Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2017

Year End Badass Book Report

Man, 2017.  That was a RIDE.  Kind of crazy it’s over.  But one good thing we get out of it is another of my semi-famous year end round up articles.

My book/movie logs have sort of gone through an upheaval the last two years. Back in 2008-2009ish I first put them up on Google Spreadsheet. Then, in 2016, I converted over to an online database tool called Airtable. I *really* liked the features and functionality of Airtable plus their iOS app was pretty slick.  However, I found out in early 2017 that the free version of Airtable only holds so many rows of data and that I had just busted up against the ceiling with both of my movie/book log databases.  If I wanted more, I’d have to pay.  Not willing to do that for these logs I once again searched for a replacement and wound up taking another look at Google Spreadsheet.  I decided to see if I could mimic some of the Airtable functionality in Google.  I was partially successful.  Through some fancy custom cell formatting, template sheet data validation and a little bit of script writing I was able to punch up the usefulness of my original Google Spreadsheets logs.  so I created a brand new spreadsheet, called it Book Log v2 and reimported all my data.  Now I have a visually nice representation of the books I read throughout the year including some cell highlighting for the current year and my rating system.  Here’s a quick look at the Book Log v2 in Google.

Book Log v2

All of this maneuvering and formatting is to make articles like this year end list easier to do.  So, let’s get on with it.

The rules, this list contains 5 books and 5-ish comics that I read for the first time in 2017.  No re-reads.  That particular rule really hampered the amount of books I could pick from because I did a lot of re-reads this year.  I’m re-reading the Artemis Fowl series and I did a few Star Wars re-reads this year so my “new to me” books in 2017 were much lower than usual.  But the comics were *also* hard to pick because I read a ton of them this year and there were some stellar entries.  So let’s see what I decide.  I don’t even know myself as I’m typing this.

Books


The Reckoners Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson – I picked up the first two books of this series on a lark in an Amazon sale for super cheap. I was aware of the author having already read one of his other more famous works, Mistborn, which made this list back in 2015. These books sounded interesting, sort of a dystopian future involving super heroes.  Several years before the books begin, a red sun called Calamity appears in the sky and causes certain people to gain powers.  These people are called Epics.  There are different levels of Epics based on the strength of their power profile.  Unfortunately, when someone gains powers and they start to use them, they change.  They become meaner.  More vain.  Paranoid.  It causes the Epics to essentially take over the world and create little fiefdoms in the larger cities.  The books follow a small resistance group called The Reckoners that work behind the scenes to undermine and even kill the worst of the Epics.
So I read the first two books, then there was a short story Sanderson wrote set in this world called Mitosis that I read, and I finally picked up the third and final book in the series and finished it all this year.  One of Sanderson’s strengths is world building.  He creates these super interesting worlds that work like our world but are different in many interesting ways.  Mistborn was the same way.  Just watching the mechanics of these books’ worlds happen is fascinating and he builds interesting characters in both regular humans and Epics.  So, this series is a winner.  Definitely give it a shot.


