My favourite books of 2017
If you're reading this, you probably already know that I'm a huge book lover. A "book nerd," I've been known to be called. And I'm OK with it, because it's true that very few things in life make me happier than a stack of brand-new books. I read a lot of books in 2017, but I'm here to tell you about the very best, my top of the heap, in several categories. If I've reviewed the book previously on the blog, I will link to that review. Otherwise, I'll give synopses and mini reviews here.
Origin, by Dan Brown
There are only a handful of authors who leave me waiting with bated breath for their next book the moment I have turned the page on their current offering. Dan Brown is one of them. Immediately after finishing Inferno, I couldn't wait for the next time I'd get to ride along on the coattails of Robert Langdon on another puzzle-filled adventure. Origin was worth the wait.
In this book, Robert Langdon attends an ultra-exclusive event at the Guggenheim Museum in Spain to hear a major announcement, a discovery that allegedly "will change the face of science forever." Hosted by billionaire Edmond Kirsh, a one-time student of Langdon's, the event is set to reveal a groundbreaking scientific breakthrough. The event suddenly takes a catastrophic turn and Langdon finds himself on the run to escape the city. By his side is Ambra Videal, the Guggenheim Museum's director who helped Kirsh stage the controversial event. The two embark on a dangerous journey across Spain to Barcelona in an attempt to uncover the elusive password that will unlock Kirsch's secret.
This book delivers everything that fans of his previous books have come to expect: a plot that builds and twists and turns like a perilous back road up the side of a mountain, exotic locales, dynamic characters worth rooting for and against, and a healthy dose of the kind of puzzles and clues that make Dan Brown's novels compulsively readable.
If you haven't read any of Dan Brown's books before (and really, why haven't you?) I recommend starting at the beginning of the Langdon series with Angels & Demons.
A Stranger in the House, by Shari Lapena
Tom and Karen Krupp are a happy couple. Married only a short time and living a comfortable life in New York, they appear to have it all together. That is, until one day when Tom returns home after work to find that Karen has gone missing. Her car isn't in the driveway and there's signs that she left in a hurry. Where did she go? Why did she leave in such a rush? In one split second, Tom's life is completely upended.
Things go from bad to worse when there's a knock at the door from the police -- something no husband wants when his wife is missing. There's been an accident.
Karen survived the accident, but she has a concussion that leaves her with no recollection of the accident or what she was doing on the rough side of town when the collision happened. The cops don't necessarily believe that Karen's memory loss is legit, suspecting instead that she is using it to cover up some nefarious behaviour she doesn't want them, or her husband, to know about.
Running alongside this storyline is a subplot in which Karen, after returning home from the hospital, Karen starts to notice strange things happening in her house. Things are moved around, things aren't quite right. Someone has been in her house. She's sure of it.
A Stranger in the House is on this list not only because it was a terrifically satisfying domestic thriller (think The Couple Next Door (also by Lapena) or The Girl on the Train) but also because I couldn't stop thinking about it after I had finished reading it. I am sure I made my friends and family crazy talking about it, recommending it, practically insisting that everyone I know should read it. My copy is now very well travelled indeed.
If you're a fan of books like The Girl on the Train, you absolutely must read A Stranger in the House. Are you on your way to the bookstore yet?
Munich, by Robert Harris
It's September 1938. Hitler is itching to wage war. Chamberlain is equally as determined to keep the peace. Who will get there way? That is the matter to be decided in Munich, a city that will come to be forever known for the things that occur there during this time. As Chamberlain and Hitler head toward the famed city for a meeting, two young men travel as well, carrying deep secrets of their own. Hugh Legat is a secretary in Chamberlain's inner circle, and Paul Hartmann is a member of the anti-Hitler movement determined to thwart the Fuhrer's agenda. The two men had been friends at Oxford college before Hitler's rise to power, they haven't seen each other in six years. With the fate of Europe teetering on a cliff, Hugh and Paul once again find their paths about to cross. Hartmann fervently believes that Hitler is leading Germany to disaster and he happens to know that HItler is determined to have his war -- he has documents to prove it. He plans to send one of these documents to Legat. Hartmann seeks to be assigned to the German delegation to Munich, in the hopes that he can provide evidence that will prevent the British government from coming to an agreement over Czechoslovakia.
