Tag Archives: favorite books

Ten Best Books I Read in 2017

I thought about it a lot, and here are my top 10 favorite reads of 2017! (Not all of them were published in 2017, although a surprising amount were.) Nine of these were five-star reads; #10 on the list was a high four-star. I would highly, highly recommend all of these; these were the books that stuck with me the most throughout the year, and the ones that I’ll want to read again in the future.

10. Borne by Jeff Vandermeer – Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy made my favorites list a few years back, as it was so wonderfully weird and well-written. This standalone book was fantastic–so imaginative and strange, yet with powerful emotional resonance and a main character you wanted to root for.

9. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit – this was one of my first reads of 2017, and it had a huge impact. I also read it around the time of the Women’s March on Washington, which cemented it in my memory and made me want to go on to read more feminist works during the year.

8. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin – I finally finished the Broken Earth trilogy in 2017, and every book from that trilogy made a yearly favorites list. It’s fantasy at its most creative and well-fleshed-out, yet never lacking in emotion.

7. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado – this lyrical magical realism short story collection also packs a lot of punches in its discussion of how women are treated.

6. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin – this extremely weird short novel reads like an actual fever dream, and that’s why I loved it.

5. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay – this short story collection included realistic fiction as well as magical realism, and basically just demonstrated how amazing Roxane Gay is at everything.

4. The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente – such a cool and creative take on female comic book characters; this book was biting and impactful and fantastic.

3. Bloodchild by Octavia Butler – this short story collection contained one of my new favorite novellas (the title story) and also included two fantastic essays. I love everything I’ve read by Butler, and this was another great step towards reading all of her published works.

2. Among Others by Jo Walton – the book I didn’t know I needed about the power of reading and books. There’s also magic, done in a beautiful way.

  1. Hunger by Roxane Gay – the most powerful book I’ve read this year. I think I’ve recommended this to approximately one million people, and the ones who’ve read it have all also loved it.


What were your favorite reads of the year? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!







Top 10 Favorite Books I Read in 2016


Here they are, after much debating and an awesome year of reading…the ten best books I read in 2016! To be clear, these weren’t all published in 2016, although a few of them were, and they aren’t necessarily ranked in order of how much I loved them. My favorites of 2016 include an essay collection, two short story collections, a historical fiction novel, a retelling of a classic novel, the next book in one of my favorite fantasy series, a beautiful science fiction novel, the first book in a sensational quartet, a genre-bending story with dual narratives, and a collection of poetry. I read a LOT of books this year, and it was hard to choose just ten to represent all of 2016, but these books all touched me in some way, and I’d highly recommend them to everyone.

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2)Bad FeministThe Girl Wakes: StoriesThe Passion

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin (5 stars) – this is one of the rare cases where the second book in a series is just as amazing and mind-blowing as the first. N.K. Jemisin always impresses me, but the world she’s created in the Broken Earth trilogy is so fully realized and its characters so engaging that this has become my favorite fantasy series of all time, and it’s not even over yet.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (5 stars) – this essay collection was so good that I had to buy my own copy, since my first reading was from a library book. Roxane Gay discusses feminism, racism, pop culture, and her life in a way that’s complex yet very accessible. It’s a book that I can’t wait to start lending out and will need to re-read myself at some point in the near future. I’m anxiously awaiting her memoir about her relationship with food, Hunger, which comes out in 2017.

The Girl Wakes by Carmen Lau (5 stars) – I loved every page of this book. It’s a very short collection of microfiction focused on dark fairytale retellings with feminist themes, and it’s amazing. I found it at a small press book fair last spring, and I hate the fact that if I hadn’t noticed its enticing cover on a table, I might never have found it. Reading this book really highlighted the importance of reading small press and lesser-known books, because there are incredible things to be found. The story that lingers the most in my mind is about a girl in a relationship with a vampire, but it’s not a romantic, Twilight-esque story; the vampire barely has the strength to stand, and the girl continuously murders people in order to bring him food. The shocking things that she does and the way her life descends into darkness mirrors the trajectory of an abusive relationship, and it’s shocking, heartbreaking, and extremely memorable, despite lasting only a few pages.

