This is one of my favorite blog posts of the year! I read 64 books in 2017, and while I was looking over them to pick my favorites of the year, I thought to myself, a year really is a very long time. Despite all of our quotes, like “the years are short and the days are long,” I have to say that some of those books that I read in January and February are distant memories now. Ha!
Although some of those reads feel like a very long time ago, many of them have stuck with me throughout the year. I like to keep a journal nearby when I’m reading so I can write down my favorite quotes on the front two pages of each Moleskine notebook (this is the one I’ve been using for about 5 years.) I’m excited to share my favorite books of the year with you today!
But before I do that, I’m going to give a quick recap of what I read in December:
1. Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand
This is the fourth and final novel in Elin Hilderbrand’s Christmas series. (I read the first three in November). They’re all short, sweet, and easy books to read during the holidays. If you enjoy chick lit and need something that’s fun (and not too challenging) to read, this series is perfect for you.
This is an old-school self development book, of which I’ve been on a big reading spree lately! Some things about it are funny, like mentioning the cost of rent, groceries, or other bills that were relevant in the midcentury but WAY off now. But despite the little details, the main message of this book still stands. I had my journal out the entire time to write down little nuggets of wisdom.
If you’ve been reading lots of modern self help books lately, try mixing it up and adding this one.
This is my second Celeste Ng books to read (I read Everything I Never Told You in January), and I’ve loved both of them. I appreciate her writing because she makes me think about the world in a new way.
This book is based in the 1990s, and it’s about a picture-perfect suburb in Cleveland called “Shaker Heights” where everything is polished and planned…including the Richardson Family. When a single mother and daughter come into their lives to rent a house from the Richardsons, everything is turned upside-down. Friends of the Richardsons become involved in a custody battle for a little Chinese baby, and Mrs. Richardson and the single mother are on opposing sides. I listened to this as an audiobook, and I was enraptured by the world that Celeste Ng painted for me.
Based on what I can tell, Jen is a firm believer (and example) in the Law of Attraction, which is that thoughts = energy, and the thoughts you think will create equal results. (So, if you think of yourself as a thin, fit person, you will be that; if you think of yourself as a fat, out-of-shape person, you will be that.)
Her approach to money is fascinating; she spends several chapter just convincing the reader that earning money is not bad. Money is such a loaded subject, so reading this book in public with the cover showing was something I didn’t do…haha. But if the topic interests you, I’d definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book.
A couple things: this book is super woo-woo. If you’re not interested in spiritual things, this book will either freak you out or bore you. Or make you laugh.
I grew up in a spiritual family, and I still consider myself to be a deeply spiritual person, so I really enjoyed listening to this and hearing about Esther Hicks interaction with what she believes to be a spiritual entity that has chosen to speak through her.
Really wacky stuff, but maybe there’s something to it. I’m still learning. 🙂
My little sister Kylee and I are constantly recommending book titles, and she told me I’d like Robin Robert’s memoir…and she was right!
This is Robin’s third book, written in 2014, so it’s about her discovery of her rare blood disease, finding out she only had a few years to live, and the bone marrow transplant she would need to survive.
She believes that “everybody’s got something” difficult going on, from personal sickness to aging parents to money problems. But she also writes that “everybody’s got something” good to share; we all have a unique way of seeing the world, and we all have a gift to offer.
Robin Roberts writes with such poise and grace, and I wish I knew her in real life! This is an inspirational memoir to read, and it’s perfect as an audiobook because Robin reads the book herself.
MY GREAT BIG 2017 BOOK REVIEW
Ok, those were my December reads, so now I’m going to share my favorites of 2017! (If you want to see the entire list of books I read in 2017, click here.) I chose different categories than I used for my Great Big 2016 Book Review, and that’s because I was interested in different books this year, like more self development and food books, and fewer mystery/thrillers and historical fiction.
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Unless I’m enjoying some chick lit (and I’m sharing my favorite beach read below!), I love reading fiction that makes me ponder life a little bit. This Is How It Always Is is the book I selected for my book club here in Austin because I thought it wold result in a good discussion.
