Here are the books from the final quarter of 2017 that I read. My thoughts on 2017 as a whole will be posted on January 2nd with my top five favorites from 2017, observations on my reading as a whole from 2017, and goals for 2018. But for now, I am off to finish Just Mercy and do some food prep for tonight and tomorrow. Happy New Year!
A Land More Kind than Home ★★★★★ (Cash, 2012, fiction)
This Appalachian writer explores life in a rural North Carolina mixing themes of family and religion in a class good vs. evil story. I give it only four stars (really 4.5) because the ending was more violent than I anticipated. Well-written and very accessible, this is a must-read.
Small Great Things ★★★★★ (Picoult, 2016, fiction)
I read this book with high expectations and it did not disappoint. Ruth, an African-American labor and delivery nurse, is accused of killing a newborn after a white supremacist couple specifies for her to not care for their child. This books reads quickly, has believable characters, and deals with current issues.
Talk Like Ted ★★★★★ (Gallo, 2014, nonfiction)
If you do any type of public speaking, this book is a must read. My friend Adrian and I read this and discussed together as we prepared to speak this fall at a couple of English conferences. I loved this book so much that I ordered a class set for my seniors to use as part of their end-of-the-year project.
The Thirteenth Tale (Setterfeld, 2006, fiction) –
This is the one book of the year that I abandoned and is therefore not counted in this year’s list. I went into it with such high expectations, and this book is in my preferred genre. I’m not sure why I didn’t click with this book, but I do think it’s less about the book and more about me. I read it in October which was a particularly busy and stressful month for me. I will give this another try this year because I don’t want to give up on this completely.
Little Fires Everywhere ★★★★★ (Ng, 2017, fiction)
YES, YES, YES! This is one of my top five books of the year; I loved everything about it. The characters are believable and well-developed, the story pulls the reader in from the beginning and holds interest throughout, and the content made me think on some difficult issues. I read this book as part of an online book club (#APBKCHAT) which has been a great place for me to find and talk about new books. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Inside the O’Briens ★★★★★ (Genova, 2015, fiction)
A close friend gave me this book after one of her family member’s was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease (a neurodegenerative disease with no cure of treatment and has a 50% chance to be passed to children) in order to help me understand what her family was facing. I would encourage anyone who either has a family member or knows someone suffering from a neurological disease or works in the medical or counseling profession with patients to read this book. Hearing the disease through the patient and his family’s point of view is both sad and heartwarming.
The Hate U Give ★★★★★ (Thomas, 2017, young adult)
Young adult literature is not my genre of choice but sign me up for the Angie Thomas fan club. Often paired with All-American Boys which I read earlier this year and like, this book is THE YA book to read this year, and I couldn’t agree more. Sixteen-year-old Starr navigates her way through adolescence after witnessing a lifelong friend shot by the police. I love having books like this in my classroom library giving students options outside of the canon for reading.
Braving the Wilderness ★★★★★ (Brown, 2017, nonfiction)
Hello, Brene Brown; where have you been all of my life? After hearing Brene Brown speak at Catalyst this fall, I immediately ordered this book and was not disappointed. I have finally found someone who thinks like me – someone who can’t be categorized as conservative or liberal (nor wants to be), a person of faith who is open-minded, and someone who works hard but laughs a lot. This book explores having the courage to be yourself and living in community.
Murder on the Orient Express ★★★☆☆ (Christie, 1934, mystery)
I wanted to read this book before I saw the movie which I decided not to see after I read the book. For the record, I like Agatha Christie, and maybe this book was just bad timing since I read it in December, a busy month at school. I didn’t find the stock characters enjoyable or even likable, and the plot didn’t pull me forward while reading. This was one of my biggest reading disappointments of the year.
Comfort and Joy ★★★★☆ (Hannah, 2005, holiday fiction)
I bought this for a dollar at Goodwill this summer and held it to read over the holidays since I’m usually ready for some light reading then. When we dismissed school early for snow on a Friday afternoon in early December, I promptly went home, made hot chocolate, sat by the fire, and read this book. This is a Hallmark Christmas movie in novel format – predictable, heartwarming, and sets the mood for the holidays.
Their Eyes Were Watching God ★★★★☆ (Hurston, 1937, fiction)
This was one of my “I haven’t read this class yet” books for the year. There is so much in this book that I know I will reread it next year. I only give it 4 stars because the dialogue weighed me down and again – reading in December – made me have to work harder than I wanted on a book for this time of year. I suspect when I reread it, I will enjoy it even more. I love Janie, the strong female protagonist, and her story.
A Redbird Christmas ★★★★☆ (Flagg, 2005, holiday fiction)
This novella was on sale for $1.99, and I decided that a Southern holiday story would be a good way to spend a couple of early December mornings. I was right. There’s nothing earth shattering about this book or story, but it’s heartwarming and set in Alabama which makes it a perfect holiday read for me.
Peace Like a River ★★★★★ (Enger, 2000, fiction)
Wow – how have I not read this novel before now? This book is so beautifully written that it should be read for style alone, but then the story of a family’s love, loyalty, and faith as they endure hardship is beautiful as well. This definitely deserves to be on your TBR list.
Just Mercy ★★★★★ (Stevenson, 2015, nonfiction)
I am not quite done with this book but should finish tomorrow so I’m including it in this year’s list. This book was on my 2017 list, and I just kept putting it off because I am saddened to read about injustices in my much loved home state of Alabama. While I didn’t want to end the year with a heavy book like this, I knew I simply had to read this book this year. This ended up being the perfect time to read Just Mercy because while I am enjoying family, friends, and an abundance of material blessings, others face unfair hardships. This book about the criminal justice system in Alabama is a must read.
This fall’s rereads included Frankenstein, The Importance of Being Earnest, Harry Potter and the Sorcer’s Stone, and A Christmas Carol. I never get tired of introducing students to good literture!