Top 2017 Reads

Last year, my only resolution was to reclaim a sliver of my pre-motherhood literary life and read more… or, at all. And I actually did! I gave myself permission to stick to page-turners — books begging to be picked up even for just 20 minutes during nap time and compelling enough to keep me up past the kids’ bedtime.

And, let’s be honest, that’s a tall order these days.

I started out with a totally engrossing mystery (the first book listed below), and once I got going, I kept up a pretty good pace! They weren’t all classics, but they certainly were enjoyable, and I felt so much more myself with a good book on hand.

Here are a few of of my favorite 2017 reads:

The AlienistThe Alienist
By Caleb Carr

An intense, suspenseful murder mystery!  The Alienist is set in Victorian era New York, when criminology was just developing as a science, including the controversial work of “Alienists” (so called because they studied the mentally ill — those considered alien from normal human nature). Definitely dark, but if you like a thriller, I recommend it for its plot, pace, and fascinating historical details.

BONUS: TNT is about to premiere a new miniseries based on it! Here’s the preview. (Some of this stuff might be easier read than viewed, if you’re on the squeamish side.)

I read the sequel last year, too… not AS good, but I still enjoyed revisiting the characters.

The Women in the CastleThe Women in the Castle
By Jessica Shattuck

A really thought-provoking piece of historical fiction, The Women in the Castle chronicles the intersecting lives of three women – widows of Natzi dissenters – during and after World War II. The story invites you to imagine how everyday Germans experienced the war, the binding power of shared experience, and the long-term implications of personal and national guilt.  Even months later, I still find myself wanting to discuss this book with someone… definitely great book club material.

NOTE: I’ve read that the audio recording falls flat, so maybe stick to the hard copy!

Sleeping GiantsSleeping Giants
By Sylvain Neuvel

I don’t regularly read science fiction, but was SO in the mood for something completely different, I picked this up and couldn’t put it down. Sleeping Giants is written as a series of military logs, journal entries, and transcripts from an anonymous interviewer – a format that kind of propels you forward, looking for more pieces of the puzzle.  This book was a mind-bending, problem-solving, major-life-question-asking critique on political power struggles and basically all of humanity.  I liked it.

I also read the sequel, and had a bit of a hard time getting into it, but really enjoyed it in the end.

The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale
By Margaret Atwood

I might be the last person alive who hasn’t watched the Hulu series… still on my list.  But, I really wanted to read it first!  The Handmaid’s Tale shows up on all kinds of “most influential” and “top science fiction books of all time” lists, and with good reason. As a “near future” dystopian novel, it raises some incredibly relevant, uncomfortable questions about gender roles, power, and personal freedoms.  Another one that’s screaming for a lively book club discussion!

What’s next?

Heading into 2018, I’m in the mood for more mysteries and maybe some more historical fiction. Also feeling the need to resurrect book club (if you couldn’t tell already)… a little accountability, a date on the calendar, good friends, good conversation. Check, check, check, and check!

Those of you with book club experience: what have been your favorite books to discuss?

3 thoughts on “Top 2017 Reads

  1. Caroline–I’ve also read and enjoyed Women in the Castle and Handmaid’s Tale–which is disconcertong, to say the least. Would love to be in a book club with you. Alas, bad timing. . .


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