"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

TTT: Favorite books of 2016

In alphabetical order, here are my favorite books in each category that I read in 2016.

The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark
(Informational Nonfiction)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
(Adult Fiction)

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Rattner
(Best Book Club Selection and Discussion)

Jazz Day: the Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill
(Children's Poetry)

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
(Narrative Nonfiction, Adult)

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
(Mystery, Adult)

March, Book Three by John Lewis
(Graphic Biography)

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brody Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
(Humorous YA Fiction)

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
(Historical YA Fiction)

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
(Audiobook and Book In a Series, YA Fiction)

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
(Audiobook, Adult)

West With the Night by Beryl Markham

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

     It is both a fun and a frustrating exercise selecting a list of favorite books. It is fun looking back on the books read during the past year and thinking about what else was happening during the same period when the book was being read. For example, Don and I listened to the audiobook Just Mercy on our way to and from a vacation at Whistler, B.C. and The Sympathizer during a long weekend in Oregon to watch a football game. This events undoubtedly enhanced my feelings about the books. 
    The frustration comes from not being able to put every book one likes on the list and finding some niche for it. A case in point is selecting In the Shadow of the Banyan as my favorite book club selection when there were so many other great books which deserved notice: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and The Secrets of Mary Bowser were two which I thought led to especially fun and insightful discussions, also. Ultimately In the Shadow of the Banyan won out because the book was so beautifully rendered.
     The length on time since I finished reading the book also undoubtedly impacts its selection. I just finished listening to The Life We Bury this week so it is fresh in my mind. It is a thrilling murder mystery but would it be on the list if I read it February? No wonder movies released in December often win Academy Awards. 
     Quite often I find myself liking books which others have liked in the past. It makes sense that an award book has literary merit and should be a favorite of mine, too, even if I read it years after it won the award. This is the case with The Yearling, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939 and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2008. My positive feelings about award winners led me to want to read this year's winner, The Sympathizer, which, by the way, is excellent. But I listened to the audiobook and my friends, who read the print edition, did not find it as pleasant. If you are ever casting about trying to decide what to read next I recommend you give one of the Pulitzer Prize winners a try. I haven't been disappointed yet reading from that list.
     Only four or five young adult books (YA) have percolated to the top of my thoughts this year and that is surprising considering how many I have read. The Passion of Dolssa is my absolute favorite, hands down. It is the story of a thirteenth century mystic living in Southern France. Instead of being revered she is hunted in one of the earliest Catholic Inquisitions. Good fiction should not only entertain but it should also educate and this book does both in spades. Another YA historical novel, My Lady Jane, takes an actual historical figure, Lady Jane Grey who was queen for nine days, and reworks the story into a farcical and funny retelling with a happy ending. I laughed my way through that book from start to finish. Was it well-written and worthy of literary acclaim? I don't know. I was too busy laughing to notice. The Raven King is the fourth book in the Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. It is a complex series with lots of characters and twisted plots but this last book was a satisfying and sometimes thrilling conclusion to the whole series where Stiefvater showed her skills at weaving lots of plot lines together in the end.
     Nonfiction books usually change my life more than fiction ones and this year was no exception to this rule. The Art of X-Ray Reading is one of those very readable books which helped me become a better reader and writer. I continue to utilize skills I learned from that book in my blog writing and book analysis for my reviews. Just Mercy and March, Book Three both have to do with civil rights and have caused me to stop and think and rethink what I know about this topic. I highly recommend both of them. And though it is a children's illustrated book, Jazz Day is about a remarkable event which occurred in the late 1950s when a photographer got most of the famous jazz musicians of the day together for a photograph. I'd never heard of or seen the photograph before reading this book. 
     Lastly, the book which impacted me the most in 2016 was Beryl Markham's West With the Night. I had tried reading it back in the early 1990s but apparently wasn't ready for it then. Markham lived in East Africa (now Kenya) in the early part of the twentieth century. Her stories about her life in Africa are so vivid I was transported in my mind to another time and place. That book began for me what I've called my Africa Phase. I read book after book about Africa and that time period after consuming West With the Night. It is truly a remarkable book, not to be missed.
     So there is my  favorites of 2016 reading list explained in a nutshell. I am sure if I created this list last week or next week it would contain a different set of books but one has to stop somewhere and put type to page with a period at the end. 2016 was a good year in reading. I wonder what 2017 will hold?

