I read a lot of books this year and enjoyed many of them. It’s hard to choose favorites, so I narrowed it down to only those books that were released during 2017. These books all received five out of five shells in my reviews.
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia
Rita Williams-Garcia is an incredible author whose middle-grade fiction always handles difficult subjects with ease and gentleness. Her newest release is no different. I loved going on an adventure with Clayton as he discovered truths about himself and his family through the power of music.
Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley
I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me at the beginning of the year that a book about yoga would make my best-of list, but here we are! Beyond just making yoga more accessible, the biggest take away from this book is that no matter who you are and what your physical limitations may be, your body and mind deserve to be nourished and prioritized.
Hunger by Roxane Gay
This was one of my most anticipated reads for the year and it exceeded all of my expectations. I still feel it in my chest when I reflect on the experiences Roxane Gay shares in this heartbreaking memoir.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book deserves every ounce of praise that it’s received this year. It’s a stunning YA debut about police violence and the movement for black lives. You definitely need to pick it up if you haven’t already read it. Do it!
Looking back on 2017 (with the help of Goodreads, of course) I see that I liked and really liked a lot of books. But the ones that got five stars from me were these:
Princess Hair by Sharee Miller
This wonderful picture book spreads the message that everyone is a princess and therefore their hair is princess hair. Then it details exactly how princesses can wear all the varieties of African American hairstyles. I loved its premise and its focus on African American girls. It’s all empowerment and positive message and inclusion and you should get it for all your littles, whether of color or not.
Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera
As I talked about in my review this picture book is hilarious in its absurdity about animals and their underroos. I loved it so much I bought it for my almost three-year-old niece for Christmas.
Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky
Vibrant colors and illustrations with a powerhouse of information on notable women you may have heard of and some you likely haven’t. I was inspired and to this day want to share it with everyone (just ask Abby what my reaction was when I saw her reading it.). Ignotofsky’s next book, Women in Sports, came out in July and is one of my most anticipated reads for 2018.
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman
It’s no secret I adore Backman’s whole catalog but this novella hit so close to home. If you’ve ever had a loved one deteriorate from Alzheimer’s this will likely make you cry the entire time, like it did me. About a grandfather trying to come back to reality for his grandson even though he can’t quite find the way.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
I’m still in awe of the mastery of this novel by Picoult and I try to get everyone to read it in the hopes of fostering dialog about race and race relations in America. It’s so easy to say “oh no, I’m not racist” without realizing all the little ways you maybe are. I stand by my one word review of “wow”.
What it’s about: A librarian writes love letters (and some break up ones) to all the books she has loved.
What made me pick it up: List of books, written by a librarian? It was a no-brainer.
My favorite things: This book is hilarious, even if you don’t get all the library work references. But they did make it even more enjoyable for me. I’ve recommended it to all my coworkers and library working friends. It’ll make you remember all those books you love, or at least used to love, and why and maybe reminisce or pick them back up and read them again. While it did remind me a little of other books about books, most notably those by Will Schwalbe, the repeated doses of levity helped this one rise above the rest. She’s not trying to change your life, she’s just someone who wants to talk about the books she loves/hates. So get a glass of wine and enjoy this book chat from your new author bestie.
Who it’s great for: Readers of every variety. Librarians.
Find this book in your local library, or if the holds lists are too long, on Amazon (affiliate link).
What it’s about: A sweet Christmas tale about a recovering heroin addict getting his life back together with the help of his feline pal. James let’s you see him struggle through the holiday season to find meaning and realize how great his life really is.
My favorite things: I enjoyed the reminder that it’s not how much you have but who you have in your life that makes it great, especially during the holiday season. It also has a strong thread of giving is better than getting, which I appreciated. Mostly, James has a way of telling his story so you root for him to keep holding it together after all he has overcome, and hope the same for other addicts and recovering addicts everywhere.
Who it’s great for: Readers interested in a heart warming tale. Cat fans. Anyone who has ever had a pet that chose them.
What it’s about: A boy with autism and his mom whose lives are changed after a stray cat joins their home.
