I am not labeling these books or this list the best, because best is such a subjective word. So therefore I came up with some categories of my own.
The Book that caused me to stop breathing- When you read a book about the loss of a person you loved who was part of a family that you love it is remarkably hard to maintain your composure. I had warned by the Authors son that I would cry and I did so intensely that I could not breath for a moment.
Empty Branch, Finding Hope Through Lament by Marilyn Weisenburg; 2017; $17.99; 270 pages; Credo House Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI;978-1-625860-79-8; purchased from the author at a signing;10/1/17-10/3/17
Why did I read this? Marilyn is a good friend and we were on the edges of what was going on.
The week before I read this I was visiting with the author’s son and he told me that I was going to cry reading this. He was right I didn’t make it to the second page before I couldn’t breathe because I was crying so much. This is a story of unimaginable loss, as Marilyn and Jim’s son David was killed in Iraq on September 13, 2004. This is the story of how Marilyn, her family and friends leaned on the arms of their eternal father. There are no simple answers given here, it is a story of extreme emotion and lament and how hope was found. I don’t think that there is anyway I can convey the emotion that permeates the book. As Marilyn said it is difficult to read when you are reading about people you love going through a difficult time.
The book that caused me to facepalm the most- I have been reading many books about the African American experience because I know so little about it. One of the most compelling reads was this book.
We Were Eight Years in Power, An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates; 2017; $28.00; 367 pages; One World, New York, NY; 978-0-399-59056-6; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Central; 11/9/17-11/21/17
Why did I read this? Because every white person in the United States ought to. I had read Mr. Coates previous and was moved by it. So I will read whatever he writes. I know little about African American history and want to learn more.
There were eight years of good Negro government at the end of the Civil War before Jim Crow became the law of the land. There were eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency before Jim Crow grew stronger. Ta-Nehisi Coates draws parallels between those two eight year periods in a series of essays he wrote for The Atlantic during the Obama years. Some of the things that he points out caused me to face palm and say really, others brought even more disbelief. If you don’t believe there are still racist in the United States or that there is systemic racism here you probably don’t want to read this. If you want to get outside your comfort zone read this.
The Scariest Book I read this year- This book scared me the most because I believe that it could happen here. The first couple of chapters are based on actual events and feature actual quotes from members of our political system.
Christian Nation by Frederic C. Rich; 2013; $25.95; 340 pages; W.W. Norton & Company, New York, NY; 978-0-393-24011-5; purchased at Multnomah County Library Title Wave Used Bookstore; 8/21/17-8/-8/26/17
Why did I read this? Because the premise seemed interesting and it seems timely.
With the death of President McCain, Vice President Palin sets the groundwork for fundamentalist Christians to take over the Senate and House of Representatives. With the election of President Jordan after President Palin is out of office, Congress starts passing laws according to the fundamentalist reading of the Bible. The United States Government becomes a Christian Theocracy. Blasphemy becomes a crime punishable by death, books are destroyed if they contain anything that the fundamentalist disagree with, fiction or non fiction. If you are not married by 30, you are assumed to be homosexual and are sentenced to death. If you have resisted and rebelled against the government you are sentenced to a reeducation game, if you are given up to three years to become a Christian, if you haven’t made a decision in that time you are killed. Many of the things that set the stage for the takeover are things that I have heard people calling for at this time. Many of the people in the early part of the book are actual people and the author uses actual quotes to set that stage.
The most inspirational books I read this year- James A. Owen is a great fiction writer, a graphic novel writer and a man with a fascinating life story. He also has written some inspirational work including The Barbizon Diaries, The Grand Design and Drawing out the Dragons. I had read Drawing out the Dragons in 2013 and had eagerly awaited The Barbizon Diaries and The Grand Design they did not disappoint.
The most intriguing book I read this year- Starting in 2016 I decided to read each years Pulitzer Prize Winners. 2 of the 2017 winners are on this list. First is the winner for poetry. Many pages could be read in different directions to make different meanings.
OLIO by Tyehimba Jess; 2016; $25.00;235 pages; Wave Books, Seattle, WA; 978-1-940696-20-1; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Woodstock; 8/6/17-8/11/17
Why did I read this? Last year I decided to read the Pulitzer Prize Winners in the categories of history, biography, poetry, fiction and general non fiction. This is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2017 for poetry.
This is a complex box that draws on the civil war and reconstruction for its content. It has a diverse cast of characters, most of them real who I had not heard of. It also has an interesting structure in some parts, where it can be read in columns or across the columns. It is a fascinating book that I will pick up when I can to reread and study more fully.
The book whose sequel I am most looking forward to- This is a book I backed on Kickstarter and Brian Parker and I have gotten to know each other and he is an awesome person in addition to being a great author and illustrator.
The Wonderous Science, Book 1 of Mysteries of the Laurel Society by Brian & Josie Parker; 2016; $15.99; 332 pages; CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 978-1542680530; kickstarter backed project; 2/7/17-2/9/17
Why did I read this? I met Brian & Josie at Wordstock several years ago and read Crow in the Hollow and really enjoyed it and struck a friendship with Brian. I backed this book on Kickstarter because I really wanted to support Brian & Josie in their efforts to write a young adult novel with a diverse cast of characters.
Daisy Kidd is a warden in the Laurel Society in Portland, Oregon. She is assigned to protect and monitor Zora Sparks and her brother Nate. There is a faction within the Laurel Society that seeks to undermine the aims of the society by any means necessary. They have targeted Zora because of an artifact that was bequeathed to her. Daisy, Zora and Nate must work together to combat the forces of evil and work together with members that are still loyal to the aims of the society.
Brian and Josie have created a wonderful fantasy world of science and magic in Portland, peopled by a wonderfully diverse cast of people. The main characters are seventeen, twelve and nine and two out of three are people of color. The supporting cast is also very diverse.
The most educational books I read- Another Pulitzer Prize Winner and several other books giving me insight into the African America experience in the United States.
White Rage by Carol Anderson/Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson/You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson/Blood in the Water, The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson.
Honorable Mention-How does it Feel to Be A Problem, Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi/The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World, A Novel of Robert Louis Stevenson by Brian Doyle/What Grieving People Wish You Knew by Nancy Guthrie/Those who wish me Dead by Michael Koryta