I opened up my Goodreads account today to see how close I was to my 2017 reading goal of 85 books. I was just 11 short at 74! This year Goodreads created a visual summary of all of the books I have read:
When I think about the books I read, I am reminded of this quote by Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emerita of Education at Ohio State University,
‘Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.’
As I look back at this list, I realized that I read some phenomenal stories that gave me a window into the lives of others. Here are my top 5 #mustread2017 books of the year:
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
Have you ever picked up a book and knew that it would change you? Make you think just a little differently about the world? THUG: The Hate You Give is a #mustread2017 story. It is one of those books that everyone needs to read and really think about. I fell in love with All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely last year and THUG tops it. They are perfect companion books. The Hate You Give is inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement and tackles topics that MUST not be pushed under the rug anymore.
I have always grown up with the belief that police officers are good people. The main character, Starr, an African American teenager, always believed that as well, especially since her Uncle is a police officer too. All of that changed when she witnessed her childhood best friend shot and killed by a white police officer who pulled them over for no reason.
“A hairbrush is not a gun.” she repeats over and over again.
This story is about more than right and wrong. It is about discrimination, racism, racial bias in our justice system. It is about educating the youth of America to be open to diversity and to think about how our actions affect others. I can’t recommend this book enough. Believe the hype – It is a powerful story and worth reading and sharing over and over again.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
“Yeah, there are no more ‘colored’ water fountains, and it’s supposed to be illegal to discriminate, but if I can be forced to sit on the concrete in too-tight cuffs when I’ve done nothing wrong, it’s clear there’s an issue. That things aren’t as equal as folks say they are.”
With all of the craziness in our world right now, I am so grateful that authors are not afraid to write about the truth. Dear Martin was beautiful written, yet heartbreaking all at the same time. With each chapter I felt myself being pulled in further and reminded of how difficult it is for students of color to feel like they fit in, when others are constantly bringing them down. Justyce questions himself several times throughout out the book, “Why try to do right if people will always look at me and assume wrong?” His question is valid and these biases need to be talked about.
Dear Martin can be compared to The Hate You Give and All American Boys. All three are books that focus on the injustices that young black teens face in our world today. These books speak truth and must be required reading for students before they leave high school.
I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
#mustread2017! – If you are a fan of Gabi, Girl in Pieces, you will fall in love with Julia Reyes in I am Not Your Perfect Daughter. Julia is trying to move forward after her sister, Olga, was tragically killed. In her mind, Olga was perfect and it is very hard living up to those expectations.
Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.
But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.
As Gabi is a bit more light-hearted than this one, but the storyline will suck you in and you won’t want to stop reading.
Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowlees
This book is beyond beautiful. Once I started it, I could not put it down.
The word “home” is has different meanings for different people. For me, home is where I grew up and where I now raise my own family. For those in the military, “home” takes on it’s own meaning. Home = family – where ever that may be. Beneath Wandering Stars gives us a glimpse of how important family is for those in the military and the importance of believing that they will come home.
I loved delving into the internal struggles that both Gabi and Seth dealt with as they pilgrimaged across Camino de Santiago in honor of Gabi’s brother, Lucas who was wounded in Afghanistan. Gabi struggled finding her way in their newest home on a military base in Germany. Leaving behind her boyfriend and many close friends. Seth had his own inner demons too – fighting memories of the war and what happened to Lucas. Not only did I learn about the lives of children in military families, but I also was able to see in the window of a soldier returning home from the war just trying to fit back in.
Beneath Wandering Stars is a #mustread2017! I can’t recommend this book enough. Side note: I just finished her companion novel, Beyond Northern Lights, which is about Lucas and it is just as good as Beneath Wandering Stars.
Solo by Kwame Alexander
I fell in love with Kwame Alexander’s work when I read Crossover and Booked and Solo does not disappoint. Kwame Alexander has a way of getting teenage boys to read and to read poetic verse! His latest novel introduces us to Blade, the son of a washed up drug addict rockstar. Life for Blade and his sister are “first world issues” and yet, for this 17 year old it is hard to understand. Blade turns to his own music to deal with his pain. In the middle of the story, Blade learns about a family secret and flies to Ghana on his own to learn more. This journey of self discovery helps Blade grow up and realize what life is like on the other side of the world. If you love music, this one will hook you in right away. For those who like audiobooks, I also recommend listening to this one. Kwame Alexander narrates this one and his voice suck you in right away.
Stay tuned for part two of my top books of 2017 – the best nonfiction books of the year.