I started 2017 with little hope of getting that much “fun” reading done. I was about to sit my final exams at University and, though I study a literature degree, I have never counted these as part of my Goodreads challenge. There’s a separate list of those here! In the end, I surprised myself by managing to read a total of 29 books in 2017, which is 4 more than what I aimed for. I have to admit that a lot of those I have read recently are either rather short or part of poetry collections, which obviously don’t take quite so long to read. What matters more to me though is the impact of the stories I have read and the wide array of genres I have delved into. So here’s my list of what I read in 2017 – ranked from best to worst.
So you see this isn’t a book that you buy for immediate consumption. It’s something you buy, put on the shelf, and most likely forget about for the next few months. There’ll come a time, however, when you’re in need; when feelings of purposelessness, glumness, depression, stagnation, defeatism, regret, infatuation, heartbreak, or bereavement overwhelm you. That’s when you’ll find yourself reaching out for The Poetry Pharmacy.
Keep this on your bookshelf as you would keep paracetamol in your bathroom cupboard. You never know when you’re going to need it but when you do it’ll be right there waiting for you.
I think we owe Rupi Kaur a lot for making poetry accessible to mainstream readers and, in particular, young readers. Her debut poetry collection milk & honey took the world by storm and so many more modern poetry collections are popping up in the wake of her success. If you think you’re not a “poetry person”, this book could change that.
She’s only gone and done it again! Rupi Kaur is back with her second collection of poetry and it hit me right in the feels, just as the first one did. This one centres on the five topics of: wilting, falling, rooting, rising, blooming. As always, I both wanted to devour every word of her poetry as quickly as possible but also savour each and every word of Rupi’s magic. She has this amazing way of putting feelings hidden in the depths of your very soul into words on paper.
Love Her Wild is the first collection of “Instagram” poetry I have ever read and it did not disappoint. Atticus Poetry, who has over half a million followers on Instagram(!), blew me away with his words and accompanying photography. This works as an almost companion to Rupi Kaur’s milk & honey and this is a poetry collection in the same sort of vein, but we see through the male gaze. This is well worth a read if you’re reaching for another book after finishing both of Rupi Kaur’s collections.
Never judge a book by its cover… Except this one. Because the story inside is just as beautiful as the outside cover is. This love story is a slow burner that will leave your heart completely broken and aching. If you liked The Fault in Our Stars or Me Before You then you should enjoy this story too!
This is probably one of the most useful, if not the most useful, books I’ve read this year. Sarah Knight’s second book contains a foolproof three-step guide to actually getting stuff done: goal, strategy, focus. You’ll have to read it to find out more!
#Girlboss is an easy-to-read, empowering book by founder of Nasty Gal, Sophia Amoruso. She tells us how she grew her company from a small shop on eBay to a multi-million dollar company and it’s inspiring stuff. For anyone in a bit of a rut of life, this might just give you the kick you need this year.
#Girlboss was a good read, but I expected that. The Girlboss Workbook that followed, however, really took me by surprise. Judging from the cover, I thought that this book would just be a little bit of wacky fun based off Sophia Amoruso’s first book. I assumed it would adopt a very blasé attitude and be more about rejecting the status quo than actually moving you forwards in your career or life. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. An essential guide for those who are job hunting – at any level.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles really surprised me and has quickly risen the ranks to become one of my favourite reads of the year. It’s only strengthened my love of Japanese fiction as so far not one single book of translated Japanese fiction has let me down. If you find that at the beginning you don’t really “get” it, please bear with it. This novel is a slow burner and you should savour each and every word along the way.
In Order to Live was the most powerful book I read this year. It’s the first hand account of Yeonmi Park, a North Korean defector, and her horrific escape to South Korea, through China. I’m willing to bet that most people, even those that would consider themselves up to date with current affairs, aren’t aware of the reality of the situation for North Korean citizens. This book is eye-opening and, quite frankly, disturbing. It’s also 100% true.
Sick of clichéd romance novels, I turned to The Course of Love by Alain de Botton for a breath of fresh air. Alain de Botton astutely notices that most romance stories stop when the couple get married. This is commonly seen to be their happy-ever-after. Really, though, this is just the beginning. Alain de Botton understands human emotion like no other author I have ever read.
“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”
So the question everyone’s been asking me is: Is this the solution to anxiety? The truth is, no, this book is not the solution to anxiety. Those are pretty big boots to fill and I don’t think even the best mental health professional could give a one glove fits all answer to that mammoth question. But this book helps. A lot. Just reading it felt like a weight was being lifted off my chest. That I wasn’t alone and that the thoughts running through my brain again and again are normal. That other people feel them too. I rarely give 5 star book reviews but this book was exceptionally insightful, readable and encouraging and I’d highly recommend it.
This short manifesto by Adichie should be made compulsory reading for all ages. For those that are yet to bear children, especially daughters, this could be life changing. For those that are already parents, this may just open your eyes. It’s less than 50 pages long so there really are no excuses.
Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea is in the same vein as Lord of the Flies. Dark but compelling, this is one piece of translated fiction that is well worth a read. Mishima is my favourite Japanese author and well worth checking out as an alternative Japanese author to Murakami.
Pretty Darn Good
Whilst it got off to a slow start, A Court of Thorn and Roses had an explosive ending. I can see why hoards of people are devoted fans of this series and it’s certainly one of the better YA series for mature teens and young adults out there.
