2024 Reading Goals Check-In

Much like TBRs become graveyards of aspirations unless you actually make a point of reading the books on them, goals are also useless unless you follow up on them. Back in January I gave myself some reading goals; with the year half gone, how does my progress look?

1. At least 48 books
At the time of writing I am either on par or ahead of the game. It depends on whether you want to count different translations of a book as the same or different: I read La vengeance m’appartient in French, Swedish, and English.

2. At least 4 books in French
Three so far, by some miracle or other.

3. At least 25% of books in Swedish
Not a problem at all thanks to a strong start to the year.

4. At least 12 non-fiction books
Already ten at this point! Not sure how that happened but I’ll take it.

5. At least 12 books that have been in my library for over a year
This is where we start to fall behind, though only a bit. At the time of writing this number stands at five.

6. At least 10 books from my to-read list (as of January 1, 2024).
One of the few criticisms to be leveraged at Storygraph is that there doesn’t appear to be a “date added” function on the to-read section, meaning I have to rely on memory. I’m finding this tricky going; since this post has been a work in progress for a few weeks and I’ve come back to revise, I’ve found that I’m not sure what counts and what doesn’t. I’m going to be very conservative with this estimate and also note the titles here for my own reference, which at this point is six so far:

– Språkets myller

– The Dawn of Everything

– Mumbo Jumbo

– Refuse to Be Done

– Summer

– La vengeance m’appartient

7. At least half are by women or enby authors
Exactly on track, which is slightly disappointing since I assumed I would be ahead of the game.

8. At least 10% of books from Black authors
It’s impossible to fully evaluate success or failure on a percentage until the final count is established, of course. Assuming that my annual number should end up at “about five books,” then for halfway through the year I’m ahead of the game with four. The interviews with Samuel Delaney, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose in Flame Wars (“Black to the Future“) are worth noting as well, though I’m not going to try to pad out my numbers by equating one essay with a whole book.

9. A book from at least one new-to-me country (as of January 1, 2024)
At some point in the spring I got it into my head that my target was ten new-to-me countries per year, so I hustled a bit more than I would have otherwise and managed to meet and exceed this goal already! Countries in question: Senegal, Syria. Here’s the map so far:

Reading Goals for 2024

I’m already behind in my reading (result of reading several good books at once, not to mention a handful of magazines). Time for a filler post! Incidentally, I also realized that I’ve never really been explicit about what my reading goals are, so maybe it’s just as well I talk about them for once.


First and foremost is just the total number of books. I’ve settled on 48 books per year for a while now and it seems to be a good and reasonable goal for me. I end up hitting it pretty comfortably, with an early surplus some years and a mad last-minute holiday reading binge in others. It’s a number that ensures that I’m reading regularly, and regular consumption of books is really important for keeping my mood up—especially in the winter, when everything skews naturally towards depression and darkness.


I also try to make sure that a certain percentage (25%) of my reading is in Swedish. This figure got a bit gnarly once I decided to introduce French into the mix as well. Was it important for that 25% to be Swedish? Or was it enough to just be not English? I haven’t decided yet. But so far I’ve been pretty good about hitting that threshold. I think I’ve met it every year since I decided to start keeping track.

My French consumption, on the other hand, is dictated by a fixed number of books per year, mostly because I can’t read French as fluently. Do I meet this goal as consistently as with Swedish? Absolutely not! Out of the last four or five years, I only met it for the first time in 2023. Big ups to Marguerite Duras for that.


One of my earliest grown-up life book goals, in addition to working my way through the TIME Top 100 Novels of All Time list, was one non-fiction book a month. Novels are great, but there’s a particular itch that only non-fiction can scratch. I’ve stopped making a deliberate point of this target, but a cursory glance through my Storygraph statistics suggests that I accumulate at least twelve non-fiction books per year basically automatically at this point.

Beyond that, I don’t have any genre or topic matter goals. What I’ve tried to do recently is to lump books about roughly the same topic together concurrently, so for example as I’m re-reading my AP European History textbook, I dip out of chapters and into other books that examine the historical periods in question (The Dawn of EverythingCaliban and the Witch, A Lenape Among the Quakers). Reinforcing the names and events is good, and the switch in perspectives and shift in focus helps paint a more complete picture of the topic in question.

