Seeing as we are now well into 2018, I thought it was about time I finally wrote up my favourite reads of 2017.
I read a lot of amazing books in 2017 but I’ve managed (struggled) to come up with my top 5.
Some of these books are very similar to each other but others are completely different, which is basically my reading style summed up. I don’t have a go to genre that I always read, or a writing style that I prefer, I just love stories. I love escaping into the world on the pages and immersing myself in the lives of the characters and each of these books has found a unique way to let me do that, so I’m sharing them with you.
- Sleeping Giants
At number 5 we have Sylvain Neuvel’s debut sci-fi novel, Sleeping Giants. I will admit that I did pick this book based on the cover (don’t judge me, we all do it) but I am so glad I did. As someone who likes to escape and immerse myself into a story, sci-fi is one of the best genres for this, and Seeping Giants was no exception.
The novel tackles the big question of ‘where do we come from?’ and the more sinister question, ‘what if we weren’t the first ones here?’. After the discovery of a rare metal that predates human civilisation, a doctor and her team try figure out how something so complex and incomprehensible could be so old, and most importantly, who made it and why?
The most interesting part of this novel for me was the narrative style Nuevel uses. The story is composed using journal or log entries, letters and call logs from various characters. This creates a scientific and investigative tone that allows for the story to unfold from various points of view and gives the narrative more depth as it means events can be presented factually in reports or personally in diary entries.
Nuevel combines just the right amount of mystery and science-fiction to get his readers hooked and has created a unique and interesting story that even those who don’t usually enjoy science-fiction would appreciate.
Sleeping Giants is part of The Themis Files series and Neuvel has since published 2 more novels in the series, Waking Gods and Only human. I haven’t had the chance to read his other novels yet but I’m definitely looking forward to finding out what happens next!
- Crazy Rich Asians
I have had Crazy Rich Asians on my ‘to read’ list for so long and that when I finally picked up a copy of it when I was in the Philippines, I couldn’t wait to start reading.
Kwan’s outrageous and hilarious novel focuses on the life of Singapore’s most eligible bachelor, Nicholas Young and his American girlfriend Rachel Chu. What was meant to be a fun trip to Singapore to attend Nicks’ best friend’s wedding, turns into an unexpected whirlwind of a summer for Rachel who has no idea that her boyfriend comes from an unbelievably wealthy family. Rachel is thrown in head first to the exciting and scandalous lives of Singapore’s most elite and barely makes it out unscathed.
I visited Singapore about 3 months before I read this novel and I really wish I had read it before going. Kwan captures a part of Singapore that tourist don’t get to experience which is why I think I found this book so interesting. Kwan’s Singapore is full of scandalous drama, fascinating characters and lots of amazing food. His descriptions are so vivid that I could picture every extravagant outfit, every decked-out ballroom and every ostentatious mansion. He isn’t just telling you about this part of Singapore’s culture, he’s inviting you in.
Crazy Rich Asians was a hilarious, insightful and genuinely unlike any other novel in its genre. It’s the perfect holiday read but be warned, you will be hooked immediately, and your tanning efforts may be affected.
There are also 2 other novels in the series (one of which I’ve read) and Crazy Rich Asians is also being made into a film that is set to come out this summer.
- My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
I am a massive fan of Fredrik Backman’s writing and this novel is one of the main reason why.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is the story of a young girl called Elsa, who’s grandmother and closest friend, and has just passed away. Elsa’s Grandmother leaves her with the task of delivering letters to all the people she feels like she has wronged in her life. She ends up discovering more about her grandmother’s past identities than she ever could have anticipated.
Even though Elsa is only 7 years old, she is fierce, courageous and incredibly intelligent. I was in awe of how perfectly Backman captured a child’s perspective on life in this story and his ability to create an exceptionally interesting and dimensional range of characters throughout his novels. In this story, every person that Elsa encounters on her journey is unique and it is such a delight to watch all of the characters unfold, grow and defy any expectations the reader may have had of them.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is a gorgeous testament to the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren everywhere and made me want to pick up the phone and call mine immediately. If you only ever read one of Backman’s novels, let it be this one (but please don’t only read one because they’re all brilliant and equally as beautifully written).
Backman didn’t continue Elsa’s story in another book, but he did focus one of his later novels on character from this story. It is called ‘Britt-Marie Was Here’ and I’ve not read it yet, but I’ve heard from people who have that is equally as witty and brilliant.
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
As debut novel’s go, Gail Honeyman has hit it out of the park with this one. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is beautiful, hilarious, heart-breaking and unlike anything I have ever read before. It is truly unique and is a novel that I’d recommend to everyone, regardless of what they may usually read.
I won’t give too much way regarding the story as I think one of the best things about this novel is how surprising it is. I had heard the general buzz around this novel, but I went in without any expectations and I was completely blown away by how powerful and wonderful it was. To sum it up briefly, Eleanor Oliphant is an unusual, withdrawn and inevitably lonely woman. Up until now her adult life has been ruled by order and routine that Eleanor meticulously abides by. An unlikely accident brings Eleanor out of her daily routine and changes her life drastically. This change brings her to realise that maybe she is not, to use Honeyman’s words, ‘completely fine’, maybe she is quite the opposite.
As a reader, it is impossible not to be empathetic with Eleanor. Honeyman has managed to make her tragic yet heroic and an undeniably lovable character. Eleanor’s story is not an easy one, nor is it a comfortable one. There will be times when you as the reader will feel despair, confusion, frustration and even anger and this is just one of the many reasons why this novel is so amazing. It leaves such an impression on you once you have finished and it conveys a powerful message about loneliness that many may not have understood before.
I cried, I laughed, I learned, and I will be forever grateful that this book was brought into my life. I can’t wait to see what Gail Honeyman writes next.
The film rights to this novel have recently been acquired by Reece Witherspoon so it looks as though we’ll be seeing Eleanor on our screens sometime in the near future!
- Turtles All the Way Down
Turtles All the Way Down is John Green at his best. This is my favourite novel of his yet and I wish I could have the experience of reading it as new all over again. I have never connected with a story in the way that I did with this one and I think that is because Green seems to have written a bit of himself into Turtles All the Way Down.
Turtles All the Way Down is about a 16-year-old girl named Aza who suffers from multiple anxiety disorders and is trying to uncover the mystery of a fugitive billionaire. As in all his novels, Green uses an unusual plot line for the setting of this story, but this novel is far from just a quirky mystery. It is an in-depth and insightful look into the life of someone living with severe anxiety and shines a light on how anxiety affects people in ways that you may never even consider. Because of this, it is at times an uncomfortable and upsetting read but for me, that was part of its brilliance.
Green is never one to shy away from discussing the serious stuff. He has touched on mental illness in his previous novels and has been very vocal about his own struggles with mental illness. In Turtles All the Way Down, Green appears to be facing his demons head on. If you are looking for a romance story with a happy ending then this is not for you because life isn’t really like romance novels, and Green understands this. His characters are real and relatable and utterly brilliant.
Turtles All the Way Down is not only in my top 5 reads of 2017, it is also one of my favourite books of all time. (Bold claim, I know).
So, there you have it. My top 5 reads of 2017. It feels cathartic to have shared why I fell in love with each of stories and to leave them behind in what was an extremely interesting year for me. I already can’t wait to share more thoughts with you on my favourite books but in the meantime, please feel free to leave any recommendations of your favourite reads of 2017 (or of any year) in the comments!
Thanks for reading! If you want to find out more about what I’m reading, then please follow me on GoodReads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/56259889-laura-lee