My Top 10 Books Read in 2017

It’s time to kick in the New Year with not just any Top 10 list, but by annual tradition, it’s the Top 10 Books I read in 2017. Remember, the actual release date of the book doesn’t matter; all that matters is that I read the book in 2017.

I read ten fewer books in 2017 than I did in 2016, which would normally upset me, but a handful of the books topped 500 pages, so I still read a lot. I also gave the same amount of five-star ratings (eight) this year as last year. That doesn’t mean that I rated easier this year, but that many of the books I chose to read because I thought I’d enjoy them were books that I did end up enjoying. I read nine indie-published books this year, but this is the first time since I’ve done this year-end list that none of them made my Top 10 (Anita Oh’s The Time Loop, the sixth part of her Werewolf High series, just missed).

If you want to read the original reviews, just click on the cover images. Let’s get to the list!




#10 – This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp

My go-to genre is YA contemporary sci-fi/fantasy/speculative/magical realism, so it shocked me throughout the year as I read and enjoyed some straight-up contemporary fiction. This intense 2016 release had been on my radar (and on my Kindle) for at least a year before I read it in October. The cover is a striking image, perfect for the story of a school shooting. As a teacher, my heart stopped several times as I navigated the viewpoints of the four narrators, particularly how each one of them not only has a connection to the shooter but also is located somewhere different on the school grounds. Each of the voices is distinct and believable, and each chapter covers only a couple minutes of the hour or so during which the story is set. It scared me, it broke my heart, and it gave me hope about people giving their best when faced with the worst.


#9 – The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

This 2006 award-winning novel is the oldest book on this year’s list, and I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if it hadn’t been my school’s summer-reading book. Historical fiction isn’t my preferred genre, but I’m glad I ventured out of my comfort zone to read it. The titular book thief is main character Liesel, the daughter of Communists fleeing Germany at the start of World War II. She is left with another family, and she deeply bonds with her foster father, who teaches her the beauty of reading. Books are vital, as they help spread ideas and information and stories and emotions, and setting the story against the backdrop of Nazi Germany reinforces that theme, along with showing both the best and worst of human nature. Making the book even more impressive is its non-linear narration by the personification of Death, which allows even more introspection upon how good and evil we can be.


#8 – Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon

I brought this 2015 release with me on my vacation with my daughters to Philadelphia. They had recently seen the film adaptation and enjoyed it, and I had found a copy of the paperback at the supermarket for 25% off. There had been a lot of buzz about it, and even though it’s contemporary romance with no fantastical elements, I gave it a go. And I’m glad I did. It makes the list because of excellent, authentic, and unique narration. Maddie is sick with such a compromised immune system that she can’t leave her house. She takes classes online and writes really short book reviews of classic books—a narrative device cleverly used to illustrate her changing moods. But when Olly moves in next door, all she wants is to meet him. And then when she does, all she wants is to be with him. They each have family issues, but their star-crossed romance really works. More importantly, Maddie takes some risks and learns some things about herself and mother along the way. I had a very slight issue with the “big twist” late in the book, which is why I rated this 4.5 stars, but it’s the highest of the 4.5-star books because it was a sweet, fun, poignant read.


#7 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling

I read Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows immediately upon their releases, but for some reason, this one took me almost a year to read. I absolutely love The Harry Potter series, but if you scrolled through my reviews on Goodreads, you’d see that some of them receive—gasp!—four stars instead of five! Because the series exists in such a completely different realm of existence for fiction. I rate them against each other instead of against every other book. Thus, Order of the Phoenix is my favorite, and Half-Blood Prince my least. Cursed Child falls solidly in the middle. I wasn’t put off by the script format like some readers were, and I really loved how the titular cursed child could apply to at least half a dozen characters. As a grown up, Harry still doesn’t have all the answers, particularly in dealing with his middle child Albus, who in turn has difficulty living up to the family name, especially when he’s placed in Slytherin house. But the breakout character—the heart of the story—is Scorpius Malfoy.


#6 – Haunting the Deep, by Adriana Mather

Mather topped this list a year ago with her excellent debut How to Hang a Witch. As soon as I knew there’d be a sequel, I put it on my radar to make sure I read it as soon as it came out in October. The first book followed narrator Samantha as she moved to her father’s hometown of Salem, Massachusetts and had run-ins with other descendants of the Salem Witch Trials, a swoon-worthy ghost, and a curse. This time, Mather—a descendant of prominent Witch-Trial figure Cotton Mather, like her narrator—once again pulls from her ancestors and integrates the sinking of the Titanic into her story, though not quite as seamlessly. Still, it was a fun and engrossing read, with lots of twists and turns. Where the theme of the first part elevated the story, the second part is enhanced by the new character relationships, particularly now that Sam is accepted by the other Descendants.


