Should I try and limit myself to 10 of my favorite books from 2017 to really condense my list and give you a handy go-to of my favorite books? Probably. But I’m at 15 books right now and I refuse to trim this list down any further, so 15 it is!
It also might be nice of me to list them in some sort of countdown, but that’s just not happening. So below are seven of my favorite books that I read in 2017 in the order in which I read them throughout the year, and stay tuned tomorrow for the second half of this list!
Keep in mind that these books are far from all of the books I read and enjoyed in 2017 and would highly recommend. These are just the ones that I personally liked the most and am most excited to talk with you about!
A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
This is one of the books that I featured on my list of biggest reading surprises of 2017, and I had to include it here as well. I actually think the blurb describes A Promise of Fire really well, so I’m going to drop it in here from Goodreads:
Catalia “Cat” Fisa lives disguised as a soothsayer in a traveling circus. She is perfectly content avoiding the danger and destiny the Gods — and her homicidal mother — have saddled her with. That is, until Griffin, an ambitious warlord from the magic-deprived south, fixes her with his steely gaze and upsets her illusion of safety forever.
Griffin knows Cat is the Kingmaker, the woman who divines the truth through lies. He wants her as a powerful weapon for his newly conquered realm—until he realizes he wants her for much more than her magic. Cat fights him at every turn, but Griffin’s fairness, loyalty, and smoldering advances make him increasingly hard to resist and leave her wondering if life really does have to be short, and lived alone.
This book. Omg. It just did such an amazing job of blending together my favorite parts of the fantasy and romance genres. It had a fascinating world heavily influenced by Greek mythology, it had an amazing romance, it had court politics and royal intrigue, it had epic quests, it had great character development, it had everything! Seriously, I can’t speak highly enough about this series if you love both romance and fantasy, and I’m beyond thrilled that the last book is finally out!
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
I think absolutely no one is surprised to see Bad Feminist make this list. In case you haven’t heard about it yet, this is a collection of essays written by Roxane Gay that touch on an array of topics, from Sweet Valley High to Chris Brown to The Help, all centered around feminism.
More than an academic theory or a part of the past, Gay brings feminism into the modern world and makes it relevant to today’s pop culture. She addresses finding some of her favorite things in today’s culture problematic from the perspective of a women as well as how today’s feminist movement is overwhelmingly white and doesn’t address and include the problems unique to women of color. She just hits so many topics that people in today’s world need to be conscious of and address, which makes this a must-read for me. Plus she manages to do this while being relatable and funny, making Bad Feminist an enjoyable read in addition to a necessary one.
Seriously, if you take one recommendation from this list, let it be Bad Feminist. This book is so important and relevant to everyone, and you really need to read it.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
This book easily could have made my list of most surprising reads of 2017 because, while I enjoyed the original Grisha trilogy, I didn’t love it, so I was completely unprepared to be so totally blown away by Six of Crows. This is essentially a fantasy heist story following six outcasts as they break into one of the most heavily guarded courts in the world and kidnap a hostage at the center of a drug outbreak that has a dangerous affect on magic users.
In listing Six of Crows, I’m also including Crooked Kingdom because I read these books almost back to back. This was such a thrilling read and I loved every minute of it. It was so fast-paced and fun and you can’t help but fall in love with all of the main characters for completely different reasons. Bardugo just did such a great job creating these characters and pulling in a bunch of very real issues, like sex trafficking and slavery and discrimination and prejudice. It was excellently conceived and executed and I can’t recommend it enough to fantasy fans. This duology has launched Bardugo to my list of auto buy authors, and I’m am eagerly awaiting her spinoff series focusing on Nikolai.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
This book is just so cute I can’t even. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before follows high schooler Laura Jean, who has written a goodbye love letter to every crush she’s ever had and kept them in a box under her bed. But one day the letters go missing, and it turns out that they’ve been mailed to the boys she had crushes on. “Suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control,” as the blurb says.
I’m not much of a YA contemporary reader, so I really didn’t have high expectations for this series. But I knew the author was going to be at BookCon and Margot at Epic Reads speaks highly of it, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I was not at all prepared for how much I fell in love with these books. I just love Laura Jean and her family and the whole cast of characters in these books so much, and I really liked seeing Laura Jean navigate the fallout from having her letters mailed and grow as a person. This entire trilogy is just too cute and I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood for something sweet and fun.
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Dear IJeawele is Adichie’s response to a friend’s request on how to raise her daughter as a feminist. This is another book where the blurb probably says it best:
Here are fifteen invaluable suggestions — compelling, direct, wryly funny, and perceptive — for how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman. From encouraging her to choose a helicopter, and not only a doll, as a toy if she so desires; having open conversations with her about clothes, makeup, and sexuality; debunking the myth that women are somehow biologically arranged to be in the kitchen making dinner, and that men can “allow” women to have full careers, Dear Ijeawele goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century. It will start a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today.
This is a supershort book, so there’s really no excuse not to read it. In less than 65 pages, it does an excellent job pointing out a lot of the small ways that feminist matters play out in our everyday lives. People might insist that they’re feminists while failing to realize they’re engaging in un-feminist acts, but Dear Ijeawele maps it all out for you and shows you how we’ve internalized gender inequality and perpetuate it in raising our children. It provides a lot of advice on how to promote gender equality, but it does so in a common sense and easy-to-understand manner that makes it accessible to everyone. I can’t stress enough what an important read Dear Ijeawele is and highly recommend that everyone read it.
An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
An Extraordinary Union is a romance novel set during the Civil War. Elle is a former slave with an eidetic memory who has returned to slavery in order to spy for the Union, while Malcolm is a Pinkerton detective posing as a Confederate soldier in order to infiltrate a Rebel enclave. The two meet while undercover and must navigate their attraction to each other while uncovering a plot that could turn the war in the Confederacy’s favor.
We need so many more books like this out there. Cole did an amazing job balancing the romance between Elle and Malcolm with the historical backdrop of the Civil War and the racial issues that come with their relationship. I actually don’t have many articulate and coherent things to say about this book because I was just freaking out so much while I was reading it and when I finished it. If you’re a historical romance reader, you absolutely have to check out this book. And I think this could be a good place to start if you’re newer to the genre. It’s amazing and I highly recommend it.
Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell
Illegal Contact is another book that I suspect no one is surprised to see on this list given how frequently I talk about it. Gavin is a professional football player who has been suspended for a season and sentenced to house arrest after getting involved in a violent altercation. But what should be torture for him is made bearable, if not enjoyable, by his smart-mouthed and unimpressed personal assistant, Noah.
This book was amazing. Hassell did a fantastic job creating complex characters that you have to root for as they navigate very real barriers to their romance. I really liked that Gavin and Noah addressed the employer-employee dynamic of their relationship and how that gave Gavin power over Noah whether he wanted it or not, as well as the role that Gavin’s isolation played in their relationship. And it felt realistic that Gavin couldn’t come out as bisexual while playing for the NFL and added a lot of tension to the story, making the black moment in their relationship especially bleak. I did have a minor quibble with the lead-up to the happily ever after, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed watching Gavin and Noah fight their feelings and eventually fall in love. Can the sequel be here already? The next two weeks are going to be torture!
In light of emerging information about Hassell’s inappropriate behavior, I no longer stand by this review of Illegal Contact. Please see this post for more details.
And that’s it for part one of my favorite books of 2017! Have you read any of these books? Will you pretty, pretty please read Bad Feminist, or at least Dear Ijeawele? Let me know in the comments, as well as what one of your favorite books of 2017 is!
And don’t forget to stay tuned for part two tomorrow!