My goal was to read 100 books in 2017. I hit 50 last week. I really do go all in, apparently!!
Here's the list so far—I'll do a bigger post at the end of the year with my top top picks, but for now....
BTW, I've left a detailed review of every book on Goodreads. I also frequently leave short reviews on Audible. It would be too cumbersome to include a full review of everybook here, so the notations below are my comments.
For February I only read books by people of color or about people of color and it was a remarkable experience. Check out my full Black History Month reading list and reviews here.
MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS TO READ:
- The Hate U Give BOOK OF THE YEAR! EVERYONE READ THIS!!
- The Brain Defense TOP 5 NON-FICTION BOOKS I'VE EVER READ!
- Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find & Keep Love MOST HELPFUL RELATION BOOK EVER
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck BEST SELF-HELP BOOK
- There is No Good Card for This LEARN EMPATHY. For real.
BOOKS THAT CHALLENGED (& CHANGED) WHAT I BELIEVED:
- The New Jim Crow shook apart every thought/belief I had about crime, prison, drugs, and racism. Mass incarceration is creating a caste system that affects all races but most painfully black and brown people. We cannot aim for "colorblindness" and to say you are colorblind makes you the problem. We have become color conscious and adopt the mindset "all of us or none of us" if we want to truly be equal. An important book, painful subject.
- Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks this is a story we need to share with everyone. It'll change how you think about cancer, medical research, your biology, and American history.
- Chasing the Scream completely changed how I thought about drugs, drug use, addiction, the "war on drugs" and how the illegalization of drugs (prohibition) is the cause of crime, NOT vice-versa. We need to start seeing drug use as a mental health issue, not a crime. (Start at chapter 16-18)
- Morale Molecule I'd always believed we would have no morality without religion (not that you have to be religious to be moral, but that morality was conceptualized by religion). That is not the case. Our DNA is programed for us to act in ways we socially define as "moral" because that behavior is required for species survival. The beginning part about Oxytocin was also very interesting and the chapter on Autism helped me better understand and communicate with a friend who is autistic.
- There is No Good Card for This A close friend of mine was involved in an accident earlier this year that left her disabled and in 24-hour pain. She started telling me things people said to her (family, coworkers, friends) and it was pretty awful, except it was obvious they didn't intend to be awful. You could tell their words were coming from a good place... My friend didn't know what to say, or how to tell them that their well-meaning words hurt and felt like a slap in the face and to please stop.... Eventually she stumbled on this book and started recommending it to everyone. She said to me, "I realize now we are never taught empathy, not really. Or that its okay to say, 'I don't know what to say' and just listen." This book helped me learn how to converse better too, as well as show empathy more effectively. As for my friend, she noted, "It also helped me forgive people that "disappeared" when my accident happened. I see now it's not that they don't care but that this is hard for them too. They might be scared, or feel awkward, or not know how to deal and cope." BOTTOM LINE: This book will make you a better person and friend.
MY TOP 10 NOVELS READ IN 2017 (SO FAR)
- The Hate U Give
- 13 Reasons Why
- My Sister's Grave
- Behind Closed Doors
- Before I Fall
- Leave Me
- Small Great Things
- The Kind Worth Killing
- The Kind Worth Killing (4) This novel reminded me that sometimes you just want to hear a good story. It doesn't matter that it's not an 'original' idea or filled with revolutionary prose, and if its a little too inconvenient or unbelievable YOU DON'T CARE because you simply need/want to be entertained. (This book was 100% that for me. It kept me on the edge of my seat. the. entire. time.)
- Leave Me (4.5)
- A Man Called Ove (2)
- The Chemist (3) Although this book won't make the top of any list for me, I am glad I read it. It forced me to try something different (I didn't think spy novels were my genre at all, but this book inspired me to check out more spy books!) AND put my foot in my mouth. I originally rolled my eyes when this book was recommended to me... "Isn't this by the Twilight author?" I thought. I'm sorry I said that. I have so much respect for this author now. She completely changed genres (that would be like a pastry chef abandoning cakes to make sushi) which is impressive, but she also picked a story that required exceptional research. The details in this story deserve applause.
- The Woods (4)
- The Girl With All The Gifts (4.5) This is a book about acceptance and how we will deny things and hold on until the bitter end rather than accepting our new reality because we don't like it or don't want it to be the reality.It was a strong theme throughout the book and poignant to our current political times. If sci-fi/zombies isn't you're usual genre, but you want to challenge yourself to try something different... pick this book. The movie was a fair adaption but a classic case of "the book is better."