I’m also not counting specific study guides or resources that I read in order to achieve other goals, meaning that I don’t need to make it a goal to read books like Essential legal English in context : understanding the vocabulary of US law and government because they’ll get picked up along the way to other destinations.


Uh oh, identity politics! Whatever.

Unsurprisingly, back when the TIME Top 100 Novels list was my primary roadmap, my reading skewed really heavily towards men, and white men at that. Several years of participating in the Austin Feminist Sci Fi Book Club (RIP) means that now the gender split in my reading is pretty equitable. To some extent, I think that torch has been passed on to the literary magazine Karavan, as most of the books I have read so far based on reviews or interviews there have been by women. (Not all, but most.) At one point I had to make a deliberate point to reach gender parity in my reading, but it seems now that gender parity, like my non-fiction consumption, happens automatically.

The larger umbrella of queer authors also turns up a lot thanks to the Austin Feminist Sci Fi Book Club; however, that’s a tricky statistic to count because it relies on the author being out, and for a number of reasons authors might not want to be that public about their personal lives and information. I don’t think a fixed number is a good metric in this case, so the hazy concept of “awareness” will have to do.

Ethnicity and race is, if possible, stickier wicket, in part because of the overlap with geography. The two easiest filters I think about are 1) where authors are from, and 2) whether they’re from the dominant culture (class, ethnic, religious, racial, etc.) in that place. Again, hard to pin a number on this: is it perfectly logical and consistent for me, a white American, to use US census data to evaluate my reading because that’s the context of most of my upbringing and the source of my biases and errors in judgment? Or is it inappropriate to think about world population in terms of US categories and breakdowns?

However way you slice that, though, left unattended my reading list skews very heavily White and if there’s any active guiding principle to my reading at the moment, it’s that.

Location, location, location

The above identity discussion segues nicely into a slightly more concrete, quantifiable framework in consideration of filter number one: where are authors from? The pin-in-the-map model. Those pins would be pretty heavily concentrated in some parts of the world and few and far between in others. Once again Karavan to the rescue, with its focus on Latin American, African, and Asian literature in translation. Asymptote is also worth noting here; the problem is not the quality of their recommendations but my lack of follow-through on what I discover there. Now that reading for the Austin Feminist Sci Fi Book Club will naturally be winding down, it leaves room for me to fill my time with recommendations from various literary magazines. My long-term project? A pin in every country on the map. One new country annually seems like a start.


Another goal I’ve habitually set for myself is to read a particular number of books that I’ve owned for at least one year. This will never stem the flow of new books into my library, but without a concerted effort at releasing some back into the wild they will accumulate at a rather alarming pace. And there are good things in my library that deserve to be enjoyed! Treasures like vintage short stories collections from my Dede or one of the local thrift stores. Sometimes what you’re looking for is right in front of your face.

I used to set the goal at just one book, then increase it incrementally: two books, then three, then five, then eight… (Fibonacci numbers are fun). Now I can track this through challenges on Storygraph. Last year I hit my goal of twelve, and this year I’ll aspire for the same.

Similarly, I’ve tried to actually chip away at my “to-read” list instead of just using it as a catch-all for anything that sounds even remotely interesting. I balance this with periodically reviewing the list and removing anything that no longer interests me, but even so it’s at well over 500 books by this point. That’s ten years of reading for me, assuming I never read anything new. I read seven of those books in 2023; I’ll try for a nice round ten in 2024.


So what do my reading goals for 2024 actually look like? In a nutshell, with bullet points?

At least 48 books, of which:
at least 4 are in French, and
at least 25% are in Swedish
at least 12 are non-fiction
at least 12 have been in my library for over a year
at least 10 have come from my to-read list (as of January 1, 2024)
at least half are by women or enby authors
at least 10% are by Black authors
at least 1 new-to-me country (as of January 1, 2024)

I look forward to returning to this post in December and seeing how I did!

2023 Reading Wrap Up

Happy New Year! What did I read in 2023?

A screenshot from my Storygraph 2023 Wrap Up. I read 61 books this year, across 17,092. The first one was "L'elegance du herisson" and the last one was "Project Censored's State of the Free Press 2023."

I don’t bother reviewing the Project Censored collections here (though I recommend them on the whole, despite the over-the-top art). L’Élégance du hérisson feels like ages ago, maybe because the first time I read it was November 2022.

