Books of 2017, First Half

Jul 31, 2017

After feeling a lot of self-induced pressure last year, I decided to set a lower numbers goal this year. I committed to read 48 books, and at the end of June, I'd finished 27. I may have set it a little too low, but it's actually been quite nice to take a break from obsessing over numbers. That's not what reading should be about anyway, but I can't seem to help myself.

Here's a list of what I read during the first half of the year. All titles are linked to my reviews.

1. The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman, 8/10 (readaloud)
A stuck-up prince, two bad guys who get what they deserve, and a hero worth cheering for--definitely a readaloud winner.

2. Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus, 7/10 (readaloud)
If you liked The Great Mouse Detective when you were a kid, this original book series is worth checking out. We enjoyed this first installment and have the second one on our readaloud docket.

3. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, 7/10
The first half was an absolute slog, but in the end, I actually really enjoyed it. It definitely has some memorable, funny moments.

4. Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent, 10/10
Chock full of crazy, unbelievable birth stories. Exactly what I wanted it to be.

5. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, 8/10 (readaloud)
In which I discovered the sheer delight of E. Nesbit.

6. Cal and the Amazing Anti-Gravity Machine by Richard Hamilton, 5/10
Honestly, I could have passed on this one, but I would happily recommend it to kids without reservation.

7. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, 6/10
A really inspiring story about the uphill battle of getting out of a destructive family cycle, but be forewarned: there was so. much. swearing.  

8. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, 8/10 (audio)
Out of the WWII books I've read in the last couple of years, this one is my favorite. Plus, I love the title.

9. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, 3/10 (audio)
I agree with people when they say that this is an important read, but if I'm being perfectly honest, it was a bit too bitter and accusatory for me.

10. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, 8/10
Can a book be tightly woven and compelling while still being a little too long? Because that's how I would sum up this book.

11. Ereth's Birthday by Avi, 6/10 (readaloud)
I think I like prickly Ereth more as a side character than the main protagonist. His complaining and "swearing" is funny in small doses, obnoxious in large.

12. The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, 9/10 (readaloud)
I think I could read the chapters about the mumps and the near-suicide over and over again and not get tired of them.

13. The Gift of Giving Life by Felice Austin and others, 10/10
Unlike any other birth book I've ever read, it transformed the way I think about birth and motherhood.

14. More Adventures of the Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, 7/10 (readaloud)
More antics, more conniving, more laughs.

15. The Distance Between Us by Kasie West, 6/10
A rather silly, totally unbelievable romance, but then, it's YA, so what was I expecting?

16. Me and My Little Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, 8/10 (readaloud)
Apparently, we were on a Great Brain kick. This one was more intense and frightening than I was expecting, but it had a slam bang ending.

17. Ten Miles Past Normal by Francis O'Roark Dowell, 6/10
Totally lukewarm about this one. But it is clean, so there's that.

18. The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt, 7/10 (readaloud)
If you want a book about the most unorthodox of nannies, this one's for you.

19. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, 9/10 (audio)
For a girl who normally doesn't love fantasy, I was a major fan of this one.

20. "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" by Lemony Snicket, 7/10
I spent a good portion of the book feeling moderately confused. It is a prequel of sorts to A Series of Unfortunate Events, so it might have helped if I'd read that first?

21. A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett, 7/10
The memoir of a woman who was kidnapped and held captive in Somalia for fifteen months. Well told, but it's not for the faint of heart.

22. Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary, 6/10
To tell you the truth, it seemed a little underdeveloped to be written by Beverly Cleary.

23. Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, 10/10
The format is unusual, the content is poignant, the takeaway is unforgettable.

24. Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff, 6/10 (readaloud)
My boys absolutely LOVED this one, but the writing felt a little tedious to me (at least, while reading aloud).

25. Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle, 7/10
I started this series because I really want to get to the fourth book (A Ring of Endless Light) which was recommended in an episode of What Should I Read Next.

26. Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, 7/10
My kids have read this series over and over this summer. I had to see what all the fuss was about.

27. Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, 8/10
Top-notch historical fiction about Thomas Jefferson's slave children.

I'd love to hear about some of your most memorable reads from the first half of the year!


  1. I love these update posts!

    I'm going to have to look into The Railway Children. I've heard a lot of good things about it, and I'm running out of kids books to try.

    It's going to be really hard to choose my top ten this year, but three I think will be on it are Beartown, The Poisonwood Bible, and West with the Night.

    1. I hope you love E. Nesbit. I can't wait to read more of her books!

      I'm hoping to convince my book club to trade out My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry (our pick for September) for Beartown because I've heard such amazing things about it (including from you!).

  2. love this recap. i felt the same way as you did regarding many of the books but particularly "between the world and me" and "Hillbilly Elegy." they were so hyped up and they just didn't do it for me. it's almost as though i feel guilty or like i totally missed something! :)
    - meegan

    1. I know what you mean! I felt hesitant to even review them because I didn't love them as much as everyone else seemed to.

  3. A book I read that I really liked this year was "A Gentleman in Moscow" which is a feel-good story set in Russia after the revolution. This aristocrat is sentenced to life imprisonment in a fancy hotel, and how the decades pass.

    1. I just finished Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, and so now I'm dying to read A Gentleman in Moscow. Glad to hear you liked it!


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