What were your favorite books of 2016?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and Bookish.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Friday Quotes: Rani Patel in Full Effect

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel

Book Beginnings:
I caught him. Red handed. In the alley behind Kanemitsu's. My father and the barely out-of-adolescence homewrecker, making out. I can't stop bawling.
Friday 56:
Then I panic. What if they ask what statement I'm trying to make. I don't want to let anything about my parents slip.
Comment: I've only just started the book about Rani, an Indian-American rapper living in Hawaii. One of the themes of the book is incest and how girls lose their power in this situation. A tough subject. It is a Morris Award finalist this year (for Debut Author) so I know it has literary merit. I hope the tough topic doesn't detract from the story.

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Our cat, Demi, can't wait for Christmas, too. She is already checking out her stocking to see if anything new is inside it.

Weather: Rain. (Why can't we ever have a white Christmas?)

Christmas plans: Today I am writing my Sunday Salon a day early because tomorrow is Christmas and the day won't afford time for blogging. After our family traditions of stockings, crepes, and sitting around in our pajamas drinking coffee, we will bundle the dog in the car for a drive south to Oregon for Christmas dinner and few days with my parents. Don lost his dad this year and so we are very hyper-aware of needing to spend time with our loved ones while we can.

Christmas Eve: we will spend the day making pies, delivering goodies to our neighbors, and any last minute wrapping gifts.  This evening we hope to spend a few hours with our daughter  and son-in-law and then worship together at the midnight vespers.

Funny and poignant story: Every year I save Christmas cards and then look back through them the following year before I discard them or cut them up to become bookmarks. This year as I was sorting through last year's cards I noticed a bit of money poking out of one of them. I investigated. It was the Christmas card given to my daughter last year. It held a crisp $50 bill. Further investigation netted my daughter an additional $25. The dollar gifts were from her grandfather who died in September. It was such a poignant moment. Looking at these cards, with notes in his handwriting, with money as if he gave one last gift this year. The funny part of the story was my reaction. I was all incredulous about how my daughter could just forget about $75 dollars. I started making fun of her to Don,  However, that judgmental tone in my voice quickly evaporated as I found my gift card from my father-in-law with $100 inside. I'd done the same thing! At this point, Don jumped up and starting searching for his card. Maybe he'd forgotten his money, too. No such luck.

Special gift: Yesterday as Carly and I were finding last minute gifts we stopped by Half Price Books. Carly found a HUGE book of art prints called Charley Harper's Animal Kingdom. Charley Harper is her favorite artist and she has looked into buying prints of his art in the past. She started looking through the book and finally decided to buy it even though it was $39.99 (regularly $100.) As we walked out of the store with the huge book in tow, Carly told me she had spent her "grandpa money" on the book. She is so delighted with it. Thank you, Chet, for your love and generosity. These are the things that don't end with death...love and memories.

Treats: I've made sugared pecans as treats for the neighbors. Carly is baking up a batch of gingerbread cookies right now. Last night she and I made up a patch of chocolate crinkles with peppermint kisses. Today we hope to make apple pie to take with us to Oregon.

Dinner menu for Christmas Eve: Homemade beef stew and corn bread, simple fare.

Books read this week:
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanathi ...a neurosurgeon with lung cancer gives his insights on living and dying. The last bit of the book is written by his wife after his death. It is very moving.  
Currently reading:
  • A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty...finally, finally I am getting traction on this finale to the Colors of Madeleine series. I should have no trouble finishing this before year's end. Progress: 66%.
On deck:
  • The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens...I found the audiobook on Hoopla and have it cued, ready for the trip south tomorrow.
  • Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel...I actually read two pages of this YA, Morris Award finalist yesterday. I look forward to digging in.
  • Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner...I also found this book on Hoopla, only problem: It is 25 hours of material. While in Eugene I hope to find a print copy at Smith Family book store. That is too much listening for one book.
Some Fun (Funny), Lovely and Poignant Christmas songs:

May this Christmas, Hanukkah, and Holidays be especially blessed for you and yours. Joyous holidays to you!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Quotes: A Tangle of Gold

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty

Book Beginnings:
When Elliot Baranski came to Cambridge, England, he only stayed for just over two weeks. Which was preposterous.
Friday 56:
Dear Dad, The last time I wrote to you, you sent the letter back. Mum says we should leave you be, and not get in contact at all. But I'm disobeying her because I want to tell you something about Isaac Newton.
Comments: This is the third book in The Colors of Madeleine series which is a very inventive fantasy where there is a crack between two worlds and if a person from one world gets trapped in the other world they lose their memory of the first. Elliot was a such an other worldly visitor.
I've enjoyed this series since the first book, A Corner of White, was published in the US a few years ago. This book has taken me a while to get "into" but now I am hooked and want to find out how it all works out.

