Musings From A Bookmammal

Top Ten Tuesday–My Favorite Books Of The Year (So Far!)

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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!

18819296I 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.

 

boys in the boatI 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.

 

13490638I 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!

15786110Relish 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 streetChestnut 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!)

sisterlandI 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!

 

17162148Tell 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.

17196305I 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!

empty mansionsIf 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.

18453249The 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!

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Author: bookmammal

I love books, reading, writing, cooking, eating, reading while eating, and sharing thoughts about all of the above–plus a bit more! I usually post about topics relating to books and literacy during the week, and then participate in a variety of non-bookish memes on the weekend. Please feel free to join in! Some random things about me– –I have multiple bookshelves in every room of my home except the bathroom. They’re all filled to bursting. They help to make my house my home. –I have two cats who I love dearly, but who I definitely do NOT dress in human clothing. Ever. –I’ve never had a cavity. –I make a mean spaghetti sauce. –I’m a newcomer to yoga and I love it. –My day is not complete without a little chocolate.

39 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday–My Favorite Books Of The Year (So Far!)

  1. Lots of these are new to me, I’ll have to check a few of them out!

  2. I loved Relish and Reading in the Wild, too, so I’m off to add a few more from your list to my wish list.

    Here’s my Best Books So Far This Year! Hope you will stop by!

  3. I have seen Tell The Wolves I’m home a couple of times now, I will have to pick it up. Great list.
    http://wp.me/p3ftwe-sU

  4. Sisterland was a good read! I thoroughly enjoyed it. It looks like you’ve had a great reading year so far.

  5. I love your list! I also have been avoiding Sisterland because I hate anything paranormal — but now I’m going to give it a try. I’ve really liked Curtis Sittenfeld’s other books. The Boys in the Boat was my absolute favorite book of 2013. And I just finished The Blessings — loved it!

  6. TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME! I’ve had this on my TBR list for so long just because everytime I find it somewhere, I’m just like “nah I’ll wait til later to read it”. I should probably get on reading it though. Also, Relish. There’s a graphic novel that focuses just on food? Wow. I want it now.

  7. Great list! I’ve been meaning to read Tell the Wolves I’m Home, I’m glad to hear it’s a good read!

  8. I loved Sisterland. There are a lot of other books on your list that I want to read too – especially Penelope. Great list!

  9. What an interesting and wide selection you’ve chosen for this post. I’ve added the Blessings to my TBR after reading your comments last week.

  10. I loved Tell The Wolves I’m Home. It really was incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking. I quite enjoyed Arranged by Catherine McKenzie so I might give Hidden a whirl. Empty Mansions has been on my list for a few months because it was the Celebitchy Book Club pick a while ago but I haven’t managed to purchase a copy yet.

  11. I just read about Chestnut Street this morning–sounds like just the kind of collection of stories that I would like. The Boys in the Boat and Empty Mansions are both on my reading list–glad to hear you liked them. I like graphic books sometimes and Relish looks like a lot of fun–will have to check that one out for sure.

    • I think Chestnut Street has something for just about everyone who likes nice light fiction–some of the characters are funny, some of the stories are really moving, and some of the characters are even connected as you move towards the end of the book.

  12. Great list! Mamie has recently reviewed Mansions and The Boys in the Boat. Chronicles

  13. I’m looking forward to read Sisterland and Tell The Wolves I’m Home,. They both sound so good!

    Thanks for visiting my TTT 🙂

  14. So funny – I have both The Boys in the Boat and Empty Mansions on my list, and Tell The Wolves I’m Home was on my list of favorites last year! Relish is on my wish list and I dismissed Sisterland for the same reasons you mentioned… guess I’ll have to reconsider. I should also take a closer look at the others on your list. We seem to have very similar tastes in books 🙂

  15. You have three on your list that are on my TBR (Sisterland, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, and Empty Mansions), so I am happy to see them make a favorites list!

  16. I have put 5 of these book on my “to be read’ lists. I will start with Tell the Wolves I’m Home….I was a young nurse early in the 1980’s when the AIDS epidemic started. I should write about that on my blog sometime. It was a scary time.

    http://smidgensbitsandsnippets.blogspot.com/

    • Yes, it was. Have you read the book And The Band Played On about the early years of AIDS? It’s one of my favorite works of nonfiction but it causes so much anger to read it. I think it’s a very powerful book.

  17. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is currently sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read. Think it was moved up the pecking order thanks to your list 🙂

  18. I’ve not read any of these but now am going to see if my local library has any of them as they sound great. Particularly want to have a look at ‘Relish.’ I’ve only ever read one food memoir- Nigel Slater’s ‘Toast’- but I loved that so I might give this a go.

  19. I haven’t read any of these and now I’m taking note! Nice mix 🙂

  20. I’m not much of a nonfiction reader, but The Boys in the Boat sounds really fascinating!

  21. Hopping over from the Spread the Love Linky Party. I used Goodreads to come up with my list, too. I loved Relish. Great list!

  22. I’d heard really good things about Empty Mansions and then sort of forgot about it, thanks for reminding me! You’re also the second person that’s recommended Boys in the Boat and I must say that I’m intrigued.

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