These are my top five books of 2017 based on the very scientific criteria of “I have recommended them to people in person at least once since reading them.” As these are all very popular books already, you probably don’t need my commentary on them. But comment I will.
Between the World and Me by Ta’nehisi Coates – I had set this up in my head as being a very difficult read because of the sources telling me to read it, and while facing certain realities might be difficult, this is a fast and engaging book.
Evicted by Matthew Desmond – I want everyone to read this book. I know telling you that you need to read a book about grinding, cyclical, systematic poverty might not make you run out and grab this book, but you should. I legitimately couldn’t put it down, to the point that I questioned whether I had reached the level of gawking.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I read this book along with some of my 8th grade lit circles. It’s a great story, and it’s not afraid to be just brutal to the audience, but the originality of the narration is what really sets it apart. Actual conversation with one of my students about 40 pages into the book: Her: “It’s so depressing. Is it ever going to be happier?” Me: “Well, I haven’t read any more than you, but it is set during the Holocaust and narrated by Death…so…no?”
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters – This book reimagines the present if slavery had never completely ended. I was fascinated by the way the author picked parts of our actual history and shifted them so slightly and so plausibly, and in turn, the skill with which he then reimagined the present.
March 1 – 3 by John Lewis (Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell) – Even if you think you know Civil Rights history, this book set is great. If I were still teaching high school government, I would totally use this in class. My middle schoolers frequently tell me that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln were both from the same point in history, so I think I would scaffold it a little before just sticking it into the hands of your average 12 year old.
Here are some other “Worth It” reads . . .
Theft by Finding by David Sedaris – I love Sedaris. Diary entries make for easy picking up and putting down and coming back again later.
The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez – Read on the recommendation of Sergio. I found parts felt extremely familiar (being a bored teen in the South that yearned for rainy Seattle) while others felt entirely foreign (everything else).
Thy Neighbor’s Wife by Gay Talese – Fair warning: this book is x-rated; however, it is the history that stuck with me. I honestly had no idea how recently people were fighting first amendment battles over this stuff. I have a better understanding of the generation gap of the mid-twentieth century than I ever had before.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio – I finally remembered to read this! I bought it for my classroom ages ago and then promptly forgot. It’s very sweet and a good book to put into the hands of your older elementary kiddos.
American War by Omar El Akkad – Of all the bummers I read this year, this was the bummeriest. You don’t get to feel even a shred of hope or positivity in this book. It will lodge like a particularly irksome earworm in your brain, though, because it deals in realities that will make you want to just throw your hands up and relocate to just about anywhere else. Somewhere without people.
A Gentlemen in Moscow by Amor Towles – The antithesis to the previous book! No shoe ever drops! You are allowed soothing contentedness throughout this book. If only I had read them in this order. Anyway, we all know that soothing historical fiction is right in my wheelhouse.
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan – If you are into the nostalgia and sci-fi world of Stranger Things, pick up this ongoing graphic novel. Sergio and I are big fans of other Brian K. Vaughan stuff. This one is more PG than those.
Everything else I read from this year can be categorized as “Thoughtless Plane Reads” or “Maybe not Really a Book?” or “The Book Was Good but the Author has Since Been Accused of Sexual Misconduct, So I Won’t Promote His Book” or “I Read This Book Multiple Times Every Year for School” or “Ongoing Comic Books That I Don’t Really Know How to Promote.”
I hope these few are enough to give you some ideas for your next book purchase! Happy reading!