Standout books I read in 2017

I used to be an avid reader. I’d hole up in my room and devour books, usually Harry Potter. In fact, I read so much that being physically active was NOT a thing in my life.

Now it’s more the opposite. I don’t read like I used to and that’s sad. So at the beginning of 2017 I made a goal to read 26 books, which meant I was reading a book every two weeks.

And guess what? I read 28.

I read a mixture of light and fluffy books, a few classics, some self-help, and a couple of contemporary fiction and nonfiction. The books that have stood out to me this year are:

Anna Karenina

This book was a BEAST – it took me about a month to finish it. I listened to it on Audible and Maggie Gyllenhaal read it.

This book is an excellent insight into the human psyche. I am so impressed by how Tolstoy peered into Anna’s mind and explored every thought and emotion and feeling at that moment – just because a character felt one way at one time doesn’t mean it’s universal. It was brilliant.

Because it’s Russian and long, it has a lot of characters to keep track of. The characters you will likely care about the most are Anna Karenina (duh) and a dude heretofore known as Levin. They live opposing lives and scarcely interact with each other, but it’s fascinating to see where their actions and thoughts lead them and the choices they make.

I had to read a lot of SparkNotes and essays on this book. There were times I wondered, “Why is this book so highly regarded?” and I’d google some analyses and read them and gain a better understanding.

Nevertheless, I loved this book. I loved how it made me think, I loved the struggles of the characters, and I loved how much I cared about every single one of them. There were no villains.

The Hate U Give

16-year-old Starr Carter watches a policeman shoot her childhood friend. The book chronicles the way she deals with it and the activism efforts she engages in afterward.

The Hate U Give was engaging and eye-opening about a different side of life I’m unaware of. I liked the voice of the book – Starr came to life for me and her perspective felt so, so real. I understood her initial hesitation to speak up, but then she also saw the consequences of her actions and began making choices. She was a very real person and I felt her pain.

This book is an excellent exercise in believing other’s experiences and practicing empathy and compassion.

Why Not Me? and Bossypants

Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey are hilarious. Their books are full of entertaining stories and good laughs. I listened to both of these on audiobook and they read their own books, so it’s even more fun to listen to them. I’ve never watched The Mindy Project, but I love The Office and 30 Rock.

I recommend both of these books if you’re looking for a good escape from reality and need a good laugh.

At the Existentialist Cafe and Postmodernism 101

These books are easy-ish forays into philosophy. The philosophy world is a pretty tough realm to navigate – too many long words and overly long explanations of nebulous concepts.

At the Existentialist Cafe is largely a history/biography of the biggest influencers in the existential movement: Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir as the main people, and then quite a few others and their influences on each other. The author Sarah Bakewell was very thorough in explaining both philosophy and biography and how each philosopher was influenced by their life experiences. In the beginning you’ll think, “Wow, Sartre is really cool,” and then by the end you’ll think, “Wow, Sartre’s an arrogant piece of crap.”

Be warned: it took Austin and me about 3 months to finish this book.

You heard the expression “Gender is a social construct”? That’s postmodernism at work. Postmodernism is an attitude of skepticism and rejection of widely accepted ideologies and absolute truth. It rejects the idea of objective reason and the idea of social progression, so it’s a little pessimistic.

Postmodernism 101 is directed at Christians, which was smart. Postmodernism is a scary concept for the religious; it’s one of the motivating factors behind the decreasing religious atmosphere of America today. However, there is so much value to learning about postmodernism and its effects on today’s society and how to think with that mindset.


I’m really proud of myself. I had a coworker who read 104 books in a year, but reading 28 was just perfect for me. I navigated a variety of books from self-help to fiction to philosophy. I’ve learned a lot from them and I’m excited for the books I’ll read next year.

What about you? Did you read any books that stood out to you this year? Did you love them or hate them?

Published by Liesl Hammer

Copywriter. B2B, B2C. I've written in the travel, ecommerce, health, and marketing niches.

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