2017: The Year in Books

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!


2017: The Year in Film

Admittedly, I was unable to see as many new movies this year as I would’ve liked. But of those I did see, here are the ones that stuck out:


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This black comedy crime film, written and directed by the writer-director of In Bruges, is reminiscent of Fargo and other Coen Brothers movies, but with slightly less eccentricities. The plot follows a defiant mother who posts billboard ads outside her town that accuse the local police of not doing enough to solve her daughter’s rape and murder case. I wouldn’t research too much before seeing this movie because certain spoilers would definitely affect the experience. But I will say that the story ebbs and flows with seemingly more, then less, then more complications, and it ends up being an emotional roller coaster. Standout performance from Frances McDormand, who consistently walks that fine line between serious and funny.


I, Tonya

One of the most engaging biopics I’ve seen in a while, which is no surprise, considering how wild Tonya Harding’s life was. Even before her involvement with the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, she had overcome an unstable family, poverty, and domestic abuse to become one of the world’s top figure skaters of the early 90’s. This documentary-style movie is darkly comedic, largely due to the sometimes unbelievable situations Tonya finds herself in, but I would consider the overall tone to be quirky, which makes the drama even more fun to watch.


The Big Sick

This romantic comedy is based on the true story of how its writer, a Pakistani-American comedian, and his white-American wife fell in love and struggled with various family and culture clashes before a serious illness ultimately made them realize what was most important. But I hesitate to label this movie as a rom-com because it is actually funny, realistic, and raises awareness of important societal issues. A lot of the humor comes from the couple’s dialogue while they’re goofing around and acting silly, which is relatable. But then there are the scenes in which the comedian’s parents try to set him up with single women or casually assume that he’s going to law school, which are TOO relatable…


Get Out

This timely comedy-thriller-horror is another film that is funny because it’s just too real. Scenes of racism are instantly recognizable within the satirical situations, and there is truly something for everyone to learn. All I will say about the plot, short of spoilers, is that when a black man meets his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, things take a very dark turn. Props to writer-director Jordan Peele for utilizing the horror genre in a way that can make audiences more uncomfortable and even fearful of systemic racism than of imaginary clowns.


Lady Bird

Seriously one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. It was so delightful and moving to watch such a spot-on, accurate portrayal of what it feels like to transition from adolescence to womanhood and also the complicated relationship that daughters have with their mothers–we are often so close and have so much in common, that we sometimes forget that we are still immensely different people (yes, your mom is her own person, too!). The talented Saoirse Ronan plays a high school Senior in the early 2000’s, and her actions, dialogue, and mannerisms all build into this sense of nostalgia that is not simply used as a crutch for emotional reactions, but is warmly welcomed. Writer-director Greta Gerwig can do no wrong (I especially love her in Frances HaMistress America, and Damsels in Distress), and I only wish that this movie had been extended to 472 hours. You’ve probably heard by now the number of times Dave Matthews’ “Crash Into Me” is featured, but I was also pleasantly surprised by Stephen Sondheim’s role.

For more entertainment options, you can find my 2017 top picks for TV here.

2017: The Year in TV

2017 saw such a huge stack of fantastic TV programming that I almost forgot how the majority of shows available to watch or stream is trash! I truly didn’t have enough time to watch even half of the many, many shows that were highly rated and appealing even to me. But here are my favorites of those that I ended up bingeing and could not stop talking about:


Big Little Lies

This HBO miniseries won a bunch of well-deserved Emmys. Having read one of Liane Moriarty’s books before (and finding the plot aggravatingly dry and the writing egregious), I normally would’ve had zero interest in this show. But there’s definitely been a pattern, in which every book that Reese Witherspoon touches as a producer becomes 20 times better on screen. So I gave Big Little Lies a try and was immediately enthralled. Stellar, star-studded cast. Gorgeous shots of the California coast setting. The plot, consisting of the characters’ retelling of the events leading up to a death at their children’s school, juxtaposes intense drama with lighthearted moments, thrilling mystery with surprisingly funny language from precocious children. Quite possibly the best soundtrack of any show this year. I ended up loving everything about this.


American Vandal

This Netflix mockumentary had me laughing so uncontrollably in the first ten minutes that my roommate felt the need to pull out his phone to capture the moment on Snapchat… In American Vandal, which satirizes true crime documentaries such as Serial and Making a Murderer, a high schooler sets out to investigate a major school prank and uncover whether or not an expelled teen was the true culprit. It’s difficult to describe what could be so funny about a four-hour d*ck joke, but the setup is so clever and the young actors are so deadpan with their “punchlines”, it’s impressive.


