Thursday, December 14, 2017

Five Books I Read in 2017—and Recommend

It’s time for me to list five books I loved in 2017. As always, I leave off the bestsellers—the ten titles you’ve read about ten times in the last ten weeks of top ten books lists. I tried to keep it to works published in 2017, but I included a couple from 2016 that I discovered this year.

I am also, as always, not listing the books I edited in 2017, but I will tell you that the key author name to remember is Clay Savage…He’s got a half-dozen excellent manuscripts written in a variety of genres—it sounds unbelievable, but he’s crazy talented and prolific. Don’t worry, I'll let you know when his books are being published.

I will mention one collection that includes a story of mine: The Insider’s Guide to the Best of Mexico: 42 experts tell you where to sun, swim, eat, stay, and celebrate the real Mexico (2017) edited by Carmen Amato. This little ebook is a treasure—filled with short pieces by some well-known Mexico writers, like Jinx Schwartz, author of the always-enjoyable Hetta Coffey Series. Not a typical travel guide, this includes unique tidbits, offbeat adventures, and actual insider insights—and best of all, it is currently free on Kindle!

So...On to my "top five" list for 2017:

What Remains True by Janis Thomas (2017) isn’t just my favorite book this year, it’s already one of my favorites of the decade. One sign of a great book is that I want to read it again, and I wanted to reread this one as soon as I finished it. A true literary artist has the ability to step inside other people’s heads and inhabit them, and Thomas has done that here, in spades. Oddly enough, I had just finished reading Stars in The Grass, which deals with a similar situation—a family dealing with the loss of a young child— and as good as Ann Marie Stewart is, her book paled in comparison to the raw power of What Remains True. I don’t want to spoil anything by telling you more, just read it!

The Book of Moon by George Crowder (2016) This book reminded me of a California take on The Dirty Parts of the Bible, but I enjoyed it much more. Moon Landing may be only fifteen but he’s no kid; this coming-of-age story is told from the point of view of a very adult young man. Moon is concerned with the disintegration of his family due to his parents divorce, but he’s also worried about sex, death, global problems, world religions, and his own spirituality.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko (2017) I try not to hype any books that showed up on national “best of the year” lists, but I had to include The Leavers, because I this book is a must-read for anyone interested in issues of migration, immigration, and assimilation, as I am (and if you are not interested in these subjects, why not?). The story builds slowly, and was tough to get into, so be patient; I almost gave up on it, and I am so glad I didn’t. It might change the way you look at life in these United States.

The Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes (2016) This quirky book is a winner, and could be read by nature lovers of almost any age—the protagonist is a 14-year-old autistic boy who is in love with trees, and one tree in particular. If you enjoy reading about the outdoors, the Pacific Northwest, or stories told by unusual narrators, you’ll love The Eagle Tree. And if you loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, you will adore this book. The Kindle edition is on sale right now.

Still I Rise: The Persistence of Phenomenal Women by Marlene Wagman-Geller, with a foreword by Laurel Corona. The book highlights the struggles and accomplishments of important women of our era, like Betty Shabazz, Nellie Sachs, Selma Lagerlof, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bessie Coleman, and Lois Wilson (if you don’t recognize their names, you obviously need this book). In spite of the spotty editing, I definitely recommend this addictively-readable resource. It's important to all of us, and future generations, that our written histories tell the other half of history.

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