The Best Books of 2017

We’ve reached that time of year again. Tis the season of apocalyptic cold, delicious hot beverages, and songs that are only played for one month out of the year. But most importantly, it’s time for yearly wrap ups. There are approximately one billion book awards. It is genuinely impossible to keep track of them all.

So for anyone who makes it their business to read all of the variously-determined best books of the year, I’ve made a compilation of the big winners. This list includes the prestigious (the National Book Award; the Pulitzer Prize), the popular (the Goodreads Choice Awards), and those that are a mix of the two (the John Newbery medal; the New York Times best books).

Find the twelve best fiction, nonfiction, young adult/children’s, and poetry books of the year below.


Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

2017 National Book Award Winner for Fiction and the New York Times; Top 10 Best Books of the Year

Jesmyn Ward wrote a book in 2013 and it won the National Book Award. Then she took a quick four-year breather, wrote a book this year, and won the National Book Award again. She is the most talented and successful person in the world, probably. Sing, Unburied, Sing is the story of a Southern family, as well as the stories of race, America, struggle, and hope.


The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

The Pulitzer prizewinners are announced in April, so unless you spent the spring living under a rock you have probably heard of this one. The Underground Railroad follows the escape of two slaves in an altered history in which the underground railroad is a literal railroad underground. It explores questions relating to race, history, and oppression.



Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction

If I’ve learned one thing from compiling this list, it’s that people love stories about families. This book follows a few of them, as one couple’s attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby divides an entire community. Lots of gossip and drama and secrets in this one.



The Future is History by Masha Gessen

2017 National Book Award Winner for Nonfiction

It is suuuuper not surprising that this book would be an awards darling this year. Written by Vladimir Putin’s biographer, The Future is History follows Russia’s descent into autocracy as told through the lives of four people with great aspirations and great expectations upon them. It’s a cautionary tale, in other words, and people a) are freaked and b) love it. As if 2017 weren’t Russia-centric enough.


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

This guy’s a sociologist at Harvard and a MacArthur Genius grant recipient, so, uh. Reliable source. Desmond follows eight families in the poorest parts of Milwaukee and discovers the role that eviction, and the high housing costs that cause it, plays in modern American poverty.


How to be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life by Lily Singh

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Nonfiction

Hard to believe this is even in the same realm of existence as the prior two, but yes. They are the same genre. Written by YouTube star Lilly Singh (username ||Superwoman|| – do not forget the very important vertical lines), How to be a Bawse is a self-help book that promises to help you become just as confident/goal-reaching/smiley as Lilly herself. In other words, a bawse. So go get those millions of YouTube subscribers – they’re yours by right.



Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

2017 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature

Benway’s newest is a young adult contemporary following three biological siblings adopted into different families. As one puts her own baby up for adoption, she decides to track down her biological brother and sister, launching all three into questions of what family really means.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Winner of the John Newbery Medal for most distinguished children’s book

Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a children’s fairytale about Luna, who was accidentally fed moonlight by a witch when she was a baby, thus granting her magical powers. As she approaches her thirteenth birthday, the powers begin to emerge, and Luna must learn to use her new skills, and to protect those around her. (So it’s a coming of age thing except with magic.)


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction

Now, we must all say a silent prayer to whatever higher power we may believe in/the Internet/those who cast a vote/the entire literary industry that this book won. Instead of John Green. That man’s life is full enough and I am grateful this award went to a book that MEANS SOMETHING. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give follows Starr, a sixteen-year-old black private school student who witnesses the death of her unarmed friend at the hands of a police officer.



Half-Light by Frank Bidart

2017 National Book Award Winner for Poetry

Half-Light is a collection of all of Frank Bidart’s poetry, written over the course of four decades. As a poet, Bidart focuses on the human voice in all its diversity, allowing even the most terrible the same empathetic understanding. Bidart concludes the collection with a new volume, one filled with ruminations on his own life.


Olio by Tyehimba Jess

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Tyehimba Jess’s Olio weaves fact and fiction to detail the lives of African American performers from the Civil War up to World War I. The result is a look at the struggles of black artists to resist minstrelization, and the resilience it took to keep going.


The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Poetry

Unsurprisingly, the mega-popular poet won the most popularity-oriented award. Rupi Kaur is likely the most known writer within the genre known as “instapoetry” or, more colloquially, “Tumblr poetry.” Her second volume, The Sun and Her Flowers, focuses on themes of growth, ancestry, and home.

For more information:

The Goodreads Choice Awards

The New York Times Top 10 Books of 2017

The 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners

The John Newbery Medal

The National Book Award

Art, Campus, Opinion

Queer Monologues: Emerson’s Archive of Queer Voices

Written anonymously

Before this year I would have never considered myself a performer. Before this year I would have never considered myself a part of the queer community. Now I can say that I’m both. This year I became a more active member of EAGLE, Emerson’s LGBTQ+ organization, and through a lot of their events, I stepped more and more out of my comfort zone. Queer Monologues was probably the height of this.

Queer Monologues is an event created by Emerson senior, Nathan Coffing, who modeled it after Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” In Ensler’s play, she has a varying number of monologues that are typically performed with multiple women reading together. According to V-Day’s Website, “the Vagina Monologues” are “based on dozens of interviews Ensler conducted with women. The play addressed women’s sexuality and the social stigma surrounding rape and abuse, creating a new conversation about and with women.”

“Queer Monologues is a collective art piece intended to create a living book of experiences of LGBTQ+ people,” Coffing says about their vision for the project. “I wanted to bring the project to Emerson because we have so much talent in both writing and performing and I wanted to create a way that queer memory would exist and retain itself at the college, so that our stories would stay and hopefully resonate with someone else in the future.”

This project takes that same central concept of “The Vagina Monologues” and it extends it to the queer community. Emerson students were encouraged to submit their own work or audition to perform the works of those who did not want to perform them personally. Some students, like myself, chose to submit as well as perform. I wrote a slam poem about my gender identity and was able to see it given life on the stage as I performed it alongside three other Emerson students. This happened with the majority of the monologues which were written by one person but then were broken up between multiple voices, with some lines having more than one person reading them in unison. A few pieces were read solo to give the performance a quieter feel, especially if the piece was particularly personal. The first and last pieces, “What is Queer” and “Hi, Little Girl” were read by the entire cast.

The monologues address many personal aspects that a lot of those in the queer community can relate to. There are pieces about break ups, sex, coming out, and gender identity. The Queer Monologues is designed to give a space for queer people to be empowered and share their stories. So often queer people are discriminated against, erased from the media, not given a voice, but the Queer Monologues starts small and gives queer people a chance to speak and to be heard.

The performance happened on Thursday March 31st which fittingly and coincidentally happened to be on Transgender Day of Visibility, a day dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness for Transgender people. The fifteen performers read out the monologues of their fellow students and performers to a filled Cabaret in Emerson’s Little Building. The audience was extremely receptive, often snapping and laughing in response to all these emotions the performers placed into this space. Queer Monologues is going to continue in future years, with these pieces from the first performance being included in years to come. That way, even after students graduate, their voices will still be heard and their stories will take on new voices and new meanings as others step up to the stage to perform them.

At the beginning of this semester, I never thought I would get to a place where I could be comfortable enough to take a huge step out of my comfort zone and perform a personal piece as well as the pieces of fellow students in front of a crowd. I was able to find a way to express myself through Queer Monologues, and since the event is expected to continue throughout the years, hopefully this will be the beginning of an experience that will empower more Emerson students for years to come.


Sticking to What Works: Why We Find Things We Love, and Then Drop Them

I have recently become comfortable with the practice of yoga. For years, I watched beautiful people in a light sweat bounce casually out the door of the numerous yoga studios around town. As a child, I wondered about them‒what those rolled up mats were for, how they always seemed so calm and serene, why they all looked like hippies. As I grew older, I began to envy them. What was this strange practice that supposedly quieted the mind while simultaneously strengthening the body? I couldn’t understand how meditation could make someone sweat, let alone present a physical challenge.

Curious and interested in Eastern philosophy, I decided to see what all the fuss was about for myself. At first, things seemed hopeless. I was thin and bony, without an ounce of muscle on my body. My grandfather used to hold up my limp little arms and joke with me, saying, “Look at this sack of wet mice.” I couldn’t even lift ten pounds. As I crouched there on my purple yoga mat, praying the teacher wouldn’t come over and fix my position again, I stole glances at the other people in the class. To my surprise, no one else was looking around nervously like I was. They all had their eyes closed, earnestly breathing in rhythm like the good yogis they were.

At the time, I thought they were all masters. It seemed to come so easy to them, like they didn’t even have to try. I started to wonder what I was doing there, feeling like I had disturbed their meditation, distracting the teacher who kept coming over to pull my arms higher up by my ears or bend my knee deeper into a lunge. I thought to myself that I had been wrong to dream about yoga all this time, that it clearly was not for me.

A few years later, I came back to the practice with a fresh outlook. At my new studio, I realized that not one person in the room was a master. They were all struggling too, in their own personal way. I began to feel like for the first time in my life I had found a form of exercise that I could pursue confidently, without having to worry that I wasn’t good enough. Organized sports had always made me feel inferior‒I didn’t understand why I had been born with noodles for arms, lanky legs and flat feet. After trying just about every sports team in my town, I gave up and pursued the arts instead.

This is another interest into which I have dedicated a substantial amount of time. Though creative endeavors come much easier to me than any form of physical exercise, the pattern began to show up once again. This time, I noticed it in my writing. Since elementary school, I have loved poetry. I would collect pretty notebooks and write my most secret thoughts there, weaving them into rhymes as best I could. For years, I remained proud of my work‒I remained humble, but believed that I was writing something worthy of being read. In my junior year of high school, I went to a weekend conference for young writers. I studied poetry there and in that week wrote my best work to date. I met wonderful people who possessed more talent than I had ever seen. I wanted to be like them.

When I got home, I tried writing poetry again as I had for so many years before, but something had changed. I no longer had the confidence in my work to see it through more than one revision, often leaving poems unfinished, never to be looked at again. It was the saddest loss of interest I’ve ever experienced—the passion that had kept me up at night to write poems had gone suddenly, without my notice.

Back to my new found love for yoga. I bought all the necessary accouterments‒the special padded mat, new leggings, headbands, sports bras and tank tops. I was ready to be like those beautiful yoga people I had watched for so long and for a little while, I was. For a few weeks, I scheduled my life around classes, trying to go as often as I could. I looked forward to the rush of energy and bliss that washed over me as I left each session. It was a similar feeling to writing a poem that explains your feelings exactly as they are in your head.

Then, very subtly, something again began to change. I stopped looking forward to classes and started seeing them as I had seen all exercise in the past—something I had to drag myself to, monotonous and unenjoyable. As the weeks continued to roll by, I went to classes less and less, procrastinating with them like I would with school deadlines. After a while, I stopped going altogether.

As time went on, I realized that this was a trend in my life and that, after speaking to others about this phenomenon, I was not alone. Every time I found something constructive, a goal of some kind to work towards, I would pursue it for a while, then slowly lose interest. Yoga was such a healthy force in my life—it was challenging, fun and made me feel good. I had spent so much of my life feeling defeated by organized exercise and here I had finally found something that worked for me. So why did I stop? I’m still trying to figure it out. I could blame it on my generation as a whole and claim that as a millennial my attention span is naturally short. I could even say that those hobbies just weren’t for me. The thing is, I know full well that I loved doing them and wish I hadn’t let them slip out of habit.

If in reading this you’ve realized that you too are resisting things you are good at, things that you love—my advice to you (and myself) is to jump headfirst back into it. Drag yourself if you must, but don’t let yourself slip out of healthy habits. No matter how rational your excuses may sound in your head, I guarantee you’ll feel better knowing that you gave it your best college try. As I write this, I am resolving to go to yoga tomorrow. might even write a poem.


Helpful Writing Sites

Whether it’s a research paper, a chapter of a novel or a short story, I know how hard it is to get the creative juices flowing and write. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of ideas or lack of research, and sometimes it’s just hard to get the words out. Here’s a list of websites that I find helpful when the words aren’t coming or I’ve finished writing and need to touch up my work. Whatever it is you’re writing, and whatever stage you’re at, these sites are sure to help.

