In no particular order because choosing ten favorites from the 70 books I read this year was hard enough…
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
I loved every minute of this inspiring, engaging and sorrowful story set in South Carolina and based loosely on the real-life story of Sarah Grimke. I haven’t read anything else by Sue Monk Kidd but plan to remedy that promptly.
This is Where I leave You by Jonathan Tropper
The back of the book makes the following claims: Outrageous. Smart. Winning. Moving. Utterly magnificent. Genius. Heartfelt. Darkly Comic. Hilarious. Emotion-packed. Deft. Sweet. Superb. Warm. Graceful. Wickedly observant. Witty. Tender. Brutally honest. Pageturning. Engaging. Brilliant. This book did not disappoint. All of the claims were true. I loved Tropper’s writing and would be willing to read his description of making a sandwich or selecting a paint color at Home Depot.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman is a brilliant but socially inept professor of genetics who believes a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey is the best way to avoid wasting time with smokers and the perpetually late on his quest to find a wife. Rosie Jarman is not wife material according to the questionnaire. This book is joyful and poignant and insightful. It showcases the beauty and charm of a mind that is wired in a non-neuro-typical manner. You can’t help but fall in love with Don and the way he sees the world.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
As I was devouring page after page of this book, I would try to convince myself to slow down and savor it – knowing I would be disappointed when I finished. But, I couldn’t help myself and in the end reached the final page too quickly. So many books bounce between past and present, but this one uses that format with great artistry. Diffenbaugh portrays a range of human emotions and experiences with such ease that this book feels at once life-changing and light-hearted.
Another winner from Rainbow Rowell. This book gave me an excuse to spend an entire lazy weekend being nostalgic about the ‘80s, feeling heightened fondness for all my geeky friends, and remembering the sweetness of first love and teenage lust. This delightful book is full of the author’s trademark banter and charming characters.
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
This was a beautiful story of the entwined lives of seventeen year old Molly and old lady Vivian who turn out to have more in common than they expect. The Vivian character is especially compelling. I didn’t want the book to end. A lovely piece of historical fiction.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka
This novel was deeply moving. I had to re-apply my mascara when I was done reading. I imagine this will be assigned reading for future generations.
The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
There were plenty of times I wanted to reach into the pages of the book and shake the parents. But there were also times where I could forget the neglect and be awed by the meaningful lessons and inspired insights the parents gave their children. As the reader, I was compelled to ride the roller coaster of emotions so common in dysfunctional families. High highs. Low lows. Walls captured the beauty and zest that so often accompany dysfunction in a vivid and authentic way. This book is a thing of beauty. Flawed, painful, messy beauty.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
This was my first Neil Gaiman book but will not be my last. I loved it and was sad when it ended. If I’d known the plot or content of the book ahead of time, I would have dismissed it as not my kind of book. Gaiman’s writing won me over early on and proved that a good storyteller makes any story a good story.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
This is a short book densely packed with snippets of truth and insight about marriage and motherhood. The writing style is haiku-like in its deceptive brevity – short sections that pack a punch when you take time to unpack them.