While in grad school, my casual reading did not exist. Through the manipulative power of gamification, Goodreads has allowed me to change that. The first year I signed up, I read 41 books, which was 40 books more than usual. My goal this year is smaller than when I started out, and I am thinking that it will be smaller in 2018 to make room for some larger text books. That being said, here are the 21 books I read in 2017, in no particular order:
I read six graphic novels this year. I liked all of them but one. My favorite was the first in the March (21) series, which documents activist Representative John Lewis’s life. Books two and three are on the list for next year. I finally got around to Alison Bechdel’s (who I’d only known for the Bechdel Test) Fun Home (20), which was recently made into a Broadway musical, which is pretty interesting considering how dark and frankly depressing (but still good) the graphic novel was. It’s about the author’s life, focusing largely on her discovering her sexuality, as well as her strained relationship with her father. In that same vein, we have Blue is the Warmest Color (19), which focuses on the latter. I’d like to see the film now that I’ve read the comic.
The graphic novel I disliked was The Stranger (18), based on Robert Camus book of the same name. It was a depressing story, and it all felt a bit…pointless…which I guess was the point. It was hard to motivate myself to just finish the damn thing though, even though graphic novels are often quicker reads.
Beauty (17) is a beautiful French graphic novel by husband-wife duo Kerascoet. It follows an “ugly” girl who is given the gift of beauty by a fairy. Surprisingly, it causes a lot of problems for her. Lastly, The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up (16) is the manga (Japanese comic) edition of the famous KonMari cleaning books of a similar name. I liked this one because it was basically a case study turned into a narrative. And the drawings were helpful–I now fold all of my clothing based on this book!
Media Studies Books
I always mean to read more books about film and media studies in general, but this year I only read two. Sleepless in Hollywood (15) was really interesting at times, but really dragged on at other times. When the author, producer Lynda Obst, writes about the industry, I’m all ears. She talked about the writers strike, the US film industry’s relationship with China, the shifting importance of TV and streaming, and lots of other fascinating topics I’d never really learned about formally. But frankly, when she writes about her own experience, it’s so disconnected from normal people that I just struggled with it. It would have helped if she’d discussed a bit about how her career went. Especially in a field where there aren’t always clear-cut paths. Superfandom (14) is a book about fandom and the culture around it. The case studies were really interesting too–things from Doctor Who to Warren Buffet. A lot of the info wasn’t anything new, but it was still really interesting to read about this from a socio-econimic, academic view.
I read a books about freelance writing (13) and screenwriting (12) this year that I enjoyed. Writing is something that I’ve always done, and took classes in various types of writing (feature writing, technical writing, screenwriting, creative writing, blah blah blah), but never really pursued it professionally. I’d like to dip my toes into that world a bit more. These were a nice start.
Two books that have really helped me shift my thinking are Designing Your Life (11) by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans and Grit (10) by Angela Ducksworth. Both of these books are ones that I plan to revisit every once in a while, much like Adam Grant’s Originals (which I read last year) and Malcom Gladwell’s books. Designing Your Life is an interactive book that requires you to participate in the exercises in order to fully benefit from it, and those exercises have helped me when I’ve felt lost regarding my career and my next steps. Grit is a bit more of a bitter pill you have to swallow and self-reflect on. I don’t do myself many favors, and Grit made me feel like I could change that. Here are two talks from the authors that gives you a small taste:
I’m not the biggest poetry fan, but I had to read Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey (9) after sampling her work on Instagram. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about her work. I think a lot of it is beautiful for sure, but I also wonder where the line is with poetry and fiction. I guess there doesn’t need to be one. A lot of her work were more blurbs than poems? But I guess she’s created a dialog about that. But many poetry books are so short, there’s no reason to not give them a chance.
Like many people this year, I finally read The Handmaid’s Tale (8) by Margaret Atwood. I’ve read some of her other work, but this one is
terrifying the best of the best. I loved everything about it, and hated everything about it. You probably feel the same way if you’ve read it…
I am IP on a few books John Green recommended in this video, and managed to finish We Are Okay (7) and The Hate U Give (6). I wasn’t quite sure where We Are Okay was going, but I really enjoyed it for how heart-breaking it was. As someone who tends to distance herself from people during bad times–to a fault–I really identified with the main character and her inability to reconnect unless outside forces made her.
The Hate U Give was one of my favorite books I read this year, and so, so relevant. It’s about a girl who witnesses her friend get murdered by a cop, and the ensuing racial tension she endures in her neighborhood and her school, where she feels she has to juggle her personality to best fit in.
A new John Green book finally came out this year too! Turtles All the Way Down (5) was fantastic. I was really worried due to how much I loved his last book (The Fault in Our Stars), but this one gripped me. I read it in like two evenings, just eager to see where it would lead. The main character’s condition was challenging at times to read through, which was definitely the point–and it didn’t detract from the story or anything.
Two books I read that I was sort of meh about were Legend (4), which is the first in a YA trilogy that I am not sure I’ll continue, and Ghachar Ghochar (3). Legend just felt very YA? If that makes any sense? It was about this corrupt government and this boy and girl who are on opposite sides who clash but then fall in love and I’m just a little over that. I read it because I wanted to read more stories about chemical warfare (for research, actually, to see how it was handled for a younger audience), but the actual conflict took a back seat. Which would have been fine, but it was also very unrealistic to me. I may just power through the other two just to see how things resolve…
Ghachar Ghochar was a shorter book about an Indian family that was very poor that came into wealth, and the effects that had on the family individually and as a unit. It was a really fascinating read in that regard, but there wasn’t really a storyline that carried us through the book that was compelling enough. And the book sort of just ended, and there wasn’t really anyone likable or at least interesting. But there were parts I enjoyed.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2) was the first audio book I ever listened to. It’s the only way I can get my bf to “read” the Harry Potter series, and I always wanted to listen to them, hearing how good and well-produced they are. I love this book.
The Animators (1) by Kayla Rae Whitaker was the first book I read this year and my absolute new favorite. I was incredibly biased towards this book as it follows two women who make animated films together. I had no idea where the story was going, and was constantly being floored by how stark it was willing to go. It was very raw, and I thought it was such a realistic portrayal of this grimier counter-culture we don’t always see. It was also refreshing to see such a real and gripping friendship between two women in a male-dominated industry. I’d kill to see this turned into an HBO mini-series.
My Top 5 (other than Harry Potter…)
4. Designing Your Life
3. Turtles All the Way Down
2. The Hate U Give
1. The Animators