Ideal Corners, Minn.
Tough assignment, but I think the best book I read this year is “Ordinary Grace,” by William Kent Krueger. Its honesty about the small and gigantic joys and pains of family life made it deeply personal for me.
Grey Eagle, Minn.
“Benediction,” by Kent Haruf, is the best book I’ve read this year. In elegantly simple prose he illuminates all our lives by focusing on people in small-town Colorado. We recognize them and their emotions and feel privileged for having spent time with them.
“Ham on Rye,” by Charles Bukowski — raw and believe able. Never read anything like it.
“We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” by Karen Fowler is a compelling, painful, and transforming read. The author is skillful and the book is very well constructed, but what made it stand out for me was the raw heartache I felt through the story itself. A novel that will touch you in many ways, and a message we all need to hear, however painful.
“The Other Typist,” by Suzanne Rindell. I liked the Prohibition setting and especially the female villain; however, the ending was a bit perplexing. I wish someone would explain it to me.
Little Falls, Minn.
My vote goes to “The Orchardist” by Amanda Coplan. It was recommended to me by a bookseller at Village Books in Bellingham, Wash, when I visited the summer. I loved it because it was so different, a mental change of scenery, which really is why I read.
Set in the Yakima Valley in the early 1900s, the environmental setting is unimaginable to Minnesotans. The time is different: the characters lived in a relatively small world, getting on the train to go to another town is a big deal, they have a small circle of friends and relationships, sex is not a priority, there is no technology and pretty much everything is done by hand labor. Their personalities, the way they communicate, their views of mental illness, everything is different. And yet, they are human, and we are all the same.
I have selected “Suspect,” by Robert Crais. It is a stand-alone from his excellent Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series. An L.A. policeman, Scott James, and a bomb-sniffing dog, Maggie, both seriously injured, and suffering from PTSD from injuries are in a canine unit. The story is told from both Scott’s and Maggie’s perspectives. It evokes laughter and tears while reading. Of the many books I have read, it tops the list!.
“How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams
With humor characteristic of the creator of “Dilbert,” Scott Adams observes patterns in his life which led from failure to failure and finally to spectacular success. As the mother of four children ages 12 - 19 years, I particularly appreciate the idea that successful people focus on systems rather than goals. Too often, I think, teenagers get the idea that their lives have to be one stellar accomplishment after the other or they fall off the ladder of success. What Adams advises is to set up systems which allow for daily success in following the systems because eventually good processes lead to success. Scott Adams says, “goals are for losers and systems are for winners.” My children may be receiving their own copies for Christmas!
“Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control” by Medea Benjamin, who spoke at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis a few months ago. Hardly a day goes by but what the Strib reports drone strikes and drone protests. Benjamin, co-founder of the women’s peace group CodePink, is in the front rank of protestors and even has squared off at least twice with President Obama face to face at his speaking engagements. And he hears her out.
“The Death Of Bees,” by Lisa O’Donnell. The book grabs you right at the brief prologue. It is written from different characters’ perspectives so the reader gets the story from many angles. The result is a sympathetic view of all the main characters and a better understanding of the plot. And its just simply a good and well told story