Good morning! It’s day two of #MonthOfFaves and have I mentioned how much I love this month-long focus on all of the good?!
Today Andi and the #MonthOfFaves crew are asking what our favorite go-to books are – and I’m tweaking it slightly so I can talk about my favorite books I’ve read this year. Mwa ha ha, the power!!! Ahem.
Okay, so I talked about my Top Ten back in May, which you can read here, or I’ll recap for you below.
- The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson. Because Nelson can draw grief like no one else. And the families she creates remind me an awful lot of mine.
- My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman. Because this is magical storytelling of the highest order. Like Ya-Ya type magic. I’m sad that these characters don’t really exist type of magic.
- The Book of Aron, by Jim Shepard. Because Shepard absolutely nails the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto. It’s a testament to Shepard’s mastery of character development that he has two books on my list.
- The Royal We, by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan. Because sometimes you need a silly doorstop-sized romance that makes you cancel plans to find out what happens to the fictionalized William and Kate couple.
- Girl at War, by Sara Novic. Because the cover art is effing gorgeous. And because war orphans from Croatia and identity crises are my jam.
- H Is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald. Because no one has written about grief and obsession and lyrical madness quite like this.
- We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson. Because I shouldn’t have liked a book about aliens abducting a teenage boy and asking him whether to push a button and save the human race or let it die. I refused to like it. But then I loved and devoured it.
- Project X, by Jim Shepard. Because only Shepard could make me understand and sympathize with why two brutally bullied middle school boys would want to shoot up their school.
- You, by Caroline Kepnes. Because it said it was the next Gone Girl and actually pulled it off.
- Becoming Nicole, by Amy Ellis Nutt. Because everyone should understand the ins and outs of transgenderism, and because everyone should have an ally, like Jonas, and people willing to change their minds for you, like Wayne.
So now I just need to think of my Top Ten since then and I’ll end up with a nice Top 20. I can do that.
- The Boy Who Drew Monsters, by Keith Donahue. This was a creepy, creepy scary story that I could read at night…but just barely. It was delicious, though, and played just enough on imagination to make me read with shoulders somewhere up near the top of my ears. It’s enough to make you miss winter in New England! Ish.
- A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro. This was such a well-designed whodunnit that could have been a cheap play (the main characters are descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, they despise each other, and need to solve a crime at their college), but ended up being so lovely that I was sad I’d have to wait at least a year for the next installment. It read like a modern Agatha Christie. Seriously, you guys!
- The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, by Laura Tillman. This is one of the few non-fiction on my list, because not only should people be writing about community and social justice, but we need to be reading it and discussing it. The book could have sailed off into the land of commercializing a horrible crime against three voiceless victims, but Tillman took care to
criticizecall to action more than just the community. Authorities and those in power, the whole damn system in other words, were even more to blame than anyone else. (Except, perhaps, the murderers themselves?)
- The Widow, by Fiona Barton. This book was just plain, old-fashion fun. I spent the entire book trying to figure out did-he-really? And who-did-it? Zipping through the pages as fast as I could. Books that are well constructed and well written both are few and far between. Characters, plot, pacing, writing – it wasn’t dazzling, but it was fun.
- A Tyranny of Petticoats, by Jessica Spotswood. I loved that the stories were short enough to pop off three or four in a (short) sitting, and short enough to hold Gracie’s attention. I loved the variety, the audacity – everything, really. If you’re looking for a book for a YA book club, strongly consider this one. There’s something for every girl looking for a hero in the mirror. No matter who she sees there.
- Hamilton: A Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Yes, Hamilton is everywhere. Still not sick of it. And this was masterful because there are so many secrets and behind-the-scenes and between-the-lines that I was sucked in. I felt like I was there, listening to Miranda as he gossiped over a pint.
- In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware. After I finished, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of Ware! I read the other book she had out and wasn’t as impressed, but Dark, Dark Wood was still a fun whodunnit (though I wish the fight wasn’t over a guy). Also, will not be staying in any cabins in the wood with all the books I read this year. Sheesh!
- Eleven Hours, by Pamela Erens. Oooooh, the writing! Erens can take eleven hours of time and with such evocative prose, make us wish the microscope dialed in even tighter. Even something as mundane as a laboring woman’s trip down a hallway became a chance for philosophic musing of the highest order. It was a glorious tribute to how brave we can be, and how we don’t need anyone other than ourselves, no matter the challenge or celebration. We are our own champions! And Pamela Erens states that case with much more grace and poignancy than I could ever manage.
- Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston. Oh, mama – what a book! It makes cheerleaders look like athletes who have souls (points), and tackles a terribly tough subject (rape) with aplomb and sensitivity. I’m reading it to my girls – yes, even with the tricky subjects at their very young ages – so they will know to speak up. No matter what. And that even if things don’t go right, the right people (family, true friends, and MAMA, especially) will be there. You can’t control everything that happens, but you can control how you write the rest of the story. [Side note: How sad that I need to worry about my 7th grader and parties and what she will be offered?]
- Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, by Karen Abbott. The other non-fiction on my Best Of list, because it totally read like a thriller (a theme this year). And it also featured kick-ass women (another theme). Everyone should know how many women contributed to the successes of this country, and we should shout those stories louder than we have been. Abbott’s book is a good start. Now I wanna go be a spy.
So there you have it. My Best Of list. And if you’re really gonna make me, I’ll tell you my three top book of the year.
My absolute favorite is by far and away My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry. If I’m not a grandmother some day so I can go all Narnia on them, I’ll be pissed.
The runner up would have to be You, by Caroline Kepnes. The idea that this situation could play out is so twisted and downright SCARY, partly because it’s somewhat believable. And it was BRILLIANT. This year’s Gone Girl for me.
And our third place winner (out of 200+ books, so really – not too shabby) is Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere. Just knocked me flat with its intricate and beautiful ways to handle loss and grief and absence. It picked me raw and helped me heal, both.
What were your faves? I can’t wait to read and see!