Books We Loved in 2017
Every December, I read a gaggle of “best of” lists. As 2017 comes to a close and I think about the holidays, I’m looking forward to curling up on the couch, putting on some vinyl, drinking Mexican hot chocolate, and finally reading the books that have been haunting my bookshelves.
To me, reading a book should be an enjoyable respite. You should devour a book like you’d eat your favorite dessert, with total abandon, and in big, giant gulps. With that in mind, I asked some of our agencies biggest readers: what were the books you couldn’t live without in 2017? What books changed your mind? And most importantly, what books could you not put down?
Here are the books that made the cut, may they inspire your holiday reading list!
— Michelle Threadgould and the SG Team
TITLE: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
AUTHOR: Yuval Noah Harari
SGer: Katie Warmuth, Account Director
SG REVIEW: Sapiens is exactly what its title indicates, covering about 100,000 years of the history of human beings on this planet in just about 400 pages. But how? Harari brings forth varying theories and facts to challenge traditionally accepted or understood topics of our culture in a compelling, digestible way for the non-anthropologist.
This New York Times bestseller is especially relevant at a time when our culture feels more divided than ever (but are we in the scheme of things?). Harari puts that all into perspective and makes bold predictions for our future. I walked away enlightened and feeling connected to all cultures. For anyone looking for a deeper understanding of what it means to be a homo sapien — this book is for you.
TITLE: Mrs. Funnybones
AUTHOR: Twinkle Khanna
SGer: Anushree Sharma, Intern
SG REVIEW: I can almost guarantee a sense of instant cheer, large smiles, and lots of “Oh-I-know-exactly-what-you-mean!” kind of moments with Mrs. Funnybones. The book was gifted to me after an unexpected loss of a family member, and trust me when I say this book works like magic. I laughed and nodded and understood all through the relateable perspective and narrative of the main character. The words in this book echo the voice of a modern women and I wouldn’t give up my copy of the book for the life of me! #SheGetsTheStruggles #LaughterIsTheMedicine
AUTHOR: Natasha Stagg
SGer: Adriana Lamirande, Account Executive
SG REVIEW: Surveys chronicles the rise and fall of a social media star, a story that feels all too fitting in an era where the power of such platforms are increasingly being called into question. Stagg’s tragicomedy paints an ugly picture, but one that rings true. She shies away from admiring the glossy “influencer” we’ve all become eerily familiar with, instead gnawing at our senses through a troubled heroine trapped by overt narcissism, lust, love, a muddled past and a thirst for her followers’ attention. It remains unclear to us how she gained such notoriety, and what benefits she truly reaps from being labeled “hot” and “smart” by total strangers online. Besides the boatloads of money, of course.
What I loved most about the novel was that it didn’t seek to offer a solution to our current malaise with social media, but rather serves as a meditation on its potential consequences. I recalled Aubrey Plaza’s turn in Ingrid Goes West, also released this year, and the manner in which it superbly illustrated the extreme lengths many young women (and men) go through to achieve a falsified idea of “perfection” to its bitter end — a true ode to the woes of late capitalism. Colleen’s tale is as addictive to read as she seems addicted to sharing it, and if that’s not a metaphor for our obsession in today’s social media frenzy, I’m not sure what is.
TITLE: Signals Preceding the End of the World
AUTHOR: Yuri Herrera
SGer: Michelle Threadgould, Content Strategist
SG REVIEW: 2017 was the year of the other; and the year the other fought back. Herrera’s 100 page, biting work of surrealism tells the tale of crossing the border from an immigrant lens, but his heroine is anything but a victim. The story parallels Dante’s Inferno and Aztec myths of the underworld as our narrator, Makina, navigates the many underbellies that constitute “to verse” the frontier. The question: What will she do to survive? Is really a projection of ourselves, and serves as the perfect allegory for these imperfect times.
TITLE: Milk and Honey
AUTHOR: Rupi Kaur
SGer: Cindy Huynh, Intern
SG REVIEW: The social media phenomenon Rupi Kaur, has written a book of poetry that the NYT says is, “like a cross between Charles Bukowski and Cat Power, and from an ingénue’s willingness to blurt out whatever is on her mind.” Milk and Honey is Kaur’s first book of poetry, dealing with heartbreak, love, and the idea of femininity in today’s world. I loved reading this book because, while the book is divided into four different sections, you could put it down at anytime and start anywhere in the book. Lines like, “My opinions make me less beautiful,” make this a collection of poetry that deeply resonated with so many of us struggling to find our voice.
TITLE: Crazy Rich Asians / Gilead
AUTHOR: Kevin Kwan / Marilynne Robinson
SGer: Danielle Song, Account Coordinator
SG REVIEW: It’s a tie for me. First up is Crazy Rich Asians. This was a delightful whirlwind of a story that wouldn’t let me go until I finished it at 3am in one sitting. Kwan conjures up scenes of opulence, excess, and drama as I’ve never imagined before. The book follows Chinese American Rachel Chu as she meets her boyfriend Nick’s family — one of the oldest, wealthiest families in Singapore, a city full of nouveau riche millionaires. Crazy Rich Asians is a breath of fresh air.
Gilead is a book to slowly savor. I read it over the course of several months, relishing the careful cadence of Marilynne Robinson’s writing and the deliberate feeling of her words. The book is a letter from an old preacher in Iowa to his young son, imparting in one go all of the lessons and wisdom and recounted bits of a long life he knows he won’t be able to share once he’s gone. It asks: what would we all like to leave behind?
AUTHOR: Philip Roth
SGer: JP Cavender, Intern
SG REVIEW: Written in 2008, but set in 1951, this novel follows hard-working Marcus Messner through his troubled first year at Winesburg College. Marc’s conflicts with the deep-rooted traditional values of his college take on frightening significance in light of the Korean War just beyond the college walls. Expulsion from the college could mean being drafted into the front lines of the U.S. Army.
I enjoyed the way Roth’s careful plotting presents cultural resistance as a matter of life and death. Taking a stand against the college’s regulation of students’ social, personal and religious lives becomes a dangerous act of courage. The novel reminded me of how the powerful the dominant culture can be. The enemy the novel presents is not the threat of communism or attack from a foreign power, but the homegrown traditional values that enforce the way you are supposed to be.