What are you reading right now?


Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Year of First Lines

A Year of First Lines hosted by Beyond Eden Rock

The last month of the year is here, and so it’s time to play a particular game:
“Take the first line of each month’s post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year.
So here goes …
January: The Yearling, a mid-book review
Tonight when I stood to make dinner, having put next to no thought into the meal prior to standing up, I retrieved some frozen chicken from the freezer, where I also found some frozen vegetables. In the pantry I found some instant rice and a can of creamed soup. I was in business. 45 minutes later dinner was on the table.
I was making the point that dinners were way more complicated to make for the characters in the book. They had to kill their food, or grow it from seeds. I just have to go to the freezer.

February: High Tech - Low Tech
My school became an iPad school this year. What does that mean? It means that every student is checked out an iPad like a textbook and most teachers are conducting lessons using the tools available to them on the iPads like Canvas, Notability, Pages, and many other subject-specific APPs. 
Not exactly the most riveting opening. I went on to explain how low tech things like books, puzzles, talking-to-one-another, were going by the wayside in the library and the school.

March: Melancholy and springtime
I have been feeling so melancholic lately. I am hoping this blog post will be cathartic for me. 
 Oddly, this post was about poetry and its ability to speak to me when I am feeling down. I quoted quite a bit of it in the blog post. If I was a visitor to the blog, however, I doubt I would have read on. Note to self: don't start blog posts all moody and depressive.

April: Staycation, highlights from day 3
Today, after a stopover at the GKHS library for a little work boxing up surplus books, Don and I drove south to explore more weird and curious aspects of our state. Today we explored the Mima Mounds, a ghost town, and the Black Houses of Olympia.
Don and I spent our Spring Break close to home exploring the weird and the curious. It was lots of fun.

May: Billy Collins and Education
Last week I attended a program at a local theater called A Night with Billy Collins and Aimee Mann. Billy being a poet and Aimee being a singer/songwriter one might wonder what was the appeal...well, the answer is simply---POETRY.
It was a fun event. After it I went back home and read more of Billy's poetry and included some insights from his works in the post.

June: The Art of X-Ray Reading, a review
I love books about books and this book adds an extra layer of wonderfulness---it is about the special aspects incorporated by authors which made their books special...special aspects we can learn from if we want to improve our writing. I honestly (and obviously) am not as interested in the writing tips as I was in the reading tips.
Ha-ha. This review talks about how I view my writing skills. (Not so good.) But I also gained quite a few reading tips which I have tried to incorporate into my reviews since then.

July: Ask Me How I Got Here, a conflicted review
Young adult literature is rarely straight-forward. No one would want to read it if it was. But Christine Heppermann's Ask Me How I Got Here is even less predictable than most and I am very conflicted in how I feel about the book.
I honestly think this is a pretty good opening to my review. It sets the stage for a review which vacillates with my feelings about it, hot to cold.

August: The Raven King and thoughts on books in a series
I love, love, love Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle series and its concluding book, The Raven King is wonderful capstone for the the whole series.
I see now that my opening sentence only introduces half of the topic for this blog post.

September: Essential Maps for the Lost, a review
Madison (Mads) has her life mapped out for her. She even graduated early from high school to get going on her plan.
The opening sets the tone for the book and picks up on the theme introduced by the title.

October: Heavy Heart
My beloved father-in-law died last Monday night. He and his wife were in Arizona for a quick vacation and he collapsed and died while taking a shower in the evening. My heart is just broken.
At least once a week I let my blog go personal, talking about my life. This was one of those times. Because of the death of my father-in-law, I spiraled into a reading/blogging funk. Grief sometimes has other plans.

November: My very own blog-n-readathan
Over the course of the next three days I plan to cobble together 24-hours of reading and blogging. I am so behind on my reviews it is ridiculous and talk about a towering TBR pile of books. It is time to take action.
Not a very gripping introduction to my readathon. Oh well, I guess the point was to read and write reviews. But the thing did the job. I wrote a ton of reviews that weekend and jump-started my reading muscle.

