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

5 Love Stories Better Than 50 Shades

Today a sweeping best seller turned into a movie will be released.  It has become a phenonmenon that sadly twists an abusive relationship into love. There are better books and more talented authors.

Let’s get back to good books, to well written stories, to authors who have honed their craft, and gifted storytellers.  Please give rise to these authors and their works of fiction that are well written, tender, moving stories.  As long as consumers keep devouring books like 50 shades, they will keep getting published.  Jane Austin would swoon over these stories, give them a go.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowellattachments

If you have not yet discovered the delightful Rainbow Rowell, you are in for a treat.  This is a  novel told primarily through company emails.  Rowell is a master at quick, smart dialogue.  The lives of a night computer security worker, and daytime employees connect through secret email reading without meeting face to face.  Lincoln, the main character is hired at night to ensure the employees are following standard procedures. He reads through emails and checks on employees computer activity.  Situations get  awkward when Lincoln starts to fall for a woman through her email prose.   The voices in the novel are witty, crass, and unbelievably awesome.  You will adore the banter between the characters and the odd love story that unfolds.  I wish there were more books like hers.  Wonderful, wonderful read.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here:

Attachments: A Novel

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The storied life of A.J. Fikry

Gabrielle Zevin writes a story of true and sacrificial love.  She shows us that blood is not always thicker than water, and love can shake you free from a painful stupor gone on too long.  The main character A.J. is suffocating under grief and hardship.  He runs a bookstore on an island (yes, it is as charming as it seems) and is struggling in modern day book selling in the midst of e-readers and online shopping.  He drowns his sorrows in wine in the evening, and his world turns upside down when his prize possession, a rare Edgar Allen Poe original, is stolen from his home.  As quickly as the book is taken from him, a mysterious baby is left in his care with a note explaining her parents are not up for raising a child.  The rest I will leave to you to read for yourself.  The characters are all quirky and lovable, flawed,and oh so  human. I truly believe there should be a special genre of  books only written about people that adore books.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry would shine in such a genre.  Many more events unravel in this story, I felt like I had moved onto the Island and gotten to know all the characters.  When the book was over, I was sure I would miss all of them.  It is not all happy, but it is sweet, and real, and worth your time.

To purchase the book from Amazon, click here:

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project

A character driven novel is one in which the character would say and do the same things regardless of the time or circumstances the author places them in.  The Rosie Project is the most charming and heartwarming novel of this kind that I have stumbled across in recent months.    Don Tillman is successful in his job and many endeavors, however love and relationships is not one of them.  Don has autism and does not grasp human relationships or social interactions in the slightest.  He concludes that it is time to find a romantic relationship; but decides leaving to chance meeting someone compatible randomly is unlikely and inefficient.  He comes up with a compatibility measurement test to approach the quest from a logical and scientific angle.  Of course, we all know there is no science to love, so Don’s world gets turned upside down and back again.   The author captures the mind of an autistic person with precision, compassion, and humor.   This love story is quirky and wonderful; I am praying they do not turn it into a movie.

To purchase this book on Amazon, click here:

The Rosie Project: A Novel

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman 

A Maa man called oven called Ove is quietly brilliant and utterly charming.    Ove is a man of unchanged routine, from his home, to his Saub, to his job, he holds onto the familiar with clenched fists.  He is an angry, prickly old man, and has settled into a life of despising most people.  Ove is pushed out of his job of thirty years and he is left without purpose.  To add insult to injury, new neighbors arrive across the street, he is grumpier than ever.  He irritably helps the Iranian neighbors through a medical emergency and a tentavtive friendship is born.  This story unfolds like a tapestry, telling the reader the story of Ove’s life as it has merged with the residents in their neighborhood of row homes.  This book captures the joy and pain of true sacrificial love, friendship with roots as strong as family, and forgiving the past.  The best thing about this book is how it makes you feel as you read, compassion for sweet old Ove, and hope that good can reign over bad.  Rich storytelling and subtle humor make it a moving novel.  I loved every up and down, from the beginning to the end.

To Purchase this on Amazon, click here:

A Man Called Ove: A Novel

Longbourne by Jo Baker

LongbourneLongbourne is reminiscent of Jane Austin’s story telling.  You will like it If you are looking for a book will elements similar to Pride and Prejudice.  However, it is not a retelling of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.  Let Longbourne speak for itself and tell its own story.  It is classic in its theme, tension, and hierarchy between servants and higher class.  It is romantic in its story of love hoped for, but unspoken and uncertain.   As a reader you need to attentively tune into the tension and longings of the characters.  The things that go unsaid are almost as important as what is said.  Longbourne takes you into old England, carriages, foggy mornings,  stone houses, and quiet romance.  I enjoyed this book, it is not a page turner, but a story that unfolds with quiet reserve.

