A book with flippin' pages

Arts desk writers Palak Jayswal and Jaycen Eggleston discuss their top 5 books of 2017.

Palak Jayswal

Reading has always been a hobby of mine. In fact, “hobby” seems like an unfair word to describe my love for books. I can give you a cliché line about how nice it is to immerse yourself in a world that isn’t your own, but reading is more to me. It’s about going through a new experience, making new friends, learning about a new person. 2017 was one hell of a year to say the least. Perhaps now more than ever creativity is vital. There were many notable novels released this past year, but these five in particular struck a chord with me.

5: “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green

John Green is back with another adolescent novel, but this one may be his most insightful yet. Green is known for his harrowing, perceptive accounts of being a teenager. In his newest work, he captures Ava, a 16-year-old who has obsessive-compulsive disorder. Green himself has OCD, which is why this novel is so genuine. Through Ava’s experiences, it’s strikingly clear that at the end of the day we are, faults and all, infallibly human — and Green shows just how important that is. I ranked this novel #5 because it can be hard to follow and slow at times, but still worth the read.

4: “When Dimple Met Rishi” by Sandhya Menon

This take on a modern Indian romance is rooted in century-old traditions. Dimple and Rishi play opposite the traditional roles of Indian children, but both are passionate in their own convictions. Dimple is stubborn, headstrong and focused whiled Rishi is romantic, sweet and respectful. The two contrast each other so vividly and it highlights the Indian culture in a brand new way. This book is ranked #4 because it’s a new era romance story, but it can be boring to those who aren’t interested in romance novels. Although I must say it’s not a typical romance in the slightest.

3: “All Grown Up” by Jami Attenberg

As Andrea approaches 40, everyone around her has it a bit more together than she does. They’re settled down with kids and jobs, whereas Andrea is just trying to survive. Jami Attenberg writes an achingly accurate tale about trying to find out who you are as an adult, which is a story college students will relate to more than they know. Andrea is a real-life example of a very important lesson — figuring your life out isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. This book is ranked #3 because it really struck me. Andrea shows that in order to be loved, you have to learn to love yourself first (faults and all).

2: “My Not So Perfect Life” by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella has a knack for making real-life issues more bearable with her keen sense of humor. Her newest work is a testament to that notion. The main character Katie reflects a lot about our society and the norms we hold ourselves to as society grows technologically. I ranked this book #2 because it was sort of a wake up call, reminding us that the idyllic lives we see on social media aren’t always the same in real life.

1: “Grace and the Fever” by Zan Romanoff

This book is for young adults, but a dream come true for any girl that has been infatuated with a boy band.  Although this book is an account inspired by a One Direction fan, it can be applied to anyone who has been part of a fandom. Unlike the other books on my list, this one is a bit more contemporary and not something everyone will necessarily be interested in. It portrays how immersive it is to be a fan, but most of all it shows that it’s okay to love someone or something — whether it’s a band, an actor or a book series. I ranked this book #1 because personally, this past year has taught me not to be ashamed of what I love and to embrace that as much as possible.

Jaycen Eggleston

Reading is one of the easiest pastimes to have because a book can be with you wherever you go and there isn’t a shortage of great stories. With more books coming out every year, no one will ever really run out of things to read and 2017 was a great year for quite a few genres — these five books were the best of the batch for me. 

5: “The Lying Game” by Ruth Ware

Four teenage girls made a game out of lying, but never thought their past would catch up to them. Even though it is steeped in intrigue with a slew of interesting and deep characters, I still had to mark “The Lying Game” as number five. Ware is an artist, but this story felt forced. She tells great stories and brings life to her characters and their surroundings, which is an amazing feat in a mystery/thriller book. It draws readers in and makes it possible to forget that as a reader you have more information than most of the characters. Like her other works, the ending was what made this one great for me because I didn’t expect it.

4: “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber

Scarlett and Tella have never left the tiny island where they were born, but have dreams of seeing the legendary Caraval performance. When it seems Scarlett has finally given up on her dream, the invitation comes but the game is darker than she expects. Rushing to save her sister before the performance is over and she loses her forever. Scarlett learns more about love, magic and herself along the way. This book is my number four because it took a while to get into, but when it started to rain, it poured. With twists, turns and tests, this felt a little like David Bowie’s “Labyrinth.”

3: “Hello, Sunshine” by Laura Dave

Sunshine Mackenize is a YouTube sensation until the day she gets hacked and her perfect life is destroyed. After losing everything, Sunshine is back in her hometown with her estranged sister learning how to build herself up again while looking for the person who took everything from her. This realistic mystery felt like a Hallmark movie, but it was a fun read and I liked the drama of it. A mystery without the gore and violence that also doesn’t revolve around budding romance is what makes “Hello, Sunshine” my number three.

2: “This is Just my Face: Try not to Stare” by Gabourey Sidibe

Gabourey Sidibe is now famous for playing the starring role in the movie “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.” This book takes us beyond what we see on screen into her personal life and how she came to be Precious. I ranked this number two because this book was full of funny, witty and blunt stories about where Sidibe came from, the way she looks and what being famous really entails for her. Her chapter on things she’d love to post to Twitter is hilarious while the things she says about her body and her life are deep and beautiful. Sidibe accomplished a great feat by writing a touching book that can still be put in the humor section of a bookstore.

1: “Strange the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor

Lazlo Strange is afraid the wrong dream chose him. As a junior librarian and war orphan he’s living a life of little excitement until he meets Godslayer. Opening up a world of questions, Lazlo’s adventure takes him across the world to find the lost city of Weep where he’ll not only find the answers to his questions but a series of dark mysteries. This book was an easy choice for the first slot on my top five for this year because Laini Taylor created an entire world and its people in the time it took her to start the process of tearing it all apart. She did all that and still created a sense of urgency and intrigue to make readers wonder how the destruction happened in the first place.

Jaycen Eggleston
Jaycen Eggleston is an English major who makes a mean macchiato and is interning at the Arts Desk.

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