December: Little Women, a retrospective review
As a young girl I adored Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I must have been in 5th or 6th grade when I read it. I remember laying on my bed with book in hand dreaming of the life that the March sisters led, pining for a time I would never know. I loved Jo the most. I wanted to be Jo, so sure of herself and so talented, yet fun-loving, independent, and strong. 
I hope I set the stage for the review to follow which explained how I  wasn't as enamored with the book second time around.

This was a fun exercise. Taking the time to look back at what I reading and writing about during the past year was a good walk down memory lane.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2016 End of the Year Book Survey

Hosted by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner

Number Of Books You Read: 115, likely I will finish three more books before year's end.
Number of Re-Reads: 3
Genre You Read The Most From: YA

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?

  • Best biography: West With the Night by Beryl Markham
  • Best YA: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
  • Best Adult: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

  •  The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
  • Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (I love the Amazon Prime series but the book isn't really like the series. )
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I just had so much trouble with the format. I am not into reading plays.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Some books read in childhood shouldn't be reread. 

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

  • Apparently, outside of my library recommendations made as part of my job, I have not pushed many books this year. I mentioned how much I liked West With the Night to a lot of people but I don't think many actually read it because of me.

 5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

  • Started: Rebel of the Sand by Alwyn Hamilton, #1 in the series
  • Best Sequel: Winter by Marissa Meyer, #4 in the series (It really is the series ender but another book was published after it.)
  • Series Ender: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, #4 and last book of The Raven Cycle series

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?

  •  Beryl Markham.  I spun off into an Africa phase of reading after reading about her in Circling the Sun by Paula McLain and then reading her biography West With the Night

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

  •  Not exactly out of my comfort zone but this book falls into a category from which I have rarely read books, books on reading books: The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

  •  Most unputdownable: My Lady Jane by Hand, Ashton, Meadows

9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

  •  Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?
  •  Jazz Day by Roxane Orgill

11. Most memorable character of 2016?

  •  Lady Jane Grey in My Lady Jane

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?

  •  In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner and
  • The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?

  •  Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

14. Books you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 

  •  The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings and
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?

  • “Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance. The cloud clears as you enter it. I have learned this, but like everyone, I learned it late.” 
    ― Beryl MarkhamWest with the Night
  • “From the time I was a baby, my mom took me to the library at least once a week. Librarians were like Mary Poppins to me. They always knew how to match a book to my mood or to whatever I was going through at the time. I could always find peace in books.” 
    ― Rachel CohnThe Twelve Days of Dash and Lily

16. Shortest; Longest Book You Read In 2016?

  • Shortest: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, 32 pages
  • Longest: Winter by Marissa Meyer, 832 pages

17. Book That Shocked You The Most

  • Girl at War by Sara Novic (about children fighting in the Bosnian conflict)
  • Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron (about the Rwandan Genocide)

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

  • Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley (from My Lady Jane)
  • Miel and Sam (from When the Moon Was Ours)

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

  •  Dolssa and Botille (from The Passion of Dolssa)

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater 

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

  • The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen. It was recommended by a gal in book club.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?

  •  Cooper (from The Memory Book by Lara Avery)

23. Best 2016 debut you read?

  • The Reader by Traci Chee
  • The Serpent King by Jeff Zintner

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

  •  Railhead by Philip Reeve

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

  •  My Lady Jane by Hand, Ashton, and Meadows.  I am still smiling about this book.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?

  •  In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
  • The Memory Book by Lara Avery
  • The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanathi
  • Girl at War by Sara Novic

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

  • Flannery by Lisa Moore (A wonderful coming-of-age tale, published by a small publisher in Canada. A true gem.)

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

  •  Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?

  •  Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016?

  •  Um. Once again. I can't remember names of other's blogs. Sorry.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016? Here are a few:

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

  •  The GKHS Mock Printz Workshop, an annual event; Jane Austen week; Poetry Out Loud Competition. 

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?

  • When my blog attracted the attention of Julie Berry, the author of my favorite YA book of the year.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

  • I fell into a writing slump in September and had a hard time pulling myself out. I went for about two months without reviewing any books. 

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?

  • Upcoming Book Club Selections: The Life We Bury (Ersken) and Big Rock Candy Mountain (Stegner)
  • Potential Printz Award books: Rani Patel in Real Life (Patel); Girl Mans Up (Girard); The Female of the Species (McGinnis); Scythe (Shusterman); and The Sun Is Also A Star (Yoon)
 That pretty much sets my reading list for January!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

3. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017?

  •  The second book in the Rebel in the Sands series.

4. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?

