Whew. I read 65 books in 2017! If I could stay awake on the bus during my commute, it would be even more. Before I jump into by TBR list for 2018 (that’s a lie, I’ve already started), here are my favorite books that I read in 2017. Some were published well before this year, I just can’t keep up!
Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys – 5 stars
Salt to the Sea is a beautiful, hopeful, and gut-wrenching work of historical fiction art. The real-life event that centers the plot left me gaping. The brave and broken characters who bring it to life staggered me with joy and devastation. It’s an intense experience, as befits its subject matter. This should be required reading – before the movie. Deadline announced in May 2017 that Universal Pictures won the bidding war to adapt this book to film.
By far the most original thing I read this year, Illuminae is also the best sci-fi series start I’ve ever read. It’s both fantastically written and designed; the visual experience of the book brings the story to life. It’s almost unfair to have so much creativity in one place! Capturing feeling in shorthand, tech-transmitted dialogue is nearly impossible. If we could all convey meaning over text the way these characters do, life (and online dating) would be a very different place. I try to reserve 5 star ratings for life-changing books like Harry Potter, or small miracles like Salt to the Sea above, but this was the closest to another 5-star I read this year. Brad Pitt’s Plan B Productions at Warner Bros. is developing this into a film, but there’s been no news since November 2015.
The Diviners, by Libba Bray (The Diviners #1) – 4.5 stars
I’ve rarely enjoyed a book’s setting as much as its story, or any setting as much as I enjoyed 1920’s New York in The Diviners. Prohibition and flappers, the socially accepted racism, the immigrant struggle – the setting is its own character in the book, and it is all of the other characters as well. It infuses each of them with layers of life, makes them relatable in such an intrinsic way that you hardly realize its happening. The world idolizes and demonizes their magic, but powers aren’t the only truths the Diviners have to fear. This one went to Paramount Pictures for a film deal, but there’s nothing new since 2013.
When is the second book in a series the best? When it has RHYSAND. I thought the first book in this series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, was exceptional, but this – this is what Shakespeare meant when he wrote, “I burn, I pine, I perish.” Read it and weep. Or listen to it and blush furiously when one of Sarah J. Maas’s really descriptive sexy bits happens to come on as you’re waiting for your ice tea at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru. (You’ve been warned.) Film rights were optioned in November 2015, but I don’t see anything about production yet.
There are books I rated higher than Undertow, but none were more present. I mean that to say this book, which lushly imagines mermaids (and men) are real and have washed ashore on Coney Island, is also about politics. It’s about refugees, about sanctuary, about fear and what defines goodness and humanity. The story is visceral in such a way that it could be about people, just regular people, and still be as effective. The whole trilogy is fantastic, a true accomplishment on many levels.
On to 2018, the list is already long.