It’s that time of year again! Time to look back on the calendar year and reflect on all the books I read over the course of the year. 2017 was a pretty good year of reading for me. I managed to shatter my original goal of 70 books, by reading over 100 books, totaling over 23,000 pages! The shortest book I read was a 16 page novella by Nnedi Okorafor and the longest was the fantastic 1,157 page 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. To be honest, reading goals create a culture of competition among readers which I don’t particularly like – one that also has a lot to do with access to resources (books, libraries, etc.) and access to leisure time to read. It does not matter how much you read this year in comparison to how much someone else has read. The goal of this post is to highlight books for all readers in hopes that one might spark interest in you.
Without further ado, here are the top 11 books in no particular order that I read in the year 2017:
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – How could I leave this powerful, best-selling contemporary young adult novel out of the end of the year mix?! This. Book. Was. Amazing. Simply put, THUG delivered on everything I was looking for in a YA book – fantastic and digestible writing, a compelling contemporary story from the experience of a young person of color, character depth with emotion that came right off the pages, and a very timely commentary of race/racism in the US. If you have not read this yet, do not wait another day!
- Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan – Wow! This collection of stories is threaded heavily with themes of immigration, discrimination, family, love, hate, and temporary status. Many of the stories stuck with me long after I read the collection. This is a book that deserves more than one read – and I am sure I will find more that moves me with each subsequent read. Temporary People is not a well-known book, but one that rises above the mass market publication noise. See my review here.
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – Pachinko is a heart wrenching, multi-generational story about a Korean family who left Korea during the Japanese occupation and resettled in Japan. Not many Westerners know about the colonial atrocities that Japan commitment in the name of uniting Asia and decolonizing countries from Europe. One of the countries to get hit the hardest was Korea. This is a story of family resilience in the face of enormous oppression, hate, and violence. Pachinko is a must read of 2017 in my opinion.
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – Another multi-generational novel that tears at the reader’s heartstrings. Homegoing explores the devastating impact of colonialism in African nations and how to transatlantic slave trade impacted a family through generations – two sisters, one married a slave trader and one was sold into slavery. These powerful narratives give voice to the many different lived-experiences born out of the African diaspora. Another must read that I would highly recommend.
- White Tears by Hari Kunzru – I recognized the title as I was briefly browsing the newly released books at the library and had no idea what the story was about. It starts off seemingly normal about two White guys very much into blues music and started their own music studio. After they forge an old blues record, things get interesting and weird. A mix of magical realism, horror, and crime along with a compelling narrative on historical and contemporary racism, White Tears blew me away.
- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid – There are many different doors in this world leading to many different places. Exit West looks to explore these doors through the narrative of refugees. Mohsin Hamid writes with elegance and sparseness to capture the raw emotions of two people fleeing their home, through a door, and into a new place that is not only just new, but alien to them. This is just a wonderful piece of writing and literature which tells a story that I think everyone needs to hear.
- Human Acts by Han Kang – I read a lot of sad books this year but Human Acts was one of the saddest. Taking on the historical events in South Korea when there was an uprising of students that turned violent. This book masterfully threads together different stories and narratives around the death of a young boy. Each character has their own struggle as they are trying to find hope and a voice amidst a brutal and oppressive conflict.
- The Boat Rocker by Ha Jin – The Boat Rocker was the first Ha Jin book I ever read and I picked it up randomly at the library… and wow, it blew me away. From Ha Jin’s engaging writing style, to the compelling narrative about Chinese expatriates living in the United States, I love every single moment of my experience reading The Boat Rocker. This book takes a critical look at the challenging position some Chinese folks living in the US are in with freedom of the press in the US and the pressure from the Chinese government. It was a timely read too as I was having conversation with Chinese students about the decision of the UC system to invite the Dalai Lama as their commencement speaker. I look forward to reading more Ha Jin in the upcoming year.
- Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá – A beautifully written and drawn graphic novel about life and death. Brás de Oliva Domingos writes obituaries for a living. Each chapter looks at a different year and event in Brás’ life – the birth of his son, his first kiss, the day he meets the love of his life. While he is writing the end for so many people, we look at the most important moments that make up Brás’ life. Each story ends with a twist.
- Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan – This middle school chapter book was one of the first #OwnVoices book about a young Muslim girl and her life – family, schools, religion and spirituality, friends, and more. This story is very important. It is about culture, assimilation, and the struggle of the coded term ‘American.’ This is everything young people are going through while growing up in the United States. Amina’s story is powerful and moving and the struggles her friend Soojin was going through resonated a lot with me. Definitely one to check out and a book to recommend to all those middle schoolers in your life.
- 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – Haruki Murakami is my favorite magical realism contemporary author and I knew it was time to take on the HUGE task of 1Q84. Even though this book is incredibly long, I did not feel labored in reading it. The storied flowed well and kept me engaged the entire time as two characters are floating through the alternate reality of 1984 towards one another. This book was everything I hoped for and it re-solidified how fantastic Murakami is at constructing worlds and stories with a magical flair. See my review here.
What were your favorite books you read in 2017?