To Order this book on Amazon, click here:


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

big little liesPirriwee Public school on the peninsula of Sydney, Australia is a mix of power moms, surfer dads, high finance bankers, and blue collar workers.  This mash up of parents and their children make for a fantastic cast of characters to keep you engaged in the life of this little town.  When Pirriwee Public throws a costume trivia night, drinks are too strong, issues surface, and something terrible takes place. However no one can recall exactly what happened or who was involved.  Three women are the heart of this novel, their lives twist and connect unexpectedly.  Celeste and her husband Perry are perfect in the outside, wealthy and put together.  Madeline is her loud, bossy, and unapologetic best friend.  Jane is the new mum at school, young, and not ready for the world of intense school politics.  These three women are multi-dimensional characters, as a reader you can’t help but empathize with their challenges.  Moriarty does a fantastic job of building intrigue through snatches of interviews from parents and teachers about the legendary trivia night.  She pulls you in with mystery, but weaves in the stories of these three women’s lives.  If you liked ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette’, you would like this book.  However, the characters are deeper, more relatable, with a more suspenseful plot.  If you liked ‘The Husband’s Secret’, I think you will like this more.  If you did not like ‘The Husband’s Secret’, give this a chance, it is a stronger book over all.  I loved the reader on Audio, the Australian accent adds to the story. Read it before the movie comes out. One of my favorite reads so far this year.

To Order this book from Amazon, click here:  Big Little Lies

Why Everyone Should Read Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell deserves her very own post.  She rocks, her blog is cool, and I love that she writes all her stories taking place in or around Omaha.  I have secretly always wanted to go there since the counting crows sang about it.  If you have ever talked on a landline, made a mix tape for someone you love, or wondered if anyone would love you for who you really are, you will love Rainbow Rowell.  Honestly if you have any ounce of heart you will find one of her books moving, touching, and worth every minute.  If you don’t, I am sorry you are not my people.

I am so impressed with her because she writes powerful characters in every book, but they are all different, wonderful, and unique.  There are books that I have loved and then waited impatiently for their next novel, but when it finally came it was a dud, forced, or contrived or uninspired.  Now, to give grace to those authors, some writers have only one great book in them, and that is fine.  Some authors write inspired by an event in their lives and when they try to write outside of that realm, it just doesn’t work.   This is precisely why I find her so impressive.  Each novel has her stamp, is written from her heart and has a large piece of her, but each character is new, fresh, and like finding a kindred friend.

Here is a link to her blog:

Here are my thoughts on all her books.  I binge read for a couple weekends, it was time well spent.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell 

Eleanor and ParkI breathed an audible sigh of contentment upon finishing Eleanor and Park.  Rainbow Rowell can write a teenage love story like no other.  The backdrop of the 80’s is captured with perfect clarity through every character.   My nostalgia for the 80’s runs deep, and this book made me swoon.  Eleanor is new to school and has to navigate high school being chubby, odd, poor, and with the weight of the world on her shoulders.  Park is different, intuitive, and battling through his own adolescence through music and comic books.  Eleanor ends up sitting in his seat on the school bus, the first of her many social landmines she has to tip toe through at her new school.  Eleanor and Park come from very different worlds, but find each other at the best moment in time.  Their bridge of friendship begins over mix tapes and comic books. Eleanor’s struggles are serious and hard to read at times, but Rowell never moves to gritty or disturbing, just gut wrenchingly honest.  If you ever got teased in gym class, dodged a bully in the halls, or just didn’t fit in, you will relate to these very well written characters.  The love story is sweet, written with the sharpest most engaging dialogue I have read in quite a while.  Few can capture the essence of someone through their words as clearly as Rainbow Rowell can.  This is a teenage love story for all ages.  If you are into that thing.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here:

Eleanor & Park

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell 

fangirlFangirl was a slower starter, but did not disappoint.  I had never read fan fiction, and did not really know what it was.  After some internet education I can appreciate its place in the reading world.  The characters in Fangirl are once again fantastic, and written only as Rowell can.  The story begins with twins Cath and Wren leaving their single parent father behind and going to college.  They are both intense followers of a series of fiction books for children/pre-teens full of magic and spells.  (Think Harry Potter parallel)  They write fan ficiton online continuing the stories, which is interlaced into the novel.  This book brought up so many reminiscent feelings of college, exciting new beginnings, but holding onto old comforts.  I felt a kinship with Cath and her heartfelt loyalty to her family, her online fan fiction followers, and to her true self.  Cath is not willing to change for anyone, but at some point that begins to hinder her. She has to choose where to bend and open up for the sake of her heart.  I loved the setting of a part rural, part city college campus in Omaha.  The two men in Cath’s life, Nick and Levi open her up to new experiences, some turn painful, but some are the sweetest bits of nectar you get to taste in life.  By the end, I was attached to the characters and was sad to read the last page.  If I ever chose to write fan-fiction, I think I might start with Fangirl.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here:


