Best Books of 2017

My Favorite Books of 2017

eleanor Oliphant is completely fineBest Overall Character: Emily Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman– Emily is the most real, quirky, and charming character I have read in a long time. She has been through very difficult circumstances, and we meet her just as she is beginning to step out of a safe, but isolated life. I was moved, laughed, cringed, and cheered for her the whole way through.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel

the other einsteinBest Historical Fiction: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict– Did you know Albert Einstein’s wife was also a genius mathematician and physicist? This is a riveting and heartbreaking story of their love affair. It was fascinating.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Other Einstein: A Novel

 

wishtreeBest Middle Grade Novel: Wishtree by Catherine Applegate– Told from the perspective of a tree, the history, heartache, and hope of a little town is revealed by one little tree. Beautiful, imaginative, and wonderful.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Wishtree

 

when dimple met rishiBest Sophisticated Brain Candy: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon– When Dimple heads to Standford for a summer program, she has no idea her traditional Indian parents have betrothed her to another student in the program. Calamity ensues, and it is funny, sweet, and light. Sometimes you just need a light read, this is it, but well written.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: When Dimple Met Rishi

 

a long walk to waterBest Non-Fiction: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park– A simply stunning novel about the lost boys of Sudan. Everyone should read this book, and teachers or parents of 4th graders and up should add it to their read aloud list.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story

like water for chocolate

Best Re-Read: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel- This was a book club pick, I had read it in college, and loved reading it again. It is passionate, tragic, and beautiful.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

 

born a crime

Best Celebrity Novel: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah– Ever since the success of Tina Fey’s book, it gave license for nearly every celebrity to write a book. Most are not my favorite.  However, I learned a lot from Noah’s book. You will learn a little about slave history, apartheid, and hear Noah’s powerful life story.  A solid read, but not too challenging.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

2018 To Be Read List: (So Far) 

Peace Like a River by Lief Enger

Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary by Martha Brokenbrough

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

the alice networkCharlie boards a ship to Europe with her mother, pregnant, unwed, and a little angry. The Second World War has just ended, and nothing is right in Charlie’s life, or the world. Fed up with her mother, she sets out on her own as soon as she reaches England. Charlie’s cousin Rose, is missing in France.  She has one lead, a woman named Eve, and all the determination in the world.

Eve worked in a ring of women spies in World War One. Her job left her broken, bitter, and alone. Along comes Charlie, with questions Eve does not want to hear, much less answer. However, Eve must face the past eventually. Charlie and Eve form a very unlikely relationship and set out to find Rose.

The Alice Network flips back and forth between Eve and Charlie, and the First and Second World Wars. It is thrilling, distressing, and intriguing. There are many World War Two novels, however the timelines from each war weave together to deliver a fresh twist. The work of female spies is impressive, the author’s research at the end of the book is fascinating. An entertaining story from beginning to end.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Alice Network: A Novel

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

 

the underground railroadColson Whitehead uses an actual railroad under the ground as the center of the affecting tale of a slave’s s fight to be free. Cora is the lowest of all slaves on the plantation. Living in the hob, where the least desirable and most abused slaves are sentenced to live. She tends one small plot of dirt and grows a handful of her own vegetables. Even this pitiful plot of land is destroyed by a fellow slave. One night Cora takes her chance, and runs, beginning her journey on the train to freedom. With a fellow slave, her journey begins rough, and proves to be a grueling fight to live in peace. Stories of the horrors of slavery are nothing new in our literature, yet this book gets deep into the core of the depraved beliefs that kept freedom from so many people. Slave catchers hunt for Cora the entire book, bent on revenging her betrayal, and ultimately cleansing the world of black people. These horrors need to be read about and thought about, because prejudice is still alive today. This book is a sad journey, you will feel the depths of despair with Cora, but also clutch to hope alongside her. The Underground Railroad is an impeccable work of fiction. Let us all never forget the history before us and work to right the wrongs.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Underground Railroad (Pulitzer Prize Winner) (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

I was humbled to learn I was completely unaware of the history of the Orphan Trains in the US. In 1850, there were 30,000 homeless children in New York City. In an effort to help these children, they were put on trains and taken to live on farms in the midwest. From 1853 to the early 1900’s thousands of children were relocated, this movement is credited with starting the Foster Care System. You can read more about the history here:

Childrens Aid Society

orphan-train

Photo credit to the Childrens Aid Society Website

orphan train book coverOrphan Train, the historical fiction novel set in this time period is outstanding. We meet three characters, Neeve, an orphan in 1929, Molly, aging out of the modern day foster system, and Vivian, a 90 year old woman who Molly is placed to serve community service.  Their stories fit together perfectly, their struggles are different, but also a mirror image of one another. Each womans life is rich with emotion, perseverance, and redemption. A perfect historical fiction novel. The Audiobook was fantastic, I think it added to the book because of the characterization through different voices.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Orphan Train

To Purchase the Audiobook, click here: Orphan Train: A Novel

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

the-invention-of-wingsI had been struggling to post this recommendation, I couldn’t figure out why, so I thought about this book for a few weeks.  Then the shooting in Charleston took place. Then I really thought about this story. I finally realized my struggle was shallow, I felt like I should be writing about light hearted beach reads. Beach reads are the cool kids right now. I have not been cool a day in my life, so why start now? In the heat of summer, my reccomendation is a high quality book about slavery and two little known abolistionists.  The Invention of Wings is heavy, yet it is an important book, and relevant to the history of Charleston. I will get to my beach reads later.