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson (5 stars) – this was one of the first books I read in 2016, but it’s endured as one of the very best. This was also my introduction to Jeanette Winterson’s writing and made me want to read everything she’s ever written. It’s beautifully crafted historical fiction that follows a young man who joins Napoleon’s army and a bisexual Venetian woman, both becoming entrenched in different types of passion that may or may not consume their lives. It’s about the nature of love and obsession, and it’s heartbreaking yet beautiful. And the prose is just gorgeous.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels #1)Wide Sargasso SeaMr. Splitfoot

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (5 stars) – this book hits almost every note that I look for in science fiction: the writing is wonderful, the focus is on character-building and the interactions between different types of beings in a complex universe, Chambers hits upon universal themes yet approaches them in a unique way, and the world-building is detailed and well-thought-out. I’ve found a new favorite author in Becky Chambers, and I’m currently reading the companion novel to this one, A Closed and Common Orbit, which is also wonderful.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (5 stars) – I was so skeptical about Ferrante’s work, but I understood the hype almost immediately after I picked this up. The storytelling is beautiful and artful, and the focus in on two fully realized characters and their fraught, complicated relationship. It’s not at all my typical type of book, but it didn’t matter, because this book was so completely absorbing and addicting.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (5 stars) – this retelling of Jane Eyre from the perspective of Mr. Rochester’s wife made me completely rethink the entire story and its narrative. The prose is dense and lush and you feel like you’re falling into a trance every time you pick up the book. It’s bold and profoundly disturbing, intensely feminist, and it completely blew me away. Read it. Just read it.

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt (4.5 stars) – this 2016 new release is about cults and ghosts and family and love, and it’s told in this wonderful dual narrative that builds more and more tension throughout the book, ultimately culminating in a can’t-put-it-down finale.

Gutshotmilk and honey

Gutshot by Amelia Gray (4.5 stars) – This short story collection was completely, perfectly weird. A lot of the stories are microfiction, which I am a huge fan of because it depends on the author being able to cram a ton of meaning and emotion into only a few pages. I was not expecting to be so impressed with this collection when I picked it up, and now I’m planning on reading much more from Amelia Gray in the future (I’ve already picked up a copy of her novel Threats). The most striking stories in this collection included one about a giant snake that appears and physically divides a town in two, which highlights its already-present divides, and one about a woman trapped inside a house’s ventilation system.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (4.5 stars) – This is my preferred style of poetry to read – short poems in free verse with huge emotional impact. The middle two sections of this book absolutely blew me away. I read each poem at least 2-3 times because it’s impossible not to savor her words. This is the type of book I’d absolutely re-read, and you can’t help but feel deeply when you read Kaur’s words.


So, there they are! I’d love to hear about your favorite books of 2016–let me know in the comments what yours were and if any of them overlap with mine!

Bookish Reminiscing: On Childhood Favorites and Old-School YA

I have a constant, ongoing search for YA novels that I can get lost in. I’m extremely picky, and have a harder time finding a book I can connect with in YA than in most other genres. But when I find it, that magical book (or series, let’s face it, it’s usually a series if we’re talking YA) I become completely obsessed and reread it an absurd number of times because YA, when it’s good, is just so, so good.

YA didn’t explode as a genre until recently. When I was growing up, I never thought of books as being “YA” or “middle-grade;” I asked for recommendations from my parents, teachers, and librarians for what to read. Occasionally I’d glance at the back of the book where a “reading level” was listed that was supposed to roughly correspond to grade level, but usually I just wandered the library and picked up what looked appealing to me (which, for some time, meant anything related to either sharks or Greek mythology).

My best book-finding memory from childhood, however, was when my beloved babysitter, leaving for college, stopped at my house with a car trunk full of her childhood books. She’d wanted to pass them on to someone who also loved to read and who would love the books as much as she had. So much of what I read when I was younger was found in those cardboard boxes that I watched her and my mother carry into the house, while I literally leaped around with excitement. It’s no mistake that a lot of them ended up in this post.

I started thinking about this amazing gift that my babysitter had given me, and how different the reading community is now compared to when I was growing up. And that lead me to think about the books that meant the most to me as I was discovering myself as a reader; the books that, even now, I think about all the time. I hope that people are still reading these books, and I hope that one day I can make a bookish contribution to someone the way that my babysitter did to me.


