A Year in Books: 2017, vol. 1


With the end of the year upon us, the Attic editors have decided to review their year in reading through a series of questions posed by Literature Editor, Olivia Lindem. First up: Political Editor and avid reader Lauren Olmeda looks at her favorite books of the year. 

Question: What kind of reading defined your year?

Answer: Reading for me this year was based on all the books I wanted to “catch up on” – books I’d had on my shelf for months but couldn’t get to last year because I’d been busy writing my thesis. I read a lot for pleasure, steered myself away from academic reading, and really got lost in fiction.

Q: How many books are left in your to-be-read pile?

A: Despite what I just wrote as an answer to 1, I have so many books left to read. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni, Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifen and Gregory White Smith, and A Column of Fire by Ken Follett are all in my line of view as I type, begging for me to open them.

Q: What are your top five books of the year?

A: In no particular order: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, Swing Time by Zadie Smith, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, and My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.

Q: What – personally – is the most important book you read this year?

A: For me it’s a tie between The Namesake and Days Without End; I’d heard of the success both books had enjoyed but was struck at how challenging and poignant their plots were. Both kept me up late into the night.

Q: And in terms of public reach – politics, current events, topics, etc.?

A: My favourite pieces of the year are: Unlearning the Myth of American Innocence by Suzy Hansen, Brave Enough to be Angry by Lindy West, and I Don’t Know How to Explain to You That You Should Care About Other People by Kayla Chadwick. These pieces (all written by women) sum up perfectly what it felt like to be alive in the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency: hot, searing anger, motivation to do better, exhaustion and sadness.

Q: Did anything you read inspire you aesthetically?

A: Does Norse Mythology by Neil Geiman count? Because my aesthetic this year was certainly aiming for mythical warrior.

Q: Did anything keep you up reading until the early hours of the morning?

A: I have always been a huge fan of the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson and have been reluctant to pick up the newer books in the series by David Lagercrantz, who continued the series after Larsson’s death. But after reading many good reviews, I finally read The Girl in the Spider’s Web and was not disappointed, though I was tired for many mornings after staying up late to read it!

Q: How many books did you finish?

A: I’d say I read between 20 – 30, but I couldn’t say for sure. I must keep a list in 2018!

Q: Were there any books that you abandoned? If so, why?

A: Right now I’ve abandoned The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, but only because its summer setting is really interfering with wintertime for me. I’ll pick it back up in April or May.

Q: Did you reread any old favorites?

A: Other than browsing through my illustrated Harry Potter books I don’t think I reread anything this year; like I said before, I had a lot of new books to catch up on.

Q: Did you read anything outside of your preferred genre?

A: In all honesty I didn’t really, but that’s one of my resolutions for 2018. I want to read more classics, especially Russian classics.

Q: If you’re in the academic world, did you make time for leisure reading?  

A: This whole year was a leisure read for me, but I couldn’t always escape my field as Donald Trump tries to burn the world down. I found reading leisurely was the best escape method I could find.

Q: Did you read any books released in 2017? If not, are there any you want to read?

A: What Happened by Hillary Clinton and Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman are the only books actually published in 2017 that I read this year. There are probably more I can’t think of, and I am looking so, so forward to reading my (signed!) copy of Lincoln in the Bardo, one of the best-reviewed books of 2017.

Q: What book do you most want to recommend to people?

A: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry. The prose is so lyrical, the characters are unique, and the plot is truly moving.