I’m sharing a full list of my favorite books of 2017!
Who else has been reading ALL THE THINGS this year?!?!
First of all, I have to admit that I’m struggling here lately. I think I’ve fallen victim to the phone-checking illness that plagues so many teenagers. I can hardly get through 5 pages of a book without getting distracted and falling down a Facebook rabbit hole. It has to stop! I’ve decided that in the new year I’m going to make more of a conscious effort to put my phone away when I’m reading — even if I have to put it in another room.
Also, what is wrong with me that I have so little self-control? Another room? Really? UGH!
I found tons of good books this year! I decided to narrow this list down to 12, because not everyone has time to read eleventy zillion books. And reading a terrible book is the worst waste of time. I swear I used to plow through books, even if I wasn’t feeling it, but over the past couple of years I made the decision that life is too short for crappy books. So know that you can feel good about giving your time to anything on this list!
I love just about anything by Taylor Jenkins Reid — her books remind me a lot of Emily Giffin. Just enough chick-lit to make it an easy, fun read, but usually enough substance to keep me up late. Her latest book was a departure from her usual stuff, but in a really good way.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has been on all the lists this year, and it totally deserves to be. It’s got that old-Hollywood vibe, romance, and a couple of plot twists you probably won’t see coming.
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
This is one of the few books on my list that were published before 2017 — but because I READ them in 2017, I figured that they count! This was voted one of the top Goodreads books of 2016, which is how it popped up on my radar.
My feelings about All the Ugly and Wonderful Things are really complicated. And if you choose to read it, I expect you’ll feel the same way. There are some strong themes in this book — a sexual relationship with a minor, drugs, extreme poverty. This is NOT a book to read if you’re feeling something fluffy, or aren’t up for examining some pretty conflicted emotions. It’s a lot to unpack, but also haunting and beautiful in parts.
As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It’s safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.
By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy’s family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world.
I’ll totally admit that the odd title of this book put me off from reading it — don’t make the same mistake! Once you dive in, it’ll make complete sense. And this book for young adults, which tackles a timely and important subject, deserves every accolade it’s been receiving. Not only is the story told from a perspective that we don’t get often enough in popular fiction novels, but it’s really GOOD. Hard to put down and really thought-provoking.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
If you liked The Devil Wears Prada, the Shopaholic series, or anything by Candice Bushnell, you’ll probably enjoy this book. It’s silly and fun, with a super satisfying ending. Sometimes, that’s just what you need.
Despite her innate ambition and summa cum laude smarts, Kate Pearson has turned into a major slacker. After being unceremoniously dumped by her handsome “almost fiancé,” she abandons her plans and instead spends her days lolling on the couch, watching reruns of Sex and the City. Her friends don’t know what to do other than pass tissues and hope for a comeback, while her practical sister, Angela, pushes every remedy she can think of, from trapeze class to therapy to job interviews.
Miraculously, Kate manages to land a job in the admissions department at the revered Hudson Day School. In her new position Kate learns there’s no time for self-pity or nonsense during the thick of the admissions season, or what her colleagues refer to as “the dark time.” As the process revs up, Kate meets smart kids who are unlikable, likeable kids who aren’t very smart, and Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer. Through a comical and crazy run of wildly unpredictable interviews, subtle bribes, outright threats, final judgments, and page-turning twists, the highly competitive and occasionally absurd world of private school admissions is brought to light in all of its outrageous glory that is reminiscent of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep.
This book absolutely goes to the top of my favorites list — good grief was it just a delight to read. There are some books that just stick with you — this, for me, was one of them. If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s the story of what happens when people decide to let go of what a typical family is supposed to look like and embrace those around us and our gut instincts. It’s just a really incredibly story that’ll make you sad and so happy all at once. If you’re looking for a book to ring in the new year, I couldn’t make a higher recommendation than this.
For the past six months, Arthur Moses’s days have looked the same: He tends to his rose garden and to Gordon, his cat, then rides the bus to the cemetery to visit his beloved late wife for lunch. The last thing Arthur would imagine is for one unlikely encounter to utterly transform his life.
Eighteen-year-old Maddy Harris is an introspective girl who visits the cemetery to escape the other kids at school. One afternoon she joins Arthur—a gesture that begins a surprising friendship between two lonely souls. Moved by Arthur’s kindness and devotion, Maddy gives him the nickname “Truluv.” As Arthur’s neighbor Lucille moves into their orbit, the unlikely trio band together and, through heartache and hardships, help one another rediscover their own potential to start anew.
