100 Books In 2017: Top 10 Lists

In last Friday’s post, I described how I was able to read 100 books in a year despite a busy schedule. Today I’m going to share the top 10 books I read in each category, plus a few I do not recommend!

For the full list of what I read this year, here’s a link to my Goodreads page, where all of my books are shelved when I’ve finished reading them. Please follow me on Goodreads for ongoing results of my 2018 Goodreads challenge (revealed at the end of this post), ratings and reviews for the books I’ve read.

I initially tried to limit myself to 5 top books. Then I divided the list into 5 novels and 5 nonfiction books. After a lot more scoping up and narrowing down, I finally ended up with 10 novels and 10 nonfiction books. There were many more that I loved, but I couldn’t justify a “top books” list that was over 20% of my total reading list!

Top books of 2017

Criteria: Couldn’t stop reading them; stuck with me for a long time; taught me something new.

After each title, I included the year of publication, plus a few brief words to whet your appetite. All titles are linked to the Goodreads page for the book.

Top 10 Novels of 2017 (in order of reading)

  1. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (2012). Epic journey, humorous cast.
  2. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (2017). Evolving identity in secret-keeping family.
  3. My Not-So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella (2017). Empowered, imperfect woman winning life.
  4. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (2016). Anti-communist confined to hotel for decades finds meaning of life.
  5. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (2017). Pitch-perfect, divergent racial perspectives.
  6. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (2014). Cranky old man somehow inspires love.
  7. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013). A man with Aspergers strives for emotional growth.
  8. The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson (2017). Decades-old murder entangles old Southern family.
  9. Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (2017). Life destructs, women reconstruct.
  10. The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve (2017). Woman finds strength to leave burned, cold husband.

Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2017 (in order of reading)

  1. Thrive by Arianna Huffington (2014). Take care of others by taking care of yourself first.
  2. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (2011). The benefits and pitfalls– many, many pitfalls– of obsessive parenting.
  3. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah (2016). Noah’s astonishing mixed-race childhood in South Africa.
  4. You Learn By Living by Eleanor Roosevelt (1960). Wise lessons for a growth-minded, society-centered, happy life.
  5. Deep Work by Cal Newport (2016). Work smarter, not longer: go deep for a more fulfilling work life. (I wrote a DIY MFA post inspired by this book, Four Rules for Eliminating Distractions and Cultivating Deep Work.)
  6. Never Split The Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss (2016). Extremely useful lessons from a hostage negotiator to get the outcome you want in any situation. (I bought this for my husband, who negotiates union contracts, then read it for myself.)
  7. At Home in The World by Tsh Oxenreider (2017). A family with three young children travels the world, finding home.
  8. Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman (2017). Lovers of social democracy, there’s hope! Practical ways we can advance society so we can all be happier, safer, wealthier.
  9. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin (2017).  How to get yourself– and the people around you– to do anything you want, through habit formation.
  10. The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath (2017). The impact of inspirational moments, and how we can construct them for ourselves and others.

As you can see, I read a LOT of good books this year. I’m not sure if I read more good books because I read more total books, or if I read more total books because I read more good books. Either way, it works out in my favor.

My TOP book of the year:

If I had to choose my absolute top book of the year, I’d go with A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Everyone should read this book. You’ll fall in love with Ove by page two, and the rest of the book will be a heart-tugging, laugh-out-loud joy.

Coming in at a close second is Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. Brilliant, fully engaging, and an important read for our times.

Honorable mentions:

I read three romance novels by Taylor Jenkins Reid and loved them all. Yay, romance!

I don’t typically enjoy mysteries and thrillers, but I got my socks knocked off by Jane Harper’s The Dry, Clare Mackintosh’s I See You, and Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10.

I really admired What Happened by Hillary Clinton (which I got signed by HRC herself last week! It was amazing to meet her) but it made me so sad, so depressed, so angry about the election all over again that I couldn’t call it a favorite.

Similarly, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson was amazing, but a sad treatise on the state of our society.

And I enjoyed Al Franken’s 2017 memoir, Giant of the Senate when I listened to it on Audible over the summer, but in retrospect I wish I hadn’t. It made me like him more, and then I felt extra-disappointed in him when the allegations came out.

I also read a few books I did not end up enjoying. I didn’t abandon them– there was always a reason to keep reading– but I felt endlessly frustrated by them. For the novels, my frustration usually pertained to character development; for the nonfiction books, lack of editing and reiteration of dull information.

I do not recommend The Racketeer by John Grisham; The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews; Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton; The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes; or either book by Maria Semple, Where’d You Go Bernadette or Today Will Be Different. (I know many people love Semple. But I couldn’t connect to her main characters.)

So, what will the 2018 reading challenge look like?

Well… I’m going to try for 100 books again.

Yeah. I’m a little bit insane. It’s going to be harder this year. Unlike last year, I’m not on maternity leave. Unlike last year, I have a kid in school and one in daycare. I’m not nursing or awake during the night as much, so I won’t have that quiet time with my baby and Kindle. I’m already starting with less time than last year.

But I set up some great reading habits in 2017, which I profiled in last week’s post about how I got to 100. If I keep those habits going, I think I can make it happen again. I really WANT to make it happen again. I think 2017 was the best year of my reading life, with the possible exception of the year I discovered Babysitter Club books. (I was 8, I think.)

This may be my longest post to date! If you made it to the end, thank you so much for sharing in my reading life this year. I hope you find a book on this list that brings you joy!

4 Responses to “100 Books In 2017: Top 10 Lists”

  1. I love reading this type of list–and I always come away with more books on my TBR list, not that I need any more. The only overlap here for me is The Dry! (Though I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette? a couple years ago and liked it.) I already had several of these books on my list anyway, but I’m definitely adding “Ove”.

    Good luck with next year’s reading goal.I believe in you! I remember reading while nursing oh so many years ago, and finally had to stop doing it during nighttime feedings because I was waking up too much and having trouble going back to sleep!

    • Leanne Sowul says:

      Isn’t it amazing, Kathy, that two people who read a lot can have lists that hardly overlap? So many great books out there… which is probably why it’s so hard to make it as a writer!

      • Whenever I’m in a bookstore, I always marvel at the sheer number of books on the shelves–and I’ve probably never heard of the majority of them, and don’t stand a chance of being able to read even a fraction of them. I try not to be discouraged by that, but to think of it as an abundance to choose from, and also to prod myself with the thought, “all these people managed to write their books–so can you!”

  2. Nice list, Leanne! I admit that I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned, though I’d like to read A Man Called Ove at some point.

    I’m holding out until January before I share my top 10 lists, since a) I should be able to fit in two more books before the year’s over, and b) my final reads of the year have historically had a habit of shaking up my lists. 🙂 Case in point: I’m finally getting to Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, and it’s already stunning.

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