This post is a little late because I realized towards the end of last year that I hadn’t read a ton of books that were actually published in 2017 and wanted to give myself a couple weeks to catch up. Below are my 2017 picks, but NPR’s Book Concierge is also a fun source for choosing your next read. And of course, you can follow my Goodreads account, where I keep track of all the books I’m working on and review those that I finish.
South and West is further proof that Joan Didion is one of the best writers and ethnographers of our time. This is essentially a collection of notes–observations, interviews, etc.–she took while on a road trip through the deep South and while on assignment in California in the 70’s. It is mind-boggling that even her initial thoughts on unusual topics seem perfectly crafted, and each sentence is filled with intuition and wonder, all at once. This is a very short, yet indulgent read, and I would recommend to anyone who would be honored to explore somewhere or something new with a straight up queen.
Little Fires Everywhere follows a seemingly idyllic suburban family in the 90’s and the drama that ensues when an artist and her daughter arrive in town and everyone becomes involved in the custody battle of an adopted Chinese-American baby. This novel won the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction and has been exceedingly popular since it was published just a few months ago. I really wanted to like it because I thought Celeste Ng’s first book, Everything I Never Told You, was incredibly powerful. But I was ultimately let down by a lack of depth, due to an overabundance of characters, heavy reliance on stereotypes and cliches, and no sense of closure at the end, which was highly unsatisfying. Still, the plot is pretty action-packed, and I enjoyed learning about Shaker Heights, an actual city in Ohio. I would recommend to anyone who is looking to be entertained by an easy-to-read story.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is exactly what the title states–a short and sweet guide to the cosmos. In this winner of the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award for Science & Technology, the brilliant Neil deGrasse Tyson explains complex concepts–everything from the very, very big to the very, very small–in a way that is easy to understand for the layman. Sure, my science background from my Pre-Med days certainly helped, but I wouldn’t consider it necessary. Honestly, I’ve already forgotten a lot of the little details that were interesting at the time, but I think the main takeaway for most readers is perspective. Perfect for learning something new on Metro rides. Tyson is a charismatic narrator, but I would not recommend listening to the audio version like I did. This book is so dense with information that virtually every sentence will make you want to stop and ponder for a few seconds, which is difficult to do with an audio book. I basically had to start and stop and use 15-second rewind over and over again.
We Are Never Meeting In Real Life made me laugh out loud in public. Comedian and Bitches Gotta Eat blogger Samantha Irby presents wildly hilarious essays about a random assortment of events in her life that are real… TOO REAL. Many of her stories are relatable in some way, and the rest will make you feel so much better about your own life. Irby writes like a millenial, with the wisdom of someone much older. (And she would probably have something delightfully, passive aggressively sassy–or just aggressively sassy–to say about my choice of wording.) The book does get fairly emotional when she discusses her difficult childhood, putting her cat (whom she calls the spawn of Satan) to sleep, and casually scattering her estranged father’s ashes while on a romantic vacation… But Irby somehow finds the humor in every situation.
Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too might seem like a cute little graphic novel on the surface, but it is surprisingly deep and uplifting. This spiritual treat, written and illustrated by Jomny Sun of Twitter fame, follows an alien who encounters all sorts of creatures with varying personalities, as he struggles to find his place on Earth. The Little Prince in subject meets The Giving Tree in tone, expressing what it means to be human in a simple, yet incredibly effective way. Everyone should read this book!