Reading is my life. I try to bring a book with me everywhere I go- whether it be for a long flight or just the grocery store (because, well, you never know). When I was 19, I went on a date with a guy and when he asked me what I was reading, and I pulled out three books from my purse like some sort of book wizard. He looked at me like I had three heads but I really only had three books so, whatever.
To me, a good life is filled with reading and it’s my own personal goal to read everything I can get my hands on. From romance to feminist lit to true crime to historical fiction to dystopian science fiction and everything in between. I treat every book I’ve read like it’s an old friend, cherished and loved. I think it’s so important to carry a book with you wherever you go.
Since it’s World Book Day, I’ve narrowed down the best books I’ve read so far this year:
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Despite the title of this book sharing a slight similarity to a poorly-written erotic novel, the subject matter (and quality of writing) could not be far from it. Between Shades of Grey begins right before the summer of 1941 and is the story of fifteen year old Lina, an aspiring artist that lives in Lithuania with her family. Written in first person narrative, we first see Lina dreaming of the art school she was just accepted to that afternoon and all of the wonderful things she has planned for her summer: dates and evenings painting under the stars. However, those dreams don’t get to be fulfilled because that night, the Soviet secret police violently break down their door and deport Lina, her mother, and her brother. Her father is nowhere to be found. They are being sent against their will to a Soviet work camp in Siberia.
This book is both heartbreaking and heartbreakingly beautiful. I read it in one sitting and have never cried so hard in my life. You may know it’s counterpart, Salt to the Sea, and you should read that, too, but read this one first. Trust me.
We are currently living in a world where people are hated solely because of where they’re from so this book is so important. It also sheds light on Stalin’s Reign of Terror, which is something I never knew much about.
A must read, especially in the world we’re currently living in.
When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
God, this book. THIS BOOK. I actually finished this book yesterday and it is still lingering so heavy on my mind. Terry Tempest William’s late mother left her all of her journals when she died, but she made Williams promise to not read them until after she was gone. When Williams opened the journals, one by one, they were blank. Every single one of them.
However, this book is so much more than being about her mother’s journals- it’s about all women and womanhood and humanity as a whole. It’s poetry, a prayer for everyone who has ever been silenced or felt blank or been dismissed and pushed aside.
And as my friend Jess said, the end will leave you reeling.
I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
Okay, so, I actually read this book last year so it’s technically not a recent read but- I don’t care. This book is still my favorite book of the moment so listen to me: READ IT. READ IT RIGHT NOW.
Even if you’re not a fan of YA, it doesn’t matter because this book is so beautiful. I could read it this year and next year and every single year for the rest of my life and I will never get tired of it. I am not sure why the rest of the world isn’t screaming about this book the way they screamed about Sweetbitter (aka the worst book of 2016) but I am going to start that trend right now. Read this book ASAP and scream with me about it.
The story is set between two different points in time, the future and the past, and is told in two different points of view. In the past, we have Noah. In the future, we have Jude. Noah and Jude are twins and in the past, they are inseparable. However, in the future, they barely speak. The two storylines converge in order to tell the reader why. This book is about family, love, art, and loss. I don’t want to say too much about it because it’s just something you have to read for yourself, but it is one of those stories that will stay with you for a lifetime.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
I would not be able to call myself the “Female Hemingway” if I did not include a Hemingway novel here. Now, I have read this book 200 times in my lifetime, but I just read it a few weeks ago since I am going to Paris in a month, so it counts.
This is one of Hemingway’s only true nonfiction novels and it was written both when he was young and poor and living in Paris as well as when he was older and famous and reflecting on his life. I know many people do not like Hemingway’s writing style, but I truly believe that this book will make you love, or at the very least like, Hemingway. It’s very different from his other novels because it is so raw and real. You can see the hope of young Hemingway as if it’s leaping off the page and you can feel the raw regret from older Hemingway as he reflects on his past.
This is the book that made me want to spend my life traveling the world and every time I read it, it fills me with a brand new sense of adventure.
I would suggest getting the restored edition, though, because some of the editors who turned out this book after Hemingway’s death truly did him dirty.
This book also includes hilarious anecdotes about Hemingway’s time with the other famous expats in Paris, including Fitzgerald asking Hemingway to look at his penis to see if it’s big enough and George Orwell asking Hemingway to fight his bar fights for him.
It’s amazing and is a must read for every traveler.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer
I am currently reading* this right now, so I can’t give a full comprehensive review about it. However, I am halfway through and I am feeling a lot of things.
The story begins in 1941, just before the beginning of WWII, and follows two storylines. We follow the story of Marie-Laurie, a french girl in Paris who is blind and whose father must hide her from the invading Nazis, and the story of Werner, an orphaned German boy who is brilliant- and his brilliance gains him the attention of the Hitler Youth.
I am only halfway through this book so I cannot say with complete confidence that this book is incredible but, so far, it is incredible. The writing is lyrical and each chapter end leaves you on edge. I find that I have been reading a lot of historical fiction lately and the reason why is because- well, you can guess. Ahem what’s happening in America Ahem.
If you haven’t read this book yet, you absolutely should. Though I am not finished, I already have a feeling it will make it on my forever must-read list.
It’s a bit bulky but if you have a big enough bag, it’s the perfect kind of page turner for long flights or long commutes.
*I’ll be sure to update this section when I finish reading.
I’ve read a few other books in 2017, however, I don’t believe that they are worthy enough to make it on this list. If you’d like me to make a list of the top books I hated so far this year, let me know in the comments.
The five books above, though, are worthy enough to be read a hundred times.
Happy World Book Day everyone!
Suggested Listening For This Post: None, unless you like music when you read.
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