I enjoy reading – mostly contemporary fiction – and last year I read 83 books. Here are my top 12 books of the year, in no special order. I hope you find a few that you’ll want to read among them! Disclosure: All book photos are linked to Amazon.com and are coded so I get credit if you buy one.
You think 83 books is a lot? Here’s an article by a man who read a book a day in 2012!
The News From Spain by Joan Wickersham
This short story collection is delightful. Each story is separate to the others but each has something to do with “the news from Spain.” They are beautifully written and surprising.
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
This book got great reviews, but I was still a bit skeptical about reading a novel having to do with a post-apocalypse world. But this book gives you lots to think about – like what would you miss the most – and the loneliness – and uncommon friendships – that made this one of my top books of the year. Well, it was started in 2012 and finished in 2013 but it still counted for me.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver is one of my favorite writers, and this book is one of her best. There is a lot to think about here, too. For example, can a person overcome their background to achieve more? What makes those people different than the rest of their community? The book takes place in Appalachia, where the main character discovers thousands, no – millions, of monarch butterflies wintering in the endangered forest on her family’s land. A group of scientists come to try to understand why the monarchs are there instead of their usual wintering grounds in Michoacán, México. The learning and exploring and exposure of each group to the other is very well done. In these days with the reality of climate change part of our daily lives this book is a scary reminder of how important each piece of our world is to the other.
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Sometimes I get the idea to explore an author from another book. I read the book The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (which I disliked a lot) but I did get a number of good ideas for books, and Crossing to Safety is one. This book was written in the 1980’s and is a beautifully written book about the relationship between two married couples who meet when they are both starting their families and their university careers. He is a master – truly a master writer – his leisurely storytelling and startlingly real and beautiful descriptions make a wonderful read.
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bojhalian
This is a moving and difficult story about the Armenian genocide. This is a must read for anyone who isn’t familiar with this largely unknown story, and even for those who do. It is unbelievable to me that only 21 countries acknowledge that the Armenian genocide even happened! What a load of bull! My family has my grandmother’s tapes of her experiences being marched by the Turks and losing most of her family during the genocide. I can’t listen to them without crying. This book is vey well written, and don’t let the difficult topic scare you away. It is also a book about the beauty, strength, and character that many people possess.
There But For The by Ali Smith
This is a really strange book but I loved it. Here’s all I’ll say: What if a dinner guest got up from the table as though to use the bathroom and locked himself in your spare bedroom. And what if he wouldn’t leave? Lots going on here and it is a fun but strange read.
A Box of Matches by Nicholson Baker
I have enjoyed several of Baker’s books but A Box of Matches is really special. It can be the little things in life – like a cup of coffee, a fire, and a bit of time to think in the morning that make life wonderful.
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
This book starts out when a man living alone on his orchard in Eastern Washington notices two pregnant girls taking apples and who appear to be living in the woods. The reasons he is so alone and the reasons they are homeless intertwine as their friendship develops. This is a thought provoking, well written, interesting book.
After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell
It was a tossup for me whether I chose this O’Farrell or The Hand That First Held Mine. Both are great books. After You’d Gone is a puzzling story about a very strange family. She is a fine writer and you’ll stay up late to finish it, I promise.
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
This book was a look into a world I didn’t know anything about – the mixed black and German kids that slipped between the cracks in 1940’s Europe. A fantastic book with memorable (both in a good and a bad way) characters that we see when they are young and again in old age.
Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton
Rosamund Lupton’s Afterwards and also Sister are books that have enough thought provoking challenges going on to keep you flipping the pages – as well as great writing and strong characters. This book is a real treat. Is she writing a new book? I hope so!
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
This book grabbed me right away. I’m a former San Franciscan, and Paul’s daughter had a flower shop in San Francisco some years back. But that’s not all this book is about. It’s about people who care and are generous with others, people who had so little nurturing in their youth they have to learn everything, and so much more. Add in how wonderful it is to know that a gift of asters means patience, and daffodils mean new beginnings.