- The Color Purple (4)
- Breakfast at Tiffany's (3)
- Fool Me Once (3)
- Behind Closed Doors (4)
- Americanah (4)
- Before I Go To Sleep (3)
- Small Great Things (5 STARS)
- Honeymoon (3)
- Missing, Presumed (2.5)
- Six Years (4)
- The Dispatcher (5 STARS) I listen to this audiobook novella when I need a break or a palate cleanse. If you're curious about audiobooks, this is a great one to start with because the time investment is less than 2 hours. I'll compare it to the perfect meal: good from the first bite to the last drop! You're left feeling full and satisfied... and thinking about it for days after. Admittedly "scifi" and fantasy isn't my genre, but I really like this story and Quinto? What a performance! He could read me the dictionary and I'd swoon.
- The Life She Wants (4.5)
- Behind Her Eyes (2)
- The Gray Man (4.5) My first "spy" novel after The Chemist and I enjoyed it. It was over-the-top (like a Jason Bourne movie you have to "go with it" and accept this guy has extraordinary capabilities and limitless luck) but I do want to read more books in the series and dabble in a few other spy novels. They'll be nice when I need a change of pace from thrillers and non-fiction.
- The 7th Canon (3) This is the same author who writes the Tracy Crosswright series (that I love) yet I didn't care for this book at all. I think that goes to show how sometimes it is all about the character and the importance of character development. A good character the reader connects with can carry the whole book sometimes!
- Somebody I Used to Know (4)
- The Advocates Daughter (3.5) When I retired from law practice I swore I'd never read another "legal thriller" and broke my rule for this book. Initially it was a captivating story that just happened to involve lawyers, but halfway through escalated quickly and started reading like an episode of Scandal or House of Cards. If you like those shows (conspiracy and drama), you'll probably like this author.
- Attachments (5 STARS) I LOVED this book. It will go down as one of my favorite love stories. I'm not usually a love
- No Second Chances (2) I "discovered" Harlan Coben last year and have devoured several of his books. I often pick one up when I want something fast-paced and gripping... something I can't put down and will sweep me away for a few hours (Reading his books is akin to going to the movies for me...) This was my first "stinker" and if it took 8 books for me to find a "miss" well, that says a lot.
YOUNG ADULTS (YA)
- The Hate U Give(5 STARS)Culturally significant! Most important novel you'll read this year. Honest perspective of current political climate/American history. Starr is a 16-yo black girl living in the ghetto when an unarmed boy from her community is shot and killed by a white police officer. It is critical we see how the death and riots affects Starr, her parents, her siblings, her community, her white friends at prep school, and the impression they all have of “what happened.” The difficult conversations we need to have right now as a society are wrapped up perfectly, beautifully in this book wth a perspective everyone needs to take into account. (all Balanced perfectly against what YA is known for: the struggle of self acceptance and identity. finding your way and making sense of it all in the process). I also had a personal swoon when they referenced Tupac's lyrics (the name of the book is lyrical) as I too have found myself saying all these years later his lyrics are still true. Go listen to Changes. From the book: Sometimes you can do everything right and things still go wrong, the key is to keep doing right.
- Before I Fall(5 STARS)FANTASTIC illustration of the 5 Stages of Grief. I thought the movie was excellent and the best book-to-film adaption I've ever experienced. There were some changes in the movie but it only enhanced the story and made it better.
- 13 Reasons Why (5 STARS)This was made to be an audiobook! I can't think of a more perfect audiobook! BEST AUDIOBOOK OF THE YEAR! I haven't watched the series on Netflix yet but this book brought out every emotion. (I've heard other people compare it to the TV show "This is Us").
- Nerve (4)
- Legend (Book 1) (4) I blew through this book in 3 hours. It's great for fans of Hunger Games and general YA Dystopian.
- Prodigy (Legend #2) (4) Suffering from that "middle book" syndrome so much that I'm having difficulty convincing myself to continue with the series. If you read Legend, stop there.
- The Fever Code (3) Prequel to the Maze Runner series. This and the other prequel have had a fascinating impact on me, namely that I loved the prequels MORE than the original trilogy (though they should not be read first) AND they made me retroactively like the original trilogy more (and want to read them again). Except for the Star Wars movies I've never had the prequel experience before and I love it. I hope more authors do this with series! The movies are pretty loose adaptions but it would be hard to echo it too closely, I think. My husband hasn't read the books but did like the films.
- My Sister's Grave (Tracy Crosswright #1) (4.5) I stayed up all night reading which I never do. I love the series—it's probably my favorite series this year. I will read every book the author writes in this series. (I've already pre-ordered book 5).
