2017 was a tumultuous year for politics, and when I was looking back at the books I read to determine my favorites of the year, I realized my reading list truly reflected that. I read mostly books written by women, people of color, and transgender people, and I’m better for it. Below is the list of books that really stood out for me in a year where everything fell apart.
In this powerful collection of poetry, Lovelace explores herself and grief, power, love, loss, surviving, and everything in between. It’s about how it’s okay to not be okay, and about how we all have times where we’re the damsel in distress, and when we are, it’s up to us to save ourselves. For a 30 minute read, this collection truly packs a punch.
If you haven’t read the Black Panther comic run written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, do yourself a favor and pick it up. This is a spin-off focusing on the Dora Milaje, the all-woman force who guard T’Challa, the Black Panther and ruler of Wakanda. A comic with a cast who are all people of color, majority women? Yes, please.
This book was huge when it came out in 2015, and I thought it was about time to read it. It helped me to understand the American black male experience so much more, and it gave me insights into an experience wholly different from mine. I recommend reading it alongside Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail for a powerful punch in the gut.
This comic anthology honoring and benefiting the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting made me laugh, cry, and know that I’m not alone. One page will rip your heart out, and the next will put you back together again. This collection will take you through the ringer, and in the end, give you hope.
I was lucky enough to be able to interview Angie Thomas on my podcast right before this book blew up, and she was absolutely amazing. This book has spent 46 weeks on the New York Times best seller list, and for good reason. It gave me a HUGE dose of black life, taught me what it means to be an activist, and gave me hope that the next generation will do so much better.
This is another older book that I read for the first time this year, and it’s still extremely relevant. Henríquez examines immigrant life through the experiences of the people living in an apartment complex in the northeast. This book gave me a better understanding of what it might be like to struggle as an immigrant and what it truly means to be American.
This is the final book in the Broken Earth trilogy, which is one of my favorite series of all time. Jemisin is a master world builder, and the social justice overtones of this story are undeniable. The entire trilogy kept me engaged and wanting to spend a lot more time in Jemisin’s world.
Reynolds writes this story in verse, which makes it a very quick read. The premise is what originally attracted me: the entire book takes place over 60 seconds in an elevator, where a teenage boy is on his way to avenge his brother and is visited by ghosts of his past. This intriguing book will make you think and question your own decisions while giving you a big dose of reality.
Of course, I couldn’t get through this list without a Gaiman book 🙂 Norse Mythology is Grimm’s Fairy Tales for fans of Thor, Loki, and Odin. The short story format makes it an easy book to put down and pick right back up again, and the familiarity of the Norse gods in mainstream pop culture today makes it relatable. This is a fun romp with some of your favorite characters, while at the same time giving you a dose of culture.
I saved the best for last. All the Birds in the Sky is easily my favorite book that I read last year. It weaves together the stories of two people who are friends as children and meet again as adults, one on the side of science and one on the side of magic. There are more life lessons and quotes I pulled from this book than from any other, and although it’s short, it’s one that packs so much of a punch that every so often, you’ll have to put it down to ponder life. If you read no other book on this list, you must read this one. And the most exciting part? It’s a debut novel. I hope to see so much more from Anders!