My reading mood graph for 2023. It starts out pretty dark and depressing from January through March, then lightens slightly for April through June, and then lightens further from July until the end of the year. Below the graph it reads: "You pondered thought-provoking themes, absorbed valuable insights, and dived into complex ideas."

I’m still not sure how it’s generating that commentary on my reading, with “thought-provoking themes” etc. Maybe it’s entirely random?

A line graph showing how many books and how many pages I read per month in 2023. Below that, a green progress bar reading 127% and some partying face emojis with the text "Congratulations on meeting your reading goal!" A bar graph showing the genres I read the most often in 2023. In descending order it's Classic (15) , Science Fiction (9), Philosophy (6), and then a tie for fourth between Short Stories and Literary with (4) each.

Genres are a bit fuzzy on Storygraph it seems.

My longest book was Philosophy in the Flesh (640 pages) and my shortest book was The Judgment and In The Penal Colony (55 pages). The average length of books I read for the year was 274 pages.

Philosophy in the Flesh is probably the 2023 MVP. The little Franz Kafka duology was a lovely gift from a friend, but two short stories don’t really warrant an entire blog post.

Bar graph showing the authors I read the most often in 2023. In descending order it's Marguerite Duras (5 books), Malka Ann Older (3 books), and Elmore Leonard (2 books). The average rating I awarded books was 3.6 stars out of 5.

Not pictured in that blue graph of authors is Pär Lagerkvist, who I read just as many times as Elmore Leonard.

Covers of the 5-star books I read in 2023. In roughly chronological order they are: Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber; Dvärgen by Pär Lagerkvist (and English translation by Alexandra Dick); Philosophy in the Flesh by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson; We Don't Know Ourselves by Fintan O'Toole; The Centenal Cycle (trilogy) by Malka Ann Older and We Have Always Lived in t he Castle by Shirley Jackson. A bar graph showing the ratings I awarded in 2023. Eight books received 2 stars, seventeen books received 3 stars, twenty-six books received 4 stars, and nine books (including one re-read) received 5 stars. February had the highest rating on average (4.4). March had the lowest (2.5). I read the most pages in August (2,359).

Was March the month I read Into the Drowning Deep? No! That was 2022. March was just a slow month with only two books: Terminal Boredom and Ixelles. And February performed so well thanks to double header of Dvärgen in Swedish as well as English, Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, and the nonfiction anthology Axplock ur idéhistorien II.

A comparison of the books I read with how other Storygraph users interacted with them. The most popular (in terms of being listed as "read" or "want to read") was Educated, by Tara Westover. A total of 194,758 users included this somewhere in Storygraph. The most obscure book I read this year was Great Tales of Fantasy and Imagination, anthologized by Philip Van Doren Stern. Only one other person has this in their shelves. The highest-rated book I read this year, according to Storygraph, was Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It has an average rating of 4.6 stars, I rated it 4.

In other words: Educated was the most often mentioned book on Storygraph that I read in 2023, while Great Tales of Fantasy and Imagination was the most obscure, and Braiding Sweetgrass was the most highly rated.

I read 38 new to me authors this year, including Carina Rydberg, E. C. Smith and Lena George. Ten books I read this year were part of a series. Nine of the books I read this year were re-reads.

Not much worth noting here except the shoutout to my actual real-life high school classmate Lena George. Much as I want all of my author friends to succeed, reviewing their novels is a bridge too far for me? Somehow? So no entry here. But you should go see if She’s Not Home sounds interesting. Or for the neurodivergent, her nonfiction writing at The ADHD Homestead (link is to my own personal Top Tier #Relateable entries) and collected in the book Order From Chaos might be really helpful.

I successfully completed one reading challenge. (I read twelve books that I already owned for more than a year.) Compared to 2022, I read 13% more books, but 5% fewer pages. Below this is a pie chart showing my most popular moods. The top three are "reflective," "mysterious," and "dark."

The reading challenge I completed was reading twelve books in 2023 that I already owned. Sometimes very loose definitions of “already” applied, but on the other hand I acquired books like Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin or Great Tales of Fantasy and Imagination in high school so statistically speaking it was a pretty deep cleanse.

I’ll be participating in the same challenge again in 2024, along with my usual reading goals (48 books, at least 4 books in French, at least 25% of my reading in Swedish, etc.).

Happy new year!