The Message (Animorphs, #4)

The Animorphs series was, for me, my first foray into bookish obsession. Starting in about second or third grade, I began to devour these books; they are a perfectly curated combination of action, humor, heart, and friendship; they’re immersive and addicting while never shying away from the realities of war. They’re sort of the emotional precursors to the Hunger Games series in that way. The premise of the series is that a group of teenagers are given the power to transform into animals by a dying alien prince in order to combat the insidious and secret invasion of Earth by a race of mind-controlling aliens called Yeeks. I loved all of the characters so much, but Marco was probably my favorite; his mom died when he was young, and he turned to humor as an emotional coping mechanism. The group ends up depending on him as the comic relief, even when he’s tearing himself up inside. I’m not sure if these books are still being stocked in bookstores, but it makes me so sad to think of a generation of kids growing up without the Animorphs. I may do another post later entirely about this series and my favorite books from it, so I’ll stop myself here, because just I have way too many thoughts about them.

Island Of The Blue Dolphins

I pretended I was Karana so much after reading this book. Did anyone else do this as a kid? Island of the Blue Dolphins is a survival story about a  young woman alone on an island in the Pacific Ocean, but that’s such a simplified synopsis of what this book is. It’s inspirational and a really sad yet beautiful story. I also read Zia, the sequel, but it did not quite have the same the magic of this one. I did not realize until I looked it up on Goodreads today that this book was published in 1960; I’m glad it’s endured so long.

A Wind in the Door (Time, #2)

I loved the entire Wrinkle in Time series, although the books I read the most were probably A Wind in the Door and Many Waters. These books were so creative, but I don’t think I realized how fully weird they are until I started thinking about them recently; in A Wind in the Door, the protagonist journeys inside her little brother’s mitochondria to save his life; in Many Waters, the identical twins who were previously the more normal members of the Murray clan go back to Biblical times, fall in love with the same girl, and get into all sorts of issues with seraphim, nephilim, manticores, and miniature mammoths. (Yes. This is an actual plot point.) My favorite thing about this series was Meg, the main character, who sees herself as pretty ordinary but is actually impressively strong and devoted to protecting her family.

The Egypt Game

In The Egypt Game, a group of friends devote their free time to learning as much as possible about the culture of ancient Egypt and acting out its ceremonies and rituals in their spare time. It makes you embarrassed for all the time you most likely spent watching TV as a kid, as you could have been doing something as awesome as this.

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)

Tamora Pierce writes adventurous, female-driven fantasy the way that I wish more authors would. Her world of Tortall is a fully realized fantasy society, and Alanna emerges at a time when no women have been knights for centuries. She disguises herself as her twin brother and devotes herself to winning her shield; her adventures kick off several subsequent series with heroines who are just as badass and likable.

Julie of the Wolves (Julie of the Wolves, #1)

This is another book that I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read it. Julie escapes a teenage marriage and an abusive husband into the wilderness of Alaska, where she learns to become part of a wolf pack to survive. She’s a strong, intelligent, admirable protagonist facing what seems like an inescapable position in society who then battles the odds to live in one of the world’s harshest environments.

Ella Enchanted

Ignore the movie version, as it doesn’t even come close to capturing the spirit of this story.  I think this was my first exposure to fairytale retellings, which have since become one my favorite genres. You can’t help but sympathize with clever, spunky Ella, cursed with obedience by a fairy who thought it was a gift, and who manages to remain fiercely independent of her circumstances despite everything.


A sad and powerful story of a rape survivor in high school who feels unable to express herself after her assault. I get chills thinking about this book; the writing is detailed yet emotional, and I became so emotionally invested in helping the main character regain her voice.

The Music of Dolphins

There are a lot of dolphin-related books on this list, but that can never be a bad thing. In this book, Mila has been living as a member of a pod of dolphins since she was stranded in a plane crash, and only experiences humanity when she is found by a team of dolphin researchers.

Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls (The Baby-Sitters Club, #2)

The Babysitters Club was about friendship and young teenagers learning to deal with all sorts of issues; my favorite was always Claudia, who was obsessed with fashion but struggled in school. This series went way past #100 and I had to have read at least fifty.


As I look over this list, I can see some themes emerging; female protagonists, for one; survival stories; science fiction and fantasy. I tried to include the covers of the books that I actually owned instead of any redesigned covers. I think it’s important to look back at what we read as children to see how it shapes our reading lives; I can see evidence in this list of my current reading tastes and characters that I will never forget.