What made me pick it up: It has a cute kitten on the cover. It had to do with Christmas. That was enough, but then I found it in the autism section and not the cat section and I was even more intrigued.
My favorite things: This story is so touching. A child who was lost inside was brought out by a cat and his mother’s determination. Animal stories get me sobbing every time. Animal and family stories doubly so. It will make you want to call your mom and thank her for everything she has ever done for you.
Who it’s great for: Families with members who have autism. Cat lovers. Anyone who enjoys stories about holiday hope.
What’s it about: Brooklyn teen Sierra Santiago’s summer vacation is interrupted by weeping street murals, family secrets, and a kind of magic that links the world of the living with that of the dead.
What made me pick it up: I remember seeing good buzz about this when it came out a couple of years ago, so I checked it out when I saw that the audiobook was available.
My favorite things: Once I started this book I didn’t want to stop. The story is engaging and moves quickly with a sense of urgency that will make it hard to put down after “one more chapter.” Woven throughout the story are critiques of a sort of neocolonialist anthropology, gentrification, and erasure of cultural traditions – all of which come together to create a complex portrait of a changing Brooklyn.
Who it’s great for: Teens interested in urban fantasy.
What it’s about: A picture book about a young girl who wants to design and build a great thing she has imagined.
What made me pick it up: It was featured on OverDrive so I checked it out.
My favorite things: I really liked the message of tenacity in this book. Know what happens after she builds her first great thing? She hates it. It’s all wrong. But she keeps trying, even when she wants to quit, until the thing is to her liking. And she does it all without help – for her emotional regulation or for her ability to complete a task. She can do it by herself, thank you very much. She is no damsel in distress.
Who it’s great for: Young inventors. Hardheaded littles determined to do things their way, especially girls.
What it’s about: Tyranny and actions you can take to prevent it.
What made me pick it up: I was looking for new downloadable audiobooks and this one was quite short (less than two hours).
My favorite things: Give to charities, join organizations of shared interests, travel, read. This book has many good, and somewhat unexpected, lessons and suggestions on how to keep your country (any country, although specifically aimed at Americans) from devolving into a tyrannical, fascist state. It leans heavily on examples from pre-WWII Europe, especially Nazi Germany, which can be hard to stomach for the simple fact that it feels so familiar and we know how atrocious it ended up being. This is less political than you might expect, but it does spend some time pointing out behaviors in current American leadership that mimic those that led to disastrous consequences in other countries in the past. It’s short enough and generalized enough to make it worth dipping into by readers on both sides of the aisle.
Who it’s great for: Anyone who feels like we are far too polarized for our own good. Fans of history, politics, current affairs, or international relations
My favorite things: While this doesn’t dip into the supernatural they way that Sing did, it still traces similar themes that I was hoping to find. Each character experiences specific manifestations of systemic racism unique to their era but undeniably tied to those of the other generations. The lines between each are clear, with the desperation escalating in younger characters. The people missing from each character’s life have almost as much of an impact on their stories as do those who are present.
Who it’s great for: Fans of family histories that trace multiple generations. Readers looking for writers telling complex stories of the African-American family; fans of Jesmyn Ward, Tayari Jones, and Angela Flournoy.
What it’s about: A teen sees his older brother shot to death on the basketball court and how he deals with his grief.
What made me pick it up: I’ve read two of Reynolds’ other books and this one was getting really good reviews.
My favorite parts: This novel is in verse, which always amazes me that as much story can be told in few words and some authors need many. The best part for me was the beautiful language the author uses — describing the sidewalk as “the pavement galaxy of bubble gum stars” and so many other great turns of phrase. I also liked the dilemma he gave his character. On the one hand he’d like to avenge his brother’s death, but on the other that would dramatically change his life. I can’t say too much about the premise without giving away the wonderful structure Reynolds used to tell his story, but it invokes the best of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol but with a delectably ambiguous ending.
Who it’s great for: Teens, especially urban ones who may have to deal with gangs, violence, and less than stable living conditions in their daily lives. Anyone who has wondered if revenge was worth it.