I love making #MustRead lists, but I’ll be honest: that’s usually where it ends for me. If I manage to read three or four titles on the list, that’s a very successful reading experience for me. There’s something about putting a book on a list and deciding to read it that makes me lose interest in reading it. It starts to feel like an assignment, and I am allergic to all assigned reading–even the reading I assign to myself.
But this year, I discovered the key to #MustRead success: crowdsourcing! I didn’t consult my own shelves to create my #MustReadin2017 list: I consulted the other participants’ lists and selected one title from each list, keeping in mind the diversity reading goals that guide my reading life (diversity of voice and diversity of genre). The extra layer of community is making this reading challenge far more palatable to me, and I’ve surprised myself by completing FIVE books already and starting FIVE more.
The Inquisitor’s Tale had a couple of problematic points for me (mostly about the treatment of race and the occasional clunk of the sentence-level writing), but I loved how well it captured the spirit and feel of medieval literature. In Gidwitz’s hands, the complex structures and styles of medieval literature feel fresh, original, and capable of still speaking to us today. Thoroughly researched, cleverly told. Hatem Aly’s marginal sketches, which give the feel of an illuminated manuscript, elevate the whole project.
Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gift from the Sea was the one title I just wasn’t sure about on my list. I thought it would be dated, boring, with little to say to a modern audience. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. This book is going to end up as one of my favorite reads for 2017–and I liked it so well, I plan to reread it before the end of the year. Lindbergh writes beautifully, but the real draw here is the wisdom and thoughtful exploration of women’s lives. She is especially good at exploring the challenges of motherhood and work and how we find meaning and develop our identity through both.
Nikki Grimes’s Garvey’s Choice is a verse novel that hasn’t stuck with me. I liked it at the time, but three months after reading it, I can remember almost nothing about it. I’m not sure if that’s the book or me. I often have this issue with verse novels. Maybe I read them too quickly?
The Rain in Portugal is another book that may well end up on my list of favorite reads of 2017. I loved nearly every poem in Billy Collins’s latest collection. My only complaint was that I wanted it to be about five times longer! I allowed myself the treat of just 2-3 poems a day to make the reading experience last longer, but it still wasn’t enough.
Matt Phelan’s Snow White is a gorgeous graphic novel that adapts the Snow White fairy tale to a 1920s New York setting that feels like a natural fit for a retelling. I think Phelan continues to get better with every book.