My 2017 New Year’s Resolution was to read one book a month – a task that would have been a piece of cake for me when I was 11. As I got older, however, reading for pleasure became a thing of the past. Throughout my entire college career, the only book I managed to read for fun was Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis (an accomplishment really if you have seen the size of Anthony’s autobiography). Thankfully, I stumbled upon the Book of the Month club on Pinterest. It is a subscription book service offering 3-months, 6-months, or 12-months in which you can select one of 5 books each month. You can then pay an extra $9.99 per book to add up to two other selection to your box. A complete steal when all of their books are hard-backed and have an MSRP between $16-$30 dollars. I figured if I subscribed to the 12-month plan then I would be forced to complete my goal. After all, the hardest part of reading is selecting a proper book. With the help of the Book of the Month club, I finished 27 books throughout the year (double my goal)! To start of 2018, and my new blog, right; I decided to list my top 5 favorite books I read in 2017.
5) The Leavers by Lisa Ko
“The dichotomy between the mother and the son’s POV is what truly makes this book a success. Beautiful tale.”
A heartfelt story about an 11-year old boy, Deming Guo, and how his life gets turned around when his undocumented mother, Polly, does not make it home from her job at a nail salon one day. Now an adult, Deming has been renamed Daniel, moved out of his home in the Bronx to a subdivision in upstate New York, and has recently been kicked out of university for a gambling addiction. His adopted parents, both professors, are doing everything in their power to get Daniel back into classes. However, all Daniel can think about is “what actually happened to his biological mother all of those years ago”? The novel is written in the perspective of Daniel, but also, his mother Polly – allowing us to discover where she went all those years ago.
Why I liked it: Although, Ko’s book is a work of fiction; it demonstrates the flaws that reside in the United States immigration system. As someone whose direct line came to the United States before the Revolutionary War, I have been ignorant of the struggles humans have endured to provide their family an attempt at the same privilege I was born with. The Leavers provide a narrative that allows me to empathize in a way I haven’t before.
4) American War by Omar El Akkad
Incredible. Although slow at parts, reading this book during the Paris Climate Agreement discussions really put into perspective the great divide.
In the year 2074, the United States, once again, as found themselves in the middle of a civil war – this time because of climate change. In the deep south, where coal is king and the oil standard is still the method of choice, Southern’s refuse to believe their excessive use of fossil fuel is why half of Louisiana is now underwater. The North, which deemed all fossil fuel illegal, is determined to force the South into submission, no matter the cost. The cost, in this case, is the citizens of the “bordering states.” These are states that geologically are located in the southern half of the United States; but did not succeed in joining Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia when they left the Union. American War follows the life of a young girl, Sarat Chestnut, as she experiences life as a “border state” refugee and how the war shapes her into the women she becomes.
Why I liked it: Originally, I wanted to read this book to see how El Akkad would slam non-believers of climate change. Instead, I found myself cheering for Sarat and the South to win.
3) The Power by Naomi Alderman
Philosophical and entrancing; I could not put this book down. After reading “10 years out,” I was already texting everyone I knew that they needed to borrow this book from me.
What would happen if all of a sudden, teenaged-girls discovered they had the ability to shoot electricity out of their bodies? Would the gender-pay gap suddenly disappear? Would sexual assault and harassment be a thing of the past? The Power takes fourth-wave feminism to the extreme as we follow four seemingly unconnected people as they navigate life with this strange new phenomenon.
Why I liked it: The Power is a story in a story. The novel starts with a male colleague asking a female colleague to review his newest historical novel. From there, we are introduced to the main plot of the book – the 21st century as we know it today. The only difference is, teenage girls now have the ability to cause extreme pain, or death, from an electrical charge conducted in their chests. Be prepared to have deep philosophical conversations about the Patriarchy after you read it.
2) Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
This book takes you on an epic generational tail through a fictional family but uses it to explain historical issues never discussed in history class in regard to the WWII and the Korean War.
Sunja Baek is the daughter of a crippled-inn keeper who finds herself pregnant with the child of a married man. To spare her family’s name, she marries a sympathetic pastor and moves with him to join his brother in Japan. Described as the land of opportunity, the family quickly learns that being Korean in 1900s Japan is to lead the life of a second-class citizen. Pachinko tells the tail of a Sunja Baek’s family through five generations.
Why I liked it: Eastern world history is not often discussed in detail in Western classes. In high school, Japan’s role in WWII was equated to Pearl Harbor (and only Pearl Harbor) and the Korean War was a paragraph explaining that it was to prevent communism. Pachinko gave me the history lesson I did not know I needed to learn.
1) Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances by Ruth Emmie Lang
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance gives you the feeling of hope and wonder.
When Weylyn Grey was born, it snowed 6 inches in the middle of June. Some may say that is a coincidence; Weylyn Grey would agree with you. However, those that have met Weylyn Grey would argue otherwise. They would argue that Weylyn Grey’s birth made the snow; the same way Weylyn Grey made a Tornado dissipate into thin air and caused trees to grow overnight.
Why I liked it: Ruth Emmie Lang can do no wrong. Never in my life have I felt such pure bliss reading a story. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances was voted one of the 2017 Book of the Year finalists by the Book of the Month club. Although it did not win the Lolly, there is no questioning how 72% of readers loved this book. If you only read one book in 2018, I highly recommend it be this one. It is a wistful tail, but overall, it is a love story for the ages.