Stranger Things, season 2

This Netflix show probably needs no explanation, as I’m sure anyone who’s reading this has heard of it, if not seen it. In short, the first season finds a group of 80’s kids both battling and befriending supernatural creatures from another dimension in order to rescue their friend, and the second season is a continuation of the same storyline. I am not normally drawn to sci-fi, but there is something about the combination of nostalgia and the epic saga of friends and family coming together from different walks of life in order to save an innocent that is just so heartwarming to me, even while a monster devours an entire human in two seconds flat. I also think Winona Ryder is a brilliant actress, and she has come a long way from Beetlejuice, to Little Women, to getting caught shoplifting, and finally to the present.


Search Party, season 2

This dark comedy on TBS is so hilarious, I ended up watching all of season one and catching up to the middle of season two in under a week. Starring the girl who plays Maeby Fünke on Arrested Development, this series follows a group of friends living in New York City in their mid-20s, as they attempt to solve the missing persons case of a former classmate. There is no way to describe Search Party without using the term “millennial”, as this show is arguably the MOST millennial. But I think everyone, regardless of age, maturity, or technology usage, can relate in some way. Endless cultural references and, for better or worse, reflections on society in general. Self-absorbed like Girls, but still self-aware like The Office. The supporting cast’s dialogue and mannerisms made me laugh out loud during every episode.



This Netflix miniseries was originally meant to be a feature film, and watching it certainly felt like watching some of my favorite Westerns, such as High NoonThe Searchers, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The story follows an 1880’s New Mexico town almost completely made up of women (most of the town’s men had died in a mining accident), as they negotiate with mining companies and prepare to defend themselves against a dangerous outlaw and his murderous gang. There is also a subplot in which one of the women, an outsider, strikes up a relationship with the mysterious, Shane-like desperado who had shown up at her doorstep one night, giving her no choice but to shoot him. Independent women, stunning shots of the mountainous desert, horses in every scene. So much to love about this show. Sidenote: I’ve read about the controversy over the show being billed as feminist, but not living up to the label. I’d seen hardly any ads for this before watching, so I didn’t have any expectations at the time, though I was happy to see female characters taking responsibility for themselves and protecting each other. Now that I’ve seen the show and read the opinions, which are valid, I would still consider this a win for feminism because it is ultimately a step forward, and equality will realistically be achieved via several small steps, rather than one giant leap.

2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Every year I have no plans to shop on Thanksgiving weekend, but I guess it’s inevitable. Some deals are just too good to pass up! Here are some material items that have piqued my interest in the last few hours, for myself or others. I realize that Cyber Monday has technically ended, but these deals will most likely stay awhile or at least come back around Christmas.

goods_404921_sub3I’ve been searching for a shorter down coat that won’t break the bank, and this JW Anderson for Uniqlo light down jacket fits the bill. It’s reversible–solid color on one side, tartan on the other–and I can’t decide which way I’d wear it more! 50% off and free shipping at the time of writing.

anf_192827_03_model1Still a big fan of Abercrombie sweaters, and I especially love the look of this one. Trendy, but not over-the-top. I still get compliments when I wear the A&F sweaters I bought last year. The entire site is 50% off with free shipping.

STEVEMADDEN-STEVEN_RAZZI_BURGUNDY-VELVETMule loafers are incredibly popular this year, and this Steve Madden pair appears sensible, yet luxurious. Very versatile. Entire site is 35% off with free shipping.

61ikAJnULvL._SL1000_I got the Amazon Echo Dot for my dad because he already has a nice sound system, but was interested in adding voice control. You could do the same if your friends or family members are in similar situations. 40% off.

H3481_WX0973_m.jpegAutomatically drawn to this top because it’s plaid, but that bow in the back… Game changer. Also, shoutout to this tartan shirt, the first version of which I bought exactly six years ago and J.Crew still sells and sells out of every year since. Entire site is 40% off with free shipping.

SE0017_NNY_BACK.jpgEverything on the Draper James website is insanely charming, but seriously, just look at these mittens! Adorable by nature, but then taken to the next level. Also eyeing these delightful loafers, a collaboration with Jack Rogers. Entire site is 25% off with free shipping.

P21722-PRODUCT_01--IMG_416--788172342Really into chic ponchos, since wearing my sister’s for a day in Mexico City. This reversible plaid version can be dressed up or down. Entire Tuckernuck site starts at 20% off with free shipping.

391331_600_ss_01.jpegPerfectly festive heels for holiday parties. I truly can’t resist little bows, and their placement on the back is slightly more unique than on the toe. These pumps are already marked down, and the whole site is 25% off on top of that.

71873.jpgThis Drunk Elephant exfoliating face mask has excellent ratings all over the internet. Not technically a Black Friday deal, but 15% off if you subscribe. (You can cancel anytime.)

5031400_663.jpegThis Kate Spade sleep shirt is so cute, I would definitely wear it in public over leggings (which I occasionally do with pajama tops anyway). Entire site is 30% off or an extra 40% off sale items.