I have a weird love of year-end lists. I don’t know what it is about them that makes me so happy, but they’re just so desperately satisfying. Mmm.
This list isn’t of books that came out this year (with one or two exceptions), but rather of books I loved reading in 2017. I had a pretty odd year, and lost my reading mojo for a fair chunk of it, so the vast majority of books I loved were ones I read aloud with my six-year-old (he loved these, too). And now that he’s reading on his own, I’ve included some that he loved reading solo as well.
Adult Books I Loved
- American War, by Omar El Akkad. I’ve recommended this book more than any other I’ve read in the last few years. It got stuck deep down in my brain, and I thought about it for weeks after finishing it. It’s timely, and well crafted, and smart.
- In the Woods, by Tana French. I’m looking forward to reading more of her crime novels.
- You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir, by Felicia Day.
Cookbooks I Came Back to Again and Again
- My Bread, by Jim Lahey. This was the year I got into making bread, starting with Lahey’s perfect, simple no-knead recipe.
- Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen, by Richa Hingle. We aren’t vegan, but amongst us we have a variety of food restrictions that leads us to mostly cook non-dairy, and I’ve long been what I like to call a lapsed vegetarian. This book is a gem.
- Modern Jewish Cooking, by Leah Koenig.
- Oh She Glows Everyday, by Angela Liddon. We aren’t vegan, but I pretty much never cook meat. These are vegan recipes made with everyday ingredients, and every one I’ve made has been delicious.
Kids’ Books We Loved Reading Aloud Together
- The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate. Hands down our favourite this year (amongst many strong contenders). Even if you don’t have kids, read this one. It’s touching and thought-provoking, and expertly crafted.
- Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome. It took us around two months to read this tome aloud, and though the sailboat terminology can be tedious to non-sailors, it was a true delight.
- The Sisters Grimm, by Michael Buckley. The kid picked this one off a shelf at the bookstore based on its cover, and we loved it. We just found the next two books in the series at his school’s used book sale, and I’m excited to read them with him in the coming year.
- The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall. I didn’t know this was the first in a series when we picked this book up. It was so thoroughly enjoyable, and so cozy to read curled up together, that I’ll insist we read another one next summer (summer, it must be!).
- Ollie’s Odyssey, by William Joyce. An utterly delightful tale of a little boy and his best friend-slash-stuffie.
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. A classic for good reason. And yes, we skipped The Magician’s Nephew. After this we read Prince Caspian, followed by The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’.
- The Contract, by Derek Jeter. My baseball-obsessed kid has demanded we read many a mediocre baseball novel, and I admit I was not very confident about this one, about Jeter, the former Yankees captain, when he was a kid. I’m pleased to say I was not only pleasantly surprised, I absolutely loved this book (and the others in the series so far), and of course the kid did, too. They’re full of Grand Life Lessons but aren’t at all preachy. And since we already know that as an adult, Jeter does indeed fulfill his childhood dream of playing for the Yankees and indeed becomes one of the most celebrated short stops in baseball history, those lessons seem even more impactful.
- The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events), by Lemony Snicket. We’ve been babysitting a dear friend’s hardcover collection of this series, and though I’ve never read it, I started to suspect the kid would be ready for it. Ready is an understatement. He’s absolutely riveted by the literal series of unfortunate events the three Baudelaire children endure. I admit I’m quite pleased to see he shares his mother’s appreciation for dark stories. (Next year, look for some Neil Gaiman on this list…)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The Illustrated Edition, by J.K. Rowling and artist Jim Kay. We continued the tradition we began on the kid’s fifth birthday, giving him the newest illustrated Harry Potter book (this year the second book for his sixth birthday; and yes, we have the third book wrapped to give him on his seventh at the very end of the year). Not only does this schedule allow us to progress through the books slowly, which I’m keen to do because they start to get more intense after the third, it also forces us to enjoy the series over years and years. Not that we wouldn’t anyway; I’ve no doubt he’ll read these books over and over throughout his life, as I have (well, throughout my adult life, that is).
Books the Kid Loved Reading on His Own
- Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey. Indeed, the kid has read all three books that are out so far in this series. He finds them hilarious, and they totally are.
- The Notebook of Doom #1: Rise of the Balloon Goons, by Troy Cummings. Scholastic’s Branches imprint publishes series of books aimed at emerging readers, and I’ve yet to find any that are terrible. The kid definitely wants to read more in this particular series, which engaged him thoroughly and creeped him out mildly.
- Jim Nasium is a Strikeout King, by Marty McKnight. This one was a gift from my in-laws, and the kid was delighted by it. Interestingly, he had his first experience putting down a book when he just couldn’t get into Jim Nasium Is a Soccer Goofball. I had to assure him it’s okay to put down a book unfinished (see the section of books I loved, above, for an idea of how many books I started this year but didn’t get through – this is my shortest-ever list of loved books.)
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