My reading goal for 2017 was 35 books. Below you’ll find several of my favorite themes – ecology, music, spirituality, and grammar. But there are also several books about Jane Austen as July marked the 200th anniversary of her death.
I’m feeling rather hip as many of these books actually came out in 2017, so I read them hot off the presses! Here’s what I read this year. As always, I’ve left mini commentaries beneath the selections I particularly enjoyed.
- To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue
- Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
I have such fondness for Anne Shirley, and I loved this latest installment of her adventures.
- The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel
This might just be my favorite book of the year! That is all.
- Arda Inhabited: Environmental Relationships in The Lord of the Rings by Susan Jeffers
Outstanding book! Scholarly work but accessible and fascinating examination of Tolkien.
- The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron
I came across this book because Susan Cain referenced Dr. Aron’s research in her incredible book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Aron’s work on sensitivity is groundbreaking and validating!
- The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark
Though this isn’t my favorite Clark volume, all his books are fabulous. He is a down-to-earth writer and offers lucid strategies for improving reading and writing.
- Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel
- Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon and Mars by Nathalia Holt
- Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior
A compelling and beautifully written biography with rich historical context.
- The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places by Bernie Krause
Fascinating and lovely!
- Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill
- Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine by Lisa Wong
- Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy
How could I not read everything by Macy, who is a brilliant eco-philosopher and translator of Rilke? Her On Being interview was absolutely beautiful.
- Snobs by Julian Fellowes
The creator of Downton Abbey is a great novelist! This one was wonderful as an audiobook.
- Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything by Margaret Wertheim
While I enjoyed this book, I preferred Wertheim’s On Being interview.
- A Little Book of Language by David Crystal
- Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
- Ain’t She Sweet? by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
You MUST listen to this as an audiobook. Normally I can’t stand romance novels, but this one is hilarious and so well done! It’s right up there with Laurie Colwin’s Happy All The Time, which I reread often.
- The Colony by Jillian Weise
Snarky, creepy, and curious. This is a short and weird novel that asks good questions.
- An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Beautiful prose, thoughtful writing, wonderful stories.
- Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Ever since I saw Haupt’s TEDx Talk, I wanted to read all of her books. I’m currently reading Crow Planet because Mozart’s Starling was so wonderful!
- Jane Austen, the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly
The best Austen book I’ve read all year! I’ve got more to read, but this one is absolutely fantastic! Kelly examines the subtle political and cultural critiques in Austen’s novels. Austen wasn’t as detached as everyone claims.
- Suites for the Modern Dancer by Jill Khoury
Read my full-length review here.
- Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson
- Longbourn by Jo Baker
This is the “below stairs” story that unfolds alongside Pride and Prejudice. It’s compelling and respectable.
- Grace (Eventually: Thoughts on Faith) by Anne Lamott
- Why Poetry by Matthew Zapruder
- The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
Listen to the audiobook of this one. It’s a gripping, meticulously researched novel about Austen’s life. Very well done!
- Jane Austen at Home: A Biography by Lucy Worsley
This is an excellent book on Austen! If you are on the fence, watch this hour-long preview.
- Victoria, the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird
Long but worth it! Lots of great stories about Victoria.
- Juliet’s Answer: One Man’s Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for Heartbreak by Glenn Dixon
Save your time and just enjoy the Shakespeare Unlimited episode about this one. The book was pleasant but not as thrilling as I’d hoped.
- Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo
This book is actually more useful than the official TED book on public speaking by Chris Anderson.
- Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Fun but not as good as her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
- Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar by David Crystal
As always, David Crystal is a delight! I loved his attention to grammar pedagogy and child development in this book.
- Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David
- The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne
I had not heard of this book until it came up as the FSCJ Author Series book for 2017-2018. I enjoyed Hanagarne’s wit and bookishness, and I’m looking forward to author events coming up.
What have you been reading this year? What’s your goal for next year? Comment below and share your literary explorations!