Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Short List: Notes on My Favorites from 2015

As I've been reading other people's list of books read this year, I keep wanting to ask, "But which ones did you like best? What should I read?" I decided to add notes about a few of the ones I read this year.

Shari Smith, I Am a Town.  This book was one of my favorites from an author who’s become a friend too.  I’ve given several copies as gifts. Her tribute to Claremont could translate to any small town that becomes home.

Alan Bradley, The Chimney Sweeper Comes to Dust. Must to my surprise, I am captivated by this series of books with an 11-year-old protagonist. I love Flavia.

Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Effect. Sequel to The Rosie Project, this is another of those titles that is WONDERFUL as an audiobook

N. T. Wright, Simply Good News. Of all the Bible-related books I read, this was probably my favorite. While Wright is a theologian, this book is ultimately readable.

Tony Earley, Mr. Tall.  Would someone PLEASE read this so I can talk about the last story, the Jack tale, with someone who has read it.

Maureen Corrigan, So We Read On. My favorite “book about books” this year—a tribute to The Great Gatsby.

Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins. Not exactly a sequel so much as a parallel to her Life after Life, I loved Teddy, the protagonist.

Rebecca McClanahan, Write Your Heart Out. I loved working through this writing book with friends on line this summer. Good stuff, leaving room to go one’s own direction.

Nick Hornby, Funny Girl. As one would expect from Hornby—funny and clever

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant. This book read like a parable to me. I want to go back to parts of it to understand the world today.

Rachel Joyce, The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy. Like A God in Ruins, this too is a companion read to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It’s amazingly bright for a book set primarily in hospice.

Colum McCann, Translantic.  I started this one, stopped, and picked it up a year later. I’m glad I did. It covers such a span of history—from Frederic Douglas to Clinton.

Kent Haruf, Our Souls at Night. I’m sad there will be no new books by Haruf. I still rate Plainsong and Eventide as all-time favorites. This one, set in the same place, takes unlikely, ordinary protagonists and makes readers care.

Kate Clanchy, Meeting the English.  A good British farce that no one I know has read!

James Michener, The Source. I used to power-read Michener but had missed this one. Since it explores the Middle East from the beginning of time through idol worship, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, it’s so timely.

Ron Rash, Above the Waterfall. I never met a Ron Rash book (novel, short stories, or poetry) I didn’t like. I’m glad to know he’s a disciplined writer because I can expect more. His characters are complex, drawn in shades of grey.

Nellie Hermann, The Season of Migration. This story of the life of Vincent van Gogh, when he aspired to become a minister, like his father, was at times painful. It was worth reading, in my opinion, for the sensory description of van Gogh’s experience when he went down into the bowels of the mine to understand his parishioners daily lives.

Meg Mitchell Moore, The Admissions. After working with high school seniors for so many years on college entrance essays and applications, this was funny, tragic, and true.

Joseph Bathanti, Half of What I Say Is Meaningless. I’ve read lots of Joseph’s poetry and consider him a friend. These essays are pitch-perfect.

Fredrik Bartak, A Man Called Ove. I started this book when one of my favorite librarians recommended it, but at first I was uncertain. I didn’t think I liked this old curmudgeon. Wow! I’m glad I kept reading.

Louise Penny, Still Life. This book got me started on the whole series. I’m hooked—and there are several more to read!

Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist. This little sleeper sat on my shelf for a long time. I picked it up at just the right time. For anyone who wants to channel creativity, this one is so motivational.

Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project. I took my time reading this book they way it’s written: one chapter a month.  Now I wish I had someone else to go through it with me the same way this year. I would love a book club project with this at the center.


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