Books, to me, are the quintessential escape and lesson. I believe strongly that we should always, always be learning and books have the power to transport you, teach you, and give you guidance you didn't even know you needed. 2017 was no different. I read a handful of bad books (I'll let you know the worst book I read this year) but mostly, I read awesome stories that really made me stop and think or kept me up late at night turning the page. Here are the best books I read in 2017.
The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
This book completely changed my perspective on work and life. I tend to often have an unhealthy balance of working too long and not spending enough time with family and friends, or even on myself. I have always believed strongly in mapping out goals and living life to the fullest. But this book helped me to realize that the time is NOW to live your best life. That working hard with no end in sight isn't the way to live.
For someone that has a very hard time assigning tasks to others, wanting to work online, or just wanting more time to yourself, I highly recommend reading this “how-to” book.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
A true story that's played out just like fiction. Set in the 1890s in Chicago it follows two drastically different men- one organizing the World Fair, the other a serial killer. This book had me hooked from start to finish and I ended up learning about the history of many traditions in America along the way.
Read my review here.
Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor
Piecing together a country's past is no easy task, especially when it comes to Germany. I discovered so much about my new home country's history and learned a great deal about how they rose and fell, then rose again. For anyone interested in Europe or Germany, this is a perfect read.
Read my review here.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman
This is a book I myself wish I wrote. It's hilarious and interesting and relates to all of us. The book follows the author and her quest for wanderlust around the globe. It's an uplifting and inspiring story of a strong female that tells her stories in a lively way. I recommend this to anyone.
Read my review here.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
I devoured this book in a day and a half. When my parents came to visit us we talked about our favorite books and movies. My parents had never seen one of my all-time favorites, “Midnight in Paris.” We sat down one night and watched it with popcorn and wine. As soon as the movie ended my Dad said that I must read “A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway. The book documents the time when many American authors like Hemingway and Fitzgerald moved to Paris to write. It paints the perfect picture to imagine these now literary heroes struggling to write in Paris in the 1920s.
Hemingway's writing style carefully crafts the scene without overly detailing the story to the point of exhaustion. You feel like you might be walking alongside him on the river Seine. It offers a compelling insight into the writer's psyche and his perception of the world and those around him.
Before I get to my best book of 2017, let's see what I chose as the worst…
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
I know that so many people loved this book. But for me, it just didn't move me. I like books with a plot, that come full circle, and give a sense of purpose at the end. The dystopian story follows a young woman whose role is now solely to have children. Women are treated specifically like vessels to be used (and abused) and the portrayal of anti-feminism is harrowing. Women are not allowed to read, have friends, speak to one another, or dress in anything but the clothes and colors subscribed to them. The main character, Offred, tells her story as a handmaid, which is, in essence, a concubine. I felt the story was written well but just wasn't a story at all. There seemed to be no real point, except to display an oppressive society.
What I do find interesting and can applaud is the fact that this book was written 30 years ago, yet could still apply to today. The idea that our society could fall apart if we don't value and respect all people is apparent and true. But the book left me feeling like it ended before I had answers and there was almost too much poetry and not enough understanding. Essentially, she's just explaining what the current time looked like. It's a strong topic and one that should be discussed. However interesting the topic, it doesn't show a reason why. Why did this society come about, how, and how did they come out of this society to form the present? The book jumps from the dystopian society to a present day “normal society without much explanation along the way. It just angered me and I can't see why it's so boldly applauded.
All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
This was my favorite book I read this year, without question. The writing is absolutely moving, the story is interesting, and is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. The story follows Jack Burden in the 1930s as he is working with Willie Stark on his political career in Louisiana. The character of Stark is loosely based on the real life Huey Long and his rise, fall, and thirst for power.
It's no surprise this book won a Pulitzer Prize, because it gives you a true sense of each character, an insight into politics and the South United States, and, for me, an urging to learn how to portray characters in a thought-provoking way. I love reading books that make me want to write. This book does this so eloquently because the writing is so incredibly clean, yet detailed. We learn how love and loss and our past and present shape our lives and futures.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses and we all have things we've done or haven't done that linger with us. This book is about politics, but that's not actually the focus. It's about Jack Burden and his process of growing up. Each character in the story is relatable, realistic, and has their own set of flaws. Each part of the story comes full circle, and you feel that you are transported to Louisiana in the 1930s in the back of Willie Stark's pickup truck.
I suggest reading this book over time. It's a heavy book and one that's best after you give yourself time to stop and think. It took me the entire year to read it, and I still can't stop thinking about it.
So there you have it, my favorite and least favorite books of 2017.
Now tell me, what were yours?
One of my favorite ways to read books is via Audible but I know so many of you like paper back books so I thought I'd give you $50 to Amazon, that way you can choose! All of my “best of” posts will have giveaways so check back regularly for those!