The Best Books I Read in 2017

 

 For me, 2017 has been the year of reading. Living in a South Korean shoebox apartment, I spend a lot of time by myself. While I do enjoy watching TV, it just isn’t so fun alone. My internet can also be slow during the evenings, so it can take hours to stream anything.

 

I therefore find myself turning to a book more than ever before. Once you begin to do this, it gets easier and easier. There a now often nights where I won’t even turn on the telly; instead I choose to open a good book. As such, I have read a number of fantastic books this year. If I had to write a list of my favourites, it would be these:

 

A LITTLE LIFE BY HANYA YANAGIHARA

 

I could talk about this book for hours. I have put this book on this list for a number of reasons, but none are because I enjoyed reading it. A Little Life is a strange book. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of narrative I have ever read, but its subject matter renders it a difficult read. Dealing with suicide, depression, abuse, child prostitution among other things, it is a tough read.

 

This may have already put you off. I know a lot of people who read purely to escape from it all, not be faced with the stark realities of life! And I don’t blame them! However, sometimes I do like to learn about other walks of life while I read, and this book did just that.

 

My main criticism of the book as it can be overwhelmingly dark at times. Sometimes less is more, and I think Yanagihara would have achieved her goal with half the amount of raw subject matter. Regardless of this, it is still one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read, hence its place on this list.

 

Read my more detailed review HERE.

 

ESCAPE FROM CAMP 14 BY BLAINE HARDEN

 

I enjoyed this book, but it is on this list for slightly different reasons. Living in South Korea, I have become far more interested in the Korean War and the history of the Korean Peninsula. This was the first thing I read on the topic and it really opened my eyes to the traumas associated with life under the North Korean regime.

 

Watching Kim Jong un on the news, it is easy to feel removed from what North Korea actually means. For many, it is just the threat of nuclear war. But for those living inside this secretive country, it is often an unimaginable horror. By reading accounts of those who have escaped we can begin to understand why it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

 

Escape from Camp 14 also motivated me to begin applying for a Ph.D. I’m miles away from applying still, but it gave me the thesis inspiration I have been needing for years! Whether I actually do get round to applying is a different matter, but I am thoroughly enjoying researching for my application.

 

Read my more detailed review HERE.

 

HIS DARK MATERIALS BY PHILIP PULLMAN

 

This is a bit of a cheat! It’s actually 3 books, but I’m just counting the trilogy together here. The main reason I reread these was that Philip Pullman has released The Book of Dust. This is the first book in the new trilogy based in the same world.

 

His Dark Materials are probably not new to anyone, but I am surprised how few people have read them. In short, the story follows Lyra and Will as they discover what Dust is.

 

It is simultaneously both Biblical and scientific. It is often dubbed as a children’s book but I tend to disagree with this. Pullman deals with some very complicated ideas. I would say I’m relatively well read, but I struggled to get my head around all of it. If you read these books as a child, I would thoroughly recommend rereading them as an adult.

 

THE KITE RUNNER BY KHALED HOSSEINI

 

Each year, I always try to read a few books that teach me about aspects of world history or other cultures I don’t know a great deal about. I often dismissed The Kite Runner as I hadn’t heard great things about this film. But when somebody passed the book onto me with a raving review, I thought I might as well give it a go.

 

It was far darker than I expected. Without giving too much away, it deals with guilt and rape, as well as the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The narrator then flees to America with his father and it follows their attempt to acclimatise to a new culture. The descriptions of Afghanistan are beautifully descriptive and I have spent many an hour researching trips there since finishing this book.

 

The only bit that annoyed me about this book was the narrator. He clearly has a low opinion of himself, and often berates himself. I understand that he is affected by what he has seen and how he reacted, but his constant self-deprecation can get a bit annoying.

 

If you have only seen the film, I would suggest reading the book. I watched the film afterwards and it was terrible. It missed the best parts of the book and lacked the characterisation of the book.

 

THE SECRET HISTORY BY DONNA TARTT

 

This year will be remembered as the year I discovered Donna Tartt. I have spent far too much of this blog raving about her, so I will keep it brief. In my opinion, Tartt is the writer of the last ten years.

 

The Secret History is a murder mystery in reverse. We know who was murdered and we can guess who did it from the start. The story focuses on the motivations behind that murder. It plunges into the world of university, cliques, cults, and obsession.

 

While the story is very compelling, it is Tartt’s prose that struck me. She writes beautifully, and can make the even the most mundane scenes sound interesting. If you haven’t read any Tartt, make sure you do in 2018!

Read my more detailed review HERE

FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT 2017’s BOOKS

 

There are a number of other books I enjoyed this year, but these were the winners. Any year that includes this many books is a success in my book! (Yes, I do love a pun!) If I had to choose an overall favourite, I think it would have to be The Secret History.

 

What was your favourite book of this year?

 

Natalia xo