Thursday, February 15, 2018

the top ten books of 2017

A few weeks ago... well, 10 days ago... which is shocking, because I feel like I'm at a pace where I'm putting a winter solstice between posts, but recently, I listed the books I read in 2017, giving a brief synopsis and recommending most of them... not all of them, thought (I'm looking at you, "The Circle") but most.

My favorite book of 2014, a book I think
everyone should read. Its life changing.
But there were ten books that I wanted to mention in this post, which are my Top Ten Books of 2017.  The ones I enjoyed the most, relished as I read, put them away mentally for a possible re-read later, or that actually made me aware of how dusty it is in this room.  Seriously, two books did that for me.

So, what book will join the list of Fave Books of the Year, a list that includes Stephen King's "Doctor Sleep" (my fave book of 2013)... Carlos Whittaker's "Moment Maker" (my fave book of 2014)... Andy Weir's "The Martian" (my fave book of 2015)... and Michael Lewis' "The Big Short" (my fave book of 2016)? 

First, folow @TheDaveofPop  on Instagram for nearly daily book and movie reviews, where all of these books were originally reviewed after being read.

Now let's see the list and find out the list, shall we?

My 10th Favorite Book of 2017
"The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute" by Zac Bissonnette. Yes, this book is about the origins and business of those little plush animals with the red, heart shaped tag, those same ones that were supposed to be insanely valuable now and would pay your way through college. This was one of those books I circled for a while, and finally landed on, and it was delightful in the weirdest way. It chronicles the rise, fall and sort of rise of Ty Warner, founder of the Ty Company, and... well, how he's a total jackwagon. To everyone. That tag line of "Mass Delusion..." fits this journey perfectly. (it's also got another subtitle in some places, that being "The Amazing Story of How America Lost It's Mind Over a Plush Toy--And the Eccentric Genius Behind it")

My 9th Favorite Book of 2017
"Reasons to Be Pretty" by Neil LaBute.  This is a stage play written by one of my two favorite playwrights (David Mamet being the other), and right at the top, we learn that Greg has said something fairly stupid to his girlfriend Steph.  But we also learn that Steph has a flair for the overdramatic, which means she fits perfectly with their best friends Kent and Carly, two people also deeply flawed for various reasons. The sequel is called "Reasons to Be Happy", which I enjoyed, but I loved how this book/play unfolded.

My 8th Favorite Book of 2017
"Yes Please" by Amy Poehler.  When I read Tina Fey's "Bossypants", I wasn't sure I'd enjoy this book as much. I mean, "Bossypants" is hilarious, and Tina is smoking hot (two things that can potentially draw me to a book) so how could Amy compete?  She did. And more. This book is absolutely hysterical, riffing on everything from celebrity, to SNL to motherhood and marriage and life on Parks & Rec and life in general, and with her reading the audiobook, her delivery is nearly perfect. So good.

Available in paperback or Kindle. Quick
read, too... less than 200 pages

My 7th Favorite Book of 2017
"Catch Somewhere" by Megan Hall. This is the sweet story of a young lady named Kinsley who faces what so many girls do -- heartache in high school. Kins, as she's nicknamed, takes her pain out in other ways, however, through an addiction that is all too common, but having never been a 15 year old girl (nor playing one on TV), its something I don't understand. Megan Hall writes in a "dramedy" sort of manner, with a few funny pop culture references, but the story shines through the characters Hall puts around Kinsley, including a best friend and a Bible study coed. I'm not in the audience demo, but I enjoyed this very much and even found myself a little misty eyed at the "reunion" towards the end.  Got me right in the feels. Full disclosure, Megan is a friend of mine, but I can truthfully say that I wouldn't have put her book on this list had I not felt it deserving.  Also... I really like where the title comes in. It's... it's... pure.

My 6th Favorite Book of 2017
"I'll Have What She's Having: How Nora Ephron's Three Iconic Films Saved The Romantic Comedy" by Erin Carlson.  My favorite movie of all time is "You've Got Mail", so how could I resist a book that takes you behind the scenes of not just that, but "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle".  You get untold stories of casting, anecdotes from the set, and everyone from Meg Ryan to Rob Reiner to Tom Hanks to Billy Crystal and more giving their stories and insight.  Director Nora Ephron led a complicated life, and this book doesn't shy away from talking about that either, as she had plenty of personal crises during the making of each of these modern day classics. I loved the intimacy of  this book, and I recommend it for movie fans.

