At the beginning of 2017, I set myself a resolution to read at least 50 books by the end of the year. It wasn't always easy, but I chipped away at it and am proud to say I achieved my goal. So here is a list of everything I read in 2017, along with a quick synopsis and review, so you can see which ones I recommend and which ones I feel just wasted my time.
I've added links to where you can find each book on Amazon US if you want to purchase it or read more reviews. All of them are affiliate links meaning that, if you purchase through them, I'll make a small commission. Thank you! (For more info, read my disclosure.)
Let me start by saying that, in various places, I've been saying that I read 51 books. It was only after compiling this list that I realised I'd miscounted and was actually bang on the button at 50. Oops.
In order of completion, here is...
Everything I Read In 2017
1. "Get Your Shit Together" by Sarah Knight
A smashing sequel to her best-selling debut, "The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A Fuck." Whereas the first was all about helping you declutter the things you shouldn't give a f*ck about, this one is about organising what's left. If you're a Sarah Knight fan (and, really, you should be), you won't want to miss it. Laughs and sound life advice aplenty.
If you're looking to learn more, I've done an in-depth review over on YouTube.
2. "How To Build A Girl" by Caitlin Moran
A semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story, with the character (and author) growing up in a council house in Wolverhampton, surviving on benefits. Young teenager Johanna walks a delicate tightrope between trying to keep her family afloat and wanting to break free to make her mark on the music journalism world.
I'm generally a fan of Caitlin Moran's writing, and this book is no exception. She can tickle your funny bone and break your heart in the same sentence. The prude in me wishes this were a little less explicit though; I could've done without the near-constant sexual references. I was much more interested in what was going on in her head than in her bed. Maybe your preferences are a little more progressive than mine.
3. "Holding" by Graham Norton
I wasn't sure what to expect with this one. Norton is a beloved comedic talent here in Ireland (and abroad), the unfortunate consequence being that it can be tricky to get people to take you seriously. But, I have to say, for a debut, this novel is surprisingly good. The writing style leaves a little to be desired, particularly the descriptive prose. Where Norton shines, though, is in dialogue and character insight. The pacing is excellent, with everything kicking off from the first few pages, and then building to a satisfying, but thankfully not saccharine, conclusion. An engaging debut, particularly when you consider the crap that a lot of people get away with because of their celebrity status.
4. "Stolen Child" by Laura Elliot
Another Irish author. Telling the tale of a woman who abducts a baby, it follows both her, as she tries to cover her tracks, and the mother as she fights to uncover the truth. A storyline with a lot of potential that, though reasonably well written and paced, could've done with a bit of a kick up the arse at times. I never felt the tension building towards an inevitable denouement, and I didn't really feel any sense of satisfaction once it was done.
5. "Why Not Me?" by Mindy Kaling
I'll admit I know nothing about the woman -- I've never seen her on TV or read anything else of hers. I'm guessing that this book would have been a lot more appealing if I had. As it was, I found it very scattered, like someone had taken a bunch of letters and just lumped them all together.
It starts the same way it ends – abruptly – and there's no real storyline to tie the whole thing together. The random, rambling musings of an admittedly funny woman.
I've heard her other book, "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" is much better, so I might give that a bash if I come across it. But I won't be beating down the door of the local bookshop to get my hands on it.
6. "Reckless Magic" by Rachel Higginson
An impulse purchase because it was heavily discounted on Amazon. I can sum it up in three words: poor man's "Twilight".
7. "Girl Online" by Zoe Sugg
Girl meets boy. Girl falls in love with boy. Complications arise and it looks like their romance is doomed. Will the star-crossed lovers be reunited in the end? (Rhetorical question, obviously.)
Avoid if you're not a young teenager or huge Zoella fan.
8. "The Rosie Project" by Graeme Simsion
Lordy how I loved this! I was hooked from the very beginning. A wonderfully heart-warming and hilarious story about a Type-A college professor on a quest to find himself a wife by having potential partners first fill out a questionnaire. Needless to say, things don't go as planned.
A hilarious breath of fresh air, and the best book I read in 2017.
9. "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty
It follows the private lives of parents whose kids attend the same public school, alternating between their individual stories while also weaving the threads that tie them all together. It took me a long time to get into this one but I'd advise sticking with it if you're considering quitting because it does get significantly better. Easy to see why they made a TV show of it.
10. "The October List" Jeffery Deaver
I'm a bit torn on this one. It wasn't incredibly well written and I felt it took a long time to pick up the pace... but once it did, there was a plot twist at every turn. The last few chapters really saved it.
