Friday, December 29, 2017

My Best Books Of 2017

My best books of 2017 are an odd bunch but they have this in common: Once I got started, I couldn't put them down. 

And, oddly enough these days, only one was purchased on Amazon, which is how most books are sold in the U.S. In France, bookstores are still popular, mainly because by law books must sell at a single price--no discounting. (See the infographic at the end of this blog post and “Amazon pèse lourd sur le livre, mais moins en France qu’ailleurs.”)

Two graphic novels topped my list. “Isadora,” by Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie is a French biography of American dancer Isadora Duncan (1877-1927). I purchased this beautifully illustrated book at my neighborhood bookstore as a way to read more in French, and previously blogged about that here.

The other illustrated book is the inspirational “Together is Better,” by Simon Sinek. He challenges us to be leaders who watch others rise, who cheer for others and watch them grow. That one I pinched from my husband who received it as a gift.

Another one I “borrowed” was “The Power of Habit,” by Charles Duhigg. If you agree with the author, we are mostly the sum set of what we do each day, those ingrained habits from drinking several cups of coffee or not, from working out daily or not. Don't make resolutions, build habits. They stick.

I lifted "Habit" from the huddle room at work. But instead of reading it, I listened to it on Audible where I’m testing out a three-month subscription. It’s a great companion for the commute! And much more refreshing than constantly reading the news. (Note to self: take the book back to work!)

I also listened to the 1959 classic “Man’s Search for Meaning,” which people have been recommending to me for decades. After listening to it on Audible twice, I bought the physical book so that I could linger over some of the passages. Like this one:
 “For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”
In the genre of French noir, I heard about the prize-winning novel “Chanson Douce” by Leila Slimani, on French breakfast TV and was intrigued by the plot: a perfect Mary Poppins of a nanny goes rogue and kills the little darlings. I knew how it ended, but wanted to see how the author got there. Chilling.

Another chilling book was “Between the World and Me,” by the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. It’s a love letter to his son about growing up black in the U.S. I can’t get into a black person’s skin, but I think this is the closest I can come to understanding how it must be. I bought that book at the great independent Harrisburg bookstore, Midtown Scholar.

Why do I still read books? Because fiction or nonfiction, they open up my mind into the souls of others. I'm challenging myself to read 18 books or more in 2018, inspired by Gretchen Rubin's idea to make a list of 18 things you'd like to do in the New Year.

Any recommendations? I especially could use a recommendation for a book in German. What were your best reads of 2017? What do you have on the shelf for 2018?
Rose Marie Burke, an editor and lecturer at the University of Paris 8, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." You can also find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+.

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