My Favorite Books of 2017
I graduated from college this past summer and have been reveling in my new-found ability to read for pleasure! I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve owned a few of these books for years and have never once cracked them open. Since graduating, I’ve read more books for pleasure than I did in all four years of school. Out of all the books I’ve devoured, these four stand out the most to me.
I want to preface this by saying that my taste in books can be a bit weird. I’m picky about novels and almost never read anything when it first comes out. Ethnography and non-fiction books populate my shelves. Reading isn’t something I do for escapism, as many people do. I read to learn and to challenge myself. Often times I grab books I feel I’ll have no interest in just to push myself. I’d love to be less of a book masochist, so if anyone has any recommendations for books they genuinely enjoyed I’m open to suggestions. Also, I won’t be writing much about the plot here because I don’t want to spoil them for anyone! Check out the links to the books for the descriptions!
The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty//Kindle Version—Satire is notoriously hard to pull off, but Paul Beatty managed to do it better than anyone else has for the past decade, in my opinion. The sellout has won numerous awards and Beatty famously said he was inspired to write it “because he was broke”. Gotta love a man who deadpans. This is not a page-turning, read it in a night type of novel. It’s complicated, painful, hilarious, and incredibly awkward at times. The internal monologue of “me” tells the story of his Federal Trial for trying to re-segregate America. If you’re interested in a brutal satire of race relations in The United States, or even if you don’t think you are, pick this up. Everyone should read it.
No Exit and Three Other Plays by Sartre//Kindle Version—“Hell is other people”–a famous, but often misinterpreted quote of Sartre’s (can’t lie, I find both interpretations true). In this famed play, three deceased people are locked in a room together for eternity. One man and two women, all evil in some way. Through the interactions between the three characters, Sartre reveals his philosophical understanding of the way people perceive themselves. Make sure you’re in the right mood for this one is all I’m saying.
The Short Stories
I read a lot of short stories when I was in school. I loved finishing one and feeling accomplished, despite the fact that I hadn’t finished a complete book. Plus, I think there’s still much to be learned from shorter pieces of writing.
The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov//Kindle Version is a book I picked up almost immediately after I finished reading Lolita//Kindle Version. Now, it wasn’t the subject matter of Lolita that made me pick this up. That book is brilliant, but completely fucked. More than anything I was deeply impressed and inspired by Nabokov’s style–it’s joyous, vivid, and beautiful to read. Emotions have never been translated so well through prose. This book contains sixty five short stories by Nabokov and it took me an entire year to get through them all. If you’ve loved any of his work, this is essential. One of the weirdest (and best) stories is “A Nursery Tale” in which a man attempts to collect women into his imaginary harem. It’s strange and the themes are an obvious precursor to Lolita. The writing is as always, brilliant.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman//Kindle Version is the first ethnography I read post degree. It’s a totally different experience to read an ethnography for pleasure, rather than in a seminar. One of my professors who knew of my interest in Medical Anthropology suggested this book to me and I’m so glad she did. The book focuses on a family of Hmong immigrants to Merced California whose youngest daughter falls ill with a rare form of epilepsy. Anne Fadiman presents the cultural clash between the family and the American doctors and the effects this had on the wellness of their young daughter. Ultimately, the book calls for medical institutions to prioritize cultural understanding. The ethnography isn’t as dry as many of them can be–it’s not bogged down with jargon. There’s rich story telling and beautiful description of Hmong culture that anyone can read and learn from. The book touches on the discrimination and difficulties of being an immigrant in the United States as well as America’s role in the war in Laos that caused so many Hmong to immigrate in the first place. Obviously, I find the themes and lessons of this ethnography very pertinent to current issues in the US.
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay–I took a class on conspiracy theories as an elective and this was recommended as further reading. I’m a bit of a conspiracy nut–not that I believe them–I just love understanding what makes people get so deep into them.
Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Pinch–We briefly covered Ancient Egyptian societies in my African Archaeology class, but as one can imagine, there wasn’t enough time to cover everything in a quarter.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (of Vance refrigeration)–I actually don’t know much about this book, other than it was everywhere for a while. Apparently it’s a “must read” for people confused by Trump’s win. I have a feeling it’s going to be about poor southern whites feeling disenfranchised. Fine. I’ll read it. I just hope the author takes a strong position on the obvious racism factor and entitlement that plays into this disenfranchised whites narrative.
- Tales of Ise by Peter Macmillan//Kindle Version–stories and poems from ancient Japan. Apparently this is one of the three most influential works from Ancient Japan, so I’m excited to read it.
Tell me what’s on your to-read list, what you’ve loved this past year, or anything about books, really! I’m open to all suggestions. As always, make sure to follow all my socials to stay up to date! Instagram//Twitter//Pinterest//Bloglovin!