George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger – I love reading hyper focused history books involving little known tidbits of US history, especially in the revolutionary war period.  I know the Culper Ring was a hot topic for a while leading to this book, a TV show, and also a fictional thriller series by Brad Meltzer which all revolve around the secretive spy organization (side note: I’ve read that fictional thriller, it’s called Inner Circle and it’s pretty good, if a bit long).  This book is a pretty great condensed history of the Revolutionary War that mostly focuses on the real life exploits of Washington’s Culper Spy Ring and it reveals who all was in the ring and what they risked and sacrificed to be a spy during the Revolutionary War.  It’s totally engaging and I really loved it.  I’m now very interested in reading more of Kilmeade/Yaeger’s history books.  The next book involves Thomas Jefferson and Tripoli Pirates.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling – I decided I wanted to read this book but I also realized it had been a few years since I’d read the original series in full, so I decided to do a re-read of the Harry Potter series first.  I started Sorcerer’s Stone on Dec 14, 2015 and finished Deathly Hallows on Dec 29, 2016.  I borrowed a copy of this book from a friend and with much trepidation I began to read it this past summer (I had no idea how this was going to come off).  I shouldn’t have worried.  It’s delightful.  Almost a celebration of the entire Harry Potter series.  It sort of Back to the Future II‘s the story of Harry Potter.  The story takes place years later.  It involves our heroes’ children and what they deal with having such famous parents.  We get kids that don’t fit in and fall in with friends other people think they shouldn’t have due mainly to parents’ old rivalries.  There are time turners and visits to events from the original books, but now we see them from another angle.  I haven’t gone out to see what the reviews on this are but I could see people possibly not being happy because there’s a lot of retread over the original book stories.  Maybe even a bit of fan pandering.  But honestly, that’s why I loved it.  The characterizations were spot on.  The events were fun and I felt “whisked away” into whatever adventures the book took me.  It was a surprise how much I liked it.  I wasn’t originally going to buy this book, but I liked it so much I wound up buying the paperback at Sam’s to put on my shelf right next to Deathly Hallows.  As good as the original series? No.  But it’s a fun revisit of these characters and a world I was happy to jump right back into.


Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – I read and reviewed this back in February 2017 for my ongoing “Oz Reviews” that I do here from time to time.  It’s simultaneously a reinvention of Oz and a semi-sequel to the 1939 Oz film.  It’s kind of hard to describe.  I thought I may not like it due to how it may or may not reinvent Oz, but in actuality I quite liked the book.  It uses familiar Oz iconography and builds a world around it that seems both different and the same.  It’s new, but it’s familiar.  I mentioned before how good Brandon Sanderson is at world building in his books.  Paige does an admirable job world building in this series as well.  The sheer number of Oz deep cuts that show up are impressive between characters, objects and events that are mentioned.  And the story around it is interesting.  I’ve since read three of the prequel novellas as well as the sequel, The Wicked Will Rise.  I plan on continuing the series.


Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn – I’m glad I could squeeze a Star Wars book in the list this year.  That’s becoming harder to do, honestly.  This book gets in for several reasons, mainly because it is a really good book.  But I may be biased in the opinion because I’m such a huge fan of Zahn as a Star Wars writer and I’m such a huge fan of his Thrawn character throughout his books (there are about 7 Legends books featuring Grand Admiral Thrawn that I reread back in 2011).  This is the attempt to bring Thrawn fully into the “new canon” of Star Wars.  It’s a good book, Thrawn is a good character, and Zahn hasn’t missed a step writing him.  It’s good enough that we are getting a sequel to it in 2018.

Those are my five books.  Let’s move on to comics…

Comics


Thor by Jason Aaron – This one is going to be a cheat because I can’t pick just one. Last year I put Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder series on this list. It’s a great series and it introduced me to Jason Aaron as a writer and made me a fan of Thor of which I had not been previously.  God of Thunder ended with issue #25.  Then Thor became unworthy and could no longer wield Mjolnir.  Someone else picked up the hammer and became the new Thor.  So starts the 12 issue Thor: Goddess of Thunder series.  And it’s FANTASTIC.  While the series revolves around the mystery of the “new” Thor, we don’t lose the old one.  He yields his name to the newcomer but takes the name Odinson for his own and fights right along side her.  And he’s AWESOME without the shackles of being “Thor”.  Aaron can really make the Thor mythos fun.  I tried to read Thor back in the day and I just couldn’t get into it.  But the way Aaron writes the dialogue and portrays the characters just *nails* it for me.  Aaron has become probably my favorite comic writer these last few years and if his name is on a Thor comic, I’m reading it.  Actually, if his name is on almost *any* comic, I’ll probably read it.