#5 – I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest

I teach creative writing at a summer arts program, and my “classroom” is a school library. One day this summer, I found this 2015 release on the table I used as my primary workspace. I read the blurb and was intrigued, so I started reading that afternoon. Twenty-four hours later, I was done, making this the book I read the fastest this year. In middle school, May and Libby created a comic book character named Princess X. Several years later, after Libby had apparently died in a car accident, May discovers Princess X decals all around the city. This leads her to a webcomic (cleverly included among the text of the book) which may contain clues to Libby’s whereabouts! Between May’s knowledge of Libby and the Princess X story and new friend Trick’s hacking skills, can they solve the mystery while being chased through Seattle? Even though the characters weren’t as developed as I would have liked, the book was a fun and suspenseful thriller that I didn’t want to put down.


#4 – Caraval, by Stephanie Garber

One of the most anticipated YA fantasy releases of early 2017 fully delivered. Scarlett and her sister Tella live on a tiny island ruled by their cruel and corrupt father, the governor. Scarlett dreams about visiting and playing the titular five-day clue-filled mystery game, and so Tella arranges for it to happen. This time around, the goal of the game is to find Tella, who has been kidnapped by Legend, the Master of Caraval. Scarlett is guided by the enigmatic Julian, and…I’m not going to say more about the plot other than its premise is a mixture of an Escape Room and a Renaissance Faire gone wild in the best possible way, and I want to PLAY it. The environment and magic is vividly described, and there were wonderful gasp-worthy unexpected twists and turns. And that ending—oh my, that ending—really makes me look forward to May 29, 2018 when the sequel Legendary comes out. It’s one of three sequels I’m really looking forward to next year.


#3 – Submerge, by Tobie Easton

Emerge, the first part of Easton’s Mer Chronicles appeared at #5 on last year’s list. Because it not only ranked that high on the list but also because it’s about mermaids, Submerge was one of my most anticipated books to read in 2017. Sure enough when it came out in September, I submerged myself in it. Emerge was such a complete story, deftly alluding to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, that I wasn’t sure where Easton would go next. Imagine all the emotions flooding through me when early in the book, narrator Lia Nautilus’s life changes in ways I never expected. It was heartbreaking, and the stakes were raised much higher than in Emerge. Right from the get-go, I was hooked, but what I loved most about the story was how much Lia grew not only since the beginning of Emerge but throughout Submerge. The final part of the trilogy, Immerse, is another sequel that I’m really looking forward to in the next year or so. No release date yet, but there’s no doubt I’m getting it.


#2 – A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares, by Krystal Sutherland

The title of this 2017 release alone was enough of a guarantee that I’d add it to my to-read list. The premise—a family cursed by Death to die of their individual biggest fears, and main character Esther’s journey to cross all those fears off her list—was enough to guarantee I’d read it. And the vibrant and quirky writing style was enough to guarantee that I’d love it. Both Esther and Jonah—the boy who helps her face her fears—are likeable, deep, flawed, authentic characters. There’s great imagery, enhanced by pop culture references. At one point, Sutherland describes something as a love child of film directors Tim Burton and Wes Anderson, and that comparison so accurately describes the wit, eeriness, charm, and heart of this book. Even with the slight magical-realism plot element, this story is an important exploration of living with mental illness. Whether the curse is there or not, and whether Death is personified or not, Esther and Jonah are worth rooting for—and this story is worth adding to your to-read lists!


And finally, MY FAVORITE BOOKS READ IN 2017…

#1 – ILLUMINAE and GEMINA, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I wouldn’t normally list two items at the top spot of a list, but since they’re part of the same amazing series (The Illuminae Files), I couldn’t separate them. A friend and a student both urged me to read 2015’s Illuminae, so I did back in January. It instantly became the book to beat for this list, and it guaranteed I’d read 2016’s Gemina. If you’re going to read these books—which you definitely should—you have to read a physical copy to fully appreciate the format. Each book contains a series of memos, files, reference pages, and transcripts of chat messages, video surveillance, and other such items, some of which includes redacted information. It’s a clever way to tell the story of an exposed cover-up of an attack. Illuminae follows Kady and Ezra right after they break up and the colony on their planet is attacked. They’re separated as their rag-tag bunch of survivors flees to the nearest jump-station. Not only are they being pursued, but there’s an outbreak of a deadly rage virus, and the ship’s artificial intelligence has a mind of its own. Meanwhile, Gemina takes place on the space station with two new main characters, Hanna and Nik, dealing with an attack on the station, along with alien parasites and a malfunctioning wormhole. I didn’t like Hanna and Nik at first, but as the threat level got higher, I developed profound respect for them. I list the two books together here because they are my top two books of the year. I’d rank Gemina about a hair higher than Illuminae—something that I didn’t expect to be possible—but that’s a great sign, especially with part three, Obsidio, due out on March 13, 2018. Yup, one more book to eagerly await for this year.


If you haven’t read any of these fantastic books, I obviously recommend them all. And with three of the top four having sequels due out in the next year, I can only imagine how awesome this list will be a year from now. What are the best books you read this past year? And what are some you’re looking forward to this year?

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