I created this graphic to represent the books that I read in 2017. Larger images represent the books that I enjoyed the most, while smaller images are for works that were more difficult to get through.
I should mention that I really liked and would recommend any of these books, with the exception of the two smallest depicted in the lower right area of the graphic. Since those are probably too small to make out the titles, they are: Nightwood by Djuna Barnes and Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor. There were two additional titles that didn’t make the graphic because I could not finish them: Moonglow by Michael Chabon and The Girls by Emma Cline. I only made it 50 – 100 pages into each before I moved on to another work. Moonglow never really caught my interest, and The Girls contained graphic depictions of sexual abuse that I found distasteful.
My favorite books of 2017 were Hisham Matar’s The Return and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. These two books transported me through time and space and showed me a way of life that I was not familiar with. I learned lessons from each of these works that will stay with me.
The Return was the winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography and a number of other distinguished literary awards. Hisham Matar depicts his journey through a war torn Libya to search for his father, imprisoned for decades under the rule of Qaddafi. Returning to the country of his birth, the author shares his personal story as well as the experiences of several relatives and countrymen who lived under dictatorship and fought for freedom. Use this tool to find The Return at a bookstore near you.
John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is a classic icon of American literature. The story of early settlers in California’s Salinas Valley revolves around the hardships and turmoil faced by the Trask family. After their mother abandons them, twin boys Caleb and Aron are left to be raised by their father Adam. It is generally considered one of Steinbeck’s greatest novels. After hearing various acquaintances name East of Eden as the best book they have ever read, I decided to give it a try. I discovered a masterpiece written with a sense of purpose and clarity that exceeded my expectations. I was very surprised to finish 600 pages as quickly as I did. You can use the same tool mentioned above to purchase East of Eden at your local bookstore.
Which books did you love in 2017? Were there any that you didn’t care for?
One of the greatest benefits of reading is the ability that books have to expand your mind. I enjoy a good story, but the books that I love the most are the ones that teach me something new, or help me to view the world from a perspective different than my own. The best books do not “instruct”, but “allow” the reader to learn something that was previously unknown to them. Some of the most memorable works that I have read come from authors who have a drastically different background than myself. You will be surprised by how much you can learn when you listen to (or read) voices that come from another part of the world, or from another time period.The more you read about the world around you, the more you will realize that each person sees it a little differently. There is a miscalculation that is common, particularly in the Western world, which leads many to believe that they hold some advantage over other inhabitants of the Earth. One of the most effective ways to avoid or correct this misconception is by reading. When you bring home a book that contains knowledge outside of your normal sphere, you have an opportunity to expand that sphere.
Here are five outstanding books that represent a different way of thinking or illustrate concepts that are outside of what I considered “ordinary”. These books have drastically different stories and origins, but they each have something in common. They represent ideas, places, people, and concepts that expanded my way of thinking in a way that I did not expect. These are five books that “blew my western mind”:
1 – Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
2 – The Association of Small Bombs, Karan Mahajan
Read the summary on Amazon.com
3 – The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land In Between- Hisham Matar
4 – The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley
This website will give you the Three minute synopsis, then you will want to read the complete autobiography.
5 – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Persig
Over 100 publishers passed on this book before it was published in the 70’s, going on to sell more than 5 million copies. Read a review of the book here: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Which books have opened up your mind or changed the way you look at the world? Please share…