Monday, January 1, 2018

Brittany's Top 3 of 2017

We Need to Talk About 2017
At the end of 2016 I wrote, "I thought I would die if I read one more book for grad school (I did read more books for grad school and did not die)." It is true that I did not die. And yet. It appears I could barely read another book or I would die. 

I am a reader. It is a core part of my identity as a person. I have two Master's degrees that make it very clear how I feel about books (an MA in English and an MS in Library and Information Sciences). I am a librarianIn 2013 I read 36 books (13 for grad school), in 2014 I read 37 books (no grad school and that year I described my reading as "a binge on the candy cornucopia of Young Adult Lit"), in 2015 I read 67 books (30 for grad school), and in 2016 I read 74 books (43 for grad school). In 2016 I read 20 books. I wrote 0 book reviews. In terms of books, 2017 will be remembered as the year I fell out of love with reading.

I am hopeful that in 2018 I will fall back in love. Re-reading all my end of the year blog posts reminded me to check if Rajiv Joseph has anything new out (he does), if anymore Pierre Lemaitre books have been translated into English (they have), and that Phoebe Robinson has a book that I have been wanting to read for a while.  

By the Numbers

  • 20 complete books read (10 audiobooks, 9 young adult, 5 non-fiction or memoirs, 2 about dead bodies, 1 graphic novel)
  • 15 authors (the only repeat was JK Rowling)
  • 10 women authors, 5 men authors
  • all living
  • 8 nationalities/ethnicities besides white American: Japanese (Kabi Nagata), Lebanese (Rabih Alameddine), Vietnamese American (Viet Thanh Nguyen), African American (Shonda Rhimes and Angie Thomas), Nigerian American (Nnedi Okorafor), Jewish American (BJ Novak), Puerto Rican American (Gabby Rivera and Lin-Manuel Miranda), and British (JK Rowling).
Things that stand out compared to previous four years: I read fewer books than ever. The percentage of women authors continues to increase (2015 was the first year I read more women than men at 57% women, in 2016 it was 62%, and this year it was 66%). Even though I stopped running and have a new short commute, I still managed to listen to a lot of audiobooks - almost as much as last year when I read almost four times as many books.

In 2015 I noticed a pattern of unofficial categories in my top lists and while this year's top list only has three books and thus cannot have six unofficial categories, I did want to acknowledge that my reading still follows this general pattern. I'm always looking for recommendations that fit these since they are the books I tend to love the most. I also think it's time to add an LGBTQ category since only one year is missing a book in that category in my top lists. 
A Book About Race: The Hate U Give, Juliet Takes a Breath, The Sympathizer
A Fucked Up Book: The Chemist sort of fits in this category but just barely
A Classic I Should Have Read Already: n/a
A Non-Fiction Book About a Topic More People Should Know About: Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers and Working Stiff: 2 Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner (with the caveat that I don't actually think everyone should read this books as they are graphic, but for those who don't mind that, they definitely should)
A Book of Interconnected Stories with Shifting Narrators: Before the Devil Breaks You
Pulitzer Prize Winner/Nominee: The Sympathizer
LGBTQ: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, Juliet Takes a Breath

Top Books
Constructing this list was very easy, but writing about the books has proven to be difficult (see above).

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This is the book I couldn't stop recommending to every person in 2017. This young adult novel opens on Starr witnessing her friend Khalil get shot and killed by a cop during a traffic stop. It is a heartbreaking book, a moving book, a beautiful book, and one that our country really needs right now.

2. The Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
Yes, I am putting this memoir by Shonda Rhimes (aka queen of ShondaLand, aka showrunner of Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder) in front of a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I love Grey's Anatomy. Yes, it's still on TV, 14 seasons and counting. One of the great highlights of 2017 was rewatching it for the xth time while my best friend watched it the first time and texting back and forth about how much we love Christina. My Grey's Anatomy love alone would have made this a top book because there are some fun behind the scenes tidbits, but it is a wonderful book totally outside of that. Shonda is a powerhouse. A single mom by choice of three children with an amazing career who decided to spend a year saying yes after her sister muttered under her breath, "You never say yes to anything." I really needed this book in my life right this year, and I think everyone could use the chapter on accepting compliments. 

3. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
This 2016 Pulitzer Prize winning novel opens on the fall of Saigon and centers on a half-Vietnamese half-French undercover communist agent. Historical war fiction is not really my genre, but the author was coming to my university to give a talk and I wanted to read it before he came. I ended up not reading it in time, missing the talk completely, and then absolutely regretting it when I finished the book. The novel is darkly funny, very quotable, and required me to read many wikipedia pages.

Honorable Mention 
Hamilton: The Revolution by Jeremy McCarter and Lin-Manuel Miranda
In 2016 I had a student aide who was obsessed with a musical and wanted to play songs from it in the library (only school appropriate ones she promised). That was my introduction to Hamilton, and for me, like for a lot of America, it came out of nowhere. I, like a lot of America, am obsessed. This non-fiction book is only interesting to us, but for us it is amazing.

We Need To Talk About Harry Potter
I went on a three week trip to China. It included a lot of time on planes, trains, and buses. Picking out books for my three week trip to China was really really hard because I wasn't reading much anyway and I crave less serious books when I travel. I have been wanting to do a complete Harry Potter reread for a while. The last time I did one was when book 7 came out - since then I tend to only read 5-7. But reading all 7 Harry Potter books is a lot of time reading (the audiobooks are over 100 hours total). China was a perfect opportunity, so I loaded them up on a borrowed Kindle* and finished just in time to find an English bookstore in Beijing to get books for the plane ride home. It was as wonderful as I hoped it would be. I'm old enough that all my Harry Potter experiences happened well after childhood, so there was no risk of a childhood memory being sullied, but I still wondered if it would feel magical after all these years. It totally did. I laughed and read too many lines out loud to Randy and cried a lot. A lot. My favorite Harry Potter used to be Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but it is now Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I don't know if I will ever love a book again the way I have loved Harry Potter.

*To every person who has told me "Once you go e-reader, you can't go back" - ha! They are the best thing for travelling, yes, but as soon as I was back in America, I was back to paper books.

No comments: