My 2017 Book Recommendations…for 2018

2017 has been a year in which my reading and reviewing has taken a back seat to life. The suddenly diagnosed illness and  death of my father-in-law in the first half of this year slowed my reading and reviewing to a crawl. As a result, I was only able to read and review 20 books this year, one-half of my Goodreads goal for 2017.  However, I did read several excellent books that I list below as recommendations for your reading pleasure for 2018.

And speaking of 2018, I am taking a break from reading and reviewing…I will be focusing on some personal and professional reading for several months. Having read and reviewed over 430 in the past nine years, I need a break. But, having reviewed so many great books, I will be re-posting on one or two Thursdays a month, the review some of my favorite books that I have read and reviewed since 2009.  Look for Jim’s Throwback Thursday Reviews!*

* Note: I will have one current review coming in early January, Abba Amanat’s Iran: A Modern History. 

After all, a good book never goes out of style!

Okay! It’s time for my favorite reads of 2017 that I recommend to you and your reading family and friends as great books to read!

Sana Krasikov’s The Patriots

From my review:

“…a tremendous piece of historical fiction that covers both the breath of mid to late 20th century history from Brooklyn to Moscow to Siberia and back; the depths of human love, betrayal, idealism, despair, and hope, and ties these two threads together in an unforgettable way through the life and choices of Florence Fein, an American who goes to Russia in 1934 and who embraces the socialist vision of Russian society but at a great cost to her and her family.”

Andra Watkins’ Hard to Die

From my review:

“Against the historic backdrop of West Point and the Hudson River valley surrounding it, author Andra Watkins again pens another historic thriller in the vein of her first novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriweather Lewis. 

With Hard to Die (2016, Word Hermit Press) the first in a series she calls the “Nowhere Series,” we enter the lives two historical figures whose disappearances remain shrouded and in mystery and debate, Theodosia Burr Alston the daughter of Aaron Burr, the Vice President of the United States who was presumed dead in a shipwreck and Richard Cox, a West Point cadet, who vanished meeting a man named “George” in January 1950.”


Jennifer Grant’s When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?

From my review:

“Jennifer Grant has written a book about aging and middle life that is, at times, gritty, humorous, sad, honest, but very, very much grace-filled. It is one that those who are about to enter mid-life, those who are in mid-life, and those, like me, who have passed through mid-life and are on the verge of senior adulthood should read.

Make that, “everybody should read.”

Shauna Shames’ Out of the Running

From my review:

“This is the story of a multi-year investigation into why elite, well qualified young adults who are already on a path toward a career in policy or law are not more interested in running for office. 

Shauna Shames, a Political Scientist and researcher in American political behavior, has added a meaningful narrative to the discussion of contemporary American political life with an insightful and well-researched study of why a group of well-educated and qualified young adults are choosing to focus their attention on meaningful work into areas other than elected office with Out of the Running: Why Millennials Reject Political Careers and Why It Matters (New York University Press, 2017)”


Matteo Bussola’s Sleepless Nights and Kisses for Breakfast

From my review:

“My job is being a father. My profession is drawing comics. I write for fun.”

Matteo Bussola’s Sleepless Nights and Kisses for Breakfast (TarcherPerigree, 2017) is a delightful and wonderful piece about the joys of fatherhood no matter if you are the father of daughters (as he is) or sons…or both!

Developed, from what this reviewer understands, from his Facebook posts, Bussola takes us on an inside look of fatherhood, and life, as he helps his three young daughters navigate life and the wider world which they live.


Chris Bohjalian’s The Flight Attendant

From My Review:

“What strikes me about The Flight Attendant are the characters who are neither over the top nor wooden. They are credible, they are everyday. I felt sorry for Cassie at times and then at other times, when her implusiveness gets the best of her, I felt frustration tinged with concern. Then there was the mysterious “Miranda” whose own second guessing (that will become clear as one reads the book) chips away at her refined and deadly image. And the rest of cast? Sorry, no teasers from this reviewer. You will have to read the book!

Additionally, the tense plot line, which left this reader/reviewer on edge, is an edgy one. One that kept me wondering when Cassie would finally be arrested…or die…or live…in spite of herself.”


Robert W Merry’s President McKinley: The Art of Stealthy Leadership


From my review:

“Merry seeks to at least move Teddy Roosevelt’s shadow aside (if one could move TR’s shadow aside!) for a least several hundred pages and bring to light a President who oversaw (and perhaps was swallowed up by, at times) a United States emerging out of the Civil War/Reconstruction era and into the twentieth-century. This reviewer believes that he accomplishes that task and reveals a President who knew how to use executive power in ways that allowed him to accomplish his goals. And the book’s subtitle, The Art of Stealthy Leadership, reveals how McKinley does that – through a stealthy approach – in which personal influence and relationship account for a great deal.

…it is a wonderful introduction to the 25th President to a new generation of readers and students of history and politics. Merry is able to describe the complex issues and events over which McKinley governed in simple and clean prose. He is sympathetic to McKinley but points out his slow and deliberate way of working often got him in difficulties or forced him to act before he was perhaps ready to act.”


Mohana Rajakumar’s Pearls of the Past

From my review:

“Over five years ago, I read my first Mohana Rajakumar novel entitled Love Comes Later  which introduced me to the world of contemporary Arab fiction and the two main characters of Rajakumar’s newest novel Pearls of the Past, Abdulla and his wife Sangita, who met while graduate students in London and fell in love, following the death of Abulla’s first wife and unborn child, much to the chagrin and frustration of his family with whom they now live among back in Abdulla’s home country.

Living in a constant state of tension with both the past and the future hanging over them in a cloud…and with a cloud of another kind about to cover them and their family, Pearls of the Past, is a tense and onrushing work of fiction about dreams and desires of the past still affecting the dreams and desire of the present and future in ways which unfold as the story unfolds…and which threatens to swallow all of them up in a very dark way.”


Scott Eyman’s Hank and Jim


From my review:

“Scott Eyman has done us a favor with the writing of his book Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart (Simon Schuster, 2017).

Well researched and written from a sympathetic and yet honest point of view, Eyman chronicles the rise and the decline of Fonda and Stewart’s careers and lives in a manner which drew this reader/reviewer in. He goes behind the scenes of stardom and gets into the personal lives of both men, in an alternating narrative as the story develops.”

Ryan Coughlin’s Right Handed Lefty


From my review:

“Ryan Coughlin has given us a collection of characters who can, and does, draw on the sympathy of the reader, as they struggle to prove that what they saw and heard was true, though they are not believed, especially by local law enforcement.

Right Hand Lefty is a novel about overcoming the challenges of growing up not just as a teen but as a teen who is considered an outsider whose word is doubted. It is also a novel about claiming one’s heritage and living in that heritage with dignity and pride.”



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