Wonderfully written and full of profound observations about life, The Story of Arthur Truluv is a beautiful and moving novel of compassion in the face of loss, of the small acts that turn friends into family, and of the possibilities to achieve happiness at any age.
This book reminded me a lot of the stories Jodi Picoult tells — complicated family relationships changed by grief and tragedy. Alternating in points of view, I loved being able to hear how each family member viewed the others and processed the shared experiences. Although it’s sad in parts, it’s also a story of happiness and overcoming.
In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House—the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.
A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.
When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart—or be the path to their family’s future.
I’m a sucker for a novel described as “sweeping,” so I couldn’t pass this one up. I’ve never read “Maine,” the best-seller this author is known for, but I loved Saints for All Occasions so much that I had to add it to my list! If you like novels that span decades, family secrets, and books that feel like curling up with something familiar, you’ll love this one.
Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible sister; she’s shy and serious and engaged to a man she isn’t sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan—a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand.
Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children: John, a successful, if opportunistic, political consultant; Bridget, quietly preparing to have a baby with her girlfriend; Brian, at loose ends after a failed baseball career; and Patrick, Nora’s favorite, the beautiful boy who gives her no end of heartache. Estranged from her sister, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont. Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together.
I loved Ng’s last novel, Everything I Never Told You, and this book has been on my list the moment it was available for pre-order. Thankfully, it did not disappoint — it’s been on all of “the best” lists and is totally worthy of the praise. Much like Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere is part mystery and part thoughtful family drama, and once you pick it up, you’ll have a majorly hard time putting it down.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
This novel about a couple who decide to try an open marriage isn’t anything life-changing or gripping, but I found myself enjoying it way more than I expected to! I love books that pleasantly surprise me, and this one was so much fun, along with being surprisingly relatable and heartfelt at times.
Lucy and Owen, ambitious, thoroughly-therapized New Yorkers, have taken the plunge, trading in their crazy life in a cramped apartment for Beekman, a bucolic Hudson Valley exurb. They’ve got a two hundred year-old house, an autistic son obsessed with the Titanic, and 17 chickens, at last count. It’s the kind of paradise where stay-at-home moms team up to cook the school’s “hot lunch,” dads grill grass-fed burgers, and, as Lucy observes, “chopping kale has become a certain kind of American housewife’s version of chopping wood.”
When friends at a wine-soaked dinner party reveal they’ve made their marriage open, sensible Lucy balks. There’s a part of her, though-the part that worries she’s become too comfortable being invisible-that’s intrigued. Why not try a short marital experiment? Six months, clear ground rules, zero questions asked. When an affair with a man in the city begins to seem more enticing than the happily-ever-after she’s known for the past nine years, Lucy must decide what truly makes her happy-“real life,” or the “experiment?”
I decided to pick this up so I could read it before I watched the Netflix movie starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, and I’m so glad that I did! Quietly beautiful and simple in a way that made me feel at peace, this is a book that just felt like a comfortable blanket. I loved the movie as well, and highly recommend both. I found myself thinking about this story long after I was finished.
In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away, her son even farther, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in empty houses, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. But maybe that could change? As Addie and Louis come to know each other better–their pleasures and their difficulties–a beautiful story of second chances unfolds, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature.
I loved this book because it kept me guessing until the end. It’s a book about grief and relationships and misunderstandings, but at the heart is the mystery of why a seemingly happy mom would commit suicide. There’s definitely a lot under the surface of this one, and I loved that I couldn’t figure it out!
Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch…until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.
Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge…but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?
This book was almost painful in how much I was able to relate as a parent. Not with the exact situation, but with the struggle in making decisions for my children. How do we know if we are doing the right thing? How do we deal with the knowledge that the choices we make for our children could define how they see themselves? How do we come to a feeling of peace when there really isn’t a right answer? This book was tough. But wonderful and important and really, really thought provoking. Even if you think you have no interest in the issue at the center of the story, I urge you to give it a read. It’ll reach right into your heart.
This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.
This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.
This is how children change…and then change the world.
This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.
When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.
Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.
Laurie Frankel’s This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.
I’d love to hear about the books that made YOUR favorites list this year!
Here’s to good books in the new year…and plenty of time to read them. Thanks so much for visiting!