)
  • The Waters of Eternal Youth, by Donna Leon (B – Apparently Leon has written almost 20 mysteries set in Venice – I picked this up because I liked the setting – something about the writing struck me as reserved and old-fashioned – maybe a bit like an Agatha Christie mystery. I’ll probably give her another chance and see if I’m swayed.)
  • Waking Up White, by Debbie Irving (A – this should be recommended reading for all “white” Americans – even those who think they have a handle on their privilege)
  • The Girl Before, by JP Delaney (B – trashy but fun page-turner with an interesting premise)

July

  • The Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken (A – entertaining look at his campaign, election, and work as a Senator – funny and educational)
  • Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, by JK Rowling (A – reread for the 20th anniversary)
  • This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel (B – story of a family grappling with a transgender child)
  • Best Boy, by Eli Gottlieb (B – portrait of a high functioning adult with autism who lives in a nursing home)
  • Nutshell, by Ian McEwan (A – if you can accept a fetus as the narrator, you’re in for a delightfully wicked crime novel)
  • Bright, Precious Daysby Jay McInerney (C – soap opera take on sex, drugs and NYC after 9/11)

August

  • I Liked My Life, by Abby Fabiaschi (A- – a mother dies and is able to watch her family in the wake of her death)
  • The Reminders, by Val Emmich (B – a young girl with a crazy memory and a family friend whose partner died result in an unexpected partnership)
  • Small Great Things, by Jodi Piccoult (A)
  • Who Thought This Was a Good Idea, by Alyssa Mastromonaco (A)
  • The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware (C – beach read thriller)

September

  • Still Life, by Louise Penny (B – charming mystery set in Quebec – first in a series)
  • The Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah (C)
  • Lost Cat, by Caroline Paul (B – cute illustrated memoir about a, um, lost cat)
  • The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn (B+ – a female spy from WWI crosses paths with a pregnant unwed mother on a quest to find her missing cousin after WWII)
  • Still Missing, by Chevy Stevens (C- throwaway pageturner – a realtor is abducted from an open house)
  • The Heavens May Fall, by Allen Eskens (B – courtroom drama with a distracted detective)
  • All the Winters After, by Sere Prince Halverson (B+ – enjoyed this story set in Alaska – but the ending felt like a let-down)

October

  • Beside Myself, by Ann Morgan (B- – identical twins “swap” and then one refuses to switch back, with devastating consequences)
  • Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple (C – unfolding over the course of a day, we’re tethered to an overly needy and neurotic narrator who has had a riff with her sister)
  • Sleeping Beauties, by Stephen & Owen King (D – interesting premise, but the execution is overly long and violent – and there were too many characters to keep track of)

November

  • Greyhound, by Steffan Piper (B+)
  • Heat & Light, by Jennifer Haigh (A-)
  • Cork Dork, by Bianca Bosker (A – entertaining look at sommelier certification)
  • What Happened, by Hillary Clinton (A-)

December

  • Theft By Finding, by David Sedaris (B – not for a casual Sedaris fan)
  • This Is Just My Face, by Gabourey Sidibe (B – solidly entertaining)
  • Food: A Love Story, by Jim Gaffigan (B- – funny and mindless)
  • The Forgetting Time, by Sharon Guskin (B – interesting premise, though if you’re a skeptic like me you’ll find it a bit challenging since it’s rooted in reincarnation)
  • The Sea of Tranquility, by Katja Millay (B – fun premise, great last line – but ultimately a book with an identity crisis)
  • Sons & Daughters of Ease & Plenty, by Ramona Ausubel (C – rich young couple nearly implodes because of their lost fortune)

 

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