For the past 10 years or so, I’ve kept a list of all the books I’ve read. Lately, that’s been somewhere between 15 and 18 books. This year, it was 16. Here are the books I read in 2017, with some thoughts about each:
Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher (Timothy Egan) — I really enjoyed this book about photographer Edward Sheriff Curtis, who was famous for photographing American Indians over a 30-year period. Because I’m also working on a book project that could take decades, Curtis’s journey gave me hope that I can finish my “big idea” someday, too.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Trevor Noah) — I enjoy watching Trevor Noah videos on YouTube, but I like him even more after reading his book. It’s funny, touching and just a great memoir.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Gabrielle Zevin) — A novel about a bookshop owner who becomes an accidental father. I loved it. I don’t read a lot of novels, but I definitely recommend this one.
American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt (Daniel Rasmussen) — I didn’t know that this 1811 slave uprising even happened before I found this book at my local library. Also, it was good research on how to go about writing my own narrative nonfiction book, what do to about citing sources, etc.
The Boys in the Boat (Daniel James Brown) — This book has been popular for a while, but I finally got it as a 2016 Christmas gift from my husband and read it. I learned a lot about rowing and enjoyed the story.
A Lucky Child (Thomas Buergenthal) — The true story of a boy who survives the Holocaust. Good book.
The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead) — I need to read this book a second time. I enjoyed it, but wondered whether there was something “deeper” that I had missed along the way. With all the press that it got and all the “smart” people that liked it, I think I was supposed to be more wowed than I was. I did enjoy the story, though, and plan to re-read it someday.
In a Sunburned Country (Bill Bryson) — I always like Bill Bryson. His books make me want to travel and have adventures. This book about his travels in Australia did that as well.
Thirteen Moons (Charles Frazier) — I really, really liked this novel, more than I thought I would. It’s the story of an orphan who is sent to operate a general store on the North Carolina frontier, in Indian Territory, in the early 1800s.
Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First 100 Years (Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delaney with Amy Hill Hearth) — As the title indicates, two sisters tell the story of their lives. The African-American sisters grew up in North Carolina and later migrated to Harlem, where they were both very successful and never married.
Looking for Lost Bird (Yvette Melanson with Claire Safran) — The story of a Jewish woman who discovers her Native American ancestry and goes west to find her family. The book also was made into a move called, “The Lost Child.”
The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped our History (Molly Caldwell Crosby) — Worth reading just for the opening story, but I learned a lot that I didn’t know about the yellow fever. I definitely learned to stay away from it and it made me (temporarily) terrified of mosquitoes.
Memorials of a Southern Planter (Susan Dabney Smedes) — I confess, I skimmed a couple of chapters of this book because I read it primarily for research for my book project. I also skimmed a book about Natchez and two books about historical resources related to Natchez, including what can be found in the Natchez Trace Collection at the University of Texas. “Memorials,” however, is the story of the family of a “character” in my book, Col. Thomas S. Dabney.
The Training Ground (Martin Dugard) — Before reading this book, I knew nothing about the Mexican War. Now, I know something. It also sort of factors into my book project, because the story takes place at the same time as the Mexican War and would have been a topic of discussion among people. It also was prominent in the newspapers in 1847 and 1848, when my story takes place. Also, one of the people mentioned in my book (when it’s actually a book) will be someone whose son enlists in the Army during the Mexican War. So, it might come into play.
Truevine (Beth Macy) — Another book that taught me a lot about how to write the sort of book I’m working on. It also was a very good story and I learned a lot about the circus/carnival industry, which also plays into my book project.
The Optimist’s Daughter (Eudora Welty) — I found a copy of this book at Goodwill and figured I should get it and read it. After all, reading it would make me sound very smart, and Southern, right? In the end, I got through the book but I wasn’t impressed. Perhaps I’m not smart or Southern enough to “get” Eudora Welty. I guess that means I’d better not try any Faulkner!