Previous Page 4 of 10 Next

Continued: Holiday books: Reader recommendations

  • Article by:
  • Last update: December 3, 2013 - 11:01 AM


“The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson gets my vote. It’s non-fiction, recounting the difficulties faced by three black individuals and their families seeking a better life out of post-slavery south, two moving north, one to Chicago and one to New York, the other to Los Angeles. Written with sensitivity and depth, I felt like I knew these people and their struggles by the time I finished the book. This one will stay with me.

Mary Ho



One of the best books I have ever read is “A Higher Call” by Adam Makos. I read it earlier this year and now have a copy of it in front of me to mail to a 90 year old in Canada who was one of my Dad’s best friends. They both served Canada in WW II.

This is the fourth copy I have purchased: the original for me earlier this year; two more a few months ago, one for a retired Northwest pilot and the other for an 85 year old who still flies his own twin engine craft.

Although the book is non-fiction it reads like a novel, giving great insight to WWII on both sides and the individuals who fought in it. I am not a reader of war books, real or fiction but this one really grabbed me. Adam Makos has done a remarkable job of relating a fascinating story that started in the skies of Northern Germany between a badly shot up American B-47 bomber and it’s attacker, a German Bf-109.

What makes the book even more effective is the author’s own words on the first page of his Introduction: “As remarkable as it is, it’s a story I never wanted to tell.”

Hugh Thompson



The best novel I read this year ( indeed, in 10 years) is Thomas Keneally’s “Daughters of Mars.” It portrays two Australian sisters, both nurses, during World War I. The action takes place aboard a hospital ship and later in primitive clearing stations for the wounded in Gallipoli, Cairo, France and England. Plot lines, characters and setting are all remarkable, and Keneally’s unusually-crafted sentences and word choice are amazing.

Katherine Bailey



“Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn. One cannot set this book down. Wife disappears on their 5th wedding anniversary and Flynn take you down a path that confounds you at every turn. It’s one of the best thrillers of all time. Six months after reading it and I still can’t stop thinking about it.




I read a lot, all genres, but the book that has stayed in my consciousness the longest this year is “The End of Your Life Book Club,” by Will Schwalbe. Although it is about a mother’s dying of pancreatic cancer, it is ultimately about the intergenerational love of books — reading and sharing all types of literature between a mother and a son. I found it very uplifting and have shared it with my daughters and many friends.

Jeannine Reed



“Long Time No See,” by Dermot Healy. I found it on a library display at the Hamline branch — of reader’s recommendations. I picked it up because of the beautiful book cover and title. I found that I needed to read the book aloud because of it’s punctuation style and that made the story and the people really come alive.

The closer I got to the end, the slower I read, not wanting the story to end. It is a book that takes you away from your life and deep inside the lives of others. Characters I loved, laughed with, cried with and miss.

Annamary Herther

Saint Paul


“Transatlantic,” Colum McCann. McCann’s descriptions are incredible. In the beginning, I found myself transported to Newfoundland in 1919, later to Ireland in the mid-1840’s, then suddenly catapulted forward to the late 1990’s to join George Mitchell in Dublin. And all of this without leaving my armchair. An amazing power with words.

Michael Swirnoff



“Gift from the Sea” is as pertinent today as when it was first written and applies to all generations. This book is a life lesson about relationships, and the author tells us roads we can take to simplify our lives and be at peace. This book is written by a compassionate, patient woman named Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of a Minnesota and United States hero (Charles Lindbergh).

Kay J. Barrett

Coon Rapids


I read a lot and my favorite book this year was “The Burgess Boys” by Elizabeth Strout. Her ability to tell the story of a family from each person’s perspective gives great insight and makes even the most flawed character someone to care about. She is a wonderful writer.

Jerre Johnson

Jackson, Minn.


“The Lacuna,” by Barbara Kingsolver. A fascinating combination of art, history, and political/social movements, by a master writer. And just because … “A Song at Twilight,” by Nancy Paddock. A family memoir that many people can related to, sadly.

Kathryn Hultgren,



The best book I read this year has to be “Grant’s Final Victory” by Charles Bracelen Flood. “Shortly after losing all of his and his family’s wealth in a financial swindle in 1884, Ulysses S. Grant learns he has terminal throat and mouth cancer. Destitute and dying, Grant begins to write his Civil War memoirs to save his family from financial ruin.”

I enjoy United States history and found this a fascinating read for what it tells of us of the man and his character that are hardly known today. We mostly remember Grant as a poor President and a drunken soldier who somehow won the Civil War for the North. I had not known about Grant’s foresight and thoughtfulness at Appomattox in deciding the terms of surrender with General Lee. One result — thousands of former Confederate soldiers traveled hundreds of miles to attend his state funeral in New York. His drinking reputation came mostly from some poor judgment while a young cadet at West Point. In the field he was alert, clear and a very effective strategist and leader. The courage and class he demonstrated writing by hand a work that required virtually no editing while enduring incredible pain from the cancer is remarkable. All the world watched as this hero to millions — and arguably the most popular man alive — fought to complete this work before he died. Woven into Flood’s book are his interactions with his friends, Mark Twain, Cornelius Vanderbilt and many other figures from history.

This is an easy and interesting read. I came away with a new respect for the man and highly recommend “Grant’s Final Victory.”

Jim Hickey


  • related content

  • Holiday books: Our critics' top books of the year

    Saturday November 30, 2013

    In “Consolations of the Forest” (Rizzoli Books, $24.95), French writer Sylvain Tesson goes off to live in a cabin in...

  • In “Consolations of the Forest” (Rizzoli Books, $24.95), French writer Sylvain Tesson goes off to live in a cabin in...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters