Just like that, and 2017 is already over. It may have been a rocky year, what with the continued threats to the environment and the weekly destruction of basic human rights, but as far as reading goes, this year was one for the books. If you're looking for a reason to be thankful for 2017 — and let's face it, it isn't easy — these books from the past year with diverse characters will make you and your entire book club be glad to be living in the now. At least, as far as reading goes.
For so many people, reading in today's world has become more than just a relaxing pastime or favorite hobby. It's become an essential part of self-care for activists and anyone else feeling lost, confused, or concerned about the future of our country. Because of that, book clubs have become more than just excuses drink wine and eat cheese (though, there is plenty of that still happening). They have become like support groups where readers can come together and explore one another's stories and experiences through critical reading and thoughtful discussion. They're safe spaces and inclusive gatherings that can educate, empathize, inspire, comfort, motivate, and calm readers, no matter what else is going on in the world.
'Lucky Boy' by Shanthi Sekaran
If your book club loves emotional stories doesn't mind crying in front of each other, than Lucky Boy is the perfect diverse read for you. Better yet: the paperback just came out in September. In it, a young Mexican woman, Soli, seeks a better life in America, only to find herself alone, pregnant, and undocumented in California instead. She thinks her life is over, but when she gives birth to her son, Nacho, she knows where she belongs and who she belongs with. That is, until Solu is placed in immigration detention, and her son falls under the watchful eye of Kavya, a beautiful woman who has everything she wants in life — except a child. A moving and affecting tale about motherhood and the bonds of love, Lucky Boy will have your book club talking long after the last page.
'Empress of a Thousand Skies' by Rhoda Belleza
Add a little YA love to your book club with Rhoda Belleza's dazzling and diverse sci-fi adventure. In Empress of a Thousand Suns, Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta'an, the only surviving heir to a powerful intergalactic dynasty, will stop at nothing to reclaim the power that is rightfully hers. Aly, a war refugee framed for Rhee's attempted assassination, will stop at nothing to prove his innocence. Though their lives couldn't be further apart, Rhee and Aly share one thing in common: the enemy who threatens not only their lives, but the entire galaxy. The first in what is sure to be an unforgettable series, your book club won't want to miss this incredible, and timely, debut.
'The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane' by Lisa See
Buckle up and get ready to go on an emotional ride with Lisa See's latest family saga, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. A sweeping novel about mothers, daughters, womanhood, and tea, it follows the life of Li-Yan, a young Chinese girl living under the strict rules of the Akha people and her own tea-growing families customs. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, she decides to abandon tradition and give her daughter up for adoption. As Li-Yan learns about life outside of her remote village, her daughter flourishes in California with her new family, but can't help wonder about who she is and where she came from. An evocative novel about family, identity, love, and distance, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane will be sure to generate some great book club conversation.
'This Is How It Always Is' by Laurie Frankel
Inspired by the author's personal experience with her own transgender child, This Is How it Always Is is a powerful and timely story about a young boy who knows he is meant to be a girl. In it, Rosie and Penn, the heads of a loving clan made up of mom, dad, and five sons, learns that their youngest child, Claude, is transgender. While the parents want to support Claude, they aren't quite ready for the world to know, and instead try and keep it a secret. That is, until one day the secret explodes and changes everything in their lives. A touching story about family, magic, and identity, This Is How it Always Is will leave your book club feeling full of love.
'Waking Lions' by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
A brilliant exploration of privilege, identity, immigration, and otherness, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's Waking Lions is a complex novel you and your book club may need more than one meeting to discuss. In it, neurosurgeon Eitan Green has the perfect life, until one night when he hits and kills an African migrant with his car before fleeing the scene. When the widow of the murdered man shows up on Eitan's doorstep blackmailing him for more than money, his whole world is turned upside down. A gripping and emotional thriller, this is one story you won't soon forget.
'Exit West' by Mohsin Hamid
If your book club hasn't picked up Mosin Hamid's highly acclaimed bestseller, now is your chance. Exit West is an inventive and provocative novel about two young lovers, Nadia and Saeed, struggling to survive and stay together in a country torn apart by civil war. When it seems there is no choice but to leave, the pair make a bold decision and step into an uncertain and unknowable future. Luckily, you and your book club can go along for the ride and find out what happens next.
'Pachinko' by Min Jin Lee
This may be a bit longer than your typical book club book, but Min Jin Lee's Pachinko is being touted as one of the best books of the year, so you better make sure your book club doesn't miss out. An immersive story that follows one Korean family through the generations, starting with 1900s Korea, this saga about being others in a strange land explores everything from poverty to discrimination to exile, and leaves you and your book club with plenty to discuss.
'The Idiot' by Elif Batuman
Another novel being celebrated as one of the greatest of 2017 so far, Elif Batuman's The Idiot is the kind of epic read your book club can laugh about — really, really hard. In it, Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants and a new student at Harvard, unexpectedly forms a bond with an older mathematics student from Hungary, and it doesn't take long before their relationship starts to drastically change their lives. A beautiful and hilarious story about coming of age, falling in love, and finding out who you are, The Idiot is one of this year's must-reads.
'What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky' by Lesley Nneka Arimah
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky is a breathtaking collection of unforgettable stories that range from sci-fi to magical realism to dystopian, and so many places in between. Everyone in your book club will have a different favorite story, but you'll all agree on thing: this collection is one of the best of the year.