I decided to limit myself to eight books, because eight is my lucky number. Besides, many of us have a short attention span and ten books seems like too many. I selected three novels, two Young Adult, and three memoir. Here are my Eight favorite books that came into print in 2017:
Beartown by Fredrick Backman. This story could take place in any small town in any country. For some reason I assumed it was Canada until one of the characters mentioned money, then I realized it was set in Sweden. Told in an alternating POV, Beartown is a story about a small dying town where everything centers around the hockey program. By the end of the book the community will be torn apart by violence, forcing everyone to come down on one side or the other. It’s a tale of the strange family sports teams become, with the backstories fully explored for several team members. It is also a story about the deep love between family and friends, and the resilience of one young woman.
Everybody’s Son by Thrity Umrigar. A compelling novel about race, privilege, morality and love. It follows Anton, a Black boy in foster care, who is adopted by a prominent white family. It sounds straightforward enough—but there is nothing straightforward about how the father, David, goes about getting custody of this child. It raises more questions than it answers, and I both couldn’t wait for the conclusion and dreaded the book ending. Read our interview with the author, Thrity Umrigar, here.
Touch by Courtney Maum is a wonderful novel that raises questions about whether intimacy is the price of technology, or is enhanced by it. If you have been caught in the struggle between online connectivity and real world connectivity, you will love this book. I got to chat with Courtney Maum for the Deb Ball this past fall—read it here.
Next we have three memoirs:
Traveling with Ghosts: A Memoir by Shannon Leone Fowler.
This is an exquisitely wrought love story of heartbreak and resilience. I often had to put it down for a bit and just breathe—it’s very intense.It is the story of a woman grieving the death of her fiancé while traveling war-ravaged countries. The narrative circles back and forth between the “now” of the narrative’s present time and the past, with snippets of relevant facts woven in. Look for a Deb interview with Shannon Leone Fowler February 3, 2018.
Some Bright Morning, I’ll Fly Away: A Memoir by Alice Anderson.
Alice Anderson’s memoir starts after her community is destroyed by hurricane Katrina, and flows back and forward in time through her years as an international model to survivor of near-fatal abuse at the hands of her husband…but it is more than that. It is a story of love, hope, and the power to survive against all odds. Anderson is an award winning poet, and her prose is lyrical and gorgeous.
by Lynn K. Hall
This is an emotionally intense book but worth the ride. I was a little hesitant to read it due to the subject matter, but I am glad I did. Some experiences are traumatic to read, but in the end, you feel a deepening of your own humanity for having read it. I feel like I have a better understanding of both the military culture and how rape culture and institutional sexism really function. Lynn Hall was one of last year’s Debs, and she is an amazing woman and a role model to so many of us.
Finally, we have two YA books, both with a same-sex romance at the heart of them:
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
They both die at the end…really. It was interesting to me from a craft perspective to see if you could take a book, spoil the ending in the title and still have a book worth reading. The answer is a resounding yes. This book is interesting and the characters engaging, with a balance between some romance, some adventure. I really had no idea what twists the plot would take or where it would wind up throughout the book. Every time I thought I knew exactly where this was going, I was wrong. I love being surprised.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Marin leaves town shortly after her father dies, effectively cutting ties with everyone she knows. The reasons why slowly emerge as this story fluctuates forward and backward in time. The language is beautiful, and the story immediately sucked me in and held me to the very end. A few times I held my breath because I was afraid it was almost over and I couldn’t bear for it to end! That said, the ending was very satisfying. The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the cover.
So there’s a smattering of excellent books that I highly recommend. Happy reading to everyone as we slowly emerge form the darkest days of 2017.