It’s nearly the last day of the year, so it must be time to take a look at the books I read in the second half of 2017 — here’s a peek back at the first half of the year, if you’re curious.
The Idiot, by Elif Batuman (****). I really enjoyed this book! It so much reminded me of my first year of university in the mid-1990s…the sometimes pointless documentation of everyday observations and little details that an 18-year-old obsesses over sounded so much like my own journal writing at that age and time. I would have given it 5 stars, but it felt a bit too long at times.
Marina, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (***). I received the German translation of this book for my birthday and saved it for my evening reading at home. The story is based in Barcelona and centers around around two adolescents solving a fantastical mystery.
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, by Sherman Alexie (*****). If you’re a fan of Sherman Alexie, this book will definitely give you some insights into the author and his writing. It focuses on Alexie’s complicated relationship with his mother who recently passed away, and is told in a very circular fashion, always returning to the beginning just when you think it has reached the end. It is a heartbreaking read of a very difficult life, but definitely worth the effort.
The Pearl Thief, by Elizabeth Wein (****). If you liked Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, then this (comparatively) lighthearted prequel might also be for you. Set between the World Wars in Scotland, 15-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart and her crew solve a local mystery. I preferred the first two books, but this one was also pretty entertaining.
Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown (***). “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” This Teddy Roosevelt quote is the premise of this book. While there were interesting kernels here and there, I would have liked something a bit more meatier.
Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders (*****). This is a book that seemingly you either love or you really don’t — and I fall into the former category. Towards the beginning of the US Civil War, one of Abraham Lincoln’s sons died, and Lincoln reportedly returned to his son’s grave several times to visit his son’s body. Lincoln in the Bardo tells this story through the voices of all of the spirits stuck in between life and death in the graveyard, fighting over the soul of Willie Lincoln. Unusual and captivating, if you are willing to think outside of the box of the traditional novel.
Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward (*****). Without even intending to, the last book I finished reading in 2017 also had to do with spirits stuck in the in between, but this time in modern day Mississippi. The story is narrated by an adolescent boy, his meth-addict mother, and a ghost from his grandfather’s past. The long lasting effects of poverty and racial injustice drive the story, as do the enduring ties of family. While told in a very straightforward manner, this one definitely pulled at my heart strings.
Both Lincoln in the Bard and Sing, Unburied, Sing tie for my favorite books in the second half of 2017 — moving and unusual in their own unique ways, they really captured my whole attention. Next up for 2018 are No One is Coming to Save Us, Exit West, and Little Fires Everywhere.
What were your favorite books of the year?