Getting Booked: 2017 in Reading

If I’m honest, although I did read several books that I really enjoyed in 2017, it was a pretty weak reading year for me. I didn’t succeed with my Goodreads Challenge (again). I’d planned to read 20 books and only got through 17, meaning I scored 85%. According to my high school’s grading system, that’s a low B. I’ll take it.

Several of the books I read were on the longer side (especially the new David Sedaris, which is a bit of a tome), so I still read just shy of 6000 pages within those 17 books.

I did read a good mix of fiction and nonfiction this year, and while I don’t tear through books at the same break-neck speeds as some others do (I’m jealous, too, by the way), there was never a point when I wasn’t reading something. I just tend to savor books (that sounds better than simply being a slow reader).

Let’s break it down. First, here’s my breakdown from Goodreads:

What I Read in 2017

  1. The Girls by Emma Cline. 
    My rating: 3 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  2. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
    My rating: 5 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  3. A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
    My rating: 4 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  4. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
    My rating: 4 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  5. 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
    My rating: 4 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  6. Adnan’s Story by Rabia Chaudry
    *Audible audio version read by Rabia Chaudry
    My rating: 4 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  7. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
    My rating: 5 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  8. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
    My rating: 3 stars (by Goodreads; true rating would be 3.5-3.75)
    My review on Goodreads
  9. South and West by Joan Didion
    My rating: 3 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  10. Change of Seasons: A Memoir by John Oates with Chris Epting
    *Audible audio version read by the authors
    My rating: 4 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  11. Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris
    My rating: 5 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  12. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
    My rating: 4 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  13. In the Woods by Tana French
    My rating: 3 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  14. Murder in the Stacks: Penn State, Betsy Aardsma, and the Killer Who Got Away by David DeKok
    My rating: 4 stars
    I did not write a review of this book on Goodreads (a rare instance, to be sure). You can read about the book here.
  15. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
    My rating: 4 stars
    Perhaps the previous instance wasn’t as rare as I thought. I finished this one soon after and also did not write a review. Read about the book here.
  16. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
    My rating: 2 stars
    My review on Goodreads
  17. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
    My rating: 4 stars
    My review on Goodreads

Top 5 Books I Read in 2017

1. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Hands down, my favorite book of the year was Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. I tore through it and then spent months recommending it to everyone. It was well-written and thought-provoking. Although not at all the kind of book I usually go for, I was glad that I did.

2. Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris

David Sedaris fans will either really love or really hate this book. I really loved it. It’s not the kind of humorous essay book most of us are accustomed to reading from him, but if you’ve ever been to see him on book tour or listened to any of his interviews, you know that he draws material for his essays from the diaries that he keeps. Sometimes he’ll even read diary entries on his book tour, just as a means of trying out new material.

The beginning is dry and mostly details his life stumbling around the country drunk and high, sleeping in ditches, etc. Those parts aren’t always terribly interesting to read because they’re not particularly well-written, but that’s part of what I love about this book. You get to see the writer becoming David Sedaris as we know him. We can see that he wasn’t always a great writer. We can see that he had to work at his craft. And what I loved was watching his writing process in action over a span of 25 years. It’s fascinating and inspiring to those of us with writing ambitions. This book made me want to start keeping a written journal again so that I never missed those little observations that can really serve a writer well.

3. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

This was another thriller that I just couldn’t put down. Though the narrator was sometimes difficult to like, I found that to be believable. This book kept me guessing — whenever I’d think I had it figured out, it would turn out that I was going in a totally opposite direction. It was fun to read.

4. A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

I remember the day that Columbine happened and I can pinpoint it as one of those before/after moments for me. I was in 10th grade in 1999, and it was the year I stopped feeling safe at school. Soon after, all doors to the building were locked. Cameras were installed with buzzer system intercoms for visitors.

I watched Sue Klebold on 20/20 as she talked about her own life since Columbine and her struggles to reconcile her love for her son with the knowledge of what he had done and the mark he has left on society.

In the book she talks about the need for more awareness of brain health and learning to see warning signs that something might be wrong. She was blindsided by her son Dylan’s role in the mass shooting. She thought she knew what was going on in his life.

Part of what I liked most about this book is the humility with which she tells her side of things. She recognizes that she was not always the perfect parent, but also acknowledges that at the time, she was doing what she thought was best. She acknowledges that she’d do things differently if given another chance. But most of all, I think I liked that this book teaches empathy and compassion. Sue was not responsible for what her son did. He hid his dark side well. But people sometimes forget that she lost her son, too. Not only did she lose him, but she has to live with the knowledge of what he did and the accusations and judgments from people all around the world for the rest of her life. Her life has been destroyed, but she remains on her mission to educate. In fact, all proceeds from her book were donated (I want to say it was for suicide prevention or maybe research on mental health).

It was a difficult and often very sad book to read, but the perspective gained by reading it was well worth it.

5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I know. I didn’t expect to see this on my list either. The whole time I was reading this book, I knew what was going to happen, but I didn’t care. And that’s how I knew it was a good book. I was along for the ride and I was engaged despite the marked lack of surprises. There’s no mystery about what’s going to happen. You keep hoping that you’re wrong and it won’t, but it does, and despite not thinking of myself as one of “those people,” I was crumpled up on my couch sobbing my way through the end of it anyway.

Also, I really loved the cozy atmosphere that I created in my head for this book — Lou’s house and the town where she lived, the Traynor propery, etc. All of it just came to life for me.

A Few Other Points of Note

Most Disappointing Book: Nonfiction

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero. Everyone raves about this book all the time, so I picked it up in March. I started reading it. I lost interest. A few months later I started reading it again. I lost interest. In October, I started reading it a third time. I pushed through and was really loving it …. right up until the point that I decided that I really hated it and it wasn’t saying anything.  I believe that this point came somewhere around the time that Jen Sincero suggested that people with depression create that condition in order to get attention and I got really pissed. After that, her witty, sassy writing just seemed annoying and done for attention and I found myself skipping chunks of chapters that didn’t really seem to say anything at all other than “This worked for me because I gave up my apartment and live all over the world because I LOVE MYSELF” … I don’t know. I feel a lot of anger about this book, haha.

Most Disappointing Book: Fiction

In the Woods by Tana French. This is on every list of “best thrillers” and I have to say that I did really enjoy the book…. until I got to the last 50 pages or so. I was really annoyed that the central question of the book is never answered and that seems to just be accepted. It felt like a giant cop-out. I wanted to know what happened to the kids from the 80s. Where this disappointment differs from my biggest nonfic disappointment is that I will probably give Tana French another try. I don’t think I could stomach anymore of Jen Sincero’s writing.

Most Unexpectedly Fun Read

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I thought this would be so nerdy that I couldn’t enjoy it. It was nerdy, sure, but I liked it. Parts of it were a bit long or a bit convenient for my taste, but it was fun. I liked all the 80s references and didn’t feel like my lack of gamer knowledge prevented me from enjoying the book. I could also classify this as “most disturbing example of how dystopia and reality are moving closer together.” It felt like some of the commentary about the future of civilization in this book (right down to how it says that only reality stars can get elected as president now), which was published in 2011, is eerily coming true.

Most Delightful

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick and 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino were both whimsical and delightful books to read. Arthur Pepper sees a widowed husband finally beginning to live his life when he discovers a charm bracelet his wife had hidden and begins traveling the world to learn more about the charms and who she’d been before he knew her. The Cat’s Pajamas takes place on Christmas Eve Eve (December 23) in Philadelphia and brings a sort of hodge-podge group together from different ages and walks of life in order to save the legendary jazz club.


So that’s what I’ve got for 2017. I’m already off and running with my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge, having just finished my first book of the year (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson).

What are some of your favorite reads from 2017? What are you looking forward to reading in 2018? 

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