I read a lot of formulaic and utterly predictable romance novels last year. I know there’s good writing in every genre, but I was so embarrassed about what I was reading that I didn’t even count those books toward my annual total. It was like eating comfort food (e.g., raw cookie dough, queso) that feels good for maybe two minutes and then my mind would remind me how these books reinforce gender stereotypes and don’t feature any interesting characters who have something important or different to say.
That being said, I did manage to get my hands on the equivalent of some literary vegetables that were invigorating for my mind and overall wellbeing. The list below is about books I’ve read in 2017, not necessarily about books that were published in that timeframe.
Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
I follow Roxane Gay on Twitter, and this collection of essays encompasses her wide-ranging areas of interest, from Scrabble to Real Housewives to (most importantly) race. Her immensely talented voice translates nicely from 140 (now 280) characters to long form pieces. Every single essay made me think. (Full disclosure: I was inspired to write this post after she published a similar one on her tumblr.)
On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
This book has been on my shelf forever and I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it. This story about a mixed-race liberal couple whose son falls in love with daughter of a conservative scholar really resonated with me this past year, and offered an insightful look into the stuffy, claustrophobic world of academia.
Best Book We Read in Book Club
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
Storied Life is unique in that it was a quick read but was NOT fluff. Fikry is a cantankerous bookseller who finds himself raising a child who was left in his bookshop. That’s what any standard summary will tell you, but it’s so much more than that: it’s a story about marriage, parenthood and books.
A Book I Thought I Wasn’t Going to Like But I Did
The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
I decided to read this fictional account of the courtship of Kate Middleton and Prince William just after Prince Harry announced his engagement to Meghan Markle. It was utterly charming and heartfelt, demonstrating that indeed good writing can be found in romance.
Books That Got Great Reviews But I Found Them to Be Underwhelming
Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld
This is the third book I’ve read by Sittenfeld (Prep and An American Wife are the others) and the third book that I thought had great potential but fell short. I will keep trying.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
I know Big Little Lies was a huge deal but I thought that book was OK at best and didn’t bother to watch the miniseries. I took one last trip in Liane’s World of Selfish and Self-Involved Privileged Rich White Ladies and I am DONE.
A Book by Anne Tyler That I Think Will Be As Good As Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant But Am Ultimately Disappointed
Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
I hope I will have more categories next year.