In January, I made a reading goal for 2017: complete 50 full-length novels before the year’s end. Normally, this wouldn’t seem excessively ambitious, but I was feeling the strain of teaching several grades of middle and high school English (let’s talk about the mounds of grading later, shall we?) and I knew that when Baby Schaffer made his appearance in June, all reading bets were off.
Now it’s mid-December and I’ve finished my 62nd book for the year, with my eyes set on finishing another 3 or 4 before the sun sets on December 31. *Cue book shimmy*
In January, I’ll publish a Top 7 list of my favorite reads for 2017 (because honestly, 5 isn’t enough and 10 seems too predictable); but for the time being, I wanted to offer a longlist featuring my best reads of 2017, to date.
Renee’s 2017 Longlist
- Celine by Peter Heller. Badass granny private eye with a knack for making readers wish they were her, accompanied by a slightly-awkward but nonetheless endearing and devoted sidekick hubby. Read this one for the exquisite prose and #GrownupGoals.
- Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller. If you’re looking for a book to knock the air out of you, look no further. Swimming Lessons is an aching tale of betrayal, abandonment, and denial that draws together two somewhat-estranged sisters as they seek the truth about their mother.
- Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown. If you loved Gone Girl, you will *probably* also love this family narrative in which everyone has secrets and nothing is quite as simple as it seems initially. Read this one for a protagonist you’ll love to hate (or, if not hate, judge).
- All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. My Litsy review pretty much sums this one up: “If you are okay with becoming a blubbering train wreck, this book is for you.” Read this one if you have an interest in YA fiction and/or books that tackle the subjects of self-discovery and mental health issues.
- The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. For lovers of historical fiction, this narrative juxtaposes one of the most starkly contrasting relationships of our nation’s history: two young girls bound together by slavery — one, slave; the other, master. This novel is an abysmally painful but hopeful and uplifting portrait of personal growth, sacrifice, understanding, and rebellion.
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Perhaps one of my favorite “light” reads of the year, Ove is just . . . sweet, charming, a bit heartbreaking, hopeful, and amusing all at once. The characters are lovable, the plot is memorable, and the message is lasting.
- Descent by Peter Johnston. I read this one in January and it still remains toward the top of my list for the year as a low-key thriller and guaranteed page-turner. As a family of four struggles to come to terms with the disappearance of their daughter/sister, each individual also sets out on a journey of self-discovery. For a thriller, the prose in this one blew me away and left me wanting more from this author.
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. The title character is the very definition of a hot mess, which makes for a fun, entertaining read. Equal parts mysterious, hysterical, and heartwarming, this novel is a great choice for the busy reader looking for something that isn’t super-heavy or lengthy.
- Salt Houses by Hala Alyan. Easily the most beautifully composed novel I read in 2017, Salt Houses follows multiple generations of a family in the Middle East. Read this one if you love exceptional prose and authors like Amy Tan and Khaled Hosseini.
- Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. If you don’t typically pick up nonfiction, but you have a vague interest in historical events and enjoy true crime, let this be your one nonfiction read for the year. Grann’s research makes for a chilling and eye-opening read, featuring the Osage Indian tribe, the oil boom in Oklahoma, J. Edgar Hoover’s rise to power in the FBI, and the history of federal investigations.
- Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips. A speedy, terrifying thriller that I wouldn’t particularly recommend to mothers because it’s painfully real and just absolutely spine-tingling. This very well might be the best thriller I read this year (and last year, if I’m being honest with myself).
- Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. As with all Picoult works, Small Great Things tackles complex family and social relationships in a thorough and thoughtful manner. If you think you know the ins and outs of what it means to be white and what it means to be black in America, read this novel — and think again.
- The History of Bees by Maja Lunde. A chillingly relevant and feasible science fiction/dystopian novel that spans several centuries through the eyes of three parents striving to create a better world for their children, the only way they know how. Read it for the fascinating historical references to beekeeping and the utterly horrifying vision Lunde paints of the future.
- Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. A very deserving selection for the National Book Award in fiction, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a new-classic work of Southern literature, replete with lyrical prose and thoroughly-constructed characters. Read this one when you’ve got time to digest the heavy themes and complex family relationships.
- The Trespassers by Tana French. Part of the Dublin Murder Squad series, this heavy tome somehow ends up a fast read that’ll leave you talking (or at least thinking) with a heavy Irish brogue. Pick this one up if you have an affinity for crime fiction and sassy female protagonists.
What were your favorite reads of 2017? Leave me a comment below!