It's a story that starts at the finish line, beginning at the chronological end and working its way back in time. It even reverses the chapter numbers, with the final chapter being Chapter One. I'll go ahead and say that it's a decent holiday read if you're looking for something a little grittier than a romance novel, but I wouldn't go splashing the cash on it if you're expecting something meaty.
11. "#AskGaryVee" by Gary Vaynerchuk
For those who don't know, Gary is a massively successful entrepreneur whose work ethic is bordering on superhuman. While his lifestyle isn't balanced enough for me, he still inspires me to cut the shit and try new things.
I enjoyed this effort, but I suspect it's probably a better read if you're not already very familiar with his online work (or, perhaps, if you're a huge fan who buys it more as "memorabilia").
12. "A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman
It took me a little while to adapt to the writing style, which can be quite abrupt and perfunctory, but it was worth it. It's a warm, witty tale of an unlikely hero with old-fashioned values and oddball tendencies.
13. "Bridget Jones's Baby: The Diaries" by Helen Fielding
I was expecting it to be total tripe but was pleasantly surprised. Having said that, that's not too much of a compliment. It's certainly better than "Mad About The Boy" but – and here's something I never thought I'd say – skip this one and just watch the movie instead. It's not amazing either but, out of this duo, it's the best you're going to get.
14. "Pollyanna" by Eleaner Hodgman Porter
Classic literature isn't a genre I generally enjoy and I can't say this was any exception. It tells the story of a young girl who, finding herself orphaned, goes to live with her aunt. The two couldn't be more dissimilar, with Pollyanna being an upbeat little cherub and her aunt being a dour old spinster. It's not awful, but it seemed to me to be twice as long as it needed to be.
15. "Jab Jab Jab Right Hook" by Gary Vaynerchuk
A reasonably quick read on what makes a great social post. If you run a blog or business and you're interested in growing your social reach, or you just have a thing for digital marketing, this is a worthwhile read. It's not going to set your world on fire or reveal any deep secrets, but it's a good outline of common sense stuff that all businesses should know.
Personally I'd love to see an updated version – the book is now several years old so some of the information is a little out of date – but presumably the output wouldn't be enough to justify the immense input it would require.
16. "The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck" by Mark Manson
I so badly wanted to like this. It had been recommended to me by a lot of people, and the title suggested that it would be right up my street. But no. In its defence, I did read it on a plane so it didn't have my undivided attention, but it still did nothing for me. I dunno, I found it a bit rambly.
It's a standard "I was a bit of a waster and then I managed to turn my life around to be somewhat respectable" tale. If that's your sort of thing, go for it. It didn't become a bestseller for no reason, I guess. But if you're looking for an infinitely better read with actual practical advice on how to do it rather than just vaguely motivational phrases, then I still think Sarah Knight's "The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A Fuck" is the superior choice.
17. "A Spring Affair" by Milly Johnson
This novel about a woman who finds that decluttering completely changes her life is recommended a lot in KonMari circles. I knew it was going to be a bit of fluff, which is why I saved it for my holidays. Sadly, it wasn't nearly as quick a read as I would have liked, and it was about as unpredictable as water's wetness, but I'm not going to totally rag on it. Books like this don't make themselves out to be stunning literary works.
If you like the topic of decluttering, and you don't mind formulaic characters or seeing an ending coming a mile off, you'll get a few hours of harmless fun out of this one.
18. "The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo" by Amy Schumer
In my experience, celebrity autobiographies fall into two categories: the "these are all the outrageous things I've done because I'm so cool" category, and the "I know I'm rich but I'm also so relatable" category. This is the latter. I found the stories about her family to make for uncomfortable reading, and often wondered how her parents felt about having their most embarrassing moments shared with the world at large. Honestly, unless you're a big Amy fan, I'd probably give this one a miss.
19. "What Alice Forgot" by Liane Moriarty
This isn't her best offering (that's still "The Husband's Secret" as far as I'm concerned) and if this was the first book of hers I'd read, it would've been the last.
It tells the story of Alice who, after a bump on the head, forgets the previous decade of her life and has to re-adjust to her new situation and the fact that, frankly, she's a completely different person than she was in her 20s.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Liane Moriarty's books is that I never have any great sympathy for the protagonists. All of them have flaws, and Alice is no exception. It was clear throughout the book that whatever strengths and experience she gained in "the missing decade", she did so at great expense to her character. It was very hard to find her likeable, but maybe that's part of the charm. There's no shiny coating or glossy exterior, and even the inside is a bit shabby, but there's just something you can't quite put your finger on that makes you keep reading.
