It has been A MINUTE since I've written a book post! It's actually been over a year, which is a shock — I have read some excellent books this year, and I know many of you are avid readers!
In the past, I've shared book lists for: different points-of-view, family dynamics, & books to give as gifts... today's post/list is nothing more than a thoroughly biased list of books I've enjoyed recently & recommend!
Loveable, Simply Good Reads:
Some of us need this right now! I often revert to re-reads when I'm feeling bleak about the world. Even if the book's content itself is grim (eg. The Glass Castle), I know that I will at least have a quality read! Here are some older, but new-to-me, titles I've loved this year.
The Hobbit — J.R.R. Tolkien
Not sure why it took me until this year to read The Hobbit, but it was my 7-year-old who finally encouraged me to crack the spine. And, I'm so glad that I did!
Loads of adventure & almost non-stop excitement follow Bilbo Baggins on his trip with the dwarves to a mountain full of treasure, guarded by a dragon. Unlike the movie version(s) or The Lord of the Rings, this novel is almost void of the bigger, darker themes of good vs. evil, light vs. dark and general terror of Mordor. The Hobbit is full of whimsy, which is maybe exactly what a 2021 read needs.
The Blue Castle — L.M. Montgomery
Most women are familiar with Anne of Green Gables from childhood, but this title is one of her two novels intended for an adult audience. Don't judge the book by its (sometimes) sappy cover — this is no wistful romance. It is a lighthearted balm... escapism at its best.
The main character is a timid, 29-year old "maid", Valancy Stirling; the plot is not particularly original (a brush with death wakes Valancy out of her timidity & inhibitions to experience more of a full life).
What surprised me was how hilarious it was! Her extended family dynamics (particularly when she decides to shun their cherished propriety) are perfect fodder for laughs. I know that for several people, this is a book they return to again & again, and I'm sure it won't be the last time I read it.
The Power of One — Bryce Courtenay
One of my top novels of all time!
Ever had the sense, while reading a book, that you don't want it to end? I was almost ready to pick it up again as soon as I finished. Rich, colorful characters, insight into a foreign culture (pre-Apartheid South Africa), and a parade of beautiful, mentor relationships are the building blocks of this excellent book.
What is happening here 😳:
Crazy stories, for something a little out of the ordinary.
Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me — Adrienne Brodeur
This extraordinary tale of author Brodeur's childhood (essentially: facilitating her mother's affair with a family friend) was shocking and fascinating; it would make a perfect discussion book for friends or a book club.
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love — Dani Shapiro
Dani Shapiro has practically written the book on poetic memoirs (she has 5 memoirs to her name, and teaches workshops on the subject), but Inheritance has resounded like no other.
Born to orthodox Jewish parents, she was constantly questioned about her blond hair and generally dissonant appearance for her heritage. Only a few years ago, after taking an internet Ancestry DNA test, did she discover that her late father was not, in fact her biological dad.
With her beautiful prose, she entwines readers into the knot of her identity as she wrestles through the mystery (how did this even happen?) and meaning of this discovery.
[Note: the audio, read by her own velvety voice, is excellent]
Nothing to See Here — Kevin Wilson
Truth is stranger than fiction, so they say. The books noted above are evidence of this; but, as far as fiction goes, Nothing to See Here is pretty strange!
In sum: the twins of a rising political star are prone to... spontaneous combustion from the waist up. Their stepmother solicits her boarding school roommate (the narrator) to be their nanny.
If you're ok with salty language & a bit of silliness, this book is a quick, fun exploration of love & maternal instinct (and fire).
A Bit of Commitment:
If one of the barriers in your reading life is choosing what to read next, here are some longer books to give you a break from decision fatigue! If you get absorbed in the story & breeze through too fast, I take no responsibility :)
East of Eden — John Steinbeck
File this one under Classics That Don't Feel Like A Grind — at least, this was my experience! (For the record, I would *not* categorize The Grapes of Wrath in this same camp 😴)
There are so many cultural references to this book, that alone motivated me to tackle it; it was a delightful surprise to be absorbed in the story almost immediately. (Full balanced disclosure: my husband had a different experience; he quit ~100 pages in, disliking every character.)
11/22/63 — Stephen King
Stephen King is well known for being a reliably great writer, but that enjoyment is lost on many of us who are not here for the horror genre!
11/22/63 is a (totally non-scary) exploration of the what-ifs/what-could-have-beens that capture our imaginations when we wonder how differently life & the world could have turned out... if only.
In this case, specifically, the plot is about a high school teacher who travels back in time on a mission to prevent the John F. Kennedy assassination.
I took this doorstop with me when I flew to Bangladesh last year & it was an easy, fun, just-enough-thinking companion.
The Hunger Games (Trilogy) — Suzanne Collins
The audience may be YA, but there is so much depth in this series. It gave me plenty of food for thought about justice and mercy, about privilege & disparity, right & wrong... If you've only seen the movies, there is so much more to the books when you hear through Katniss' first-person voice.
Unbroken — Laura Hillenbrand
If you haven't read this yet, why not? I've mentioned it, like, 100x.
Considering Mortality:Have we not come face-to-face with our own mortality & precariousness this year? These two books (the first more instructional, the latter more memoir-reflective) feel like required reading for considering dying (and living) well — both for ourselves and the ones close to us.
Being Mortal — Atul Gawande
When Breath Becomes Air — Paul Kalanithi
Please, add your best reads from the year into the comments below! & Enjoy some good reads!