Favorite Books: 2017

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There's no fast or easy way to recap 2017. I struggled this year more than I've ever struggled in my life. But I have to be thankful because this year brought me so many unexpectedly beautiful things including The Book Ship Project. This year I fell in love with reading again. And I found a community that I could share this love with enthusiastically and often.

As the last act of 2017, I've compiled a short list of my favorite books of the year with some brief thoughts about them. These are all books that surprised me and struck a chord deep within me. Stories that rang bright and true in a blurry world. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

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This novel is a masterpiece. The best book I read all year, hands down. The way Ng effortlessly weaves plots together is unmatched. Her characters are each so vivid and engaging it's hard to choose a favorite. Little Fires Everywhere centers on the idea of "motherhood" and follows it down every winding path it could possibly take. It is relatable, poignant, and beautiful. 

Exit West, Mohsin Hamid

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Set in a country poised to explode into civil war, Exit West was the most imaginative and unique story of the year for me. When the violence makes the city unlivable, citizens including our main characters, Nadia and Saeed, try to escape by paying high prices for the chance to travel through "doors" to safety. But there's no way to know where the door leads or what will meet them on the other side. We follow Saeed and Nadia as they face the unknown in this wonderful testament to courage.

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

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YA at its very best. Starr Carter is living a double life: she lives in a poor neighborhood in the city and goes to an overwhelmingly white prep school in the suburbs. She has two different personas to match. But her worlds start colliding after she witnesses the shooting of her friend Khalil by a police officer. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas tells the timely story of what happens in the aftermath of Khalil's death with unflinching power and grace. This book is a necessary read for people of all ages.

Goodbye, Vitamin, Rachel Khong

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This story has an unusual and unforgettable quality. But it's also unplaceable. I can't tell you exactly why I loved this story so much. But I can tell you the way Khong uses the idea of memory to build the present is compelling. She brings us Ruth, a mid-twenties woman moving home and saddled with the responsibility both of caring for her father with Alzheimer's and finding herself after a failed engagement. She realized that she's not quite sure how she got where she is and we go on the journey of trying to figure it out with her.  

Turtles All The Way Down, John Green

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John Green just gets it. This may not be his best work, but after a four-year hiatus, it felt so good to hear the sound of his voice again. This book is so important to me because it offered a real portrait of someone suffering from debilitating OCD. We spend the entirety of the novel in Aza's obsessive head. Her thoughts spiral out of control and she has trouble getting through the day without letting her compulsions take over. As her OCD begins to take over more and more of her life, the people who love her start to suffer in turn and Aza's life goes off the rails in a heartbreakingly real way. As a sufferer of OCD myself, the story was a little too much me at some points but ultimately helped me feel less alone. And that's why we tell stories after all, isn't it? 

Bad Kansas, Becky Mandelbaum

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This was my favorite short story collection of the year. I have the softest of the spots in my heart for the state of Kansas and the people who hail from there, but anyone would find the characters in the pages of these stories relatable. Every story features a darkly funny and intimate portrayal of everyday life. 

the sun and her flowers, Rupi Kaur

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This was my last read of 2017. I read it all this morning. There's not a lot I can say about it yet as I continue to process an experience that was deeply emotional for me so instead I'll just share one of the shorter poems:

when i hit the rock bottom

that exists after the rock bottom

and no rope or hand appeared

i wondered

what if nothing wants me

because i do not want me

- i am both the poison and the antidote

 

And that's a wrap! Another year of reading in the books. Thank you all for joining me in 2017 and I'm wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year! I am so hopeful for 2018. I will see you there.