My Best Reads of 2017

At the end of 2016, I decided to challenge myself to read 52 books in 2017. It had seemed that throughout 2016 I had fallen back in love with reading and really wanted to spend more time discovering great books and new authors and just find time doing something I loved. [This meant for most of the year I didn’t have the Facebook app on my phone because when I would have a few minutes here and there I decided I’d rather read books than mindlessly scroll.]

I finished my 52nd book this morning and it’s been an amazing year for me and books. I have read SO many great books. Yes, there’s been a few that have been so-so or even a few that I would have rather not finished but those have been the exception and not the rule.

I’ve had so much fun swapping books with friends and talking about the plots and the endings and the ones that have kept us engaged and the others that we’re disappointed in. Even though reading is an individual activity and I took no part in any book clubs this past year, reading and books has very much been a connection with others for me.

My T0-Read list is almost 10 deep already even as I’ve finished this challenge so I plan on continuing in 2018 and would love any book suggestions you’ve got. [Thinking I may even do a post on books I want to read next year in the coming weeks…]

A few people have asked me what my favorite book has been this year and I can’t imagine choosing just one but there are several stand outs so I thought I’d share, in no particular order, my best reads of 2017:

[All images can be clicked on to bring you to Amazon for more info or to order the book]

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood

I kept hearing about this book and had learned that it was going to be a series on Hulu so even though it seemed like a book that I wouldn’t like I took the plunge and bought it. I’m not one for dystopian novels but this one kept my attention the whole way through. It’s a disturbing storyline of a future world of declining births and discriminatory hierarchy. Handmaids are to provide children to the commanders and their wives. While the book was written in the 80’s, there were fascinating real world parallels to parts of the story. Once I read the book, J and I also watched the Hulu series and it was very well done.

At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider

This non-fiction story of how one family sold everything and took their children across the globe for 9 months totally wrecked me. It led to so many fascinating conversations between J and I as we talked about the kind of life we want for our kids and it left me inspired to own less so that we can see more. Tsh writes so beautifully but yet doesn’t make all of the hard parts of traveling with three kids sound easy- she realistically shared the struggles, the expense and even some of the moments they too questioned what they were doing.

Wonder by RJ Palacio

I actually ordered this book for H initially but when it arrived I decided I’d read it first and I devoured it. Written for middle elementary to middle school level readers, the book follows August Pullman, a boy who was born with severe facial deformities. The story gives his perspective as a 5th grader going to school for the first time and also shares his sister and friends’ experiences too. The overwhelming message of the book [and now the movie] is to choose kindness. I’d recommend this to EVERYONE, adults and kids alike.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

While the book is fiction, it spells out some very real issues in race relations in our country as it follows three main characters- Ruth, a black nurse, Kennedy, her public defender and Turk, a white supremacist. Turk and his wife have a baby at the hospital Ruth works at and they don’t want her touching or caring for their baby because of her race. When something critical happens to the baby and Ruth is the only one around, does she step in and help or does she obey their wishes? I thought Picoult did a great job spelling out the privilege some of us receive the day we are born because of the color of our skin.

Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch

This one really hit me square between the eyeballs and the heart. This book was about way more than just stuff [though there is a lot about stuff too]. But the premise was how do we raise kids who are content, grateful and responsible. How do we as parents make intentional choices versus just going with the flow or giving in to emotions and allowing things because that’s what our friends/neighbors/strangers do/say/give/allow. This book really impacted me and I’d recommend it to all parents at any stage of parenting.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Confession: the cover of this book totally turned me off and I assumed it would be a book I would not like yet here I am including it in my best reads list, go figure. This was a Book of the Month Clubbook and it was really so good. It was a thriller that followed three girls who had all survived brutal tragedies ten years earlier. I could NOT put this one down once I started because I had to find out what happened.

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

This was another Book of the Month Club* book. Emma and her sister Cass go missing and one sister returns three years later but all is not how it seems as the FBI and her parents piece together what exactly happened and where she’s been. This book was a true psychological thriller and another one that was hard to put down.

How To Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims

After hearing the author, a former Stanford University dean, on a KQED podcast I ordered the book and again was really impacted. I recommend this book to all parents at any stage of parenting- there are some major truth bombs about the way in which WE as parents are sometimes our kids biggest hurdles as we try to make their lives easier instead of actually teaching them responsibility, independence, accountability before they become adults.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

This nonfiction book was a fascinating, yet heartbreaking account of growing up in a polygamist cult. Ruth was the 39th of her father’s 42 children and grew up in rural Mexico. Throughout the book I had to remind myself that this is a true story and that she actually LIVED this. I so admire Ruth and her courage and her overall belief that there was better life out there.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This story follows a black teenage girl who witnesses her childhood friend get shot and killed by a white police officer. Pretty relevant for 2017. The author totally brought Starr, the main character, and her family to life and also taught me some important lessons like the fact that I’ve never had to teach my kids how to interact with a police officer. There’s a lot of swearing in the book so I’d recommend it to high school and above but I think most readers will walk away with a healthy dose of empathy towards race relations in our country.

For more information or to order any of the above books simply click on the image. 

As you can see I really read a gamut of different books from fiction to nonfiction and by a variety of different authors. To see all 52 books I read this year you can check out #SamaraReads2017 on Instagram and all 52 books should appear.


*Book of the Month Club was new for me this year and introduced me to some new authors and books I wouldn’t otherwise have read. You can join for $5 for your first month with code: FIVE and my link. Each month you get to choose which book of the five curated books you’d like and it’s shipped right to you. You can add additional books each month for just $9.99 a title.

Disclosure: Affiliate links were used on this post. 


  1. Jennifer Godwin says

    Goodness 52 books is a lot! I made a goal for myself to read 25, and I think I’m just shy of 20. 🙁 It’s been a pretty rough year in all aspects, so in all actuality I am pretty proud that I was able to reach almost 20. I may hit it before the end of the year. 🙂
    A few that I loved are:
    We Were Liars
    The Good Girl
    Anything by Michele G Miller and/or Mindy Hayes (most of their stuff is clean, but they have the most memorable stories and characters). The Paper Plane Series is a collaboration they both wrote and I HIGHLY recommend them. In order they are:
    1. Paper Planes and Other Things We Lost
    2. Subway Stops and the Places We Meet
    3. Chasing Cards and the Lessons We Learned
    They are stand-alone, but I suggest reading them in order.

    I read the Handmaids Tale and Wonder, and adored both of them. My son had to read it a couple years ago for his 5th grade class, so we read it together.

  2. Jennifer Godwin says

    BTW – that should be Chasing Cars…not Cards. 😉


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