My 5th Favorite Book of 2017
You can read this without the others, but
I would highly recommend Start above any of
the four. 
"Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done" by Jon Acuff.  This is the final book in the Acuff Career Quadrology (which includes "Quitter", "Start" and "Do Over"), and this book is exactly what it sounds like -- getting stuff done. The whole idea is that it's easy to "Start" something, and it's even somewhat to just do-over... but finishing is the hardest part without just throwing your hands up, becoming a "Quitter".  (Hey Acuff -- see what I did there? Eh? You can email me to set up a time to be on your podcast).  Whether its a goal of losing weight or finishing a book or starting a book or getting your career in some facsimile of order, or maybe even getting your personal life figured out, this book will give you the guidance and encouragement needed.  And it's pretty funny, especially the audiobook.

My 4th Favorite Book of 2017
"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio.  Another book that I had picked up and set back on the shelf about 70 times before I decided to give it a whirl -- which I only did because my Dear Friend Janna has a cute kid who recommended it to me.  And honestly, I didn't want it to end. Little Auggie Pullman suffers from a severe facial deformity and is headed to public school for the first time. Of course, he faces the harsh reality of cruel kids around him, but also the warmth of a few random kids who decide to stand by him. We see the school year not just from his eyes, but also from his neglected sister Via, his best friend Jack Will (one of my favorite characters in this or any book in a long time), and Via's former BFF Miranda, who's perspective is very surprising. And when the "honor guard" is mentioned at the end... I mean... I wanted to openly weep. I'm a dad, so it hit me. I cannot recommend this book enough not just to kids and young adults, but anyone.  Also, see the movie.  It's not as in-depth as the book, but its wonderful too.

My 3rd Favorite Book of 2017
"The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made" by Greg Sestero. The title doesn't lie here... "The Room" is one of the greatest bad movies ever made... and when I say "bad", it's not like "Employee of the Month" Dane Cook bad... nay, its bad. I mean horrendously awful bad. And its written and directed by Tommy Wisseau, a man who believes he truly belongs in the Hollywood elite. Sestero was Tommy's closest friend for many years, and starred in the movie with Tommy, and this book is a great glimpse into the insanity of the film's production -- a film where the writing, the acting, the plots make no sense, weirdly named characters like "Chris-R" shows up for no reason to start a plot point that never pays off, or a mom's mentioning having cancer only to never be brought up again.  This book is maddening and nuts and hysterical, all at the same time. (Also, the movies is pretty great too... my 3rd fave film of 2017)

My 2nd Favorite Book of 2017
"David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants" by Malcolm Gladwell.  This guy is a great writer, and he does something that many books likes this fail to do -- challenge me and my opinions without belittling those very opinions I hold.  This is the story of the underdog, and how decisions made by "the little guy" can affect how the stack up against "the big guy". There is a story of the student who makes the decision to go to an Ivy League school instead of a lesser, but still great, school -- and the consequences it causes. There's a great look at the "three strikes law" in California and why it might be a bad idea, and a great take on the Biblical story of David & Goliath -- and why David actually matched up to the giant better than most people thing. Loved it.

There's just so much about this book that
is awesome -- but its got some language
and a non-PC culture throughout. 
And finally, My Favorite Book of 2017  
"Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream" by Buzz Bissenger. This is the book that begat the movie that begat the TV show, all of which are classics now. Texas considers Friday night football not just a rite of passage, but darn near a religion, much like it is throughout the South.  Bissinger moved into Odessa, Texas, and spent a year there among the people, including the staff, coaches and football players of Permian High School, home of the Permian Panthers. The book chronicles the lives of a handful of players, from the tragic injury to Boobie Miles (until then, a near sure thing for college and NFL) to the good but not great QB Mike Winchell to the player who seeks to become a pastor, Ivory Christian to the embattled coach, Gary Gaines. It takes place in the 1988 season, which is just recent enough to make Odessa a modern town but still not recent enough to shed the racism and poverty which pervades the town. This is an amazing book, beautifully, if not toe-steppingly written, and it unfolds game by game, as the Panthers seek a return to the title game, living a "championship or bust" mentality the entire year.  Loved this book.

So there's my Top Ten of last year.  I've got a goal of 50 books this year, and I'm already way behind, as Stephen & Owen King's "Sleeping Beauties" was a 28 hour listen, and I'm in the midst of another 28 hour listen, "Live from New York", the oral history of Saturday Night Live by James A Miller and Tom Shales.

But I can recommend to you "One of Us is Lying" by Karen McManus -- a smart, funny, and clever whodunit with a Breakfast Club setting.

Now... back to the books.

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