Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new question or theme is presented. This week’s prompt is:
List The Top Ten Books You’ve Read This Year (So Far!)
According to my Goodreads account, I’ve read 48 books so far this year. Of those 48, I’ve given the highest five-star rating to six of them, and a four-star rating to twelve more. This list—in no particular order—is made up of all six of my five-star books, plus four more selections from my four-star list. Ready? Here we go!
I really enjoy stories that are told through the alternating viewpoints of different characters, and this novel is a great example of that technique. Hidden by Catherine McKenzie is told through the perceptions of the three main characters—a man who is killed in an accident in the first chapter, his wife, and another woman who may or may not have been his mistress. This novel raises questions about whether or not honesty is always the best policy—and how well we really know those we love.
I love reading about sports—trust me, I’m much better at reading about them than actually “doing” them!–but I knew virtually nothing about rowing (or as it’s more properly called, “crew”) until I read The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown. It’s the story of the 1936 US Olympic rowing team who competed in Hitler’s Berlin Olympic Games, and I was completely riveted throughout the entire book. It also made me want to learn more about those particular Olympics that took place during such a fascinating and troubling time.
I think you need to have a very particular sense of humor to appreciate Penelope by Rebecca Harrington, and I definitely have that sense of humor! This satirical novel is about a slightly eccentric girl’s freshman year at Harvard University, and readers seem to either love it or hate it. One complaint from reviewers is that the dialogue isn’t true to life, and a common comment seems to be “Don’t these characters ever use contractions when they talk???” I found the dialogue to fit the mood and the characters of the book perfectly, and some of it had me laughing out loud—which is rare for me. I loved this book—if you enjoy novels set in school settings, go ahead and give it a try!
Relish by Lucy Knisley is the first book in graphic format that I’ve ever read, and it completely charmed me! The author uses text, dialogue, and illustration to narrate memories of food, cooking, and eating throughout her life. I’ve always been a fan of food memoirs—I love reading about how food and cooking reflect our memories and our culture—and Relish is a great take on foodie genre. Plus—there are recipes! I enjoyed this book so much that after I returned it to the library I went out and bought my own copy for my collection.
Chestnut Street was published after Maeve Binchy’s death and is a collection of short stories and vignettes about characters who live on the same street in a small Irish town. Many of the chapters could have easily been expanded into short stories—which probably would have happened if Binchy had lived. I loved this book, but it also made me sad to realize that it’s probably the new book that we’ll see from her. (Late breaking news! A collection of her columns entitled Maeve’s Times will be published later this year!)
I almost didn’t read Sisterland. Although I’ve enjoyed Curtis Sittenfeld’s other books—especially American Wife—the descriptions I read seemed to really play up the paranormal aspect of this novel. I’m not generally into books about psychics, ghosts, spirits, etc, but I was looking for a new audiobook to listen to on my daily commute, and this one was available at my library. I decided to give it a try, and I’m so glad I did! The novel is about two adult twin sisters who share the ability to predict the future—but there’s so much more to the story than that! It’s about family bonds, trust, betrayal, secrets, and unconditional love. I think this would be a great book club title!
Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is another book that I almost missed. I started it a couple of times and just couldn’t get engaged with the story. For some reason I decided to give it a final try, and I’m so glad that I did—this is definitely an example of how a book will find you at just the right time! It’s a novel set during 1987, and the main character is a 14-year old girl who, along with her family, is dealing with the recent death of her uncle from AIDS. She forms a secret friendship with her late uncle’s lover and learns to process her feelings of grief while also starting to come to terms with her changing relationships with her parents and older sister. This is really a beautiful book. It captures the essence of the mid-to-late 1980s very well—and it vividly brings back the fear and ignorance that surrounded us during those early, frightening years of the AIDS crisis. It also paints a great picture of those teen years when you’re trying to figure out where you fit in, or if you even want to fit in, and finally, it’s a very moving story of working through loss.
I work in educational publishing and I’m always on the lookout for ideas on how to help kids learn to love to read. Reading In The Wild by Donalyn Miller is a nonfiction book discussing how teachers (and parents) can help children become lifelong readers. The author offers the opinion that many practices commonly used in classrooms—such as reading journals and contests—can actually work against helping children understand that reading should be a part of our everyday lives and not simply something to be done in school. She also provides practical suggestions on how educators can create an authentic book-loving culture in their schools. Many of the ideas presented apply to parents as well. I completely loved the message of this book!
If you want an example of truth being stranger than fiction, look no further! Empty Mansions by Bill Dedmantells the true story of Hugette Clark, heiress to her father’s copper fortune. She grew up in incredible wealth and privilege in New York City and when she died in 2011 at the age of 104, her estate was valued at over $300 million. However, it was discovered that she’d left two signed wills—one leaving her wealth to her remaining family members (distant relatives from her father’s first marriage, most of whom hadn’t spoken to her in decades–she had no children of her own), the other leaving everything to her lawyers, long-time private nurse, and other employees. The question was, had she been in control of her fortune, or was she being controlled by the people she hired to care for her and manage her money? And why did she spend the last 20 years of her life living in a hospital, when even her doctors agreed that there was no medical reason for doing so? If you love to escape by reading about the lives of the impossibly rich, or if you like a good investigative treatment of a modern day mystery, give this book a try.
The Blessings by Elise Juska is the most recently read book on my list. I love books about family secrets and multiple generations, and this is a great example of that genre. It takes place over twenty years in the lives of a close-knit, extended family living near Philadelphia, and each chapter relates the perceptions and feelings of a different family member–I really appreciated the way the author used this technique to reveal information about pivotal events in this family’s history.
How about you? Have you read any of these? What are some of the best books you’ve read so far this year? Please share!