In my mission to read as many books as I could in 2017, I explored new genres, new voices, and became the go-to girl for book recommendations. It's a job I happily accept, as I've learned a lot about what makes a good book (and more) from reading so many this year.
Read more about Samantha's 2017 resolution to read more books:
I Read 75 Books In One Year & Here's What I Learned
I've managed to only include books published in 2017 to make this list timely, but there are so many other older books I've loved this year. I encourage you to mix it up!
1. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
Set in a small Ohio town, this story looks at two mothers and what they'll do to protect their families and daughters. Tied up in their narrative are the growing pains of their children, four high schoolers, and an international adoption scandal that divides the town in half.
2. Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue
Let's just say: Oprah doesn't choose bad books for her book club. Jende Jonga arrives in America from Cameroon and eventually his wife and son join him–but the "American Dream" means something different for all three. For some, America represents promise and privilege; for others, it represents lost opportunity.
3. Bluebird Bluebird, Attica Locke
This thriller made me excited to look up everything Locke has written because she can develop complex characters and plots with equal skill. The novel follows a black Texas Ranger as he investigates two suspicious murders in a racially-charged town—a local white woman and a visiting black man are found dead within days of each other, and its up to Darren Mathews to figure out the link.
4. Tornado Weather, Deborah Kennedy
For fans of Elizabeth Strout or Celeste Ng, you'll love Kennedy's writing style. She has crafted an emotional, gripping story around the disappearance of a five-year-old girl through vignettes of each local in the small town. The threads between each character are woven brilliantly, but you won't see the connections for a while.
5. The Power, Naomi Alderman
Dystopian fiction is having its moment, but The Power creates a future many wouldn't mind: women rule the world. Years of evolution have awakened an electrical force within young women, and Alderman's story follows a few strong females across the globe as they learn how to wield it.
6. Chemistry, Weike Wang
The unnamed narrator of Chemistry may be my favorite protagonist of 2017. She grapples with her own professional failures and her uncertainty around her future, while still managing to view her surroundings, emotions, and experiences through a scientific, analytical lens. It's a fast read, but one that sticks with you.
7. Courage Is Contagious, Nicholas Haramis
An impressive list of activists, actors, and other leaders come together in this essay collection to write about influence of Michelle Obama. Whether applauding her efforts to encourage healthy lifestyles with her garden, admiring her elegant style, or simply marveling at the importance of a black First Lady with a strong voice, the contributors write on a similar theme: Michelle Obama opened many doors for marginalized Americans who previously didn't see themselves in their government. And they are grateful.
8. Idaho, Emily Ruskovich
Whenever someone asks me to describe Idaho the first word I use is "beautiful." The story starts with an unspeakable tragedy: a man is left behind after his wife and daughters disappear. Told from multiple perspectives, and abandoning chronology, this novel will force any reader to reexamine their thoughts on love and forgiveness.
9. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
I can't find another protagonist that has made me laugh out loud and feel so sad all in one chapter. Eleanor, an independent woman with a dark past and fraught relationship with her mother, is extremely particular, not quite adept in social situations, and has crafted a very specific lifestyle. Watching her adapt to new circumstances is entertaining and endearing.
10. Goodbye Vitamin, Rachel Khong
This diary-style novel is short but powerful, and explores the relationship between father and daughter when the former enters the early stages of Alzheimer's and the latter moves back home to help take care of him.