  •  Generate more discussion blogs...not just reviews and memes

What did 2016 look like for you in terms of reading and books.  Feel free to copy the questions, give credit to Jamie at the Perpetual Page-Turner, and fill out your survey.

Favorite Book Club Selections of 2016

2016 Book Club favorites. I am in two book clubs. For this reason sometimes books will end up on my end-of-the-year list more than once. This year I asked the gals in my clubs, SOTH and RHS, for feedback. Their top three selections will be noted within my list of favorites. Keep in mind I select my favorites based not only on how much I liked the book but also on how well the book generated a discussion. I also factor in an educational aspect. Did I learn something new by reading the book?  If so, bonus points.

1. In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
     An unlikely winner considering the subject matter: the reign of the Khymer Rouge in Cambodia and the devastation on the lives of the people involved. But this book was exquisitely written, simply gorgeous. We had a fabulous discussion about the book and about this despicable event in history. In fact this book generated the best discussion of the year, hands down. (SOTH #3)

2. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
     Set in WWII in France this book looks at the lives of two unlikely heroes, sisters who assist the resistance and end up helping save the lives of RAF airmen and Jewish children. I was completely swept up in the sotry, which is based on an actual female hero of the war. (RHS #2)

3. The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen
     Mary Bowser was a free black woman who learned to read and write. She chose to live as in slavery to become a spy in the home of Jefferson Davis, the Confederate President. She transferred information to the Union army. Once the Civil War ended her life retreated into obscurity but is remembered here in a fictional account based on what the author was able to obtain about her life. We had an excellent discussion about this wonderful book. (RHS #1)

4. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
     Wow. What a book. It takes a look at the Vietnam War from the eyes of a double agent, written in the form of a confession. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature this year for good reason. This is not an easy book to read, and in fact several gals in my club would not place this book in the top ten of the year. I listened to the audiobook, which may have changed my experience of the book. I found the book to be surprisingly funny in parts. (RHS #3)

5. The Martian by Andy Weir
     This book was a crowd favorite. The book is so well written and exciting. I don't recall our discussion being especially insightful, though. We all just loved the book. (SOTH #2, tie)

6. And the Mountains Echoed.by Khaled Hosseini
     Hosseini is truly a gifted writer and this selection is right up there with his other books in terms of scope and writing. In fact, this book accomplishes an almost impossible task of bringing together a plethora of unrelated stories and tying them all together by story's end. I was surprised when the gals in the club voted this book so high on their favorites of the year, however, because I didn't think we had a particularly good discussion on it. (SOTH #2, tie)

7. Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
     Set in Seattle in the 1920s and 30s, this is the story of a young Chinese-American boy who is abandoned/orphaned by his mother, a famous and beautiful singer/actress. This is their stories, the mother's and the son's. I wasn't a huge fan of this book but other gals in the club really liked it and found it very readable. Several commented on how they didn't want to put the book down. It was interesting from the angle of what the early movie industry was like in our country and how Chinese-Americans were treated. We all enjoyed the references to sites in Seattle, too. (SOTH #1)

8. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
    Bill Bryson, in his autobiography also gives his readers a biography of two decades, the 1950s and 60s. Many of the gals in the club grew up during those decades, myself included, and we had such a fun discussion about those years.

9. Round House by Louise Erdrich
     Erdich is an amazing writer. Here she writes a mystery and a coming-of-age tale about a boy who is trying to uncover the events which changed his mother's life. When he discovers those answers he and his friends set out with revenge on their minds. Set in an American Indian reservation in North Dakota, the reader is not only treated to an excellent mystery but learned about injustices in our Justice system which do not favor Native Americans. It gave us a lot to talk about.

10. Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron
     This year was a the year for reading about war and conflicts around the world: WWII, Civil War, Bosnian Conflict, Vietnam War, the conflict in Cambodia, and finally, The Rwandan Genocide in this book. Benaron helped us, the readers, understand about the conflict and tensions in Rwanda which led to the horrific genocide which killed nearly 1 million Tutsis in the 100 days of the conflict. We had a lot to discuss and to digest.

Honorable mention goes to:

  • Quiet: the Power of the Introvert by Susan Cain...it may not have been our favorite book to read but it has given us all a new appreciation of introversion and a new vocabulary.
  • Circling the Sun by Paula McLain...this was one of my favorite book club reads of the year and from it I spun off into my Africa phase for a few months.
Look for more suggestions?  Click the links to check out my past lists