My Favorite Books of 2017

I know it's at the end of the month of January, and therefore it's a bit late for a "year in review" type thing, but hey. I'm just jumping back on proverbial the blogging horse, so I thought it was better late than never to write a post, especially for other bookworms like myself.

In 2017, I set about to read 30 books for the year. I ended up surpassing my goal by reading 35 books. You can take a look at all of the books I read during the challenge by clicking here. If you want to add me on Goodreads, you're also welcome to and take a peek at what I'm currently reading at the moment. You can click here to see how far I've gotten in this year's challenge.

With 35 books read in 2017, I've narrowed the list down to my top faves, the ones that really impressed me. There wasn't a set number I decided to pick to recommend, just the several that really jumped out at me. None of the books I read were bad and I did enjoy them all, but the following seven made me either say, "Wow!", left me in tears, inspired or wishing I could write like the author.

They are, in no particular order:

1. The Choice by Dr. Edith Eger

I absolutely loved this book. It was probably my favorite of the year, if I'm totally honest. In addition to a Holocaust survivor narrative (Eger was from Hungary and sent as a teenager to Auschwitz and several other camps), Eger talks about her experiences after the war. Many narratives end at liberation, but Eger continues into the rest of her life--how her trauma shaped her marriage and relationship with her children. She then discusses her professional career as a psychologist and how she helped heal from her own trauma and has worked with others to also heal theirs. It was absolutely brilliant, and probably the book I would recommend most from my challenge.

Eger was also Viktor Frankl's mentee for a time. For those who don't know, Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who invented logotherapy. He, like Eger, was imprisoned in Auschwitz and wrote the famous book Man's Search for Meaning about his experience and dissecting his trauma as it happened. The books are great complements to one another, as Eger's book discusses his, meeting him and some of his influence on her own work. Grab it here

2. Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G. Thompson

Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee is a heartbreaking narrative about a family recovering from a kidnapping, and a former hostage finding her way back into the world. Although it is classified as a YA, it is well-written, deep and enthralling with well-rounded and realistic characters. The story itself is pretty sad, so it's definitely not a "beach read" kind of book, but it does contain excellent storytelling and the narrative is tight.

3. They Were Like Family to Me/In the Land of the Armadillos by Helen Maryles Shankman

This book has been published under two titles, both of which are listed above. It is a book of short stories concerning a small Polish town during the Holocaust. Each story is told like it is a fairy tale, with a narrative of magical realism surrounding it. However, gradually you will learn that the stories, or at least the circumstances surrounding them, are all true, which makes it even more of a gift to read. The stories were written by a descendant of survivors from the village. Grab it here

4. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but to be honest, it took me a long time to read this book after I was gifted it because I thought it looked romance-y. I'm not a big romance fan, so it took several people's recommendations to get me to actually take a look at it. The book does contain romance, but it isn't a romance per se, instead it is about two gentile French sisters during World War II who participate in the resistance, their adventures aiding Allied forces and their trying relationship with one another. The research and writing are both solid. Grab it here

5. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

If you're a self-deprecating writer like myself, a really well written and researched book will leave you feeling slightly sad because you think you can never write something so amazing. The was likely my second favorite book after The Choice, as the research and writing style were both so dang on point. As a historian who researches the Holocaust, even I learned something. There were also bits of the story that embellished on history, but Kelly managed to take everything known about the events and weave them into her fictional storyline.

The book itself follows three women, one SS officer, one Polish teen sent to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp for "resistance" activities and one American woman--two of whom are heavily based on real people. It's a great read, and for those who aren't huge fans of history but are fans of literature will learn a lot without trudging through heavy facts. Grab it here. 

6. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley 

This book is a beautiful tribute to anyone who has loved a dog. It follows a dog name Lily who has cancer and her writer owner who can't wrap his mind around losing her. I read this book during the time my dog passed away, which was probably tantamount to emotional torture. However, it was an amazing read, even if the main character sometimes got on my nerves.  It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, I dove right in head first. Bring your tissues wherever you're reading it, because the end of the book will have you ugly-crying. Grab it here

7. Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown

Modern Girls follows a mother-daughter pair on the eve of World War II. Both are pregnant, neither of them are happy about it. The women are Jews living in New York City, on the brink of a catastrophe that will set many social changes in motion, and amongst them, women's shifting societal roles. The book is excellent in discussing the issues women faced at the time, in addition to taking a peek into the world of young women pre-WWII and weighty issues such as abortion.  The main character, Dottie, is also around the same age my grandmothers were in 1935, which gave me a bit of insight into how the world worked when they were just starting to make their way in it. Grab it here.

8. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The Wonder is set in rural Ireland just a few years after the potato famine. As my dad's side of the family left Ireland around that same time period, I found it to be a fascinating peek into life during that era when poverty was great, but so was faith in religion. The story centers around a young girl named Anna who seemingly hasn't eaten anything in months, but is not losing weight and is still alive. Nurses are called in in order to verify that she is not eating so that she may be called a miracle by the Catholic church. Also at the center of the story is one of the nurses, hired from England, to keep watch over Anna. It's a solid book, with a very interesting premise. Grab it here.

What recommendations do you have for other readers? Have you read any on my list and what did you think?

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