Do you see any of your childhood favorites on this list? What books did you love as a child that I left out? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten of the Best Books I’ve Read Recently


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish (http://www.brokeandbookish.com/p/top-ten-tuesday-other-features.html).

This was supposed to be my last ten 5-star reads, but 5-star reads are so rare for me that I’d not only be rehashing my best books of 2015, but reaching back into 2014 as well. So here are ten of the best books I’ve read recently, including 5- and 4-star reads that I really enjoyed. I’ve ranked them starting with the most recent and moving backwards.


The End of Mr. Y


  1. The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas – creative and extremely odd, with interesting literary and scientific references. #Weirdathon.


Bad Feminist



2. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay – poignant, thought-provoking nonfiction that made me laugh and want to cry.


The Rook (The Checquy Files, #1)


3. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley – fast-paced and hilarious story of magic, amnesia, and espionage. #Weirdathon.




4. Fledgling by Octavia Butler – modern take on vampires that also dissects aspects of racism and consent in relationships.


The Passion


5. The Passion by Jeannette Winterson – a meditation on the different kinds of obsession rendered in gorgeous prose.


To Say Nothing of the Dog (Oxford Time Travel, #2)


6. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – a hilarious take on time travel and British literature.


Magic for Beginners


7. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link – creative, original, and disturbing short stories.


Carry On


8. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – are there really still people who haven’t read this book? Go read it immediately.


Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)


9. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – I checked this book out from the library when it debuted and loved it so much I just bought my own copy to re-read.


The Library at Mount Char


10. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins – weird and creative, like most books I enjoy.


What were some of the best books you’ve read recently?



Favorite Book Trilogies

IMG_1329 - Version 2


Book trilogies, for whatever reason, are a thing. For some reason, three seems to be the perfect number of books in so many series, and I feel like lately literally every movie, no matter how terrible, inevitably gets two sequels. But book trilogies also include some of my favorite books of all time, and if you really love a book, the promise of three connected stories is the only thing that can console you after it’s finished. So here are my absolute favorite book trilogies!


Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)Authority (Southern Reach, #2)Acceptance (Southern Reach, #3)


The Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer – this trilogy helped me to realize how much I am drawn to weird fiction and creativity in writing, and inspire me to seek out more books in a similar vein. Vandermeer tells an eerie and consuming story that gains depth in each successive book.


Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2)Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)


The Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi – I have an undying appreciation for this trilogy, because it got me through the extreme stress of my National Board exams. At this point I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read it, because it lends itself extremely well to re-reads. And I love it, every time. I love the angst, the drama, the journal-esque style of the first book, and the villain-turned-love-interest. These are all elements that don’t always work for me in YA, but in the Shatter Me trilogy, it’s all perfect.


The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)The Magician King (The Magicians, #2)The Magician's Land (The Magicians, #3)


The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman – In these books, Grossman puts into words what fantasy readers have always felt: the longing to become a part of your favorite fantasy worlds, combined with the human traits that set us as real people apart from the heroic protagonists of fiction. I love this series because its characters are so flawed: they’re selfish, disillusioned, and paradoxically skeptical and full of hope; in short, they’re real. Because there’s only so long that you can trick yourself into thinking that you’d act like Harry Potter would in any given situation; the truth is that the majority of us would instead act like Quentin Coldwater.


Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam, #2)MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy #3)


The Maddaddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood – speaking of realistic, I still think that the futuristic society of Oryx and Crake is the most prescient and believable picture of society’s breakdown that I’ve ever read. Margaret Atwood is biting and creative, and her portrayal of society’s collapse is as intriguing as it is haunting.


The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance, #1)The Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance, #2)The Kingdom of Gods (Inheritance, #3)


The Inheritance trilogy by N.K. Jemisin – incredibly well-crafted fantasy world that changes completely over the course of the trilogy. My favorite by far was the first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but this trilogy is a great example of one that can shift main characters and tone completely yet still remain coherent.


The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)


The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – I’ll admit, my enjoyment of the series did decrease slightly with each successive book, but it’s still one of my favorites. I love Katniss as a flawed, strong main character who is a hero because she’s forced into it, not born into it. I also think the series brings up a lot of interesting societal critiques, not the least of which is desensitization to violence through the media.


The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, #3)


The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien – I’ve only ever read this as a single continuous story, and in that way it’s a trilogy that never felt like a trilogy to me. It’s epic and emotional, and masters the task of focusing on both the global and the personal.