2022 Reading Wrap-Up

Last year I deleted my GoodReads account and signed up for StoryGraph. Between the awful GoodReads experience on mobile and sharing unnecessary  amounts of reading data with Amazon, I decided enough was enough.

I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have an alternative, though, because I like having an easy way to track my books. No laborious spreadsheets for me, thanks! And that alternative was StoryGraph, which proved not only to be an adequate GoodReads replacement but an actual improvement. In addition to a much smoother and functional interface on mobile (though there is a web version as well!), it tracks a greater variety of data and uses it to help you better understand your reader rather than to feed the Bezos beast. It also lets you play with that data in better detail. What better way to show that off than by sharing my 2022 Reading Wrap-Up from StoryGraph!

A screenshot from the StoryGraph website with reading statistics. Here it says that I read 53 books in 2022. My first book of the year was SPQR. My last book was Orlando.

A line graph for a full year. The line starts slightly below halfway in January, dips slightly until May, and then increases to slightly above halfway in December.

It’s unclear how they are categorizing “light” and “dark” books on the site, precisely. StoryGraph gives you the option of selecting “moods” for books as you add them, which I assume this graph is referring to. (“This would be good for someone in the mood for something…”) My guess is that moods like “tense” or “sad” count as dark, and that ones like “hopeful” or “adventurous” count as light, but that’s just hypothesizing. Apparently I was in a real bummer reading mood for the entire spring!

Another line graph comparing pages read and books read over 2022. At the bottom of the image are celebrating emojis and the text "Congratulations on meeting your reading goal!" Below that is green progress bar with the text 110%.

A bar graph showing my most-read genres. Science fiction: 12 books. Classics: 10 books. Literary: 9 books. Queer: 8 books. Contemporary: 5 books.

No surprise that science fiction tops the list. Austin Feminist Sci Fi Book Club keeping me on my toes!

The longest and shortest books I read this year. The longest was The Big Balloon (A Love Story) at 648 pages. The shortest was Uppläsningen at 47 pages. The average length of the books I read was 324 pages.

A bar graph showing the authors I read the most during the year. Muriel Barbery: 2. Stefan Zweig: 2. Marcel Pagnol: 2. My average rating for books 3.75/5 stars.


A small collage of book covers that I rated 5/5 stars during the year.

Ones that I discussed here were:

A bar graph showing my ratings breakdown. 0 stars: 1 book. 2 stars: 6 books. 3 stars: 10 books. 4 stars: 23 books. 5 stars: 13 books. My average rating 4.5 stars in March. I read the most pages (2,590) in December.

Sometimes numbers surprise you. Despite the 3.75 star average, I wasn’t expecting to see quite so many 4 star ratings in my stats (I promise I know how math works). My philosophy is that if your average rating over a whole year reaches or exceeds 4 out of 5 stars, you are either being overly generous with your opinions or insufficiently adventurous with your choices. Or you are possibly DNF-ing every single mediocre book you pick up, which is a choice I respect.

Another great thing about StoryGraph: it lets you give 0 star reviews, which is exactly what I gave Into the Drowning Deep.

The most shelved book (by other users) that I read was My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

StoryGraph also provides the “least shelved” book you read—the book you read that the fewest number of users have added to their own lists, whether they’ve read it or only intend to—and the “highest rated” book you read—the book you read that has the highest rating on the site. My “least shelved” book was a self-published novel that I panned (seems pointlessly cruel to share that) and my “highest rated” is niche and of no interest here, so I’m omitting those two.

I read 44 new to me authors this year, including Ryka Aoki, Lori Gottlieb, and Ingegerd Enström. Nine of the books I read were part of a series. I re-read 2 books.

Speaking of re-reads, I’ll take the opportunity to point out that adding re-reads of books in different languages (which was both of those re-reads) is much easier to do on StoryGraph than on GoodReads.

I finished all of the books I added this year. Compared to 2021, I read 5% fewer books but 21% more pages.

Pie charts of the moods of books I read during the year and their pace. I favored reflective, informative, and emotional books (42% total). They tended to be medium-paced (54%).

A list of the common components of my highest-rated books. Moods: mysterious, dark, challenging. Pace: slow. Book type: nonfiction. Genres: biography, feminism, reference. Story style: character-driven. Characters: flawed, diverse, well-developed.

So there you have it! Maybe that enticed you to give StoryGraph a shot? Nothing about this post is paid or sponsored, I just think the service is that cool and I want it to succeed wildly.

