I started 2017 with 104 actual reading goals in mind. A book of poetry, a book about science, a book on theology, a book with a point of view different from my own, a book based in my home state, etc. It was a reading challenge presented to me by my brother and I thought it would be fun to take it on. About three months in, around the spring, I realized, even considering half of these particular topics felt like a chore. I’ve got three kids, homework to help with, dinner to make, a house to clean, a semi-part-time job, and so forth. This mom reads to preserve sanity, live vicariously and not spend a fortune or get hooked on reality TV. 104 book challenge would stick, the specifics would flex according to my preference – aka “I’m gonna read what I want, bro.”
You should read what you enjoy. That’s not to say I don’t think people should challenge themselves and read beyond their capacity – I absolutely want to use reading as a way to enlarge my mindset and my understanding. However, reading 104 books in one year is a lofty goal in and of itself. To try and make roughly 30 of those books centered on or around things I don’t care about is just nonsense. Maybe this year. Or just never.
SO, that said, here’s my Q2 2017 recap.
- Shadow and Bone (YA-fiction), Leigh Bardugo. LOVED this first book in what’s called the Grisha trilogy. If you enjoy fantasy YA genres, I highly encourage you to grab this one. I think it could be okay for upper-middle-school age, I honestly can’t remember it containing anything too questionable.
- The Rainbow Comes and Goes (memoir, non-fiction), Anderson Cooper/Gloria Vanderbilt. This was an audiobook and I enjoyed it as such because the authors, who are mother and son, read it themselves. Since it’s a book compiled of their back and forth correspondence, the audiobook sounds like a conversation. I really enjoyed this and it surprised me! I wasn’t sure what to think about it, but I am definitely glad I picked it up.
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (fiction), Douglas Adams. Ugh. I really did not understand this book.
- Without Rival (spiritual, non-fiction), Lisa Bevere. Love this book. Love Lisa Bevere and her encouragement and empowering of Christian women. It took me longer than most books of this genre, but I think it’s because it was so rich.
- Siege and Storm (YA-fiction), Leigh Bardugo. Second in the aforementioned trilogy, and it was equally as good as the first in the series.
- The Stand (fiction), Stephen King. WOW, what a book. I am so proud of having read this huge brick. It is a work of genius, whether you like him or not. There are some (many) unsavory storylines, but the overarching story and its unfolding is awesome. There are so many characters and by the end of the story I was sad to see them go. If you think you can take this one, you should! And let me add, even if you DON’T think you can take this one on, you should try anyway.
- Still Life (fiction), Louise Penny. Underwhelmed. I had high hopes for my first Louise Penny book because the people I follow on bookstagram and podcasts are such huge fans of her books. I didn’t hate it, but I had expected to love it, and it was just okay. I will give it another go, but with a more realistic approach.
- Ruin and Rising (YA-fiction), Leigh Bardugo. A great finish to a great series.
- Eligible (fiction), Curtis Sittenfeld. Don’t bother. I enjoyed this take on Pride and Prejudice for about 2/3 of the book before it just got ridiculous.
- At Home in the World (memoir, non-fiction), Tsh Oxenreider. I just LOVED this book. One of my top reads of the year. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I do think it was more inspiring for me as a mom because of the idea behind uprooting your family and traveling around the world and introducing my kids to other cultures, etc. SO much to say about this one!
- This is How it Always Is (fiction), Laurie Frankel. This story of a family’s secret is touching, heartbreaking, challenging and moving. I really enjoyed this book and it will not appeal to everyone, but I think it should be read. It will make you think and step into some shoes that will be uncomfortable for many, but it can’t ever hurt to stop and feel what people on the other side of things are feeling.
- The Psychopath Test (non-fiction, journalistic), Jon Ronson. Interesting read. I loved his book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” (SO many feelings on that one… HIGHLY recommend with a disclaimer… lots of “WTH?!” moments, but so insightful). Great reading if you like journalism and psychology.
- The Woman in Cabin 10 (thriller, fiction), Ruth Ware. It was okay. My expectations were too high and I felt like the storyline was a little thin.
- Call of the Wild (fiction), Jack London. Read it so I could say I had, and felt like it was time for a classic. Didn’t love or hate… Writing was beautiful.
- Uninvited (spiritual, non fiction), Lysa Terkeurst. Very encouraging and timely. I love Terkeurst’s writing style and she speaks right to the heart of women, but also gives very uncomplicated application. Lots of underlining!!
- A Study in Charlotte (fiction), Brittany Cavallaro. Book Club pick. Not my favorite…
- A Court of Wings and Ruin (fantasy fiction), Sarah Maas. INSERT ENDLESS HEART EMOJIS. The third in the series. SO MUCH LOVE FOR THESE BOOKS. THIS IS WHY I MUST TYPE IN CAPS… I CAN’T EXPRESS ENOUGH FEELING WITH MY SHODDY WORDS.
- Hillbilly Elegy (memoir, non fiction), J.D. Vance. I’m assuming you haven’t hibernated through 2017 and have heard of this phenomenon by now. I finally got my hands on this one and joined the chorus of praise for Vance’s beautiful story. Top 12 of the year.
- Fault in Our Stars (YA fiction), John Green. Went into this with low expectations and curious why it made Amazon’s Top 100 books, so I was very pleased and surprised when I loved it. Maybe ‘love’ is strong, but I really enjoyed it a LOT.
- The Dry (thriller, fiction), Jane Harper. This book was so hyped that I was nervous! But it delivered. I’ve noticed that when it comes to thrillers, I actually prefer those with a little depth in the build up than the quicker, fast-paced stories. This would fall into that category.
- The Royal We (pure fiction), Heather Cocks. I would never have picked this up except that a facebook group I’m in was all about it. I loved it. It was nothing but total guilty pleasure and a fun escape. This is a beach read if I’ve ever read one!
- Britt-Marie Was Here (fiction), Fredrik Backman. I loved this book so much! His writing is slow but rich and purposeful and I love it. By the end of his books I’m so connected to the characters that I don’t want the story to end! But if you don’t like one of his books, it’s pretty safe to say you won’t like any.
So here are my Top 5 Recommendations from this group:
First Place: The Stand
Second Place: Britt Marie Was Here
Third Place: Court of Wings and Ruin
Fourth Place: At Home in the World
Fifth Place: Hillbilly Elegy
Honorable Mentions: This is How it Always Is, Shadow and Bone series, The Dry