While 2016 was a good reading year for me, the selection wasn’t very well thought out (predominantly Young Adult Fiction written by white females). I read a lot of underwhelming books that looked promising on the library bookshelf. So as I made my list for 2017, I sought greater variety and diversity. There’s an almost even split between male and female authors (still, slightly more females); twenty-five percent are minorities (still not great, but better than last year’s 6%); I’m reading twenty-percent fewer Young Adult titles; there’s fifteen more nonfiction books than last year; and ten poetry collections.
Here’s my 2017 To-Read List:
2016 was a tough year and who knows what 2017 has in store for us, so I thought I’d escape to some classics from my childhood and reread some faves that still resonate with our current times. I’m especially excited to revisit A Series of Unfortunate Events as the series adaptation hits Netflix this January.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
This thirteen-book children’s series is about the three orphaned Baudelaire children trying to evade their inheritance-hungry relative, Count Olaf, as they’re passed from home to home, unfortunate event to unfortunate event, narrated by the unforgettable Lemony Snicket. It’s smart and humorous, with plot lines and quips that appeal to both kids and adults.
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Who doesn’t want to return to the wizarding world for some guidance from Dumbledore and a dose of Gryffindor courage as the U.S. fears the rise of its own Voldemort? Plus, I need a refresher before I finally read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
My mother read this series to me when I was young, and much of it has gone fuzzy in my memory. I suspect this series will also resonate with our world’s current events.
I didn’t read any poetry collections in 2016, which is a major failing on my part. But I’ve made a commitment to read ten in 2017.
From My Personal To-Read List:
The Collected Poems of Jack Gilbert: Gilbert is one of my favorite poets (seriously, go read his collection The Great Fires), and I bought his collected works as a graduation present to myself in May 2015. It’s been sitting on my bedside table ever since (I’m about halfway through). It’s time I finished the collection.
Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey: I was introduced to Trethewey’s poetry in college, and have been meaning to read this collection since then.
Crush by Richard Siken: There’s only so many times a friend can instagram Siken’s poems before you think to yourself, Damn, I really need to read some of his work.
The Shape of the Journey by Jim Harrison
Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Directed by Desire by June Jordan
Look by Solmaz Sharif
Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
Blackacre by Monica Youn
Whereas by Layli Long Soldier
I read only five nonfiction works in 2016. Not good. So embracing my nerdiness and deep fascination with the world I reside in and the people with whom I share it, I’ve compiled twenty books to broaden my perspective.
From My Personal To-Read List:
The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us by James W. Pennebaker: As an unabashed word enthusiast who is constantly considering and analyzing how our word choices shape our messages and sense of the world, this looks right up my alley.
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
These two books have been highly praised and on my to-read list for a while.
Authored by YouTubers:
Fun Science by Charlie McDonnell: McDonnell has been one of my favorite YouTubers since I was in high school and I’m delighted to learn more about the universe through this quirky and contemporary (with illustrations!) look at the universe. He’s even put out a series of videos about some of the topics covered in this book.
Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart: This memoir was lauded recently by John Green. I’m particularly interested in reading about her experience of growing up with a mother who has schizophrenia as part of some novel research I’m doing.
How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky: Rapper, spoken word poet, and writer, George Watsky, is another person YouTube’s led me to. Garnering acclaim from Lin Manuel-Miranda for this work as well as knowing the talent he’s brought to his other creative endeavors, I am excited to indulge in this essay collection. He’s even turned one of the essays in this book into a short film.
For Better Understanding Current Issues in the U.S.:
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age Story by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh
Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael S. Kimmel
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild
From Miscellaneous Recommended Book Lists:
My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk
A mix of classics and recent publications, I aim to step outside of my comfort zone with these fourteen picks.
From My Personal To-Read List:
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: This has been hanging around my to-read list since high school or college, so I plan on finally knocking this classic off my list.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: I got this book a couple of years ago and only made it through a couple of paragraphs. I’m pretty sure this is where the “challenge” part will come into play in my reading challenge, but I cannot deny my inner suburban white boy this literary classic any longer.
