I totally dropped the ball on blogging last year with a total of 8 posts all year long. In those posts, I talked a lot about goals, and my love of baths, but very few were centered around great books, and though I felt lackluster about my reading in 2017, doing a deep dive has proven that I did actually read some real winners! So, here are my favourite, unsung book loves of 2017 and some favourite moments from the year with them! Warning: I’m about to get very rambly.
Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
This was the most fun I had reading this year. I had seen Annie Spence’s book in a bookish newsletter and decided to treat myself. I took the subway to the nearest bookstore, but when I arrived, I saw that the small hardcover was $28. My limited book budget could not comply and I went to the library instead. Once my hold came in, I fell instantly in love. I imagined this to be romantic and an ode to the books that Annie loves, but it was not that. Annie doesn’t just love books, she LIVES books. Dear Fahrenheit 451 is comprised of letters she has written to the books that have affected her, either positively or negatively through her life and her years as a librarian in Detroit. I loved this quote from NPR:
“The truest testament to the quality of Dear Fahrenheit 451.is that my enjoyment of it was, in the end, great enough to outweigh my fury that someone other than me had written it….She has a unique ability to capture the thoughts and feelings of book lovers, both professional and otherwise, on the page.” -NPR
I didn’t expect to love this as much as I did, but I went straight back to the bookstore and paid that $28 as soon as I had finished my library book. I would have loved to have a librarian like Annie around growing up! Also, the letter to a stranger’s bookshelf she writes after a drunken night out with a friend is perfection.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
You know that special moment when a book contains a memory, or an atmosphere even just looking at it? Lincoln in the Bardo is steeped in this feeling for me. One of my close friends used to have a job that collided the worlds of books and film. Her job dealt with events between publishers and film companies that corresponded to movie-tie in properties (pretty cool, eh?). One day, an email popped up with one line asking if I was free on a specific night to go somewhere with her. Turns out, she had got tickets to a private preview event at Casa Loma (an actual Castle north of downtown Toronto) where they were decorating the castle and showcasing costumes from the new live action Disney Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and the Beast is one of the great loves of my life. Belle and Anne of Green Gables are my two favourite leading ladies – ever. I lost my mind.
Prior to the event, my friend and I met for dinner and she handed me Lincoln in the Bardo; a book I had wanted to read and one her husband had loved. I proceeded to carry it around with me all night as we gawked at the gorgeousness of the scenery. It was dark, snowy and pure magic to me. As we ate from a gorgeous display of cheese, she remarked how I reminded her so much of Belle myself – always day-dreaming and carrying a book around. My hair was tied into a loose bun at my neck and she joked that I even looked the part. It was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.
When I went home, I lost myself in Lincoln in the Bardo. The eerie, magical setting of the castle at night had put me in the perfect frame of mind for the ghostly cemetery where the story of Abraham Lincoln mourning his dead son takes place. This was the first George Saunders book I’ve read, and I marveled at his ability to stab you in the heart with a poetic one-liner and then make an obscene joke in the next line. His writing is creative and playful while still being stunningly beautiful at the same time. It was one of the most unique books I’ve ever read!
Felicity by Mary Oliver
A few years ago I read a book I loved called Spinster by Kate Bolick. It has since been despised by many people who’s opinions I value, but I stand by my choice! The very last line of that book is a quote from a Mary Oliver poem called The Summer Day:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
It hit me like a punch in the chest. And yet it still took me years to finally pick up one of Oliver’s books and I have no idea why I waited so long. Felicity was absolutely beautiful. Oliver has a way of speaking so simply and elegantly about life and nature and then throwing in this insightful observation that will catch your breath, usually with the last line of a poem. Here’s one of the poems I loved, taken from the Goodreads quotes:
There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled.
Like, telling someone you love them.
Or giving your money away, all of it.
Your heart is beating, isn’t it?
You’re not in chains, are you?
There is nothing more pathetic than caution
when headlong might save a life,
even, possibly, your own.
I now keep the first volume of her collected poems beside my bed and read one every few nights, and her one essay collection Upstream awaits my attention on my TBR shelf at home.
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
I won’t go on and on about this one because I feel like I was so late to the bandwagon, everyone has already read it, or at the very least heard so much about it. But all I will say is that this one deserves every bit of the hype it received (in my humble opinion) and is not just important, but imperative that we acknowledge the power this book has brought to the conversation about diversity in the book world. Also, Starr’s family is perhaps one of my absolute favourite literary families ever. Right after the Cuthbert’s and the Weasley’s! I loved it.
Insomniac City by Bill Hayes
I took this book home knowing almost nothing about it other than it was written by Oliver Sacks’ partner at the time of his death. I almost instantly fell in love. Bill Hayes had it rough. He lost his first partner quite young while living in San Francisco and moved to New York to start over. While there, he contacted Oliver Sacks, whom had written to him after loving his first book The Anatomist and saying if Hayes was ever in town, he should give him a call. Hayes did just that and what began as a friendship grew into a great love.
This book was a bunch of vignettes, diary entries and photographs about life in New York, loving Oliver and being an insomniac in the city that never sleeps. It was simply beautiful and I’ve since recommended it to family and friends alike. His writing reminds me of one of my favourite memoirists, Abigail Thomas. This was simply a pleasure to read.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
I talked at length about this enduring and powerful read here. Still haven’t stopped thinking about it.
And that’s that! Let me know what your favourite reads of the year were and if you’ve read any of these! Onto more wonderful books for 2018!