My year in books: 2017

Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes, but I think 2017 was the first year I got a little bit more invested in the process. I missed only one book club meeting (not because I wanted, but because I had to go to Germany and defend my Ph.D. thesis), I surpassed my normal annual read book count, and I also wrote a review on Goodreads for each book I read.  In total, I read 29 books in 2017 staying faithful to the ‘1 book behind schedule’ announcement on Goodreads Reading Challenge all through the year. It came up to 9447 pages which is not bad at all. 13 of the books I read in 2017 were in Latvian (my mother tongue) including both translations and original literature from Latvian authors (the latter only included 3 books, but still…). As I normally read in English (unless it is original literature in Latvian), I feel that my book club buddies have exerted serious influence on me regarding my language preferences (they keep on encouraging me to read more in Latvian and here is the result for the last year).  I won’t review each book because I have already done it on Goodreads, but I’ll reflect on some of the highlights of my 2017 in books!

Books_2017

If I had to pick books from my last year’s reading list that I think everyone should read, three books really stood out:

  1. Margaret Atwood “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  2. George Orwell “1984”
  3. Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman “Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch”

The first two books are dystopian novels that were much discussed in 2017, and, after reading them, I can see why. Both are masterpieces in their own right painting a bleak future for humankind. Some of it seems to resonate with whatever is happening in the world today, and that’s a good thing for literature (especially one that was written some time ago). I truly enjoyed Orwell’s attention to detail (not everyone makes up a language with rules to support their novel and help convey the message of the story) and respected his decision of not giving us hope for better future or outcome. This book really needed the ending it got to make us think about our own lives and the use of media. Atwood, on the other hand, left me with a lot of contradictory thoughts and emotions. On the one side, it was this horrifying story about women in a messed up world ruled by men, but, on the other side, we have this fascinating storytelling and hopeful ending. I haven’t seen the TV show, but I hope to watch it sometime soon just to see if the on-screen story reflects the message included in the book.

For those who don’t like dystopian novels, there’s the third option – a novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It’s thematically a bit in line with the first two books (the plot is woven around the end of the world theme), but it is a witty, laugh-out-loud story of the failed Armaggedon with angels, demons, witches, witchfinders, Antichrist and just humans at the center of it all.  Terry Pratchett is one of my all-time favorite authors, but Neil Gaiman kinda isn’t (I read American Gods this year as well and decided it just wasn’t my cup of tea although the idea of the story was great). I don’t know if it was more Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman (I understand that they don’t know that themselves), but a book written in an attempt to make each other laugh could not disappoint. Final remark: recommended for reading only to those who appreciate black humor and satire.

Genre-wise I also read a couple of fantasy and science fiction novels (all of them pretty good or very good), several family dramas and historical novels, caught up with a few classics and some girly literature (I think that about covers it all). I don’t think there were major disappointments as I usually take quite some time in picking out the books I buy or read. There’s still a small stack in my TBR corner that is awaiting their time next (this) year.

Finally, we had some interesting and diverse book club topics:

January 2017: New Year, new resolutions, new beginnings

I read Cecelia Ahern’s novel “The Year I Met You” (no, it’s not really a book about meeting the one unless the one is your annoying neighbor that becomes your friend).

February 2017: Deadly books – something with death in it

I chose Gillian Flynn’s “Dark Places.”

March 2017: Books made into films/TV shows in 2017

I actually read two books for this one: Margaret Atwood “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Neil Gaiman “American Gods.”

May 2017: Trashy literature

This was the meeting I had to miss, but I still read some stuff – Katie Fforde “Living Dangerously.”

June 2017: Books about traveling

I chose a Latvian author’s/journalist’s account of his travels in India and Pakistan (pretty interesting stuff).

July 2017: Books with green covers!

It wasn’t easy to pick one because where do you draw the line with the green. Anyhow, I used the opportunity to catch up with some classics and read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Beautiful and Damned.”

August 2017: Obligatory school readings

I focused on Latvian classics and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”

September 2017: Borrowed books from other book club members

It was sort of free topic, but not really. I read Kate Atkinson’s second Jackson Brody novel “One Good Turn.”

October 2017: Finnish literature

Once more I managed to squeeze in two books: Arto Paasilinna “The Year of The Hare” and Sofi Oksanen “When the Doves Disappeared.”

November 2017: Book Club’s Birthday Edition!

Well, the tasks was to read something that came out the year I (each of us) was born. And I failed to find something I hadn’t read already. So I just read whatever I wanted…

December 2017: Books from “Prometejs” (local publisher)

I cheated a bit and picked out a book in original language that “Prometejs” had translated into Latvian: Leigh Bardugo “Six of Crows.”

I enjoyed the fact that I read more in 2017 than previous years, but I didn’t like the pressure Goodreads Reading Challenge was putting on me just to meet some mystical number that I chose at the beginning of the year (and I prefer books with lots of pages so…). I think books need to be enjoyed slowly; therefore, I’m setting my reading goal for 2018 a little bit lower – at 25 good books! I want to catch up with several fat classical novels which is going to take some time. Anyhow, here’s hoping for another bookish year! 🙂

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