The best book I read this year is, again, “The Magus,” by John Fowles. I own five copies and used to read it annually. I hadn’t read it for over 10 years but read it again this year and it is still my all-time favorite book. As an avid reader (I have my own library — over 1,200 books), this one will always be my favorite!
Grand Rapids, Minn.
“Ordinary Grace” eased my sorrow from the loss of so many loved ones in 2012-13. William Kent Krueger shared the beauty of “grace” with all his readers. I have memorized the last two sentences and repeat them frequently. “The dead are never far from us. They’re in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air.” Thank you Mr. Krueger!
“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,” by Rachel Joyce
A beautiful story of hope, forgiveness and change with the most lovable and likeable characters. Made me laugh and cry and I couldn’t put it down.
“Children are Diamonds,” by Edward Hoaglund. This revelatory novel set amongst the war ravaged, suffering tribal villages of Kenya, Southern Sudan, and Uganda conveys a reality that no news story has ever quite captured.
The best book I read this year was “East of Eden,” by John Steinbeck. It was our Book Club’s “Classic” selection for the year, and, for me, it surpassed any of the other more recent books. (I read about 50 books a year)
Spring Valley, Minn.
“Boxers and Saints,” by Gene Luen Yang.
This is a story about a very dark period in history, the Boxer Rebellion. Yang presents both sides of the conflict with equal compassion in a two-volume format. The illustrations are exquisite and tell much of the story. The two main characters, Bao and Vibiana, are complicated and empathetic. Yang is a wonderful storyteller and uses humor in this very sad and violent turning point in China’s history.
The best book I’ve read this year is “Tyger! Tyger!” by Walter J. Roers. I loved this little book and was so captured by it that I read it in just two days. It is a story of a man recalling his life as a teen in South Minneapolis in the late ’50s and early ’60s. The story of young love and teens growing up in a time just before the war and unrest of the 1960s is entertaining, humorous and at times heartbreaking. I really did laugh out loud at some parts of the book and tear up at others. A real bonus for local readers is the setting in South Minneapolis and South High School. At the same time, the story is universal and could have been set anywhere in the US. My fear is that this wonderful little book is going to be overlooked by readers.
“Monument Men,” by Robert Edsel.
While on a recent trip to Belgium and the Netherlands one of tour guides referred to this book a few times, so when I came back home, I wanted to know more about it. I knew it was related to art work and WWII, two subjects I am interested in. It was fascinating reading. I never knew there existed a group of men and women, called the Monument Men, who saved thousands of priceless works of art, stolen by the Nazis. It had special meaning to me, as I saw some of the art work that had at one time been hidden deep below the earth in salt mines. I highly recommend it.
“Life After Life,” by Kate Atkinson, because it was so creative, thought-provoking, and compelling.
Does “Bleak House” count if I started it in 2012 but finished in 2013? My very favorite Dickens so far. The female characters seemed more fleshed out, and he didn’t tie things up neatly at the end. Quite an accomplishment in that Esther starts out as a rather annoying goody-two-shoes, but becomes a fully realized, sympathetic character who I really rooted for. It marks the third of Dickens’ books that I’ve read in a small group, and we’re reading them as originally serially published. It’s so cool to see how he structured the individual sections. And those cliffhangers!
Best discovery of 2013: Tom Drury’s “The End of Vandalism.” This is the quintessential small-town Midwestern novel. There were scenes in there that made me howl with laughter, but also one scene in particular that did just the opposite, rather inconveniently while I was in a doctor’s waiting room, probably looking like I’d just gotten a bad diagnosis.