As one can imagine, it's difficult for an author to build suspense in a historic novel (after all, we know how the events play out, right?) but by introducing the subplot of the two young men on opposite sides of the fight, Harris creates a taut, gripping thriller of a fictional tale set against the backdrop of real people, places, and events. We see historic bigwigs like HItler, Chamberlain, Mussolini, and Goering as they appear through the eyes of Hartmann and Legat. Harris writes with such unapologetic authority that you'd swear his telling of the tale is exactly as it must have really unfolded, fictional characters and all.
This is a must-read for fans of Harris' other books, such as Fatherland in particular, and those who love an absorbing story set against a historic backdrop.
The Best Kind of People, by Zoe Whittall
George Woodbury is a well-respected teacher, a devoted husband, and a loving father. So it comes as a complete surprise when George is on the receiving end of an arrest for sexual impropriety involving a student. George's home life and those of his wife and daughter are completely upended in the storm that follows, while their son Andrew, a lawyer, comes to George's legal defense while battling with his own past demons.
George is locked up, but can his family put their shattered lives back together? How can they stand by a man when they aren't sure he is innocent? What if the charges are true?
This book takes a deep look at what it means to love someone for better or worse. When worse comes knocking, what would most of us do? Would we be able to stand by those we love, even when the nagging feeling inside us is telling us something isn't right?
The Scribe of Siena, by Melodie Winawer
Another great historical fiction offering, this book transports readers to Italy on the even of the Plague. Read my full review here.
Two Nights, by Kathy Reichs
This was one of my top picks for summer reads, and it would be equally delicious to devour on a chilly winter night, too. Check out the review here.
If you're looking for a thrillride of a book that will at once tug at your heartstrings and keep you guessing right up until the ending, The Child by Fiona Barton is for you.
Imagine finding a man on the beach in front of your home, only to find out he doesn't remember who is is or how he got there. Now, imagine being that person. That's the set-up of this compelling book that i couldn't put down once i started reading it. Check out my review here.
In this book, astronaut Scott Kelly tells of his journey to become an astronaut, an accomplishment that was just the beginning of the amazing story this book has to tell. Read more here.
Feeding My Mother, by Jann Arden
Jann Arden is one of Canada's most loved singer-songwriters. But, like so many of us, she is dealing with things in her personal life that she never expected to have to deal with. Read more here.
Oprah has always been a tour de force in showing us how to live our best lives. In this book, she provides a collection of inspirational and motivational passages from influential people in many different industries.
Gizelle's Bucket List, by Lauren Fern Watt
If you're a dog lover, you'll love this book. If you're not, you'll love it anyway. It's the true story of a girl and her dog as they travel together on a memory-making journey in the dog's final months.
(Chosen by my 10-year-old book critic!)
The Magic Misfits, by Neil Patrick Harris
The Magic Misfits was C's first choice for the BEST book she reviewed this year. She devoured this book in no time and we both highly recommend it for the tweens in your life!
Snow, by Cynthia Rylant
This was my favourite picture book of the year! This book, in both words and pictures, beautiful captures the wonder of a perfect winter day.
If you have a young person in your life, this is a great book choice for them. Recommended for ages 12 and up, this book is a story of two characters, Kit and David, who strike up an unlikely friendship. Kit seeks David's help to figure out the truth behind her dad's fatal car accident. David agrees, and the friendship takes off. But can their friendship withstand the realities they uncover as they dig deeper into the accident?
Note that this book does deal with some mature subjects such as dealing with the death of a parent, but on the whole it is about friendship and coming-of-age romance and finding an ally in unexpected places. The book also deals with diversity, as one of the main characters is biracial and the other is on the autism spectrum.
There you have it: My picks for my favourite books of the year for 2017! I hope you'll read them all and let me know what you think! Winter is the perfect time to snuggle up with a big stack of books. What are you reading right now? Which of these books captures your interest the most? I'd love to get a conversation going!
Happy Reading, book lovers!