Capture Your Style is not a quickie guide to getting a million followers on Instagram (or 4.7 million in Aimee Song’s case). If, however, you’re looking to improve the quality of your pictures, your overall instagram feed and start posting more regularly to create a consistent feed, then you need to pick up this book.
Stay With Me gives us an insight into the world of arranged marriages and political turbulence in 80s Nigeria. Written from the perspective of several different characters, you’ve never sure what’s real and what’s imaginary and the pieces don’t fall together until the very end. Shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize 2017.
A beautifully written, poignant tale about family and relationships. There is something very compelling about this story even if the plot doesn’t move very fast. This is a slow burner but it turns into a roaring fire that you’ll want to snuggle up with when the day is done.
Donna Tart is now ranked amongst my favourite authors. Her work is both twisted and beautiful at the same time dealing with friendship, love, desire, hedonism, jealousy and tragedy. She tells a dark story but she tells it so well you can’t help but be entranced. There were a few sections that made me feel physically sick and others that I’ve put to memory amongst some of my favourite quotes. The characters themselves are Tart’s greatest triumph and there is no way that you won’t find yourself completely wrapped up in their story, both wishing you were part of their little group and thankful that you’re not. A must-read for all.
Hygge was last year’s trend, this year it’s Ikigai. It’s a concept that the Japanese roughly translate as “a reason to get up in the morning”. Supposedly it’s the secret to their record-breaking longevity, sensory beauty and mindfulness, too. For fans of Japanese culture and those that know it well, this may just give you a fresh perspective on the things you already know and love about Japan. For those that know nothing about Ikigai or Japan, this should be an enlightening and eye opening read about how others live across the seas.
Truman Capote’s Holly Golighty charms everyone she comes across – reader included. This snapshot of 1940s New York will reel you in before Holly spits you right back out. She is possibly America’s greatest literary tease.
Having flirted with the idea of turning towards a vegetarian diet for quite some time now, I was instantly drawn to The Vegetarian. Make no mistake, this story isn’t the happy story of how a woman moved towards a plant based diet – it is dark, it is disturbing, it is distressing. Kang’s description of the protagonist through the eyes of her narrators is frighteningly compelling and it’s certainly not a book I’ll be forgetting anytime soon.
In much the same way as TSH, none of the characters in The Sense of an Ending are likeable. Indeed, if I met any of them in real life, I’d probably hate them all. However, they are fascinating to watch in the present and in the past. I had high expectations for The Sense of an Ending and it did not disappoint. This book deserves the title of modern classic and its message will linger long after you have put this story down.
The Guest Cat was hugely successful upon its release in the West so I was very excited to get my hands on it. The reason it’s been relegated to the So-So pile is because the book summary is somewhat misleading. We are told that this book is about a cat that reunites a married couple, that he gives them something to talk about and helps them to reconnect. In actual fact, I thought that this was the story of a man who became obsessed with a cat. In turn, his wife becomes obsessed too. However, the human-feline relationships are heartwarming, I didn’t think the cat did much to help the man and wife’s relationship, as we had been promised.
Nevernight was a good read but it hasn’t left much of an impression on me months later. It’s certainly an interesting series and I really admire the strong female lead but I found the first book to be just a little too long. This is one of the most popular YA series out there at the moment though so I’ll probably be giving the next book a read anyway.
Caraval is a fantastic debut novel from Stephanie Garber and it blew me away. It has elements of magic, mystery and adventure, which will have you turning those pages like crazy! This is a little different from a lot of the other young adult stuff out there right now so I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a fast-paced tale that will take you and your emotions on a roller-coaster ride.
The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k is a book that instantly rose to the ranks of bestsellers across the globe. It’s not hard to see why – who wouldn’t want to let go of all the baggage in their lives and learn to just stop giving a f**k? Author Sarah Knight gave up her job in corporate publishing and now spends her time between the Dominican Republic and NYC as a freelancer. The dream, right? But not an easy one to make happen by any means. The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k is the first step in decluttering your life so you can stop buying things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.
Much like marmite, readers seemed to either love or hate this one. As with most things in life (sigh), I am on the fence about it. I think how you feel about this collection of poetry will ultimately be decided by your personal life experiences. If the content doesn’t resonate with you, then the style will undoubtedly be a constant annoyance throughout. On the other hand, if you find yourself relating to Amanda Lovelace’s words and experiences, you’ll feel a sense of solidarity and quickly fall in love with her writing.
I’m pretty frustrated that I wasted weeks reading Glass Sword when I could have been reading something much more exciting. In short, the characters all seemed emotionless and the plot was boring and so I felt pretty emotionless and bored whilst reading it.
NB: This book is only in this pile because I am not in the right age category for this book and this marred my reading experience.
The story isn’t particularly complex and it’s very easy to read so this would’ve been absolutely perfect for me around 7 years ago. It’s a story of friendship, bravery, love, family etc. so a really lovely tale for YA readers. Of course, if you’re a massive Beauty and the Beast fan, you’re sure to enjoy this story at any age, but I thought that was a point worth noting! All in all, Lost in a Book is a heart-warming tale that will no doubt please Disney fans. It’s a quick, easy read that’s perfect for a lovely spring afternoon 🌹
So which was my favourite?
Picking a favourite is soo difficult as many of these really were incredible reads so I think I’m going to have to pick two. The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Akinara and The Course of Love by Alain de Botton. The first, because it broke my heart. The second, because it taught me how to heal it.
What were some of your favourite reads of 2017?
Have a look at last year’s post to see what’s changed!