2017 Reading Challenge / Top 5 – Bottom 5

woman wearing brown shirt carrying black leather bag on front of library books

Are you on Goodreads?

I deactivated my Facebook account in 2016, deciding instead to focus on more positive social media experiences. (If you’re on the fence, I totally recommend it.)

Enter Goodreads, a social media platform for readers. I can share reading lists with my friends, see what they’re reading, and rate titles on my shelves. One of the better features of the site is the Reading Challenge app, which allows you to set a goal for how many books you’d like to read and updates the list as you finish them.


My goal for 2017 was to read 60 books.

Side note:
I use the term “read” a little loosely since I include audiobooks. My coworker and I have mused that maybe we need a different term than “read” for an audiobook. What do you think about “experience”?

So, I’ve experienced 60 books this year. It’s been fun! I’m continually amazed at how I feel my heart and head open for (almost) every book I read. The best part of great Literature is that it tells the story of the human experience. None of us is really all that different than another. Isn’t that so beautiful?

Of these 60 books, there were a few I loved, a few I hated, and several I enjoy picking up every year (Gatsby, A Farewell to Arms, Mere Christianity, etc.). For posterity’s sake, I ranked my top five favorite and five least favorite books of the year.

I’ll start with the bad news and end with the good. Sound good? 😊

Bottom 5 

My 5 least favorite books this year
in no particular order

Straight up could not finish

The Butterfly Garden
by Dot Hutchison
This book is trash. I read about a third of it hoping it would turn into a crime thriller and it just got worse. Into the trash you go!




A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
I respect the opinions of many people who LOVE this book. I enjoyed the first five chapters or so, and then the story started dripping with sentimentality that I just couldn’t stomach any longer. I listened to 9 of the 27 hours when I decided that one-third of the book was really enough time to suffer.



Finished, but didn’t enjoy

All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven
I read this on the recommendation of several of my students. So many kids love this book, which saddens me. I have no warm place in my heart for a book whose protagonist commits suicide and whose author romanticizes it.



Three Wishes
by Liane Moriarty
The first Liane Moriarty book I read was Big Little Lies, which is fantastic, so I’m not sure any other can quite measure up. I do have The Husband’s Secret in my Audible queue, so we’ll see. Three Wishes is an early Moriarty and it includes many of the same themes Big Little Lies covers much more expertly.



Defending Jacob
by William Landay
Definitely a page-turner, but not at all redemptive or uplifting. The twist at the end felt cheap. Also, this guy has no idea how teens talk.




Top 5 

My 5 favorite books this year
(re-reads not allowed)
in no particular order

Girl Waits with Gun
by Amy Stewart
Constance Kopp is six feet tall and not to be trifled with. While in town with her sisters, a bad driver in his motorcar collides with her buggy. She tracks him down and demands repayment, not realizing he’s involved in organized crime. What ensues is an engaging historical (albeit fictionalized) account of the Kopp sisters, the local sheriff, and Constance’s steadfast desire to keep her home safe. Loved. It.


The Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood
Now one of my all-time favorites. The Handmaid’s Tale is harrowing, heartbreaking, and incredibly readable. I think audio’s the way to go on this one: Claire Danes narrates every sentence of Offred’s diary on the verge of tears. AND THE ENDING. We must discuss.



The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name
by Sally Lloyd-Jones
This is a tender and beautiful retelling of the Bible. Like the title suggests, these stories from the Old and New Testaments are retold to whisper Jesus’ life and purpose here on Earth. I think audio is the way to go here, too: David Suchet is lovely for children and adults alike.


The Serpent King
by Jeff Zentner 

Now here’s YA lit I can get behind. three teens come of age in a dead-end Tennessee town: A fashion blogger extraordinaire; a son of a controversial and recently-imprisoned pastor; and a fantasy fiction superfan who is okay with a quiet life and working at the local lumberyard. This book broke my heart and put it back together again. It’s about growing up and the beauty and pain along the way. READ IT NOW.


by Stephen King
I’m not sure I’d ever read Stephen King, but I am totally sold after experiencing 11/22/63. King apparently waited 30 years to write this novel, and his wait allowed him to give the story the justice it deserves. I loved every second of it. I laughed, I cried, I gasped, and I winced. King combines time travel, historical fiction, romance, and elements of horror that makes the 30+ hours of audio (and 850 pages) fly by. It was a great choice to end my 2017 Reading Challenge.


2017 Reading Challenge: Full List

Here’s the full list, in the order I read them, with the following distinctions:

Physical book 📖                   E-book 📱
Audible 🎧                               Re-read from a previous year ✌

  1. Boundaries by Henry Cloud & John Townsend 📖
  2. 1984 by George Orwell 🎧
  3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 🎧✌
  4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë 🎧✌
  5. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah 🎧
  6. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway 📖🎧✌
  7. The Awakening by Kate Chopin 📖
  8. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 🎧
  9. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain 📖
  10. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon 📖
  11. True Grit by Charles Portis 📖 🎧✌
  12. Tenth of December by George Saunders 📖🎧
  13. The Road by Cormac McCarthy 🎧✌
  14. The Secret History by Donna Tartt 🎧
  15. Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty📱🎧
  16. Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham (really regret not listening to this one) 📖
  17. In the Woods by Tana French📱🎧
  18. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 📖✌
  19. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner 📖
  20. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult 🎧
  21. News of the World by Paulette Jiles 🎧
  22. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood 🎧
  23. Wonder by R.J. Palacio 🎧
  24. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl 🎧✌
  25. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett 📖
  26. The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison 📱
  27. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley 📖
  28. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance 🎧
  29. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven 📖
  30. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson 🎧
  31. Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck🎧
  32. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware 📖
  33. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie 🎧
  34. H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald 🎧
  35. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. Queen J.K. Rowling) 📖
  36. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving 🎧
  37. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote 🎧
  38. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver 🎧✌
  39. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers 🎧
  40. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White 🎧✌
  41. Defending Jacob by William Landay 🎧
  42. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut 🎧✌
  43. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore 🎧
  44. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin 📱
  45. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier 🎧
  46. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech 🎧✌
  47. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie 🎧
  48. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones 🎧
  49. Legend by Marie Lu 📖
  50. Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder 🎧
  51. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green 📖
  52. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders 📖🎧
  53. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls 🎧✌
  54. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan 🎧
  55. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart 🎧
  56. The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero 🎧
  57. The Dry by Jane Harper 🎧
  58. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster 📱🎧
  59. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis 📖✌
  60. 11/22/63 by Stephen King 🎧

3 Replies to “2017 Reading Challenge / Top 5 – Bottom 5”

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