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer: I briefly attempted to read this in 2016, but I just didn’t have the time to give it the attention it requires. But from the chapter or so that I read, I know it is going to be a hilarious and touching read.
Highly Praised Novels:
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware: This mystery/ thriller was a Goodreads Choice nominee this year and appeared on many other best of 2016 lists. I don’t handle scary stuff well, so I plan on reading this page turner with the lights on and people around.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Having loved The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys and being a general fan of historical fiction (a genre I definitely need to read more of), I have high hopes for this award winning novel.
From Miscellaneous Recommended Book Lists:
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories by Alice Munro
Children’s and Young Adult Fiction
As someone who aspires to be a published YA author, I tend to read pretty heavily in this genre. However, this year I limited myself to twenty-eight novels and tried to pick wisely.
Author Fiction Debuts:
Love & First Sight by Josh Sundquist: I’ve read motivational speaker and YouTuber, Josh Sundquist’s two memoirs, Just Don’t Fall: How I Grew Up, Conquered Illness, and Made It Down the Mountain and We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story. Just based on this video, I can tell this well-researched story of a blind teen who gains sight for the first time will not only give an honest portrayal of disability, but also an interesting meditation on our culture’s impact on how we look at and understand physical appearance. It will be available in January 2017.
Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor: From reading the blurb for Taylor’s novel, I was immediately struck by how both familiar and fresh these characters felt. I look forward to its release in April 2017.
Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs: Having read only the first book in this series and seen its somewhat unfaithful adaptation in theaters this past fall, I knew I had to read the rest of the series. If you like creepy, time-twisty novels featuring kids with unusual super powers, this is the series for you.
A Wrinkle in Time by Margaret L’Engle
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
John Green Recommends:
Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger
Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
In a The Writers Panel podcast, Green said that these three YA novels that all came out in 2000 were especially influential to him at the start of his writing career.
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier: Green recently tweeted praise for this 2016 psychological thriller.
Mosquitoland by David Arnold
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
The Memory of Light by Francisco C. Stork
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
From Miscellaneous Recommended Lists:
The President’s Daughter by Ellen Emerson: As we continue to grieve Hillary Clinton’s loss, I hope this novel will give me hope of a female winning a future presidential election.
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira: This story sounded like a great mix of family drama, grief, and pop culture. Kurt Cobain also appears in this other YA title that I plan on reading at some point (maybe in 2018?).
Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark: I’m not one to usually read YA romance, but this premise sold me: “Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash.”
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon: I read Yoon’s other novel, Everything, Everything in 2016, and although I liked her writing style and the illustrations, some of the plot twists felt a little cheap. But I’ve seen a lot of praise for this novel, so I have my fingers crossed.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson: I’ve heard immense praise from friends and YA authors about this book. I had to make sure I read it this year.
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr: I love a good story about a high school girl who gains a reputation as “slut.” How gossip and slut shaming and misconceptions weave together have made for some fantastic stories.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: YA has been severely lacking in protagonists who are not skinny and narratives about body positivity. This book offers both and I am excited to see how it explores those issues.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt: This story of loss, grief, love, and friendship set in the 80s sounds really interesting, especially with that title.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero: This book deals with a lot of social issues, so I look forward to seeing how they are woven together and grappled with.
Resources I consulted for compiling my list:
Resources & Tips for Becoming a Voracious Reader:
- Create an account on Goodreads. Track what you read and what you want to read.
- Participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge.
- Buy books for a cheaper price online at Thrift Books.
- Download OverDrive and use your library card to borrow ebooks.
- Prioritize reading. Make it a daily habit.
- Make a list of the books you want to read and the order you plan on reading them.
- Sign up for Goodreads’ Daily Deal email so you can be alerted when books on your to-read list are available for a discounted price.