Here’s what I read in 2017
In 2017 I had one reading goal: Read David Foster Wallace’s sprawling novel Infinite Jest. I did it. Reading in spurts, it took me the better part of the year. The book is difficult structurally, but the impact on modern writing in the 20+ years since its release cannot be denied. The book is often referred to as Gen X’s Ulysses. At nearly 1200 pages, with nearly 400 footnotes (some footnotes are long enough to have their own footnotes), I feel like I get a notch in my literary belt. (Sadly, for my book cred…I’ve still never read Ulysses.)
With Infinite Jest taking the majority of my time, I still read 33 books (10 non-fiction/23 Fiction), written by mostly white American men. That’s fine, but there are others voices I need to hear, as well, and I sometimes forget to pay attention to diversity. It wasn’t the best year for quality, either. I read some stinkers. But there were good books, too!
My favorite fiction book of the year was The Nix, by Nathan Hill, a book that structurally owes a debt to Infinite Jest, but is way more disciplined. Taking place in the turbulent 1960’s and modern-day America, with nods to the Norwegian past of the characters, the book is mostly about family connections, with a lot of commentary on the world we live in.
In the Distance, the last book I finished in 2017 came in a close second for book of the year. Swedish-born Haikan Soderstrom comes to America as boy and gets separated from his brother on the trip. Ending up in San Francisco instead of New York, he attempts to journey across a country he has no knowledge of, including the language and its immense size. The book is a psychological Western that gets into the head of the Hawk (as he ends of being known) exploring the violence, greed, and extreme loneliness of the West in the mid 1800’s.
I also liked The Dismal Science by Peter Mountford, a surprisingly funny and melancholy book about a banker whose wife has recently died and Best Boy by Eli Gottfried which tells the story of a middle-aged adult autistic who has lived in the same care facility since he was a teenager. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler is one of my favorite books of all-time. I re-read for book club this year. While for the most part they liked it, I don’t think it’s on any of their favorite book lists.
I read two great Non-fiction books this year. Evicted by Matthew Desmond, about low-income housing and Flawless, an immensely readable book by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Cambell about the largest diamond theft ever.
I also read two culturally important books. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevens. The first book is a black American’s letter to his son about the country we live in and the second is about our broken justice system. I didn’t agree with everything the authors had to say, but their ideas and observations need to be heard, believed, and discussed.
Happy reading everyone.
Books highlighted in ** are highly recommended. Links will open my review on the Goodread website.
1. Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters – Captain Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger, and Jeffrey Zaslow (Non-Fiction)
2. **Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City – Matthew Desmond (Non-Fiction)
3. **Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History – Scott Andrew, and Greg Campbell (Non-Fiction)
4. I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life – Ed Yong (Non-Fiction)
5. The Tourist – Robert Dickinson (Fiction – Time Travel)
14. Indian Bride – Karin Fossum (Fiction)
15. Black Seconds – Karin Fossum (Fiction)
16. Strangers on a Train – Patricia Highsmith (Fiction)
17. In the Country of the Blind – Edward Hoagland (Fiction)
18. Three Years with the Rat – Jay Hosking (Fiction – Time Travel)
19. The High Mountains of Portugal – Yann Martell (Fiction)
20. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline (Fiction)
21. ** Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates (Non-Fiction/Memoir)
22. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson (Non-Fiction)
23. A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson (Non-Fiction)
24. ** Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption – Bryan Stevenson (Non-Fiction)
25. The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles (Fiction)
26. The Throwback Special – Chris Bachelder (Fiction)
27. All Things Cease to Appear – Elizabeth Brundage (Fiction)
28. The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Olbrecht (Fiction)
29. Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace (Fiction)
30. ** Best Boy – Eli Gottlieb (Fiction)
31. River of Kings – Taylor Brown (Fiction)
32. ** In the Distance – Hernan Diaz (Fiction)
33. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (Fiction/Novella)