Books

Books I’ve Read in 2017 (Mid-Year Update)

I set out at the beginning of this year with a goal of reading 24 books – an average of two per month. This seemed like a reasonable goal at the time (I really wanted a goal of 50 but talked myself down), but between work, grad school, and lots of travel, I’ve definitely fallen behind.

Now that 2017 is halfway over, I’m planning to take a step back and prioritize reading more. I have a lot of excellent books on my bookshelf that have sat untouched for far too many months. I think blogging about my reading will probably help hold me more accountable on this front.

Here’s what I’ve read so far this year (in order of completion):

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy got a lot of media attention (and of course, stirred up some controversy) when it was published and I originally had no intention of reading it despite all the buzz. Once I read a synopsis and realized that J.D. Vance’s family is from Jackson, Kentucky, the same town I went every year for family reunions growing up, I decided to pick it up and see if anything connected to my own knowledge of Jackson. This was a really interesting read and, although I see why it is controversial, if you go into it aware of biases (your own and the author’s) and take it for what it is, Vance tells a powerful story. I sped through this book in just a few days. I know quite a few people who finished it in one sitting! Definitely worth checking this one out if it somehow hasn’t already made its way onto your reading list.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

The Mothers remains my favorite novel that I’ve read so far this year and I don’t see that changing soon. I have a habit of getting bored about 75% through novels and trying to hurry to finish so I can move on to something else. This was not the case here. The writing is excellent, the characters are interesting, and the story keeps you engaged. Seriously, I cannot recommend this book enough. Just go ahead and read it. It’s also worth noting that this was Bennett’s debut novel! I am so looking forward to reading what she writes next.

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Coming from a finance major background, I’ve read many Michael Lewis books over the years. Moneyball is one that had been on my to-read list for quite a while and I’m glad I finally picked it up. Even if you know literally zero things about baseball, the story is very compelling and will probably keep you engaged. If you are like me and are at least moderately interested in or knowledgeable about baseball and also love data, you’ll be super into this book. Lewis has a great way of telling complex stories through compelling characters and this was no exception.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I got this book for Christmas after seeing lots of buzz about it, including it being an Oprah’s Book Club pick. I finally picked it up in mid-Spring when Doug’s book club (almost as influential as Oprah’s Book Club) was reading it. This book is a close second to The Mothers for my favorite novel this year. It’s just so good. Once I started reading this one, I was totally glued to the characters and the story. Although my to-read list is currently about 30 books deep, I’m planning on adding another Whitehead book to the mix at some point soon.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Another heavily hyped and Instagrammed book, Swing Time was…not my favorite. Although the writing was beautiful, the characters and story just didn’t quite do it for me. I found myself struggling to finish this one. I have read several Zadie Smith fans saying this wasn’t their favorite work of hers, so maybe I’ll have to try one of her other books soon.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

I LOVED THIS BOOK. I have totally loved and looked up to Alyssa Mastromonaco ever since hearing an interview with her on an episode of the now defunct (or on veeerrrryyy long hiatus) Girlboss Radio podcast. I was beyond excited to finally get my hands on her book full of stories of working as Deputy Chief of Staff to President Obama. Mastromonaco is relatable, hilarious, and has amazing stories to tell. This is also a super quick read and very very worth your time. If you’re a Pod Save America fan, you’ll definitely see some familiar names referenced in this book too.

Shrill by Lindy West

One of my favorite genres as of late is feminist and/or humor essays. West’s book checks both the feminist and humor boxes so I obviously loved this book. You may have heard of Lindy West from a few news stories around when this episode of This American Life came out in early 2015 where West confronts her cruelest internet troll who impersonated her dead father online to harass her and the troll apologized. Shrill includes this story and many more about misogyny, body acceptance, and writing about a multitude of things on the internet that lead to very very nasty comment sections. I learned and reflected a lot while reading this book and I’m so glad Lindy West wrote it.

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1) by George R.R. Martin

I am one of those annoying people who generally refuses to see something on screen if a book version exists and I haven’t read it yet. BUT when Game of Thrones was becoming more and more of a thing on TV and I felt pressure to catch up to whatever season was on at the time and didn’t have time to read all of the books first, I made an exception. I finally made it through the first book in the series this spring. I will say I had a hard time getting into it at first because this book tracks so exactly with what happens in the first season of the show so I already knew the dramatic things that were coming. Once I finally got in a rhythm reading and tried to just enjoy the story as it was happening on the pages, I loved this book. Reading the whole series will be a longer-term commitment that I’ll complete with many other books in between, but I definitely feel good about picking up Book #2 sometime in the near future.

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Here we have yet another collection of feminist essays. This is a very quick read and I actually feel like I learned a lot and gained some new perspectives on important issues while reading. I find myself bringing points from Solnit’s essays into everyday conversation now, which is a habit I’m sure some of my friends find annoying. I clearly don’t really care though, because more of Solnit’s writing is currently sitting in my Amazon cart…

 

I’m currently in the middle of a few other books at the moment. Check back in the next few weeks to read about my thoughts on Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, Grit by Angela Duckworth, and Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

What have you been reading lately? I’m always looking for suggestions!

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