20. "Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery
It's like an extended version of "Pollyanna". (That's not a good thing.)
21. "If I Did It" by O.J. Simpson
True crime stories fascinate me, particularly when they're high profile. (Fun fact for you: the Charles Manson murders and, more specifically, one of the books written about them, "Helter Skelter", played a pivotal role in my decision to apply to law school. It's still one of my favourite books, and my husband bought me a special edition copy a few years ago.)
I'll admit I didn't really know all that much about the O.J. Simpson case before I read this, but was hooked from just a few lines in. Unusually, because the book was released by the family of one of the victims, the "confession" is followed by an incredibly lengthy justification for its publication. (They faced a huge backlash, having come out initially in vehement opposition to its publication, given that O.J. himself was due to profit from it.) I completely understand why they felt it was necessary but, if I were to give you one piece of advice, it would be to put the book down as soon as you get to the end of O.J.'s story. After all, if we're honest with ourselves, that's the only reason we're reading.
22. "The Run Of His Life: The People vs. O.J. Simpson" by Jeffrey Toobin
This is a detailed account of the "trial of the century" (that being LAST century, of course) which I found fascinating, but would have preferred if it had stuck to the facts. Instead, some of it seemed to be based on the author's personal opinion and perception (for example, about how the trial lawyers felt and what their thoughts were while questioning a witness).
Nonetheless, it provided a lot of interesting behind-the-scenes information. If you're curious about the case or you enjoy true crime stories, and can overlook the overly "reading-between-the-lines" style, it's worth a read. (And yes, I would recommend reading O.J.'s "confession" first.)
23. "And Then There Were None" by Agatha Christie
My first Agatha Christie novel. It tells the story of a group of strangers summoned to a remote island by an anonymous letter. There, they receive a chilling message that claims all of them have committed a crime they must atone for. When the first of them turns up dead, the rest race to uncover the killer before there are no survivors.
A decent read that kept me guessing right up until the end.
24. "Murder On The Orient Express" by Agatha Christie
When a passenger on a packed train turns up dead in the night, all on board become suspects. Legendary detective Monsieur Poirot is tasked with unmasking the killer but, upon questioning each individual, everyone seems to have a watertight alibi.
Personally, I didn't find this one quite as captivating as the previous one I read. Nonetheless, it's a classic murder mystery that will give your brain a good workout.
25. "Say Goodbye To Survival Mode" by Crystal Paine
I'd heard high praise indeed for this book so that's where my hopes were firmly planted. Alas, it let me down.
Crystal Paine is the blogger and brainchild behind MoneySavingMom.com which, essentially, became an overnight success during the recession. Whereas there she focuses on deals and coupons, in this book she shares her tips for organising and improving your life.
Despite being divided into distinct sections, I found the advice to be very scattered. She does try to keep things quite practical but, overall, I didn't really find anything new in here and it failed to light a fire under me.
26. "Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey
I hadn't read his previous one, "Financial Peace", before starting this but I'd definitely recommend doing so because it's referenced quite a bit in this book.
Now, I don't doubt for a second that Dave Ramsey is a money expert and that his advice is sound as a pound. His no-nonsense, practical approach is right up my street, and this book is full of good financial advice. However, not being American or familiar with their financial system or the stock market, I admit that some of the references were lost on me. Roth IRA? 401k? Haven't a notion. I guess I'll have to figure them out, though!
27. "Organizing Your Life" by Cyndy Aldred
This was one of the first library books I picked up after moving to the States. Sadly, it wasn't an auspicious start.
This is an "idiot's guide" to organizing. (That's not me being mean, it's in the "Idiot Guides" collection.) It goes room by room, suggesting clever decorative and storage solutions, sharing pictures, and even giving step-by-step instructions for DIY options, but it all felt a bit stale. Skip this one and try find something a bit more modern.
28. "Goodbye, Things" by Fumio Sasaki
An interesting account of the author's journey to (what could easily be considered) extreme minimalism. He references the KonMari Method in it, but I was most struck by how he said he eventually also started getting rid of things even though they brought him joy. He certainly makes a compelling case for minimalism.
Still, if you can only read one decluttering book, stick with Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up".
29. "Financial Peace" by Dave Ramsey
Personally, I found the previous one to be better, but that could well be because I read it first and so, by the time I got around to this one, none of the advice was new to me.
