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My Favorite Books I Read in 2017

Another year, another failed attempt at completing my annual reading challenge. There's always next year, right?

Even though I did not check the box next to every challenge on my list, I'm still pleased with the literature I managed to get through in 2017. I read a few different genres, works by diverse authors, and expanded my horizons in terms of content (poetry, medical-focused, YA, etc.). I still have a soft spot for historical fiction, though...

With 2018 officially in full swing, if you are searching for your next read, I decided to share my favorite books I read in 2017, in no particular order. Enjoy!

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I have a post on this book coming next week featuring a few (more like 11) of my students who have read the book, but I'll go ahead and share a little bit about it here. The Hate U Give (or THUG for short) features 16-year-old Starr who splits her time between an affluent, predominately white prep school and the poor neighborhood in which she lives. Her world is turned upside down when she witnesses a white police officer shoot and kill her unarmed black friend, Khalil. THUG follows Starr as she navigates her two worlds, the investigation into Khalil's death, racism she has never truly confronted before, and her activist heart that is budding at the surface.

If you haven't heard, a Texas school district recently removed The Hate U Give from classrooms and libraries after a parent complained that the language in the book is "inappropriate." I'll go into more of this in my THUG blog post next week, but my initial thinking here is this: The language is nothing worse than what kids hear on Netflix or in the hallways at school. #justsaying

P.S. This is coming to a theater near you this year.

2. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

I read this pretty soon after I had Case, and in hindsight that probably wasn't the best idea (hello, postpartum hormones), but I absolutely LOVED this book. In Small Great Things, Ruth Jefferson has been a labor and delivery nurse for two decades, supporting her teenage son as a single mother after her husband died serving in the military. Her entire word is upended one day when a couple, who are white supremacists, refuse Ruth's care for their newborn son, Davis, because she is black. A few days later, while Davis is in the nursery recovering from a routine surgery, the unimaginable happens when Ruth is left alone in the nursery with him because the nurses are understaffed. When Davis is in distress, will she intervene, or will she follow the parents' wishes? And what will become of the aftermath of her decision? One million out of five stars from me. This is going to be a movie starring Julia Roberts and Viola Davis!

3. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

I learned about this book during summer professional development I attended back in June. Here's the premise: Carver Briggs and his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake are in the prime of their young lives until one day when Carver sends a text that will haunt him for the rest of his life. "Where are you guys? Text me back." Mars, who was driving Eli and Blake on their way to pick up Carver, checked the text and started drafting a reply as he was driving, resulting in a crash that would end all three of their lives. Carver wrestles with grief and guilt throughout the course of this heart-wrenching read as he participates in "goodbye days" for each of his friends - that is, he lives one more day as they would have lived it had they known it would be their last. On top of all of this, there is the question of whether or not Carver shares any of the blame in his friends' death, both legally and in the court of public opinion.

4. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

If you follow me on Instagram and caught my Instagram stories a week ago, I talked about this book and how I loved it so much that I wanted to do a giveaway. My review of the book + that giveaway is coming this week. My original plan was to give away two copies to two readers, but Barnes and Noble had these on a special promotion and I was able to get three copies for the price of two, so three readers will win a copy of this beautiful novel.

Lilac Girls follows the first person narrative of three different women: Caroline Ferriday (a real person), a philanthropist who lives in New York City and devotes all of her efforts to the French consulate and the war effort; Kasia Kuzmerick (based on a real person), a Polish teenager who finds herself working for the underground resistance when Hitler invades her country; and Herta Oberheuser, (a real person) who so desperately wants to prove her value as a female surgeon that she takes a post at one of Hitler's concentration camps in her quest to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor. All three of these women intertwine in a novel that is sure to leave you full of emotions and hugging your loved ones tight.

Like I mentioned, full review coming next week, and look out for the giveaway!

5. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Everything about Shaker Heights is perfect, from the neatly trimmed yards, to the ideal schools, to the beautiful homes and the people who live inside them. The Richardson family is perfect, too, minus their "loopy" youngest daughter Izzy. When Mia and Pearl Warren, a mother-daughter duo, move into the Richardson's rental property, Elena Richardson believes she is doing a good deed by providing affordable rent in a well-to-do neighborhood for a struggling single mom and her intelligent teenage daughter. But when a controversy involving the adoption of a Chinese baby shakes Shaker Heights, and Elena and Mia fall on opposite ends of the line in the sand, little fires erupt all throughout their seemingly perfect community, forcing Elena to confront everything she's ever stood for and believed, all while revealing secrets of Mia's past that she has worked so hard to suppress.

This book won Goodreads' award for best fiction of 2017, and it truly was incredible. It's definitely a slower start because there's a lot to set up for the reader, but once it gets going, you'll be hooked. Celeste Ng does a beautiful job of crafting characters through her third person omniscient narrator, and you'll find yourself going back and forth on whom you root for as your protagonist.

6. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Fair warning: you'll want to be emotionally stable when you read this book. It's not long, but it took me a few days to get through it because I had to stop every so often to collect myself and watch videos of babies and dogs so I could smile again. When Breath Becomes Air is the late Paul Kalanithi's memoir detailing his experience in going from promising neurosurgeon to cancer patient. It will make you ugly cry, but my goodness it is one of the most beautiful works of nonfiction I have ever read.

7. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Before I go any further, I just want to ensure everyone knows that the Underground Railroad during the 1800s was not actually a literal railroad. It's a metaphor. I've learned recently that many people believe it was an actual rail line that brought people from the south to the north.

Moving on...

In Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Underground Railroad, there is an actual railroad that brings runaway slaves from the south to the north in hopes of true freedom. Cora, who is enslaved on a cotton plantation in Georgia, escapes with another slave, Caesar, and they embark upon a journey that proves there is never a safe point for an African American during this pre-Civil War setting. Just when Cora believes she can breathe for a moment, she finds herself on the run again with Ridgeway, a slave catcher bound and determined to find her, on her heels. This poignant narrative will bring you to the darkest point in American history and teach you things about this time period that you may have missed in high school history classes. Reiterating: this WON the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

And there you have it! Those are my favorite reads of 2017. I am excited to get started on my 2018 list, and I'll be sure to share those as I finish them (I most often share my books as I finish on Instagram stories).

Have you read any of these, or do you have any recommendations? Let me know!

Happy New Year, friends!




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