Best Books of 2017

I started doing an annual round-up of the books I loved a couple of years back, but for one reason or another I didn’t end up sharing my picks for 2017. Seeing as it’s almost the end of 2018, I thought I’d share my thoughts on some of my favorite books from the titles I read last year…it’s about time, right?

Fiction

It’s a total coincidence, but I still love the fact that all of my favorite books that I read last year were written by women. Some are old, some are new, but all of them were really, really good:

Even though Bel Canto is about a diplomatic hostage situation, author Ann Patchett manages to take what would be normally be a horrifying, violent situation and transforms it into a moving story about the things that bring us together as humans, even when we’re divided by political or social borders.

King Lear is probably my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, and I love the fact that author Jane Smiley chose to reinterpret it through the eyes of one of Lear’s daughters in her novel, A Thousand Acres, which I read last fall. (And no, it’s not the one he likes.)

Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky might be slow for some, but keep in mind this is an unfinished work- there may still be some kinks in the story, but you can still appreciate this collection of novellas for its beautiful prose.

The main character in Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics is brainy, verbose, and maybe just a little bit obnoxious, but I ended up falling in love with her (and the book’s cast of quirky characters) anyway. (It’s another one I read last fall.)

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker is like a perfect fairytale, but for adults. Even if you’re not into fantasy, I still insist you read this. I’m not even kidding when I say I couldn’t put it down. (It first appeared on my bookshelf here.)

Although English author Kate Atkinson is quite prolific, I’ve never gotten around to reading one of her books until I picked up Life After Life (another recommendation from the waiting room). I wasn’t disappointed- this tale of a perpetually reincarnating girl kind of blew my mind. (What was disappointing? Its follow-up, A God in Ruins, which I read this year. In my opinion, it didn’t even come close to the awesomeness that is this book.)

Non-Fiction

I’ll read just about anything, and I would say about one-third of what I read is non-fiction. No topic is off-limits; I like to keep an open mind. You can get me interested in just about anything, as evidenced below.

When he’s not exploring the mysteries of Germany’s Black Forest, author and forester Peter Wohlleben is writing about them. It may seem like the most boring topic in the world, but don’t be fooled: The Hidden Life of Trees is actually full of fascinating discoveries. (For example, did you know trees can communicate with each other? Yeah, my brain exploded too.)

Everyone knows that reading and writing go hand-in-hand, but Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose gave me a whole new perspective on the way that I write, as well as the way I read. It’s a must if you’re a self-confessed bookworm like me.

I wrote about the mini-controversy presented by the hygge trend a while back, but despite its ties to commercialism I still really enjoyed The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. I’d even say that it’s useful- it’s basically a manual on how to slow things down for someone who has trouble slowing down.

What are some of the books you enjoyed last year? Did you read any of the titles I talked about here? Email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com with your top picks, or leave your recommendations in the comments below.

Psst- wanna see which other books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.

 

Book Review: Meik Wiking on Getting Hygge with It

kbb-little-book-of-hygge

I love the fact that one of today’s buzzwords, hygge, is not only Danish, but also that it has no direct English translation (kind of like the Swedish term fika, which I attempt to explain here). At best, we define it as the “art of being cosy”.

In fact, the Swedes have a similar word, lagom, which is closely (but not directly) related to hygge and it means roughly “just right”. The literal translation doesn’t really do the concept justice- it’s a word that’s often used to illustrate the Swedish way of life as well. It’s the idea of getting just enough of what you need in order to achieve satisfaction in life. It’s not a new idea: the mantra of less-is-more is a common thread across Scandinavian cultures and can be found outside of Europe as well. (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, anyone?)

Considering we live in a culture of consumerism and abundance, it makes sense that North American society would latch onto a concept like hygge. We spend so much time making sure our professional lives run like well-oiled machines that we’ve lost the art of relaxation.

It’s no wonder then that how-to-hygge guides such as Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge are popping up everywhere. We don’t know how to be cosy, and we need someone to show us the way.

Unfortunately, this new interest in making your life more hyggeligt (Danish for hygge-ish) is also a powerful way to tap into consumer trends. Someone sent me this article recently about the dark side of hygge, and how this trend has generated tons of new products and marketing campaigns designed to instill a fear of not being hygge enough- unless you have the right socks, blankets, candles, etc.

It made me hesitate when wanting to write about The Little Book of Hygge, which is too bad, because it’s one of those fabulous books that not only makes an for an interesting read, it also looks great on a coffee table. In fact, it’s one of those that I would revisit again and again, because it reads more like a celebration of the Danish culture and sensibility than it does an instruction manual.

For those who want to take it as such, however, may I direct you to my favorite chapter on achieving hygge on the cheap, which proves the concept is much more about creating an environment than it is buying one.

Hygge isn’t sold in a store. It can’t be achieved by buying the right socks, investing in nicer linen, or by reading any book about the subject that you can get your hands on (although I highly recommend The Little Book of Hygge).

Instead, if I’ve got it right, hygge is about finding the place within yourself where you can be at your most relaxed and natural. Surrounding yourself with the people and things that give you the most pleasure and joy is merely a conduit for getting there.

So go ahead and buy those socks if they make you feel freaking amazing. I think that’s just lagom.

KBwB-BFlower-50

Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.