2017 Books That Lived Up to the Hype...And Those That Didn't
After so many years of chasing the right story, at just the right time, you'd think I'd have learned how to sniff out the winners - and losers - from a selection of new releases. Unfortunately, I am not yet completely immune to the wily tactics of marketing firms who lure me in with their promises of spectacular, spellbinding, "for the fans of Gone Girl (or any other blockbuster hit)," reading, but I am learning. I don't seem to fall for as many of them as I used to, and I've become much more aware of my own reading preferences.
Thanks to the team of bloggers who are presenting the fourth annual #AMonthOfFaves event (Girlxoxo, Traveling with T and Estella's Revenge), I have an excuse to share a few of the popular books of 2017 that worked for me and a few that definitely did not.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders - Having been of fan of Saunders's work for several years, when I heard that he had plans for a full-length novel I began scouring the world of book news for details. As soon as the cast for the audio narration was announced, I knew I'd have to listen; certainly, this made my experience of the novel different than those who read it and it is tough for me to imagine having done it any differently. With the voices of Saunders, Nick Offerman (one of my favorites!), Susan Sarandon, David Sedaris, Julianne Moore, Megan Mullally, Don Cheadle and so many more, this was an absolute delight. Even more than the voices, for me, was the powerful description that Saunders was able to conjure of Abraham Lincoln at the grave of his son...and the reactions of the cemetery dwellers who watched, in awe.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward - Maybe the fact that I grew up in Southeast Texas, where racism was (is?) very visible and prevalent, in close proximity to a large prison complex, contributed to my deep connection with Ward's novel; or maybe it is her talent for creating sentences that sound like beautiful songs. This novel will definitely land on my favorites list this year.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - See my previous comment for my lack of surprise that this novel was recently banned by a public school system in Texas; the people who need to hear the message that Thomas shares, through a powerful, yet highly accessible, story, are most likely to resist it. I often forgot that I was reading fiction, as I blazed through this page-turner about 16-year-old Starr Carter and her fight for justice over the death of a childhood friend.
Idaho by Emily Ruskovich - At the end of last year, and during the spring of this year, Idaho landed on many must-read lists; I'd pegged it as one of the Top Ten 2017 Debut Novels and highly anticipated its release. While the writing was beautiful, the story fell flat and I found myself feeling a little empty.
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins - I don't even know what to say about this one; did you read it? I truly enjoyed The Girl on the Train; it hit at just the right time, before everyone started comparing their book to Gone Girl, and I couldn't stop recommending it. Unfortunately, Into the Water definitely felt like a sophomore effort; I found it to be highly predictable and uninteresting.
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan - If I had a dime for every "Best of" list that I've seen this one on since it was published in October...I could definitely buy another book! I absolutely loved A Visit From the Goon Squad and was really looking forward to this one; I love the time period during which the story is set and the characters felt compelling. Egan's writing was on point, no surprise, and the historical research was solid. I thought it could have been at least 100 pages shorter (and I probably would not have noticed the dent) and I felt like there were many disparate parts that failed to connect.
Which popular books panned out for you this year?