If you're in desperate need of a money makeover, and you haven't already read the other one, give it a go.
30. "Clean My Space" by Melissa Maker
Not the world's most fascinating book if you're just reading it straight through, but an excellent resource for cleaning your house.
31. "The Little Book of Hygge" by Meik Wiking
I needed a quick read and this fit the bill. It's the second book on hygge I've read (though I didn't even finish the first, which is why it hasn't appeared above) and, to be honest, probably the last. There are only so many times I can hear that candles and blankets make for a cosy environment.
32. "I Know How She Does It" by Laura Vanderkam
This book is based on the premise that, if you take an honest account of how much time you have available to you, you'll find you can actually "do it all". An intriguing theory and, while parts of it were interesting, I found it a slow and repetitive read overall.
33. "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed
I don't know what to say about this book except that it's wonderful. Telling the autobiographical story of a woman feeling a bit lost in the world after the death of her mother, she decides to try find herself by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. But this isn't the standard search for meaning in a man's world. Instead, it's a gripping, poignant, humorous, captivating depiction of what it's like for a woman to hike alone for weeks in the wilderness while grappling with her inner demons, open wounds, and budding drug addiction.
If you're looking for a seriously inspirational true story, and you appreciate the beauty of a well-written word, you won't go far wrong with "Wild". My second favourite book of the year.
34. "Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon
A very quick read (and I needed one to keep me on track to my goal of 50 books). If you're a creative type, you'll likely find something to spark your interest in here. For me, I didn't feel incredibly motivated or anything after reading it, but I did enjoy it and it was a nice reminder that hard work and perseverance usually pay off in the end.
35. "The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo
This was another quick and easy read. Cheesy as feck, but exactly what I needed at the time. Read it if you love the KonMari Method and don't take things too seriously. Or if you want a challenging colouring book! (This one's all in black and white.)
36. "Invent It Sell It Bank It" by Lori Greiner
One of a handful of books I really should have just stopped reading. Unless you're an entrepreneur who has an idea for a product and want to bring it to life, you won't find much in here to hold your interest. If you are that entrepreneur though, this is a goldmine of useful, practical information.
37. "The Dip" by Seth Godin
Another quick read. (Can you tell I was playing catch-up at this stage?) This one's about pushing through that wall you eventually hit when you're trying to do anything of value. You know, you start out strong but then it seems like every obstacle under the sun is thrown in your path. This discusses that all-important decision of whether it's time to quit, or dig deeper and keep pushing.
A decent, if not exactly riveting, read.
38. "The Four Doors" by Richard Paul Evans
The author focuses on what he feels are the four "doors" to a successful, meaningful life. Not a terrible book, but I wouldn't exactly say it was life-changing. It's littered with quotes and, while they're often good, every single one is taken from one of the author's other books. That made it feel a little self-indulgent and overly promotional, and I lost a lot of interest thereafter.
39. "Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life" by Shannon Ables
Oh, I had such high hopes for this one. Sadly, I was sorely disappointed. It talks about living a rich life on a small budget, and how to enjoy the simple pleasures in life, but this one suffers from the same problem as Crystal Paine's book – despite the fact that each chapter covers a certain topic, it still feels really scattered.
Parts of it were enjoyable but, overall, it left a lot to be desired.
40. "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline
It's about to be made into a Steven Spielberg movie, and contains copious references to the 80s, the decade I was born. They're the main reasons I started reading.
Set in the future, it tells the story of a young man who escapes from the misery of his own world by logging onto a virtual one. And he's not the only one – the Oasis is a refuge for all those escaping the ravaged world they live in. But when the creator of the Oasis dies, his Will reveals a secret – within the game he's hidden several clues. Whoever solves all of them will inherit the vast Oasis fortune, as well as control of the entire virtual world.
Needless to say, the race is on, but not everyone wants to play fair.
I have to say, I enjoyed it overall. It did get increasingly ridiculous as the story unfolded and, at 400 pages, it's certainly not what I would call a light read. Nonetheless, it held my attention and kept me turning pages and, really, what more could you want from a book?
41. "Bird By Bird" by Anne Lamott
If you have any interest in writing, whether it be professional or purely for pleasure, this is worth a read. As well as containing a wealth of practical advice, it's beautifully written and sprinkled with wit.
42. "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne
I first read this many, many moons ago and, in truth, disliked it and disagreed with the proposition that you can simply think things into existence. I picked it up again because so many people rave about it so I thought, given all the time that's passed, it was worth a second shot. It really wasn't.