Zen Writer

Zen Writer is a program you can download that makes it easier to block everything out while writing. The program takes up your whole screen so that there are no other distractions. There is a pre-downloaded menu of music to play or you can download your own, and the same goes for the background that is present while you write. It is very simple, but it’s a good tool if you have a hard time blocking out distractions.

750 Words

This website shows that consistency is key. This website’s only goal is to get you to log on everyday and write 750 words. The website is very simple and has a plain white background that you write on. Once you reach 750 words, you can stop or keep going and the website logs your progress. One of my favorite things about this website is that after you reach 750 words, a map shows up that organizes data from your writing. It shows the overall mood of your passage, your most used words, and other things. The biggest con of this website, however, is that after thirty days, you have to pay $5 a month to continue, so you may not wish to use this website if you don’t want to pay for a membership.

Written? Kitten!

This is another website that is very simple, but fun to use. The goal is to motivate its users to write, by using positive reinforcement. For every 100 words that you write on this website, a picture of a kitten pops up next to your screen. To get a new picture, you need to write 100 words. If you want to motivate yourself even more, you can increase the amount of words you have to write before you get a new picture. Plus, if kittens aren’t your cup of tea, you can select an option to see pictures of puppies or bunnies instead.

NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo  stands for National November Writing month. You can sign up and pledge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. The site tracks your progress and you earn badges for completing different tasks. I’ve always found that November is too busy for me to sit down and write, so now NaNoWriMo has Camp NaNoWriMo which is the exact same as the original site, but in the summer.

Keep Me Out

Keep Me Out is great for any type of writing or work. It’s a site where you can set a time frame and add a list of sites you want to stay off of. Keep Me Out will warn you if you go on those site more than the amount of times you selected for that time frame. It’s perfect for staying focused when you need to complete something.

Hemingway App

This website (it’s not actually an app; the name is misleading) is helpful for just about any type of writing. You copy and paste your writing into the text box and it tells you how many adverbs you used, how many sentences are hard to read, how many sentences are very hard to read, which phrases have simpler alternatives, and how many uses of passive voice there are. Each parameter is highlighted in a different color so it’s easy to tell what’s wrong with your piece of writing. It even tells you what grade the text reads as so you know how complicated your writing is.

Google Docs

Even though this isn’t just for writing, and a lot of people already know what it is, I put it on this list because I find it very helpful. It’s a very good tool to use when you need someone to edit your work. All you have to do is share the document with them and they can edit it while you look at it as well. It’s also helpful for group projects because multiple people can edit at once. I use it a lot when I need things to be edited so I don’t have to keep track of multiple drafts, and if I send something to multiple people I can keep all the comments in one document.


Evernote is great for someone who is constantly writing across multiple devices. You can write on a normal computer, and then download the app onto other devices so you can write when you’re away from your laptop. It’s great if you’re traveling and can’t be at a computer because you can use your phone or other device and then sync it your computer later. Evernote is also great because it accommodates Apple, Android, Blackberry and many other devices, It’s layout is also simple to use!

Awesome Note

Awesome Note is very similar to Evernote in the sense that it allows you to write across multiple devices. I actually prefer it because I think it allows you to do much more than Evernote. It is a very good tool for journaling because it’s very easy to add photos, and it even has a type of note that adds in the date and allows you to select your mood and the weather for that day. There are different types of notes like to-do lists and reminders. There are also a ton of different themes you can select for your notes. It’s easy to use and very convenient. The only downside to Awesome Note is that is only available for iPhones, iPads and the Galaxy Note. However, there is a feature to export your notes to GoogleDocs so you can use it across other devices as well. is a site that allows you to share your writing with other writers and receive feedback. There are forums for you to join so you can connect with other writers and discuss your writing together. It’s a good website to get different perspectives on your writing instead of always asking classmates, teachers, friends and family members. There are also contests and writing tools on the site that all of its users have access to. One feature that I really like is that its app provides writing prompts. It’s a very simple app and it’s very helpful to get rid of writer’s block or explore different topics.