The Best Books I Read in 2017
Each year in January I always set myself a target for the number of books I want to read in that year to motivate me to make the time to read more often. I set this up using the GoodReads Reading Challenge and 2017 was no different. Keep reading to find out the best books I read last year!
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After graduating back in 2014 and suddenly finding that I had way more time on my hands, I challenged myself to increase the amount of books I was reading and I’m happy to say that I have achieved this goal. Three years later and I have progressed from reading 10 books in 2014, to 12 books in 2015, to 15 books in 2016. And in 2017 I surpassed all expectations by reading a total of 57 books!
2017 was also the year that I started to listen to audiobooks (using Audible) and I’m one hundred percent hooked. Now I can even ‘read’ books whilst doing mundane tasks like brushing my hair, doing the washing up or walking to the bus stop. Brilliant! Whilst none of the books on this list were audiobooks for me this time round, I do have some cracking ones that I have listened to this year which I’ll mention at the end of this post.
But without further ado, and in no particular order, here’s the best books that I read in 2017 and why I loved them so much.
The Best Books I Read in 2017
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down.’
This is one of my absolute favourite books of all time because I find it so thought provoking. It’s based in a dystopian future in the US where an oppressive state is controlling breeding (and everything else) in order to substantiate the population that has been diminishing. The main character of the book, Offred, is a ‘Handmaid’ meaning that she has been chosen to be part of the breeding program as she has successfully had a child before. I actually find this book really hard to review as it has so many messages contained within it but I like the way that the main character still remembers the ‘old regime’ (ie. our current world situation). I think this really connects the reader with the story and, to be honest, scares you a little bit as at times you can totally picture something similar to this happening one day. It’s well worth a read, that’s for sure.
I decided to re-read it this year in advance of the TV series coming out (which is also excellent if you were wondering).
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
‘We are defining the boundaries of normality by tearing apart the people outside it.’
Jon Ronson is a best-selling journalist who has written books about some intriguing topics. This one focuses on public shaming and has a particular focus on the public shaming that takes place online via various social media websites. It’s a fascinating look into the lives of some of the people who have had their lives ruined by this public shaming and really makes you consider the impact that your online interactions may have on the people you are interacting with. A really interesting topic and one that really makes you think. I think I’ll end up re-reading this one at some point .
This was the first book I read by Jon Ronson at the start of 2017 and I enjoyed it so much that I read another two of his shortly afterwards. I’ve also recommended this book to almost everyone who has asked me for book recommendations this year so hopefully that let’s you know how much I enjoyed it!
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
‘I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.’
The Book Thief is definitely a top contender for my favourite book that I read in 2017. It had been on my to-read list (which is about 8 miles long at this point) since 2012 and sat on my bookshelf for just about as long and I’m so so pleased that I finally got round to reading it. It’s a historical fiction novel based in Germany during World War 2 and it is written from the perspective of Death. I know, it sounds odd but bear with me…
Death narrates the story by focusing on the life of one little girl who Death has encountered in a number of different situations. Death details how the war and the Nazi’s have impacted this little girls life and it’s done really well. I became so submerged in this story and found myself feeling like I was right there in Germany during the war with the characters. The story is heartbreaking at times but it really depicts how hard the war was on the citizens of Germany which was a refreshing change from other novels about Germany in World War 2. This is one of those books that I could read again and again – go read it!
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
‘We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.’
So I read this book in about two days because I loved it so much. It’s written from the perspective of three women who are friends living in 1960s Mississippi when it was still common for black maids to raise white children. Two of them are black and one of them is white and together they are trying to produce a book to highlight the injustices in society that these maids face. I became totally absorbed in this book and loved that way that each chapter focused on the individual stories of these three women as well as the larger story being portrayed.
This is the second contender for my favourite book of the year and one that I have already recommended to other people who have also fallen in love with this story. Again, this book has sat on my shelf for years before I finally got round to it and I can’t believe it took so me long to get round to reading such an excellent book.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
‘I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.’
This is a really well written and thought provoking book that focuses on women’s rights and abuse. It’s a heart-wrenching book at times but the characters are fantastic and really well constructed. Celie is the main character and the book has been written as a series of letters from Celie to God and then from Celie to her sister. There is so much hope and love in this book despite the tragic past of Celie and I quickly became absorbed. I liked the way that the book managed to focus not only abuse against women in America but also in other parts of the world, highlighting that these problems can exist anywhere. It’s a tough book to read in places but it’s definitely a book worth giving a chance to.
This was yet another book that sat on my shelf for far too long before being read… If you haven’t guessed already, 2017 was the year in which I tried to read as many new books from my old bookshelf as possible.
Fierce People by Dirk Wittenborn
‘We are the sum of all people we have ever met.’
This is a book that my English Literature teacher recommended when I was at college and it has stuck with me since. I first read in back in 2009 and remembered enjoying it but couldn’t remember the story at all. So when I rediscovered it hiding on my sister’s bookshelf I decided to give it another go and enjoyed it all over again.