- Her Final Breath (Tracy Crosswright #2) (4)
- The Academy (Tracy Crosswright #0.1) (4)
- Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) (4)
- Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) (4)
- Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince (Book 6) (4)
- Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them (5 STARS) audiobook is a must!
- Infinity Lost (2)
- The Killing Floor (Jack Reacher) (3) Ugh. I restarted this book three times and had to force myself to finish it. I found myself actively starting other new books just to avoid reading this one. It's a SLOW read so if you like long books that build very gradually (and aren't "gripping" or edge-of-your-seat) this could be good for you. Two of my husband's friends recommended this to me, and I noticed several people by the pool in Vegas had a Lee Child/Reacher book (and it's a Tom Cruise movie franchise!) so I am going to assume I'm in the minority. I tried it as print and audible... it wasn't that it was bad as much as it was too easy to walk away from. I'm glad this wasn't my first spy novel, I'd have abandoned the genre.
- The Godfather (3) Overall it's a good story but suffers from bad writing and the author's (pathetic) 13-year-old teen boy fantasies that take away from the story. The book did make me gasp out loud a few times, which was a first. The narrator (Joe Mantegna from Criminal Minds) was fantastic, though, and his performance saved this book from being a 2. I haven't seen the movie (yet) but suspect this is one of those rare instances where the movie was an improvement!
NON-FICTION - GENERALLY
- Chasing the Scream (5 STARS)This book changed everything I thought about drugs, drug use, the "war on drugs", addiction and even behaviors such as binging or overeating or any zealous pursuit.
- The Brain Defense (5 STARS) RIVETING! Most gripping nonfiction book I've ever read. That perfect balance of science, application, memoir/historical account with a "what happens next" suspenseful pace. TOP 5 NON-FICTION BOOKS I'VE EVER READ!
- Forgotten: D-Day's Black Heroes (4) I want to bring this story to the big screen. It's a story that has to be told. The book isn't organized the best, I admit, but the heart of it is... wow.
- The New Jim Crow(5 STARS)
- Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks(5 STARS)
- Morale Molecule (4)
- March Trilogy (Book 1)(5 STARS)The hardest part to learn, to truly understand deep in your heart, was how to find love for your attacker. This book is a wonderful historical account of what happened, with beautiful metaphors through out. This was my first experience reading a graphic noveland I'm slowly learning how to "read" them better. It involves looking at the pictures and subtle details, but these books are also meant to be read over and over. Here's how to read a graphic novel.
- Running Lean (4 stars) One of the best business books I've read. The 1-page business plan is brilliant.
NON-FICTION "SELF HELP"
- Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find & Keep Love(5 STARS)This book helped me understand myself, and my spouse (as well as improve our relationship) which is what I wanted from this book, but what I didn't expect is how it would help me understand my friends better, get less frustrated with them, and be able to advise them better when they asked for help or complained. Best relationship book I've ever read -- pairs really well with 5 Love Languages a must read. For example, when my best friend starts excessively texting her husband or calls me threatening to leave him because of some fault, (classic protest behavior by the anxious), I now know she just needs reassurance, ideally from him but it's better for me to say, it'll be okay than to engage her in making plans to leave him this time. Likewise, when my nephew starts pulling away from me, or his parents, especially after we've just showered him with love and attention (classic deactivating strategies by the avoidant) I know it's not personal, I didn't do anything wrong, he's just uncomfortable by too much closeness. The book also helped me realize self-reliance is not the same as independence and affectionate people aren't needy they are secure.
- The Five Elements of Effective Thinking (4)
- The Four Agreements (3)
- Change Your Brain Change Your Life (2.5) I agree with the negative reviews for this book that it's mostly a 17-hour infomercial pushing hundreds in unnecessary supplements and brain scans... Reading this book is like a day at Marshall's or the thrift store: you have to really dig into the bargain bin for hours, knowing you may come up with nothing, but you might luck out in the end with $1,500 designer boots for $50. I did pluck two great pieces of advice out of it (I love the idea of changing the questions you ask yourself and writing goals on paper every day) which made it worth the cost of my time and the price of the book, but I don't know that I'd recommend it. It was quoted a few times in The Brain Defense, which is why I picked it up.
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (5 STARS)
- Born a Crime (4) I recommend the audio version! It's read by the author, Trevor Noah.
- Between the World and Me (5 STARS)
- Wishful Drinking (4)
- Not My Father's Son (4)
BOOKS I QUIT
UPDATE: I watched the Godfather film and it was one of the few times I thought the film adaption improved the book. I can understand why it has been a "classic."
Completely opposite, I could not watch 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. I had to turn it off within the first 40 minutes. I now understand what people mean when they say, "the movie ruined the book for me."