What are your favorite book trilogies?

The Longest Books I’ve Ever Read



I recently went to the bookstore (of course) and bought several new books (of course) (In my defense, I had a gift card). Among them was 1Q84, Haruki Murakami’s 1,157-page novel that I’ve had my eye on for years. So many things about this book intrigue me: the fantasy elements, the connection to George Orwell’s 1984, and particularly how long it is. I absolutely love the feeling of being deep in the middle of an extremely long book and never wanting it to end. It’s rare that a writer is talented enough to write a book that’s not only gigantic, but truly needs to be that gigantic in order to properly tell its story. I’m always searching for books like that.

Acquiring a gorgeous new giant book for my TBR pile made me start to think about the longest books I’ve ever read. To be clear, these are not necessarily the best books I’ve ever read or my favorites (although some of them are!)–they are just the most colossal.


Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell


Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke ( 849 pages) – Actually one of my favorite books. Two British magicians are bringing back magic during the Napoleonic Wars, and I could not be more on board. It’s fantasy, it’s alternate history, and it’s written in this gorgeous crafted old-fashioned-sounding prose. And there are footnotes! And Faerie! This is the type of book where you don’t notice length at all until you’re at the end and lament the fact that it’s over.


The Lord of the Rings


The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (1,137 pages) – I’m counting this as one book because the edition I own is the all-in-one movie cover edition, and I’ve only ever read it as one continuous novel. I actually read through this twice during middle school, which was right before the Lord of the Rings films started being released. At the time, I was hesitant to start The Lord of the Rings because I was disappointed by The Hobbit (I thought it was too childish, and I really hated that there weren’t any female characters). But once Gandalf and the hobbits reached the Council of Elrond, I was completely on board–political machinations in fantasy realms hook me every time. Unlike a lot of readers, I didn’t mind the descriptive prose–Tolkien knows how to write, and the book deserved every one of its pages.


Winter's Tale


Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin (768 pages) – For me, this would go in the “not worth it” section of extremely long books. It’s not that Winter’s Tale is a bad book, but it did not need to be even half as long as it was. I did not find any of the characters interesting, and kept wishing for more fantasy elements. All through the book, I felt like I was waiting for some sort of big payoff or climax which never arrived. I bought the movie edition thinking I’d read it before the film came out, and didn’t quite make it. It became sort of a joke with my friends, who noticed the fact that snow was persisting that year into March/April in Boston and attributed it to the fact that I was still reading a book called Winter’s Tale that I’d started in January. Well, I eventually finished it, and winter ended, so you’re welcome, I guess.


Atlas Shrugged


Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1,069 pages) – People tend to have very strong political opinions about Ayn Rand–libertarians love her, and most other people can’t stand her views–but my reading her books had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the fact that she was my grandfather’s favorite writer; he passed away when I was a child and before I was able to get to know him as an adult. In high school, I decided to read all of her books to connect with that part of him, and I’m glad that I was able to do so. I don’t agree with her extreme political stances, but I do respect her as a storyteller–Atlas Shrugged is a gigantic feat of a book with a twisty plot that never lets go of your attention. I think more people need to let go of their prejudices against her politics and read her books purely for the storytelling.


Kushiel's Dart (Phèdre's Trilogy, #1)


Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey (901 pages) – I really hate this book cover. The book is actually a very beautifully written fantasy that I devoured one summer. It’s set in an alternate medieval Europe, which is something I often have a problem with in fantasy because it can show a lack of creativity, but in this case Carey created a really interesting historical and religious context for her world. Also, Joscelin. How can you not love Joscelin?


The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2)


The Name of the Wind (722 pages) and The Wise Man’s Fear (1,107 pages) by Patrick Rothfuss – Again, these books fall into the trap of pseudo-medieval-Europe fantasy, but I’ve really enjoyed them.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (870 pages) – I feel like I don’t talk enough about Harry Potter in this blog. My favorite book in the series is The Prisoner of Azkaban, but this is the longest, and I love them all so much. The thing about Harry Potter is that I feel like we’d all have been completely happy with 2,000-page volumes every year; I loved the amount of detail, humor, and heart in each new book.


The Stand


Edit: I can’t believe I forgot The Stand by Stephen King (1,167 pages)!



What are some of your favorite giant reads?