Best of 2017: Books
I recently completed my reading challenge for this year—52 books!—and I think this may have been the most books I've ever read in a single year. I've always loved reading, but there was a portion of my adult life where I barely read at all. I've realized now that reading is such a huge part of who I am that I don't really feel like myself if I'm not excited about what I'm reading or what's next in the queue.
I've set a new challenge for 2018—60 books!—and I'm mostly confident that I can reach that number. 52 felt challenging, but not impossible and I work well under deadlines, even if they're basically imaginary. As much as I love the library, part of my reading goal this year is to read books that I actually own. I have a tendency to buy books and then forget about them once they're on my bookshelf. I love the act of browsing for used books at the Strand and I feel comforted by a bookcase full of possibility—but I also live in a tiny studio and clearing out some of that clutter (by reading and then selling the books back to the Strand) feels like a reasonable goal for the new year.
You can see past book reviews here and I still have a few to catch up on of the 52, but here were the standouts from the year:
🏆 BEST OVERALL 🏆
The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, by Jeff Guinn
It's been a few months since I finished this book, but I can't stop thinking or talking about Jim Jones. He is one of the most (maybe the most?) fascinating people I've ever read about, and Jeff Guinn has quickly become my new favorite biographer.
✏️ BEST NON-FICTION ✏️
This was one of the first books I finished early in the year, and no other true story that I've read since has quite come close to being as thought-provoking. I went into this book knowing very little about the true devastation of hurricane Katrina, and I never before considered what a hospital would do with their sickest patients in times of crisis—this story isn't an easy one, but I'm still thinking about it nearly a year later.
📚 BEST FICTION 📚
A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel, by Amor Towles
I read both of Towles's novels this year, and as much as I loved The Rules of Civility, his second book is even better. I don't read much fiction, but this book was so richly rendered that it made me appreciate the way that a really good novel can immerse you in a world so different from your own like nothing else can.
🔬 BEST SCIENCE 🔬
I think I dreamed this book into existence after wanting to read about Joseph Lister and his antiseptic germ theory for so long, but it was better than I could have even imagined. If you devour books about antiquated medical practices and the pioneers of medicine like I do, you'll love this book.
👨🏻 BEST BIOGRAPHY 👨🏻
Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, by Jeff Guinn
This was my second book by Guinn, and I knew that he would handle Manson's life with the same expertise and natural flow that he used to tell the story of Jim Jones. Everyone has heard of Charles Manson, but there was so much to his fascinating life (and the lives of the other "family" members) than just the sordid headlines.
Full review to come.
😂 BEST HUMOR 😂
We are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays, by Samantha Irby
Based on cover art alone, I knew this book would be funny but I didn't expect to forcibly laugh out loud quite as much as I did. Irby's essays aren't about funny topics, but her storytelling and perspective is so hilarious that I'd want to read her thoughts on pretty much anything.