Infamous Iron Man by Brian Michael Bendis – Essentially what drew me to this book was the premise; Tony Stark is missing and presumed dead. Doctor Doom, wanting to atone for all the evil sh*t he’s done in his career becomes Iron Man.  And this book delivers everything I wanted it to.  Doom is 100% Doom.  Everyone is freaking out because they don’t know how to handle Doom as a hero.  It’s just a fun premise with great writing and actually really good art by Alex Maleev.


Black Widow by Mark Waid/Chris Samnee – If Jason Aaron is my new *current* favorite writer, Mark Waid has consistently been one of my favorite writers since I first read him back in the 90s with The Flash and Kingdom Come.  For the most part, if I hear Mark Waid is involved with a comic, I immediately become interested.  So it went with this Black Widow comic.  I waited until all 12 issues were collected and I dove in and I loved it every bit as much as I hoped I would.  From the very first page this book is action packed, quick and relentless.  It also made me a little mad because reading this you could see how great a Scarlett Johannson Black Widow movie could have been.  Honestly, that could still happen, but it doesn’t sound like Marvel is interested.  Read this. I am now immediately interested in Waid/Samnee’s earlier collaboration on Daredevil.


Vision by Tom King – This 12 issue series was a complete surprise to me.  I read it on a lark on Marvel Unlimited and was blown away.  This comic was the reason I started reading Batman Rebirth because it’s also written by Tom King.  It’s the reason I’m also reading the current Mister Miracle title.  This Vision series is so good and it’s a bit haunting.  The story reminds me a bit of American Beauty, but with super powerful androids.  Okay, now that I typed that, it sounds weird, but it’s a good thing.  I promise.


I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young – I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this comic on the list before which surprises me because I *love* it.  Six year old Gertrude is whisked away to Fairyland to complete a quest and return home a better child for it.  However, something goes wrong, and Gertrude becomes trapped in Fairyland for the next 30 years.  Now she’s a pissed off, deranged, mother fluffer still trapped in a six year old’s body trying to complete her quest and finally get home without murdering the entire fairy population.  It’s bloody, it’s irreverent and it’s hilarious.

Honorable Mentions

As I usually do…


Star Wars: Doctor Aphra – I’ve been loving the Star Wars comics lately.  My boy Jason Aaron *was* writing the Star Wars ongoing comic (he recently handed it off) and Kieron Gillen was writing the Darth Vader ongoing comic (he also recently handed those duties off).  Gillen, however, started writing the Doctor Aphra ongoing comic based on a new character he created for the Darth Vader title.  I wasn’t actually going to read it but I wanted to read the Screaming Citadel story arc and the Aphra vol 1 trade precedes that arc.  So I gave it a shot and I really enjoyed it.  Much more than I expected.  I still have issues with the “murder bots” she hangs around with, but there’s a lot of really fun story in this trade.  I’ll also recommend Screaming Citadel, but it ultimately wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.  But seeing Luke and Aphra interact was pretty fun.


Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron – This is not normally a book I’d read but, again, Jason Aaron.  This is a brutal look at a small town Texas high school football coach and the iron grip he has over the small town.  And what happens when someone comes in to threaten that iron grip.  It’s an amazingly detailed story.  Very violent and dark.  Like Friday Night Lights or Varsity Blues cranked up to 11 and directed by Quentin Tarantino.

Whew.  So for me, that is the best of the best of the year as far as what I read.  Lots of good stuff there, I urge you to check it out.  Stay tuned, I’ll have my movie list coming up at some point soon.

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One Response to “Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2017”

  1. Teresa Hazel Says:

    I’ve had Dorothy Must Die on my to-read list since you mentioned it, and I finally got around to reading it last week. So good! I can’t wait to get the next book & keep going. I was actually in Kansas during a thunderstorm while I was reading it too, which was a little weird. If you ever find yourself on a road trip across Kansas on I-70, I recommend the Oz Museum in Wamego. It’s a half hour or so off the highway, but worth the side trip if you aren’t in a hurry.

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