Where musically 2017 was full of ups and downs, my 2017 in books was happily much more straightforward. Numbers-wise, I read 115 books over the course of the year; 95 according to my goodreads challenge, and another 20 of work-related reading and rereads that I didn’t add. I also read significantly more non-fiction – probably the most I’ve read since my university days! Unsurprisingly given the year that 2017 was, this largely involved essay collections on feminism, race and class. I’ve listed my top 10 fiction and top 5 non-fiction below.
Moxie (Jennifer Matthieu): Read just after November’s Brand New bombshell, this was exactly what I needed. Feminsm, punk, zines, and real, rounded characters; this book left me feeling energised and ready to try out new music.
A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Becky Chambers): If Star Trek: Voyager and Firefly had a book child together, this would be the result. Brilliantly-written sci-fi, with feminist sensibilities and a brilliant ensemble cast. I didn’t want to leave the world Chambers created, and am looking forward to the other books in this series.
Troublemakers (Catherine Barter): The first of two Andersen Press titles to make my top 10, I was introduced to Troublemakers when Catherine Barter took part in a panel discussion at Queens Park Books. Set in an accurately-depicted London of today, Troublemakers is an excellent look at identity and politics,
Orangeboy (Patrice Lawrence): It was difficult to choose between this and Indigo Donut; both of Patrice Lawrence’s releases so far have included much of what I like best in YA; a realistically- depicted contemporary setting, real/flawed and engaging characters and big emotional punch at the end. This was a really pacy read that I devoured in a couple of sittings, with the bonus of an unprompted reply to my ‘#amreading’ photo tweet from the legend that is Malorie Blackman!
The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas): As good as everyone says it is, Angie Thomas’ debut The Hate U Give was a genuinely unputdownable character-driven novel that provided a brilliant insight into the types of experiences that inform the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It’s currently being made into a film, and I urge everyone to give time to this story in both formats.
The Book of Dust: I. La Belle Sauvage (Philip Pullman) : The much awaited and anticipated return to the world of His Dark Materials, it was an absolute joy to be reunited with this particular cast of favourites. Pullman is a truly brilliant writer, and I can’t wait for the next two installments.
Things a Bright Girl Can Do (Sally Nicholls): The second of the two Andersen Press titles, like Troublemakers this also featured a London setting, engaging characters, and more than a does of politics and feminism. The intertwining stories of three young women in the city during the suffrage movement, this was both enjoyable and educational, and stayed with me long after reading.
Piglettes (Clementine Beauvais): Yet another feminist YA novel, Clementine Beauvais debut for Pushkin Children’s was a genuinely uplifting story of three girls reclaiming the term used in derogatory fashion against them. An unlikely tale of bicycles, sausages, and French politics, this book made me laugh, cry, and want to give it all of my young relatives.
Release (Patrick Ness): The latest from Patrick Ness, Release was described by the author as Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway meets Judy Blume’s Forever. Whilst I struggled somewhat to connect with the supernatural storyline that intersected this book, the main narrative was more than enough to pitch this into my top 10. Patrick Ness writes beautifully and with real insight into the human condition, and as ever I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Unconventional (Maggie Harcourt): An unexpected surprise, this was the perfect read for my April holiday in the sun. A really sweet romance with characters I found myself rooting for – a real hug in book form.
Eat Sweat Play (Anna Kessel): Not just my non-fiction book of the year, but my overall book of the year. Quite often when reading I’ll fold over the corner of pages with lines that particularly resonate (shocking, I know) – I just wasn’t able to do that with this book, as there was something on every page that connected with me. It’s absolutely brilliant, and I’m sure that I’ll be buying copies of it for everyone I love over the next year!
Know Your Place (Various): A brilliant intersectional collection of experiences across the working class spectrum. Particularly important in the current climate where class schisms seem wider than ever.
The Importance of Music to Girls (Lavinia Greenlaw): That most joyous of book purchases; the unexpected discovery . More poetic memoir than standard biography, there are lots of dog-eared pages adorning my copy, but I think this line best sums up why I connected with this book, ‘ because the music was charged, and we were no more singular than iron fillings, no less easily moved as the music attracted and repelled, organised and disturbed and then let us into the night, clusters of emotion ready to dissolve into sleep.’
Girls Will Be Girls (Emer O’Toole): A feminist primer that looks at the performative nature of gender in a misogynist world. Lots of thoroughly insightful arguments that have stayed with me.
Nasty Women (Various): 404 Ink’s brilliantly successful crowdfunded collection of essays on what it means to be a woman today. Featuring essays from both widely known and now newly-known commentators, this book was a great insight into the experiences of other women, and another I’d recommend to everyone I know.