The Best Books of 2021, According to GoodReads

I could have sworn that I did one of these posts for 2019 and 2020, but apparently not? I usually enjoy looking at the “My Year in Books” feature on GoodReads, but they seem to have revamped it and made it uglier so I won’t even bother including it here.

During the fiery hellscape that was 2021, I read 59 books. The most popular book I read was The Art of War and the least popular was a re-read of a Swedish civics textbook that I can assure you is very rough going.  The five-star books of the year were:

I’m excluding from the list books in an extremely selective niche that are of huge personal importance to me and are not a “public” or “objectively” 5-star book the way that these are. (Would everyone benefit from reading The Human Condition? Yes. Would everyone benefit from reading a collection of ghost stories from my hometown? Probably not, no.) I’ve included links to blog posts for books that I wrote about during the year and will provide brief nutshell reviews of the remaining six books here.


The Deep

This was an Austin Feminist Sci-Fi Book Club pick. I didn’t care for my first tango with Solomon, An Unkindness of Ghosts, but The Deep was as polished and needle sharp as Unkindness should have been. Genre fiction doesn’t have to use fantastical conventions as a way to externalize complex psychological elements of our lives to justify its existence as a genre qua genre, but it certainly is uniquely equipped for doing so.

Agrippa (A Book of the Dead)

This one’s a bit of an easy title to knock out. It’s not really purely text, or available in any kind of dead tree form—my encounter with it was in a 15? 25? minute YouTube clip, captured footage of the original program being run in an emulator. At the end of the year (or the beginning of the next one), I don’t know that I can remember any concrete lines or images from Gibson’s poetry (I do recall the rather fuzzy, janky sound effect of a single gunshot), but I remember the overall effect and I appreciate the novel approach with form and media. It all felt inherently tied to the content rather than just a cheap gimmick.

A Memory Called Empire

Another Austin Feminist Sci-Fi Book Club pick, this time a more traditional galactic empire intrigues and high-tech tale. I think this one would pair really well with Ancillary Justice as two examinations of empire: one from relatively deep within the beating heart of empire and one from the outside.

Philosophy and Current Issues

Människans villkor

Who am I to review a Hannah Arendt book? Who is anyone to review a Hannah Arendt book? All I can say is: as the years go by, I get angrier and angrier over the fact that we never covered any of her work in my philosophy undergrad career.

Project Censored’s State of the Free Press

This collection is a nice round-up of important but overlooked journalism, sourced from university journalism programs and advised, filtered and vetted by a board of professional journalists. I consider this collection an essential part of my yearly reading.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

Another collection, this time of essays on policing and police violence. Sitting here doing my annual write up, I can remember that it was a compelling read full of new information but none of that new information specifically. This is not criticism of the collection, but rather a reflection of the fact that 1) I read it on Kindle, which doesn’t seem to ever stick in my memory, 2) much of it was (probably) grimmer information that I realized so I think my brain is kind of choosing to forget, and 3) 2021 was, as mentioned, a fiery hellscape, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I was experiencing some kind of stress-induced brain fog.

GoodReads Challenges

Screencap of a 2019 GoodReads challenge. One book behind, zero books read out of forty-eight.
So it begins.

I recognize that I should probably hate GoodReads. I’ll be the first to admit that its overbusy, hyperactive layout and tools are Not For Me. I don’t care what my friends are reading (sorry, y’all!) and I don’t need to see a constantly updated list of their ratings and reviews. I also don’t care about what the GoodReads/Amazon algorithms think I should read next, or what crappy and undeserving book has been voted the GoodReads Readers’ Choice. I care about keeping track of books I want to read (so easy to just send someone a link to my “to read” shelf!), keeping track of the books I have read, and motivating myself to actually get reading done—trying to keep pace with my GoodReads goal and the little thermometer on the homepage is the best way I’ve found to light a fire under my ass to actually finish books. I’ve been successful in all of them since I started officially keeping track, and I recall even using GoodReads to keep track of my annual book count as far back as 2009.

Which is why I’m posting about how it’s January 14 and I’m officially one book behind because I haven’t finished a single book out of the four I’m reading all at once.  To be fair, one of them is Ulysses, another is L’étranger in the original French, and the third is a Swedish textbook. The fourth is Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows, a book that’s been in my library since it was initially published but I seem really resistant to actually reading. Maybe I should grind that one out first, just to get something done.