While I agree that there is huge merit in thinking positive thoughts and having a generally optimistic outlook, I don't believe that that alone is going to produce results for you. In fairness, she does say that action needs to follow, but I still can't get on board with the notion that the universe will contrive to bring things to me if I want them badly enough, or that, if I think negative or doubtful thoughts, I've only myself to blame when bad things happen.
43. "The Magic" by Rhonda Byrne
The only reason I bothered reading this was because I'd checked it out of the library at the same time as "The Secret", so it was just sitting on my shelf.
This is a slightly more practical guide to bringing happiness into your life, focusing on gratitude. I'll be a little lenient on this one because I do believe that practising gratitude is a worthy endeavour with great benefits. I still don't think that good things will magically happen to you just because you take time to be thankful, but it's true that stopping to smell the roses will help foster a little more happiness for all the things you have in life.
44. "The Complete Book of Clean" by Toni Hammersley
This is Toni's second book (I've since picked up the first, "The Complete Book of Home Organization", but haven't had a chance to read it yet) and it covers everything from daily routines to seasonal cleaning, mostly going room by room.
As with "Clean My Space", cleaning books are hard ones to review because, really, they're more reference guides. Nonetheless, it contains a huge amount of helpful, practical advice, a lot of pretty pictures, and (the thing I probably like most about it), it focuses on natural cleaners, with plenty of DIY recipes included. The book also includes lots of checklists and, while I'd certainly consider them to be on the aspirational side, they're probably a helpful starting point when it comes to creating your own cleaning routine.
45. "Ikigai" by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles
I don't know what it is about the Japanese but they sure do seem to have their shit together. This book examines why people in certain parts of the world (most notably on the Japanese island of Okinawa) live well beyond the average life expectancy.
While the theories aren't exactly ground-breaking (we all know diet and exercise play a huge part in our longevity), it's an interesting look into the lives of people who live comfortably into triple digits, and a reminder that, sometimes, the simplest things can make the biggest difference, not just to the quality of our years but also the quantity.
46. "A Walk In The Woods" by Bill Bryson
Despite starting to lose focus a little while he was discussing historical facts (though, in fairness, the transatlantic flight I was on while reading it may have been more to blame), overall I found it an entertaining read. It follows the author's adventures as he hikes the Appalachian Trail with his overweight and under-prepared friend.
If I'm honest, I found Cheryl Strayed's hike along the Pacific Crest Trail in "Wild" to be better written, but the value in Bryson's book is in its comedic retelling.
47. "On Writing" by Stephen King
The first third of the book was not what I was expecting. Instead, it turned out to be an autobiographical account of "the making of a writer", i.e. King's childhood and younger years, and his eventual evolution into a successful, published author.
While it was unexpected, it was still interesting, and the remainder of the book focused on why I'd picked it up in the first place – practical tips for better writing. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking to improve their skills, regardless of whether you're a fan of King or not. (If not, maybe skip the first third and head straight for the sound advice.)
48. "INFJoe" by INFJoe (real name Aaron Caycedo-Kimura)
It's a brief synopsis of what it's like to be an introvert, largely in illustrated format, making it a very quick read.
49. "Introvert Doodles" by Maureen "Marzi" Wilson
Another illustrated book and, in my opinion, vastly superior to the above. Truthfully though, having followed the @introvertdoodles Instagram account for so long, I felt I'd already seen the vast majority of the book's content. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it and remain a fan of fellow introvert, Marzi.
50. "You Do You" by Sarah Knight
And so I finished out the year the same way I started – reading Sarah Knight. All things considered, I can't say I'm complaining.
This is her third book and, unlike its predecessors, I felt this one was a lot more anecdotal than prescriptive. That's not to say there aren't some gems in here (who doesn't want to learn the 5 ways not to be a psychopath), so if you feel your confidence and self-worth needs a bit of a boost, and you don't mind your advice sprinkled liberally with swearing (and I'm guessing you don't or you wouldn't be here), pick it up. If she doesn't sort you out, she'll at least make you laugh along the way.
The reason I set myself a reading resolution was that, despite being a bookworm, I felt in recent years that I'd got out of the habit of curling up with a good book. I let other, less enriching pursuits take over my time.
Now, after reading 50 books in 2017 (and 39 in 2016), I can confidently say I'm back on the reading bandwagon. The habit has well and truly been re-formed and, though I don't expect to read as many books in 2018, I'm still looking forward to all the wonderful literary adventures I'm about to embark on.
Now tell me...
What's your favourite book of all time?