Holiday books: Reader recommendations

  • Updated: December 3, 2013 - 11:01 AM

When we asked the simple question, “What was the best book you read this year?” readers flooded us with answers.


Photo: Rachael Balsaitis, Special to the Star Tribune

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The best book I read this year is: “The Book Thief,” by Markus Zusak. It is good because the main character, Liesel, does the best she knows how with bad situations and does not give up. She’s a survivor! Can’t wait to see the movie!
Joan Patton, Sartell, Minn.

My daughter and I are homeschoolers, so we would like to give you three book recommendations.

First, my daughter is 16 and recommends “Night Watch,” by Terry Pratchett. She loves all the Disc World books she’s read and liked this one it because it was a good take on “Les Miserables” and had a really good plot.

My recommendation is “The Fate of Mercy Alban,” by Wendy Webb. It’s got both mystery and magic and kept me guessing until the end. I loved that it is set in a mansion patterned after the Congdon Mansion in Duluth, which we have visited.

Our third recommendation is from our homeschool reading. We both liked “Waterlily,” by Ella Cara Deloria. We were studying Native Americans at the time and this is a beautiful story of a Sioux girl growing up in the 19th century. It is an interesting exploration of the plains Sioux culture as well as a good story.
Margaret Meyer, New Brighton


Ken Robinson’s “The Element” thrilled me for the love of learning and the hope of all of us realizing that our “one size fits all” is an industrial concept. The ripples through all of us to balance when we are acting out of groupthink and when we are into our creativity is the transformation vital right now. I could go on …

Barbara Vaile



One of the best books I have read this year is Joyce Maynard’s “After Her.” The protagonist is a young teenager and has an unusual twist at the end. It holds the reader’s interest and has a good deal of humor in it.

I would also recommend “The President’s Club.” It’s about how former presidents get together to help the current occupant of the White House. Quite a change from what is happening today. My book club enjoyed it and learned some things we may have forgotten and/or did not know about politics.

Ann Hanna Walsh



The best book I read this year is “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” by Katherine Boo. In the book, Boo follows the lives of some citizens of the Annawadian slum near the Mumbai airport. The people who live in this slum must face constant problems keeping their homes habitable, maintaining their daily food supply, and avoiding trouble with the law. Crushing though the book is to the reader’s sensibilities, it opens a window into the injustice present in the world.

Florence Flugaur

New Hope


The best book I read this year is Jenny Lawson’s “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, a Mostly True Memoir.” It is hard to find a truly hysterically funny book, and this is it. This is ROTFL funny! I have never laughed so hard when reading a book, I think because I could relate to so much of what she said. This is my vote for best book of the year!

Becky Zimmerman



My choice for best book read in 2013 is “Me Before You,”by Jojo Moyes. A beautiful love story that plays out in the context of assisted suicide. Character development is marvelous and the story will evoke much thought and discussion. Anxious to see your list.

Dick Holt

St. Cloud.


“Ordinary Grace,” by William Kent Krueger. It is a novel (written beautifully), moving in its simplicity. Krueger uses no excess verbiage in his work. Small-town characters, some mystery, a bit of gossip keep the action flowing. A second read added to my “mind pictures”. It is a lovely experience

Joan Keetley



I’ve narrowed my search to Vishal Mangalwadi’s book: “The Book That Made Your World.” This is a must read for those who enjoy history. The author brings a challenge to our Western minds of epic proportions: Is the sun setting on the West? Will democracy as we know it, prosper? What is wrong with our nation?

Mary Ann Barnett



“We Need New Names,” by NoViolet Bolawayo.” A novel from a child’s perspective that makes you feel what it is like to be part of the African diaspora.

Karen Kandik



My best book read this year is “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,” a work of fiction and first novel (nominated for the Booker Award) by English writer Rachel Joyce. This book renewed my faith in the human race at a time when no one seems to be able to get along. Through Harold Fry’s journey from the south to the north of England I learned that everyone has a story; a reason for doing what they do, and that there is good in everyone.

I hope it makes your list.

Pam Nelson



My husband and I took on the trilogy of Rick Atkinson this summer. His last volume, “The Guns at Last Light” (WWII from D-Day to June 1945), was recently released. I read them backwards in time and my husband, a veteran who saw the results of war in Europe, read them from Book One (“An Army at Dawn,” the war in North Africa) to Book Two (“The Day of the Battle,” the invasion if Italy), finishing with the third. The research is monumental and the stories of real men thrown into impossible situations is what drives you to read without stopping. As teenagers during the war, we only knew what the newsreels or headlines told us. We’ve read other books on the war, but this puts it all in context of those years.

The men who returned to our small towns never spoke of their experiences until close to death. These three books tell of many real experiences and angst of leaders’ mistakes that were costly, and also of lucky breaks. These three books are a must-read for all to understand the “real” war.

Delores Gustafson and Robert Hatlestad

Glencoe, Minn.


How can one choose just one book? May I mention two? “Blue Highways,” by William Least Heat-Moon, and “Oryx and Crake,” by Margaret Atwood. The reason I chose the books I liked most was because of the excellent writing and unusual story.

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