If you’ve been on my blog for a while, you’ll remember a post I did at the start of last year where I wrote about the books that had the greatest impact on me in 2016. Well, in a shocking turn of events, I’m gonna share with you some of my tops reads of 2017. How exciting!
Two fiction books I read over the course of 2017 stood out to me in particular. Swing Time was, believe it or not, my first Zadie Smith read ever. Her’s was a name that I had definitely heard through the grapevine — particularly one of her more famous anecdotes on landing a six-figure book deal with only a partial manuscript for White Teeth. So when I got my hands on Swing Time swiftly after its release, I was excited, and for good reason. With themes of female friendship, family, identity, race and culture, it left me with a lot to think about. And, of course, it was beautifully written.
However, despite what an indisputably great writer Smith is, the work of fiction that resonated with me the most last year was The Cows by Dawn O’Porter. I tried to write a review when I finished it back in April, but I just had too much to say about it, with not enough coherence. I thought it was so good. O’Porter hit the nail on the head when talking about internet culture, trolling, mob mentality… all that fun stuff. Not to mention that she did a great job of creating three complexly individual characters — Tara, Stella and Cam — who all tackle the likes of female sexuality, cancer, motherhood, feminism, sex… all that ‘taboo’ stuff women aren’t ‘supposed’ to be talking about.
Both Swing Time and The Cows are pretty chunky reads, but well worth it for the journeys they both take you on.
I’ve been on a bit of a journey with memoir for the past couple of years. Arguably, I’d say that it’s my favourite genre; I love reading about real people’s stories. There are three pieces of non-fiction, memoir-style books in particular that I felt a great connection to this year.
Ctrl, Alt, Delete: How I Grew Up Online is the ultimate millennial memoir. I loved reading about Emma Gannon’s journey of navigating the Internet as she and it both grew from humble beginnings in 1989. Her stories of encounters on MSN had me howling, giggling and cringing because… yeah, me too. It’s comforting hearing about someone with similar experiences to you, how they cultivated strong online friendships, and even made a fruitful career for themselves. (Emma Gannon also has a very popular podcast of the same name, which you should totally check out).
Another read that stuck with my was Anna Akana’s So Much I Want to Tell You: Letters to My Little Sister. Anna’s little sister, Kristina, sadly took her own life in 2007 at the young age of 13. In this book of personal essays, Akana reveals the years following her sister’s death, her own struggles with self-esteem, and how she slowly began to heal through comedy and YouTube. The stories she told in this book are so raw and honest, with a dash of relatibility and hope. I especially liked the chapter where she writes about her abortion, because it’s a topic we seldom get to hear about, especially so openly, and Akana certainly does not skim over the surface.
I also finally got to read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. This book has been floating around for a few years already, with several gags and references to it in TV and popular culture, but I never really felt compelled to read it. I watched the film starring Reese Witherspoon earlier in the year, but it fell a bit flat for me. It was only due to this book being required reading in one of my modules at uni that I gave it a chance, and boy, am I glad I did. Strayed’s journey of finding herself after her mother’s death and the seperation from her husband was a really poignant one, and definitely something that needs to be read and absorbed rather than passively watch.
I thought I’d reserve a little special mention to Rupi Kaur and her excellent poetry collections that I got my hands on this year. I’ve never usually been one for poetry but Milk and Honey had me zooming through it this summer and feeling a certain way after reading. The same for her 2017 release, The Sun and Her Flowers. I can’t explain exactly why I loved them so much, and I’ve used the word ‘relatable’, in some capacity, too many times in this post already, but Kaur certainly has a way of capturing the vulnerability and hurt of the 21st Century woman. Free verse poetry still baffles me, but Rupi Kaur captures my heart every time.
In 2016, I set myself a reading goal of 15 books, which I just about managed by the skin of my teeth. In 2017, I completed my reading challenge of 20 books, and with a week to spare! It was a very proud moment when I hit ‘I’ve finished!’ on my 20th book. For 2018, I’m going balls to the wall and aiming to read a whopping 26 books.
But Ella, you’ve been going in steady increments of five for the past couple of years, why change course now? I did contemplate setting this year’s goal to 25 books, but when I remembered that there are 52 weeks in a year, and 26 books works out at a book every two weeks… well, it seemed like the more logical number. I have no idea whether I’ll actually manage a book a fortnight, but it’s worth a try, eh?
What are some of your great reads of 2017?