“The Light in the Ruins,” by Chris Bohjalian. I am always impressed with Bohjalian’s historical research that is the basis for his writing. It makes his storytelling seem so believable. This book is much more suspenseful than others of his I’ve read, making it hard to put aside. I was reminded while reading, and he references at the end, another book on this time in Italy I thought wonderful: Mary Doria Russell’s “A Thread of Grace.”
The best book I’ve read this year is David Shenk’s “The Forgetting: Alzheimer’s: Portrait of an Epidemic.”
My interest in the subject is personal as my mother is in her seventh year of dementia with nothing but death and decline in her immediate future. But my interest in the book is that it towers above the typical self-help books for caregivers. This book describes the beginnings of our understanding of this heinous disease but it also validates its history through quotes, anecdotes and personal stories from well known persons who have succumbed to its finality. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Aaron Copland, Jonathan Swift, Willem de Kooning, and Ronald Reagan are a few of the people whose journeys with dementia are described in this well-written book.
Inspired by the Dorothea Lange photograph “Migrant Mother,” “Mary Coin,” by Marisa Silver, provides beautiful language and a heart-breaking view of the Depression.
“The Devereaux Dilemma,” by Steve McEllistrem. Why it was good: Set in a society in the future, this political thriller has action-packed battles; philosophical choices; and deep social issues. Science Fiction at its best.
Fiction: “Inferno,” by Dan Brown. I didn’t want to like it, but the mix of history and cliff hangers won me over.
Non-fiction: “My Reading Life,” by Pat Conroy. Part memoir and part ode to books and some of the people who love them — as a reader and writer myself, what’s not to like?
I have read 67 books so far in 2013. One that stood out as really good was”Cold Justice,” by Jonnie Jacobs. It was a book I could not put down and held my interest until the last word. I have also checked out 19 other books which I returned to the library after reading very few pages. Every character used the “f” word gratuitously. I have checked those authors off my list of books that I will ever buy or get at the library.
“The Night Circus,” by Erin Morgenstern. Enigmatic, intriguing, mysterious. When finished I wanted to re-read — for its great writing and story, but also for the carefully designed structure of the book. An all-time favorite!
“One Shot at Forever,” by Chris Ballard. A small farm community high school baseball team makes it to the State Tournament in 1971 during a time of social change. The”Bad News Bears meet “Hoosiers.”
“The Light Between Oceans,” by M.L. Stedman. A dilemma — a problem where no solution seems satisfactory — forms the plot of “The Light Between Oceans.” By odd circumstances, a boat containing a baby drifts to an island where a couple who have longed for a child live. Should they keep the child? What’s the honest thing to do? The fairest thing? The right thing? This conflict made this the most fascinating book I read this year.
“Submergence,” by J.D. Ledgard. Why: Profound, a bit daring in concept but not too arty, and a conclusion that was both surprising and satisfying. I’d just read “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” which I also thought was very good. The books dealt with a similar theme, how to persist and hang onto hope in a world that seems to have no regard for human life. I found Ledgard’s connections among the political, spiritual and biological threads of existence less predictable and more compelling.
My favorite so far was “The Roundhouse” by Louise Erdrich because of the beautiful writing and the empathetic compelling story.
International Falls, Minn.
“The Thirty-ninth Man” by D.A. Swanson, historical novel about a man who tries to do the right thing his whole life. Takes place before and during the 1862 Dakota Uprising in the Midwest. The characters were so believable I wanted to know them and speak with them. The book expanded my knowledge of not only the uprising but also the Civil War and what it was like to live in those times.