It’s about a family that has 4 boys before giving birth to a fifth child who is born as a boy but associates as a girl. This book tugged at my heart and made me ask myself some difficult questions about how I would parent… (thankfully I’ve yet to be put in any situation as difficult as the parents in this book!). I was even more fascinated by this book when I found out that the author’s own daughter was born a “he” but is now a “she.”
I fell in love with the characters, I adore the author’s way of combining words, and I would absolutely recommend this book to a friend who wants a good, thought-provoking piece of fiction.
Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger
This was fascinating! It’s a long book, but I just couldn’t put it down! The Governator’s life is anything but average; born in Austria, the most decorated male body builder in history, a self-made millionaire, one of the highest paid actors of his time, and then the Governor of California during one of its worst economic times.
He certainly has an ego, but if you can take that with a grain of salt and appreciate the wisdom in this book, I feel that Arnold Schwarzenegger has some wisdom to share with us about his approach to success.
ESSENTIALISM BY GREG MCKEOWN
This is an AMAZING book that everyone needs to read! I’m already reading it again.. Essentialism is a best-selling book by Greg McKeown (Harvard MBA 2008) about the disciplined pursuit of less. It’s about learning how to do less, better.
If you feel that you work exceptionally hard, yet you’re spinning your wheels and not seeing actual results, I promise that you’ll get something out of this book.
FAVORITE AUDIOBOOK: NON-FICTION
BETWEEN BREATHS BY ELIZABETH VARGAS
This category is a tie. Between Breaths by Elizabeth Vargas was my favorite non-fiction audiobook of the year (recommended to me by my little sister – thanks, Ky!), and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng was my favorite fiction audiobook.
Elizabeth Vargas, who is the host of ABC’s 20/20, wrote Between Breaths to share her battle with functioning alcoholism, which eventually led to a host of sad, difficult life situations like multiple stays in rehab, the end of her marriage, and separation from her children, in hopes of helping others avoid the same long, painful path that she had to take.
This isn’t an easy book to read, but it’s important to hear and understand difficult battles that others face. (This is the same reason that I read A Mother’s Reckoning last year…it was one of the saddest, hardest books I’ve ever read, but I feel that it changed me for the better.)
FAVORITE AUDIOBOOK: FICTION
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
I’ve fallen in love with Celeste Ng’s writing. Her novels hit me at the core of my emotions and wrap me up in their riveting plot lines. I listened to Little Fires Everywhere on a 7 hours road trip, and it made the hours fly by.
She’s only has two published full-length books; I’ve read both and adore them equally. If you want a book that makes you think, feel, and engage, this is the one for you.
FAVORITE FOODIE BOOK
My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl
Really, I could have listed any one of Ruth Reichl’s books as my “favorite foodie book” of 2017 (I read four of them this year.) But this one stands out to me because it’s a cookbook, and I never thought I would be the person who would sit down an read a cookbook cover-to-cover!
My Kitchen Year reads more like a memoir because…well, it is. It’s about how she turned to her kitchen for comfort after losing her position of editor-in-chief at Gourmet magazine. Her words are so rich and comforting, reading them is almost like indulging in your favorite comfort meal!
FAVORITE BEACH READ
THE KNOCKOFF by lucy sykes and jo piazza
I’m not one to shy away from chick-lit… It’s just so darn fun! My favorite “beach read” of the year was The Knockoff, a novel about Imogen, the editor-in-chief of Glossy magazine, who returns to work after 6 months of cancer treatment to find that a young up-and-coming Harvard business grad named Eve has weaseled her way into the company with plans to digitalize e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.
This is an adorable, funny, fast-paced book about a battle of the generations in the fashion world of NYC. Perfect for throwing in your beach tote and reading on the sand!
I’m always so thankful for this little community of book-lovers! I have so much fun reading emails and comments from you about your favorite book recommendations, so please keep them coming!
What should I read in 2018?