I try to never be without a book and with eBooks, I’m reading more than ever. (Not that I don’t like a good solid book in my hand. I do. ) I keep a running list at Goodreads; otherwise I’d forget what I’d read and it also gives me an idea of how much I’m reading. (Although I’ve always felt it shouldn’t be QUANTITY, but QUALITY.) If I’ve counted correctly thus far this year I’ve read 98 books. Now that DOES include a re-read of the 25 Kinsey Millhone novels by Sue Grafton and does NOT include two books that I started, but never finished because I disliked them so much. (I won’t mention them, but I will tell you that it’s very rare that I DO NOT finish a book, so they were pretty big clunkers in my view.
Looking back on the year, I’ve read a lot of good stuff. It was hard to pare it down to what my favorites might be. So with careful consideration, here’s what made my 10 ten list this year, with links to the catalog page at the Verona Public Library if you want to put them on hold or check out an e-book:
1. One In A Million Boy by Monica Wood: A beautiful and moving story. A young boy is assigned to help out a 104-year-old woman and they become unlikely friends. The boy dies (he is dead at the beginning of the book, so I’m not giving anything away) and his wayward father takes on the task. The relationships that develop between all the characters is surprising and heartbreakingly realistic. My description doesn’t do this novel justice…it’s something that needs to be read.
2. The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa: The story of Anna (a young girl in present time and Hannah (an older woman in present time, but her story is told from the past in Germany all the way to her present in Cuba), both of whom have lost a loved one at a young age. This is a beautifully written story…a story of refugees (although the word is never used), who did their best to “follow the rules” while escaping tyranny and oppression (and most likely death). A story that should NOT be timely and yet it is.
3. By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank: Summer for me would not be complete without a novel by Dorothea Benton Frank. Her stories may be light and (often) zany, but they are truthful. (As crazy as things may get in her stories, you KNOW that this could and probably DID happen to somebody!) I always set aside a time to read her annual novel; she’s my go-to vacation read where and when I have the luxury of sitting back with a glass of wine (or sweet tea) and enjoy.
4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: I’m not a big fan of sci-fi or post-apocalyptic novels, but this novel transcends genres. This is a compelling story of a diverse group of survivors connected only by a dead Hollywood actor. His death on stage starts the novel; as the outbreak of a new “flu” spreads throughout the world and changes the landscape as we know it. While this novel can be depressing and scary, it is also ultimately inspiring.
5. New Boy by Tracey Chevalier: A brilliant and very accessible retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello. Set in a school/playground in Washington, D.C. in the 1970s, Tracey Chevalier re-imagines the characters as elementary aged children. (Is there a better setting for gossip, jealousy and back stabbing?) This is a short novel, but completely captivating and well written. This book would be an excellent way to introduce someone to Shakespeare.
6. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: No, I haven’t seen the movie. And, yes this is a young adult novel. Why should a 50+ whiter than white woman read this book? Why did I LOVE this book? Because it speaks from the heart. I may be a 50+ whiter than white woman, but I understood Starr (an African American teen who may go to an exclusive school, but comes from a “bad” neighborhood). I understood her situation. Maybe my eyes were opened a little bit more. (I don’t claim to completely understand.) She (and the author) gave me hope; something that we all need.
7. From Sand & Ash by Amy Harmon: I cried at the end of this book. I almost didn’t finish because the story, which takes place in Italy during WWII was too painful and the truths told in this novel are all too real today. This is a work of fiction, yet is speaks with painful honesty of the world during WWII and I can all too plainly see parallels of our current world. Parallels that hurt my heart and soul. It is a book well worth reading, even as it enrages you, rips your heart in two and makes you sob.
8. Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney: A psychological thriller that may leave your head spinning. I found it to be a book that I had to keep reading as the suspense just kept building. Honestly, was completely caught up and captivated…but I’m STILL not sure who was who and what was what. I’m not sure it matters because as the main character (which one?) says: Sometimes I Lie. I’m just not sure who was lying or if anyone was telling the truth. Does it really matter?
9. Spilled Milk by K.L Randis: Easy to read; difficult to read. The words flow as you begin to comprehend the unbelievable. Surely this must be some sick, twisted work of fiction; that’s not true. It is the author’s story, but she has renamed herself as Brooke Nolan on the page. What K.L. Randis has done is “fictionalized” herself to tell of what she went through as an abused child and surrogate mother to her siblings. As much as it pained me to read, I could not put it down. But I did when it became too much. What an amazing woman…you want to know strength, here it is. (Not available at VPL yet.)
10. I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi: An amazing first novel; an amazing novel period. Told from the perspective of Maddy, Brady (her husband) and Eve (her daughter), this is the book that you can’t stop reading. This is the one you can’t put down because it’s grabbed you deep inside. This is the one you pick up at lunch and then don’t want lunch to end and you keep reading (surreptitiously) at your desk during work hours (please don’t tell my boss!). The one that has you in tears at the end? (LITERALLY. I needed tissues for the last few pages…my mascara has run all over my face.) This is the book that I’m sorry I finished because it was so darned good, but I’m glad I finished because I needed the resolution and I needed the answers. This is a book that makes me want to be a better wife, mother, daughter person. (And I truly mean that.) This is a book where I thought everything was clear and it wasn’t. Maddy, Eve, Brady, Rory; they are not just characters in a book. They are people you know. People you want to know. They are us…
And just because…here are three more that I would highly recommend (even if they didn’t make it to the top of my list)
1. The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore: It all starts off with Legos and having a Lego loving son, I just had to read this and I’m thinking my son should read too… Although I have no experience with growing up in Harlem, the author made me understand what Lolly was going through and feeling. And darned, if I wasn’t proud of what he accomplished by the end.
2. Vintage by Susan Gloss: Just a very sweet story about the women who work and shop at a vintage store.
3. The Outsider by Stephen King: “Typical” Stephen King scary (that’s NOT a bad thing). Like many of his books, this one MAY give you nightmares. DON’T read it in bed at night; outside in daylight is safer! I can say that I started this on Sunday and went out walking on Monday afternoon. Had my headphones on when a cat came up and brushed my leg. Broad daylight and I screamed. (Good thing it didn’t touch my neck and I have no sunburn.) This was so good that I would have finished it sooner if “life” didn’t interfere.