Hello friends! It is that time of year again – the end of the year, which means another annual top ten reads list. Wow, time sure does fly when you exist as a queer Asian American in Trump’s America
and use reading as a mechanism to escape the persistent problematic actions and beliefs that catapulted Trump into office. I only read 72 books this year, a record low I contribute to grad school interviews, my senior thesis, starting grad school, and watching Ariana Grande and BlackPink music videos on repeat until the end of time forever and ever. Still, I read a ton of fabulous books within these 72 titles, so I want to share them and see if any of our top picks match up. I also included links to past years’ top ten lists for easy reference. So, without further ado:
Top 5: Fiction
5. Kindred by Octavia Butler. A gripping book that integrates science-fiction and historical fiction, Kindred follows Dana, a 26-year-old black woman who gets transported back to the antebellum south. Butler’s character-driven novel addresses themes of race relations, intergenerational trauma, and how we have no choice but to learn from the past unless we want to relive it. Full review here.
4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. A visceral and timely debut novel that centers on Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old who sees a white police officer shoot her best friend Khalil, even though Khalil had no weapon. Thomas tackles important topics like police brutality and racism, and she creates a vibrant cast of characters, with Starr herself acting as one of the most memorable YA protagonists to date. Full review here.
3. We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson. The first book to make me cry in a long time, this novel follows the return of Sam Walsh, a fourteen-year-old boy who had been kidnapped three years ago. Told through the perspectives of Beth, his sister, and Josh, his friend, Wilson captures deep emotions and stunning character development in quiet, understated prose. Full review here.
2. Chemistry by Weike Wang. A wry, emotionally resonant debut novel about an Asian American woman who drops out of her Chemistry PhD program halfway through, Chemistry details the turbulence of navigating one’s 20’s with heart and humor. With great skill, Wang weaves together science, cultural differences, family piety, and a protagonist on her journey to discover what she truly wants. Full review here.
1. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. A compelling and gorgeously-written book that focuses on the Richardsons, a well-to-do white family living in the suburbs of Ohio whose lives get much more complex when Mia and Pearl, a mysterious mother-daughter pair, come to town. Ng interrogates privilege, motherhood, and social change in this powerful and poignant sophomore novel. Full review here.
Top 5: Nonfiction
5. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister. A glorious book that eviscerates the notion of “single” women as pathological or pathetic. With a mix of interviews, stats, and critical analysis, Traister shows how women have found fulfillment without romantic partners and have served as pioneers of social change in the United States. Full review here.
4. Salt by Nayyirah Waheed. A piercing, heartrending poetry collection that addresses topics both political and personal, including xenophobia, self-love, racism and sexism, the power of softness, and more. An empowering set of poems that may resonate deeply with people of color and more feminine individuals, though I recommend it to everyone. Full review here.
3. The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit. One of the most intelligent feminist essay collections I have ever read, this book’s beautiful language and brilliant ideas made me cry. Solnit writes about topics ranging from toxic masculinity to sexual assault to the glorification of white male writers and how patriarchy harms us all. Every essay, every word, felt like a treat. Full review here.
2. Hunger by Roxane Gay. A daring memoir about food, weight, self-image, and learning how to take care of yourself in a world that encourages us, especially women, to make ourselves as small as possible. With her signature eloquence and honesty, Gay details her struggle with fatness and fatphobia, the rape that began her difficult relationship with food, and her challenging journey to heal. Full review here.
1. All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks. With groundbreaking compassion and intellect, hooks writes about the necessity of love in our personal and private lives. She argues that traditional conceptions of love (e.g., romance, the nuclear family) often fail us and that we must create a more radical, all-encompassing love that focuses on healing, healthy communication, and sustained effort. I would write almost every page of this book a five-star review if I could. Full review here.
My honorable mentions in nonfiction (as always, I had to cut this list short because I somehow always read a ton of great nonfiction) go to This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein, You Play the Girl by Carina Chocano, Evicted by Matthew Desmond, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Steven Hayes and Jason Lillis.
Do any of these books look familiar? What were your favorite books in 2017, and what are you looking forward to reading in 2018? I am particularly interested in books that have to do with feminism, interpersonal relationships, and mental health, but I am open to almost anything and everything because I know I should push myself out of my comfort zone
as long as you do not recommend Hemingway because I detest essentially everything about Hemingway, that sexist man who should be replaced by bell hooks or Roxane Gay in every high school and college classroom. Hope everyone has a fabulous New Year and hope you will enjoy my next already-written, soon-to-be published blog post that will come out next week.