My favourite books of 2017

I always do a post sharing my favourite books from the year! Click here to find my posts from 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016!

I set the goal of reading 52 books again in 2017 (I managed to meet this goal in 2016), however the birth of little Miss Olivia completely threw off my reading groove and I ended the year with 50 books read and halfway through book #51. I recently downloaded the kindle app on my phone and have started reading on my phone when nursing or when holding / rocking the baby – which is a HUGE chunk of my day. I also downloaded the Libby app on my phone, in the past I had only borrowed print books from the library because libraries in Canada aren’t compatible with kindles, however I can now read library books on my phone through Libby and just put holds on 4 ebooks the other night!

I just am not finding the time to read actual books or even books on my kindle itself. You honestly never know when you are going to be trapped under a baby for a long period of time, lol. So this way I just have to make sure I have my phone with me at all times (which I always do anyways). I’m currently 70% through a book I started 3 days ago on my phone so it’s already working!

Anyways, in 2017 I gave 12 books five stars, however I only consider 7 of them my very favourites.

*All books listed below are in order of when they were read not in order of preference* 

#1 The Kitchen House

When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin. 

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

What can I say about this book? I read it in just over 24 hours and I read for 3 hours straight – until 1am – to finish it. This story is fast paced, gripping and heart wrenching. All of the characters have so much depth and you can’t help but fall in love with them. At the same time, it is devastating to read at times as the story follows the lives of slaves on a plantation in Virginia in the 1700-1800’s. I really enjoyed this book and I’m hoping to read the second book by this author in 2018. It’s been a long time since a book kept me up until 1am!

#2 Lilac Girls

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France. An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences. For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.
The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

I actually found the writing a bit choppy in parts of this book, however reading the authors note and realizing this is a true story – and also the incredible amount of research the author put into writing this story – took this book from a 4 star to a 5 star book for me. If you love WWII books like me definitely check this one out! Even though the content is so hard to stomach, especially knowing it actually happened, it’s SO important to remember this horrific part of our world history. Learning about the women’s reeducation camp in Germany and the horrific experiments surgeries the Nazis performed on prisoners was difficult to read about but also something I was not aware of before reading the book. I also finished the book being incredibly inspired by the real life hero of the story, Caroline Ferriday. It’s people like her who prove that one person CAN make a difference in the world. If you enjoy historical fiction read this book now. It’s hard to read, but also so worth it.

#3 Homegoing

A riveting kaleidoscopic debut novel and the beginning of a major career: Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is a novel about race, history, ancestry, love and time, charting the course of two sisters torn apart in 18th century Africa through to the present day. Stretching from the tribal wars of Ghana to slavery and Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the north to the Great Migration to the streets of 20th century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi has written a modern masterpiece, a novel that moves through histories and geographies and–with outstanding economy and force–captures the intricacies of the troubled yet hopeful human spirit.

I love a book that spans years and years and this one spanned whole generations. Each chapter was a new story of the next generation of the same family, but it was amazing to see the thread and themes and circumstances that led to different life situations. I especially enjoyed the storyline of the family who started with a woman being brought to America on a slave ship in the 1700’s, because it really showed how that beginning can effect every facet of a family right up to current day, over 200 years later. Really beautifully written and vibrant storytelling.

#4 The Mothers

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt. In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.

This book was so well written. I found myself slowing down my reading of this book so I wouldn’t get through it too quickly because I was enjoying it so much and the writing is so stunning. All the main characters in this book made terrible choices that I disagreed with, but Bennett still made these characters so likeable and so relatable you couldn’t help but have empathy for them. I’d heard rave reviews about this book for months before reading it and it did not disappoint.

#5 Beartown

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected. Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

So so so good. The characters felt so deep, complex and real. The story was so relevant to current events and our current society and, of course, as a hockey kid from a hockey town I love anything to do with the sport. Especially the complexity / pressure that comes with team sports and especially when it’s young kids who are playing these sports and getting so much pressure put on them.

#6 The Heart’s Invisible Furies

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery–or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he? Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community, and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamorous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from and–over his many years–will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more. In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man.

