The Next Chapter: My Favorite Books of 2017

2017 was not a great year for me personally. I had to move, causing me a lot of stress. I got rid of 14 boxes of books. Still with all that turmoil, I wound up reading 21 books, which was the same number as 2016. More importantly, I liked many of the books I read in 2017. I also branched out of my comfort zone to read some fantasy books. I even got to read 4 plays by Ibsen this year, fulfilling my wish to get back to reading plays. I am too lazy to go from my least favorite to favorite, so I will start with my favorite book:

1) On Chesil Beach by Ian Mc Ewen. I read this book because the movie was supposed to come out in December 2017. It is now rolled back to June 2018 with Saoirse Ronan, who I adore. This book basically takes place on the wedding night of Edward and Florence in July, 1963, just on the cusp of the sexual revolution. It’s about the push and pull of desire, and how two people who get married don’t always understand each other. This is a book I thought a lot about after I read it. It also has one of the best last line of a novel that I’ve read in awhile.

2) The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty. This book doesn’t have much plot but it’s a beautiful character study. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1972 and you can see why it won. It’s the story of Laurel, who goes to New Orleans to tend to her dad, who is a retired judge, who is in the hospital for an eye operation. Also helping out is the Judge’s second wife Fay, a young woman who is shallow, vain and materialistic. When the optimistic judge dies, both Fay and Laurel bring back his body to the small Mississippi town Laurel grew up in. The book leads to an emotional clash between the two woman. It’s another book that I thought about long after reading.

3) Sula by Toni Morrison. Morrison is an author I should read more of. I only read Song of Solomon and Tar Baby. This novel revolves around the friendship between Nels Wright, a shy and reserved girl and Sula, who is outspoken and not well liked by the other woman in town. Can you mourn the end of a toxic friendship? Sula is a powerful book that examines friendship between 2 woman.

4) Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene. For some reason I usually leave off Greene on my list of favorite writers but I haven’t read A book by him yet that I haven’t liked. This book is more comic than the other Greene novels I’ve read. The book starts out with Harry, a boring retired banker who buries his mom. His Aunt Augusta comes and spills secrets about Henry’s parents. Augusta takes Henry out of his comfort zone, away from his orchids and takes him on adventure in Paris, Turkey and eventually South America. A joy to read from start to finish.

5) A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. This book I took down from my shelves after searching for a book to take down for Christmas Vacation. I am so glad I did. This is a novel that is told through interrelated stories. This was a bold piece of fiction that was about Time (The Goon Squad in the title) , the choices we make as well as rock and roll music and consumerism. The book leaves some things open to interpretation, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I really want to read her new book, Manhattan Beach, which came out at the end of 2017.

6) Julian by Gore Vidal. I already blogged about this novel but it really is one of the best pieces of historical fiction I have ever read.

7) Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman. I was excited for the movie coming out, so I took this book out of the library. Its a beautiful love story between two men in Italy during the 1980’s. The novel is erotic at times and has a bittersweet ending that will make you cry. Unfortunately, I still haven’t seen the film, which might be an Oscar contender for Best Picture.

8) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J K. Rowling. I finally read a Harry Potter book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have seen all the movies but hadn’t read any of the books. It’s an entertaining start to the series. It’s fun to see how Harry, Ron and Hermione become close friends while they go on this adventure. I definitely want to read the other books in the series.

9) The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. This is another book I took out from the library. I had been meaning to read more lesbian fiction. This is a seminal piece about two women who fall in love in the 50’s, when it was taboo to be in a same-sex relationship. The excellent film Carol is based on this book.

10) The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Armin. We go back to Italy for the last book. 4 different English woman decide to rent a villa in Northern Italy for the entire month of April. It was a film in the 90’s staring Miranda Richardson and Joan Plowright. It’s a charming book that I read during the winter months.

I do have a couple of honorable mentions that quite didn’t make the list: The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and 24 Stories by Wills Cather. As for 2018, I just want to read more classics and to that end just started reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I hope everyone had a good year and Happy New Year to all my readers.