As we bring this apocalyptically terrible year to a close, I (for the sake of my sanity) would like to look back on my favorite books this year. It was a big year for me, I started this blog, and managed to nearly double my goal of 60 reads in 2017 (woot!). I though about ranking these, but honestly, I would be hard pressed to do so. So these come in no particular order, but all have earned four or five star ratings from me.
Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach
Okay, I adore Mary Roach. Her funny, unique approach to scientific subjects (and bowel movements) is engaging and entertaining. Grunt (as you may have guessed) covers the science of going to war and keeping our soldiers safe. I snatched up Grunt the day it came out and read it in one sitting.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
Probably no shocks with this one, It made it to the Goodreads Best Books of 2016, and probably adorns a lot of top ten lists. While not perfect, The Cursed Child deserves its spot on the list. It’s not easy to butt in to everyone’s childhood with a 20-years-later sequel, but all in all Tiffany and Thorne did a great job with this book, not to mention were able to keep the tone of this play consistent with that of JK Rowling. Review
Human Acts by Han Kang
Okay, technically the English translation of this book won’t be released until January of 2017, but holy crap was this a good book!Looking at the tragedy and the aftermath of a (real life) uprising in South Korea in 1980, this is an incredible and powerful piece of literature. Review
The Fall of the House of Cabal by Jonathan L. Howard
I’m a huge fan of the Johannes Cabal series, and spent most of the year waiting (im)patiently for the fifth (and final?!?) book to be released. The book was good on its won merits, but as part of a series I adore (and plan to reread in 2017), it easily makes my top ten. Review
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey
I’m always on the lookout for a new, good, book on ghosts and the paranormal. It is a danger of the genre that so much is just awful, and finding a gem like this one makes the search worthwhile. Dickey’s book is remarkable in that he takes well know legends from around the US (think the Winchester Mystery House in California), and provides us with a unique new viewpoint, setting each of these legends against the history and society that spawned them. Review
Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill
Speaking of setting history on its ear, if you have any sort of interest in Victorian England, you can’t do much better than to read Unmentionable. Therese Oneill (channeling Mary Roach) asks all the questions about living in the Victorian Era you didn’t even realize you should ask (such as: “How am I supposed to use the bathroom while wearing this ballgown?”). Review
The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks
This book actually made me cry. It also made me finish it in one brilliant summer afternoon (really, I actually couldn’t put it down). Set in Reconstruction-Era Tennessee, the book follows Mariah Reddick, former slave, as she tried to find the man responsible for murdering her son, an aspiring politician. The characters and setting are vividly drawn, and the portrait of a country still bleeding from self-inflicted wounds and unsure whether to bandage itself up or simply finish the job, is something that will stay with you. Review
Crossing the Horizon: A Novel by Laurie Notaro
This book deserves waaaaaaaaaay more attention than it has gotten to date. This is a fiction/nonfiction account of three women pilots who vied with Amelia Earhart for the title of first woman to cross the Atlantic via airplane. Drawn from historical records and first hand accounts, Notaro brings these amazing women to life with a full-throated roar. Review
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This was one of my favorite Powell’s Indiespensable reads this year. This epic story follows the divergent paths of two sisters,one who remains in her native Ghana as the wife of a British soldier, the other sold into slavery and transported to the United States. The story weaves itself across the Atlantic ocean as new generations are born to suffer or to succeed. Moving from the nineteenth century to the present day, this epic book provides a poignant look at the echoing consequences of the slave trade. Review
Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars by Ethan Hawke
Ethan Hawke wrote a graphic novel! And it’s good (really good)! The novel lands us right in the middle of the Apache Wars, when the United States government was systematically and brutally attempting to wipe the western Native American tribes off the map. The story follows the path of the young warrior who would become Geronimo, as he fights to save his land, his traditions, and his people. The book is beautifully illustrated by Greg Ruth, and the story is compelling, horrifying, and (moreover) true. I always say I love a book with a bibliography, and Indeh is a story to make you sit up, take notice, and start learning more about the subject. Review.
It was way harder than I thought it would be to limit myself to ten books in this post! However, with a lot of soul searching, I’ve managed to narrow the field down to the titles you see above. I also (with the exception of Grunt), have written full reviews on each of these books, so if you want to know more than the little blurb I provided here, scroll down or click on the “Review” link after each book to read more!
So what do you think? If you’re reading this, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the best books this year! Do you agree with any of my picks? Disagree? Have more to add? Let me know! Let’s all build our TBR together!