Some of my favorite books
This page is inspired by The Week's "Best Books...chosen by (insert author name here)." I fantasize that one day they'll ask me to write this feature...
Here they are, in no particular order:
The Wreckage of My Presence - This essay collection from actress Casey Wilson is hilarious, but also poignant and thought provoking. She details the path she took to become an acclaimed comedic actress and podcaster, but also talks about her mother's death and struggles with food addiction in way that balances the raw nature of confession with a lightheartedness that shows she's very grounded. I know the term laugh-out-loud funny is overused, but in this case, it's a spot on description.
Dan Unmasked - I'm totally skewing the demographic by recommending this middle grades novel, but the story captured my heart. It's about the importance of friendship, both old and new, with a little mystery, comic books and baseball thrown in. Full disclosure, author Chris Negron is an acquaintance of mine, but I'm not the only one blown away by his excellent writing; this work has won several awards.
All The Light We Cannot See - What a story. Doerr weaves a tale about a French girl and a German boy and how their lives intersect during WWII. This is one of those books you just fall into, and when you're approaching the final pages, you're torn between wanting to find out what happens, and not wanting the story to end.
The Rosie Project - I encourage everyone to read this charming book. Don, a forty-year-old man with undiagnosed Asberger's, decides to find a wife. Using his logical approach to select a perfect match has not only has hilarious results, but causes Don to question all aspects of his super structured and insanely organized life. If you think you can see where the story is headed, you'd be wrong - Graeme Simsion keeps the reader guessing until the very last page.
Where'd You Go Bernadette - A middle school girl has been promised a reward by her parents for getting perfect grades. Her wish? A trip to Antartica, which sends her agoraphobic mother into a tailspin. Bernadette disappears, leaving her resourceful daughter Bee to track down her missing mother. Written in emails, letters, notes, invoices, even FBI reports, the story flies along. Kudos to Maria Semple for putting together this unorthodox story about a quirky, endearing Seattle family.
What Alice Forgot - Main character Alice wakes up after suffering a concussion at the gym, only to find out she can't remember the last ten years of her life. Instead of being a pregnant newlywed with an adoring husband and a ramshackle, money-pit house, she's a thirty-nine year old compulsive exerciser with three kids and a showpiece home who is estranged from both her beloved sister and her husband. As Alice tries to piece together the lost years, she looks at the past and present with fresh eyes, and wonders if she can't change her future. A great exploration of a marriage, motherhood and friendship.
The Art of Fielding - Wow. Love the flawed characters, the tribute to the beautiful game of baseball and, of course, the Moby Dick homage. I mean, really, I can't believe this was Chad Harbach's first novel. It is a triumph.
City of Thieves - anyone I've known who has read this book has always proclaimed they loved it. It's set in Leningrad during WWII. The Germans surrounded the city and were literary starving out the Russians stuck there. Lev is a 17 year old boy who gets thrown in jail for breaking curfew - a crime punishable by death. In the morning he is paired with a brash, young soldier name Kolya and the pair are told that their lives will be spared if they can find a dozen eggs by Friday - the colonel's daughter is getting married and his wife wants to make her a wedding cake. Memorable characters, gripping story, learned a little history.
The Fault In Our Stars - OMG, John Green has captured the complexity of teens in this novel. Yes, the main characters are dying of cancer, but with such spirit, bravery, and laugh-out-loud dialogue, you'll get sucked right into their world. You won't soon forget Hazel and Augustus, and if you didn't believe teenagers were capable of serious, deep, passionate love, you will after reading this brilliant story.
The Glass Castle - You'll never forget this recollection of childhood with two extremely bright, fascinating parents, who were completely unequipped to raise children. I can't stomach books about child abuse, but this book is not about that, it's an uplifting story of overcoming bleak surroundings. BTW - The author happens to be my friend's sister-in-law, something I didn't know until I read the acknowledgements.
The Art of Racing In The Rain - Garth Stein wrote this lovely novel about a man's difficult custody fight over his daughter, all from his dog, Enzo's, point of view. A lot more difficult than it sounds, I'm sure, but Stein did an amazing job. Oh, and he threw in some race car driving. I love how the antagonists are not too cartoonish, it would have been an easy trap into which to fall.
Dogs of Babel - A man's wife of of 5 months falls to her death from a tree in their backyard, the only witness to the tragedy is their beloved dog. In his grief, he latches onto the idea that the dog may be able to tell him what happened. This is a beautiful story of a courtship, the beginning of a marriage, and loss.
Joy Luck Club - This is Amy Tan's most popular novel, about 4 Chinese mothers and their 4 American born daughters. Told in alternating points of view, it's often studied in college courses as an example of a novel told in short stories. My equally favorite Tan book is the The Kitchen's God's Wife, same theme, but the story is about one mother/daughter relationship, so the story goes deeper into the pair's lives.
The World According to Garp - You'll never, ever forget many of the characters from this story. John Irving has a way of describing someone with a sentence or two that conjures up that character right in front of you. The story is super wacky and twisted, with a completely unconventional family.
Bel Canto - a famous opera singer is invited to sing at a boring party at an embassy in a fictional South American country. The party is taken hostage by a group of radicals and held for months. This is the story of the relationships, even love, that form between hostages and guerrillas. A beautiful, haunting story.
Snow Falling On Cedars - takes place in Washington State, post WWII. There's a love triangle between a white war veteran, and a Japanese couple whose families were interred during the war. There's a long history between all 3 families, a murder mystery, and, of course, a historical lesson about the unfairness of war, both for soldiers and for those left at home.
Year of Wonder - A small English village is infected with the black plague, and quarantines itself in order to prevent spreading the disease across the country. The story is told from the perspective of a poor girl named Elinor who helps the minister's wife play nursemaid to the village. A real page-turner, this book has a strong heroine you'll root for, a landed gentry family you'll hate and an array a personalities in the various villagers.
The Book Thief - I've never met anyone who didn't adore this compelling story about a family in a small German town during World War II. It illustrates so beautifully the tragic effects of war on individuals. So much for the concept of "collateral damage."