Sarah turns 11 and is given a girl named ‘Handful’. ‘Handful’ is hers to own, given like a piece of furniture or doll. Sarah attempts to set her free, but an 11 year old cannot change laws with a handwritten piece of paper. Handful is her slave, and the daughter of the best seamstress in Charleston. Handful and her mother are owned by the Grimke’s and keep the family plantation working and profitable.

The story flips back and forth from Handful to Sarah, telling the stories of Handful’s each girls life from childhood to adult. The injustice and cruelty is hard to stomach, but the story is so rich with character development, historically accurate events, and impeccable story-telling.

Sarah Grimke and her sister, Angelina, grew up to be  abolitionists. Sarah and her sister fought for the rights of slaves and the rights of women in a time when white men truly ruled the world with a tightly closed fist. The Grimke sisters were mocked and called spinsters. They are lesser known heroes in the fight against slavery.

Be sure to read the afterward, the Grimke Sisters were fascinating, and Sue Monk Kidd shares her research and methods of writing the story. A good read.

To Order on Amazon, click here:  The Invention of Wings

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

TheBoysintheBoatOur book club recently read The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.  If you read only a handful of books this year, please put it at the top of your list. It is non-fiction at its finest, filled with facts, yet reads like story.  Daniel Brown tells the story of the University of Washington’s men’s crew team competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  The story starts long before Berlin, with 9 boys coming together in Seattle, when the city was barely establishing itself.  The story of Joe, the main character is heart-breaking and inspiring.  With little support, or hardly a family to call his own, he begins to row at the University of Washington.  Joe’s story is an incredible tale of tenacity and overcoming adversity.  Brown explains the technicalities of rowing in such simple rich language that you will be enveloped and enthralled as you read.  As Hitler is rising to power and putting a gleaming sheen on Germany for the entire world to see; these humble boys come and fight for the Gold, with every ounce of strength they have.  The Boys in the Boat is rich with World War II history, Seattle history, and the thrill of competition.  If you liked stories like Rudy, Hoosiers, or Cinderella Man, you will love this book.  Put it in your top 5 for the year.  The audiobook is fantastic.

To Download on Amazon, click the link here:

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

To Download the Audiobooks, click the link here:

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

The History of the Fortune Hunter

When I read historical fiction I always like to know a little back story on the real events.  It helps connect me to the story and understand nuances when the author brings the era or person to life.  Elisabeth, the Empress of Austria is one of the main characters in The Fortune Hunter.  She became an empress at 16, did not care for life at court, and rebelled against her traditional duties.  She was known for her very long hair and rigorous beauty routines.   During her life time she had 2 daughters and finally a son, an heir to the throne.  Her mother in law was very controlling and did not allow her to care for her own children.  She spent a great deal of her life traveling apart from her husband and riding horses until her health did not permit it anymore.  The Fortune Hunter brings her to life beautifully.  Here is a picture of her with her very long hair, it is said it took 3 hours a day to care for it and caused her extreme headaches.

catherine-earnshaw

Bay Middleton was a handsome equestrian as well and was asked by the Empress to be her pilot on her hunting excursions.  Charlotte Baird was later his wife.  This book tells the story of their life before marriage.

To Order this book on Amazon, click here: The Fortune Hunter: A Novel

The Fortune Hunter

the fortune hunterOld England as a setting always wins me over, and it was no different with The Fortune Hunter.  When the book opens, it is hunting season and these high class English are up for a good fox hunt.  The main characters in this story are Charlotte Baird, an heiress and photographer, and The Empress of Austria.  Charlotte is heir to the Lennox fortune and naturally has to wade through conniving men wanting her money more than her.  She bucks tradition and follows her love of photography and horses more than society and social expectations.   Throw in a handsome equestrian named Bay Middleton, and you have quite a love story during hunting season.  I loved this book on audio, if you do audio books at all this is a perfect one to listen to.  There are 3 different accents that bring this story to life.  The beginning takes a bit of perseverance to get through, but it is a strong story.  It is an opulent portrayal of royalty and wealth, the search for true love and the longing to be known and cherished as a person, not an opportunity.