Best Books I’ve Read in 2017 (So Far)

Since I’ve been out of college, I’ve been setting reading goals for myself each year. Reading has always been something I enjoy, but I did very little leisure reading during college. Too much class work and other distractions kept me occupied.

Once I found myself with more time on my hands after graduation, I went back to devouring books again. I was reading so many different books on different subjects, and I was learning so much, even from the fiction titles I picked up. I want to be a lifelong learner, and I was reminded that reading was a great way to consistently learn new things.

My goal for 2017 is to read 20 books this year. I’ve already finished 15, so I’m confident that I’ll meet, if not surpass, that goal. I’m planning to do a full roundup of my reads at the end of the year, but summer is such a great, relaxing season, I figured why wait? Here are the four best books I’ve finished so far in 2017.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

trevor noah book

Disclaimer: I’m a huge Trevor Noah fan. I can’t say I’m able to watch his show every night (#BasicCableLife), but I do keep up with his commentary and insight as best I can through social media and online clips.

We live in a time where politics is so viciously divisive, and Trevor Noah is by no means completely objective in his assessments of the world. However, if there is one thing I hope anyone can see, I hope it’s that he has an amazing mind bred from his unusual life. The son of biracial parents in South Africa, Noah was always faced with a dilemma: He wasn’t white, but he sure wasn’t considered black in South Africa.

His experiences, many of which are recounted in this book, have given him a unique perspective on race, politics and human nature. Interspersed among his chapters are shorter one-to-two page essays with his musings on various topics, like language. He talks about language’s ability to both bring people together and divide them. He writes: “Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. A shared language says, ‘We’re the same.’ A language barrier says, ‘We’re different.’ The artichects of apartheid understood this. … However, if [a] person who doesn’t look like you speaks like you, your brain short-circuits because your racism program has none of those instructions in the code. ‘Wait, wait,’ your mind says, ‘the racism code says if he doesn’t look like me he isn’t like me, but the language code says if he speaks like me he…is like me?’”

Many poignant parts of this book will make you think, but there are just as many parts that will make you laugh until you cry. My favorites: the toilet story (read and you’ll understand) and the tale of his dog Fufi.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

a man called ove book

Wow, this book made me feel a lot of feels. If you’re looking for a book that will simultaneously make you laugh out loud and cry your eyes out, look no further. But for real, this book is lovely.

Ove is a curmudgeon. He’s old, and he has an idea of just exactly how things should be done. He has recently lost his wife, and Ove has every intention of joining her in the great beyond. However, a series of events and neighborhood newcomers mess up his best-laid plans and stop him from following through. While learning more about Ove’s life, you’ll think about how sometimes life puts the right people in your path right when we need them. And you’ll find that a cranky old man probably has a reason to be and see that he might need to be loved a little harder anyway.

This story was wonderfully written. It will renew your faith in kindness and love.

American War by Omar El Akkad

american war book

I found this book to be a bit slow at the start, but if you stick with it the ending will be one that sticks with you for a long time after you finish the final page.

“American War” follows the life of Sarat Chestnut and her family, who are living in Louisiana while the United States is embroiled in a second civil war. The northern states want to switch completely to clean, sustainable energy sources, but the southern states are refusing to give up fossil fuels. That one difference has led to two divergent philosophies and ways of life.

Sarat and her family eventually find themselves in a refugee camp, and they spend a handful of years there, biding their time as the war continues. While there, Sarat grows up and as she sheds childhood, her perception and opinion of the war evolves. She eventually finds herself playing a much larger part in the war than she ever imagined.

Sarat’s story will have you speeding through this read in a matter of days. In today’s world, this story can at times hit a little too close to home, especially with the “historical documents” sprinkled throughout. The book will make you think about the atrocities war brings, both on and off the battlefield.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

milk and honey book poetry

I must admit that I’ve never been one for poetry. I never really “got” it. It seemed too vague, and I felt I never could figure out the true meaning the poet was getting at.

“Milk and Honey” has me second-guessing that notion, though. Broken into four parts, this small collection of poetry has spoken to me more than many 300-page books have. Kaur seems to simultaneously recount her own experiences while speaking to common threads every woman can understand. The sting of heartbreak, the insecurity in appearance, the fiery passion of standing up for yourself. It is all there between these pages.

I am not a woman of few words. I am a chatterbox. I will always choose to use more words than fewer. So it struck me so acutely to see Kaur’s short poems affect me so much. Here’s one:

if the hurt comes

so will the happiness

-be patient

So simple, so sweet, so true. And that only scratches the surface of the gems that Kaur has written. I recommend you read it and relish it. There’s no rush.

What books have you loved so far this year? Drop me some recommendations in the comments!


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