Landline by Rainbow Rowell 

Landline-Rainbow-RowellThe protagonist of this story has the best name of anyone you will ever encounter, Georgie McCool.  Her marriage is shaky, her career is hopefully finally taking off, and then comes Christmas.  Georgie has to work and chooses not to go visit extended family with her husband and daughters.  She is left disconnected, alone, with only a landline to feebly attempt to contact her husband. I loved the way this book sort of traveled through time and space while Georgie tries to understand where her relationship has been and where it is going.  She relives their life together in her mind, analyzing, reliving, and knowing truly how much she has to lose.  Rainbow Rowell is a master at snappy dialogue, inner turmoil, and books that make you feel deeply with the characters.  You will miss the way the book made you feel when the last page comes to an end.

To purchase this book on Amazon click here:


Attachments by Rainbow Rowell 

This was one of the first reviews I wrote, so I didn’t change it at all even thought it is redundant.  It is sentimental to me.  

attachmentsIf you have not yet discovered the delightful Rainbow Rowell, you are in for a treat.  This is a  novel told primarily through company emails.  Rowell is a master at quick, smart dialogue.  The lives of a night internet security worker, and daytime employees connect through secret email reading without meeting face to face.  Lincoln, the main character is hired at night to ensure the employees are following standard procedures. He reads through emails and checks on employees computer activity.  Situations get  awkward when Lincoln starts to fall for a woman through her email prose.   The voices in the novel are witty, crass, and unbelievably awesome.  You will adore the banter between the characters and the odd love story that unfolds.  I wish there were more books like hers.  Wonderful, wonderful read.

To purchase this book on Amazon, click here:

Attachments: A Novel

One-Sit-Wonders: 3 Books You Can Finish in a Single Day

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Rosenthal 

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary LifeIf your quirky best friend wrote down all her thoughts on life and gave them to you alphabetized with diagrams and illustrations, it would turn out like this book.  It was such a sweet and pleasant read, not to deep, not too serious, just an enjoyable weekend read.  The author introduces the book by telling in the third person how her book came to be.  She was always out of the box, writing short bits and pieces of thought, but could never find a place for them in the publishing world.  Finally, she found her niche, and it is her Encyclopedia.  The alphabetical entries are in the format of a subject followed by an explanation.  Her life story unfolds to you in random thoughts that work together and make sense.  The ‘B’ section starts: Bad Movie, Bagpipers, Birthday, Birthmark.  Who can resist reading thoughts on Birthmarks and Bagpipers?   A great one-sit-wonder.

To Order this book on Amazon, click here:

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun- Mi Hwang

The henIf you are on the hunt for a book that is: told from the view of a hen, translated from Japanese, is short but poignant, and can be read in a day, this is your book.  The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is an unusual gem.  The story is told from the perspective of a hen who wants to hatch an egg, and her quest to battle the weasel who wants her as dinner.  Her journey is sweet and touching.  I have read a few books that have been translated from other languages and I really enjoy them.  When a book is translated it automatically has a different voice and feel than a book written in English first.  It is a characteristic that is hard to describe, however it makes the book all the more enjoyable.  The length of this book makes you feel like the Queen of the Castle, you can read it in a day and feel so accomplished.  I love a good classic tomb of a book that takes dedication and fervor, but there is something nice about a short little read.  If I could compare this book to chocolate, it would be a box of fine, handmade delicacies.  It is small, but exquisite.

To Order this Book on Amazon, click here:

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Lavithan

The Lovers DictionaryI spent one afternoon idling in the road of life and enjoying ‘The Lover’s Dictionary.  It is a perfect procrastination book, if you fail to get something important accomplished, at least you can accomplish reading an entire book.  Now, people like books for different reasons, many are very personal and deeply rooted in convictions, emotions, experiences, etc.  The reason I liked this book is because it was so creative, bold, and short.  Levithan tells the story of his relationship in alphabetical order with selected words from the dictionary, and he does it well.  I did not love some of the events, but I loved the format and the voice of the writing.  I loved learning new words and expanding my vocabulary.  A good one-sit-wonder.

To Order this book on Amazon, click here:

The Lover’s Dictionary: A Novel