My Favorite Books of 2018, According to GoodReads

Other years I’ve had to split my 5-star books into two posts, but this year I think they can comfortably be combined into one. Here were my reading highlights of 2018!

Cover of Reza Aslan's "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth"

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

My criterion for rating a nonfiction book 5 stars on GoodReads is that it has the potential for widespread appeal, or that it masterfully addresses a major social or everyday question. Reza Aslan has done an excellent job of outlining the historical context of early Christianity and Jesus Christ.

Cover of Rien où poser sa tête


Rien où poser sa tête

I stumbled across this thanks to the review of the English translation in Asymptote. Its chance rescue from obscurity mirrors, almost too well, Frenkel’s own brushes with death in Vichy France. Out of all my reading in 2018, this one was probably the most relevant to today’s events and politics.

Cover of Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf
Image courtesy Icon Books, Limited

Proust and the Squid

I waffled on whether to give Proust and the Squid 5 stars rather than 4, but decided in the end to be generous. While the story of the brain learns how to read isn’t the same urgent issue as Nazis or Christianity, it’s something almost all of us do and whose complexity we should all appreciate.

Cover of Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein
Sacred Economics

While Eisenstein might be more optimistic and naive than warranted, his explanation of economics, credit and inflation is the most cogent I’ve read and he dramatically shifted my attitude towards money and how I save and spend it. That’s what earned this book 5 stars from me, despite Eisenstein’s occasional lapse into conspiracy-adjacent tangents.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice

This one was a selection for Austin Feminist Sci-Fi Book Club, and it’s books like this that make me glad I’m allowed to lurk as a satellite member in Stockholm. Leckie’s world building and vision of technology is polished and nuanced. This is how space opera should be.

I mentioned before that 2018 was a weird year for my reading, and that’s reflected pretty clearly in the fact that I only gave one novel a 5-star rating. Historically, I’ve done much better than that. Thanks to studying for DipTrans and Kammarkollegiet, my way forward in nonfiction is pretty clear and structured at this point (though ironically none of those 5-star titles are related to translation!); my way forward in fiction is still grasping at random and hoping to find something good. All while trying to finish Ulysses, at that!

My Year in Books, 2018

This year was a weird year in books for me. It was the first year in almost a decade where I didn’t have a checklist of books I wanted to finish, so I was more adrift in my reading habits than usual. However, book clubs and the DipTrans recommended reading list provided some much needed structure, and they contributed a lot to my reading this year, in particular the Austin Feminist Sci-Fi Book Club.

I also want to document my favorite books of 2018, but this little widget is provides some interesting extraneous data not covered by a simple list of 5-star books. Not pictured in the screenshot above is my average rating for the year: 3.3. As it should be, statistically speaking.

My Favorite Novels of 2017, According to GoodReads

I’ve already tackled the best nonfiction I read in 2017. Now it’s time for the best novels.

A cover of John Okada's "No-No Boy," featuring the title in large red sans-serif text on top of a charcoal side portrait of a Japanese man facing right, eyes downward, against a light blue background.
Image courtesy University of Washington Press

No-No Boy, John Okada. I don’t know how I missed this novel until now. Okada deals with the unique struggles faced by Japanese-Americans in the post-war years, which coincide with the universal struggle of children to live up to their parents’ expectations—or escape their influence.

A cover of Eleanor Wasserberg's "Foxlowe," featuring a monochrome illustration of a house flanked by two leafless trees with a large orange sun (or full moon) in the background. Orange leaves surround the image, as if blown off the trees, and dark blue and black clouds frame the entire thing.
Image courtesy Fourth Estate

Foxlowe, Eleanor Wasserberg. Another reason I do this annual round-up is to make sure I didn’t miss cataloging any important reads on the blog and somehow I missed talking about Foxlowe! A review is forthcoming, but the short version is that Foxlowe documents the decline and fall of a commune (or cult?) in a rambling old house called Foxlowe, from the perspective of a young girl who grew up in it and then finally left. I’d like to thank Universe in Words for bringing this book to my attention, because I don’t think I would have heard about it otherwise.

Cover of Akwaeke Emezi's novel "Freshwater."
Image courtesy Groove Press.

Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi. For years, my reading has focused on classics I somehow missed or overlooked in my education, so I’ve been missing out on new releases for a while. Freshwater was the first bleeding-edge new release I’ve read in a long, long time, and it was worth it. A potent reminder that new classics are coming out every day.*

Cover of Meindert deJong's "The Wheel on the School" featuring a watercolor illustration by Maurice Sendak of five young boys and one girl in traditional Dutch clothing standing in front of a yellow wall, pointing and looking at a stork flying against a clear blue sky.
Image courtesy Harper Collins.

The Wheel on the School, Meindert DeJong. I haven’t reviewed this one here yet because I only read it on Christmas Eve. More specifically, I only re-read it on Christmas Eve. This is one of my favorite books from childhood, and it didn’t disappoint upon reading it again as an adult. (In fact, I’m sure I got much more out of it now than I ever did as a child.) What is, on the surface, a simple story about Dutch children who want storks to come back to their little fishing village of Shora is about so much more: about community and compassion and the importance of wondering and having dreams.

So that wraps up the best in reading for me in 2017. What were the best novels you read? I’d love to hear about them! Comment here or let me know on Twitter.

*indicates a book I received free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for a review; the review was already posted elsewhere

My Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2017, According to GoodReads

I enjoy GoodReads’s little “Your Year in Books” widget they roll out at the end of every year, but my favorite thing to look back on at the close of a year (or more accurately, the beginning of every new one) is how many 5-star books I read. That was only four in 2015In 2016, I handed out only five. I was a little luckier (or maybe a little more generous?) in 2017 and handed out eight. Seven if you don’t count a re-read of one of my favorite childhood books.

This year I’m splitting the nonfiction and the novels into two different posts. Part of it is because I have slightly different criteria for 5-star reviews in fiction and nonfiction, and part of it is because I read enough 5-star books this year that a single post dedicated to all of them would border on unwieldy. This first installment covers the best nonfiction I read in 2017.

Politics and Social Justice

The cover of Kate Moore's "Radium Girls: The Dark History of America's Shining Women"

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, Kate Moore. I had already known about the radium dial-painting disaster as a footnote in the history of radium and nuclear science, so I was glad to see the topic get its own full treatment. The radium dial companies’ continuing priority of profits over worker health, and their subsequent refusal to accept blame for so much suffering and to make it right, remains relevant today, nearly 100 years later. Moore’s research is exhaustive, which can sometimes make for overwhelming reading, but it all deserves to be chronicled.*

The cover of Sarah Kendzior's "The View from Flyover Country," featuring a view of the St. Louis Arch through a window.

The View From Flyover Country: Essays by Sarah Kendzior, Sarah Kendzior. I enjoy her writing for De Correspondent, so I bought an ecopy of this essay collection (predating the 2016 election) to have  as subway reading.


Black and white cover of May Sarton's "Journal of a Solitude," a shot of an empty desk light by a lamp from outside a window.
Image courtesy W. W. Norton & Company

Journal of a Solitude, May Sarton. Walden was one of my favorite books I read in high school, and one that deeply influenced me. With the account of Thoreau’s stay in the woods fresh in my mind, I picked up this up at a library sale years ago. But much as I wanted to read it, I somehow dropped off after a few pages every time I attempted until I read it during my trip to the US this summer. Maybe it was a question of needing enough time to get into it; maybe it was a question of age or life path. But I’m so glad I hung on to this book through countless library down sizes.


The cover of John Kerstetter's "Crossings," featuring bullets and scalpel in an "X" shape.
Image courtesy Crown Publishing, Inc.

Crossings: A Doctor-Solider’s Story, Jon Kerstetter. Kerstetter’s account of growing up on, then off, then on an Oneida reservation to become a doctor and then a medic in the US army until he suffered a stroke (an aspect of his life curiously absent from the subtitle or marketing text) is gripping and sometimes heart-rending reading.*

A cover of Ester Blenda Nrdström's "Amerikanskt," featuring a college of vintage photographs, including a young woman in denim overalls and a white bucket hat.
Image courtesy Bokhåll.

Amerikanskt, Ester Blenda Nordström. Much like America Day by Day, I found this account of Nordström’s travels throughout the United States in the 1920s fascinating, both as a snapshot of an America long gone by and also as the perspective of an outsider and first-time visitor.

Part 2, featuring the best novels I read last year, coming later this week!

*indicates ebook copies I received free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for a review; reviews were already posted elsewhere and I genuinely loved these books.