I was intrigued by the story of Finn, the main character, and quickly got into the story. Finn is a rebellious teenager who one day finds himself thrown into the world of the upper class elite because of his mother’s new job – it’s sort of a coming of age story without all the cheesiness usually associated with those books. I enjoyed the characterisation in the book and some of the plot twists were great. I also liked the way in which it seemed to suggest that money doesn’t seem to solve everything and that just because someone is considered upper class it doesn’t make them a good or a better person.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
‘But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.’
This is one of those books that I love but one that makes me struggle to find words to explain why I enjoyed it so much. But I’m going to try! I love the way it is written and the character of Charlie who is the main focus of the story and I like that he is considered a ‘wallflower’ – it’s an interesting perspective for a main character to be speaking from. I like that the book addresses some pretty big family issues as well as some chunky social issues so it is one that makes you think. I like that in one sense Charlie is a really naive character but then in other ways he is really mature and sensible about life. I like that this is a book that reminds you that there are both good and bad people in the world. I like that this book makes you feel things.
I can see why this could be a love it or hate it book but it’s so short that I think it’s definitely worth a read even if you are unsure whether you’ll enjoy it or not. This was another re-read from my shelf because I also decided that I wanted to revisit some of my favourite books in 2017 that I hadn’t read for a while. So I’ve loved it twice! Give it a go…
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
‘Intelligence work has one moral law – it is justified by results.’
In 2017 I started to read the George Smiley series and I’m hooked. This book is the third one in the series and after being gripped by this one I can’t wait to read the rest of the series in 2018. This particular book took me quite a while to get my head around with all the double crosses but the plot twists were amazing. It’s based around international espionage and a British intelligence agent who is sent on one last assignment before ‘coming in from the cold’. The story line is so clever and I could never anticipate what the end result was going to be which always makes for a good read. It’s a really well written book and I can’t believe (once again) that it took me so long to get round to reading this series.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the books in this series and is the book that inspired me to read them all in the first place.
‘I wondered if sometimes the difference between a psychopath in Broadmoor and a psychopath on Wall Street was the luck of being born into a stable, rich family.’
The second book by Jon Ronson that has made it onto this list! This one offers a fascinating insight into the madness industry and takes a particular look at psychopathy. I’m really interested in the history of mental health institutions so I enjoyed reading this book as it made me consider things I hadn’t considered before. It doesn’t necessarily teach you about the industry but you sort of get to follow Jon Ronson as he finds himself in a variety of surreal situations linked to the topic. For instance, inside Broadmoor speaking to an inmate who says he isn’t insane but by saying that is being classed as insane. This book is an entertaining look at how society can be impacted by psychopaths but also offers intriguing insights about the society we live in. I’d read it again!
The Secret Life of Bletchly Park by Sinclair McKay
The story behind the men and women who worked at Bletchly Park is a fascinating one and I had been wanted to read this book for so long to find out more about it. The book takes you through the history of the park and how it developed into the code breaking hub that it ended up as during the second world war. It offers an interesting insight into not only the work that was undertaken at Bletchly but also into the people who worked there and the kind of lives they led. Bletchly has an incredible history and who knows where we would be today without this amazing institution. If you have even the slightest interest in code breaking or world war two then I highly recommend this book to give you a great overview of the topic. It’s even inspired me to visit the actual site of Bletchly Park this year to find out even more!
I’d also highly recommend watching the movie The Imitation Game (2014) if you are interested in this topic (or don’t fancy the read) as this movie also gives a great insight into the life and times of Bletchly Park.
My Top Audiobook of 2017
So you’ve heard about my favourite books of the year, but what about my favourite audiobooks? I actually struggled to pick a favourite here so I’m going to treat you to recommendations for my top three…
ONE // Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection
This collection is narrated by Stephen Fry and it’s 72 hours of pure joy. Sherlock Holmes books are some of my favourite and I had wanted to read the whole collection for quite some time. So when I stumbled across this collection I knew I had to have it and I know I’ll listen to it time and time again. Stephen Fry was the perfect choice to narrate this amazing collection.
TWO // Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
The Harry Potter collection is another set of books narrated by Stephen Fry and I couldn’t be happier. I only got round to the first book in 2017 but I’m looking forward to listening to the rest in 2018. Stephen Fry’s voice really brings the books to life and reminds me why I loved the Harry Potter books all over again.
THREE // Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
This book hadn’t really been on my radar before spotted it on the Audible website. But when I saw that it was performed by Elijah Wood, I knew it would be fantastic. And I definitely wasn’t left disappointed! Not only was the story captivating but Elijah narrated it to perfection and did all of the voices excellently. This is definitely one of my top listens of 2017! I was thoroughly entertained throughout and I’d highly recommend this version.
Become an Audible member:
If you’re interested in listening to any of these books, simply head over to Audible to sign up for your audiobook account today. A free 30-day trial is also available for anyone who hasn’t quite made up their mind yet and a free book is included with the trial. Try it out today and let me know how you get on!
Top 3 Books of the Year
In no particular order…
1. The Color Purple
2. The Help
3. The Book Thief
Favourite Audiobook of the Year
Anything read by Stephen Fry!
So there you have it – the best books I read in 2017.
Let me know if you’ve enjoyed any of these books too! I’m also always keen book recommendations so please leave your favourites in the comments below.
And of course, keep an eye on the blog this time next year for my annual round up of my next favourite reads ;)
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