This book was my very favourite of 2017. Another one of those books I started reading slower at the end because I didn’t want it to be over. This book is heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny all at the same time. The dialogue between the characters is amazing and Cyril’s wry sense of humour is fantastic. This book reminded me a bit of A Little Life only it’s not nearly as dark as A Little Life. However, I think fans of A Little Life would enjoy this book. It’s a really long book but often long books end up  being my favourites because you really get to know the characters then.

#7 This Is How it Always Is

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.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Very well written with some very quirky, interesting, lovable and flawed characters. It tackles some tough – and very relevant – current societal issues around raising a transgender child and what it even means to be transgender as a child. While the book is fiction, the author has a transgender child and so I think her perspective is really meaningful here. I would recommend everyone check this book out and it would make a great book club read! Also, if you read and enjoyed this book I recommend checking out the podcast How to Be a Girl, I started listening to it in 2017 and really enjoyed it.

Other 5 star books in 2017 (link to my review on GoodReads) 

  1. City of Thieves
  2. When Breath Becomes Air 
  3. Behold the Dreamers 
  4. Her Every Fear (I read this book in only 2 sittings, so creepy and can’t-put-it-down material)
  5. Dreamland Burning

And a few honourary mentions…

And here are a few books I gave 4 (****) stars to but still really enjoyed and would recommend you check out. Links also to my Goodreads reviews:

  1. I’ll Give You the Sun
  2. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
  3. Dark Matter
  4. Evicted
  5. Behind Closed Doors 
  6. Option B
  7. The Hate U Give

What was the #1 best book you read in 2017? Did you or do you set reading goals for the year? 

7 Responses

  1. San says:

    Thanks for sharing your favorite reads… I’ve been enjoying going through everybody’s book reviews and picking out new books to read in 2018.

  2. Ashley says:

    Thanks for the recommendations! Just so you know, I have two different library apps on my kindle and they both work. Overdrive is one and I think the other is called cloud library? I’ve spent many hours under a baby so I hope this info might help you? I have a kindle fire.

  3. April says:

    I’ve been doing the same, opening people’s book reviews and Goodreads so I can just add them onto my list! A lot of people have been recommending The Mothers lately. Here’s a recommendation for you: The Sound of Gravel, by Ruth Wariner. It’s another one of those OMG gripping ones.

  4. Sam says:

    I read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things over Christmas (thanks to everyone getting sick!) and loved it. So creepy but also really believable? I have now stacked up my reading list for 2018, thank you for sharing your top reads!

  5. I bet you are glad you went with the 8+ iPhone since you are now reading on your phone so much! I have never read on my phone and am not sure if I could get used to such a small screen but I guess I will find out when baby Segner arrives. It’s great that you can now borrow books from the library, though! It sucks that you can’t do that on your kindle in Canada!!

    My best book of 2017 was When Breath Becomes Air. I just thought it was so beautifully written and it’s a book that has stayed with me. I would like to read it again eventually. I read a lot of other great books in 2017, though. Giving up on reading challenges was the best decision as reading was much more fun in 2017.

    I set a goal of only 30 books for 2018, though. I read 84 in 2017. I usually set a goal of 52 books, but I am just not sure I will be able to read a book a week in 2018, especially when I go back to work in August. I initially did set it for 52 and then a friend with kids commented and said I better front load my reading if I am going to achieve that goal, so I decided to lower my goal to 30.

  6. Stephany says:

    As you know, my favorite book from 2017 was The Hate U Give, but I’ve read many of the books on your favorite list this year! This is How It Always Is was my favorite read for most of the year until I read THUG and I just couldn’t contain my love for that book. Both books are so relevant today, and I’m happy I read them last year.

    I’m aiming to read 100 books in 2018. I read 117 last year, which is bonkers, but I have the time to read right now in my life, so I’m going to enjoy it while I can!

  7. I also enjoyed Bear Town, The Kitchen House and Born a Crime. I would also recommend The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter and Refugee by Alan Gratz.

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