In anticipation for that next long plane ride or day by the pool, I thought I would share some of my favorite books from the past year.
As a reference point, I read 63 books in 2016 and 71 in 2015. I probably read more than most, but I come from a reading family and comparatively I don’t read much at all. I say this only to make two points.
A) These are not the only books I read last year. I find it humorous when I read recommendations for books but the list represents almost everything they read.
B) I get a lot of references and recommendations from friends and family and I keep up on what is new and popular. So the books I chose to read are not chosen randomly or in a vacuum.
These books are in no particular order. I gave them all five stars on Goodreads.
1) Paris for One and Other Short Stories by Jojo Moyes. These short stories are perfect for the plane or beach. They are short and easy to read but not sappy. None of them have fairy tale endings but they are all about strong women whose lives are better at the end of the story than they were in the beginning.
2) Faithful by Alice Hoffman. The characters are deep and feel real. Their lives are not perfect and most of the time you are not sure if you even like them. But you identify with them. I can’t tell you the number of times I have remembered a scene from this book and started to tell someone about it without remembering it was from a novel and not from the news or someone I know.
3) Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Fantastic! Interesting and informative. I feel like I learned so much about history but on a personal level. This book traces the complicated cause and effects of the American slave trade from 1775 to present day.
4) The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick. This book reminded me a bit of a Man Called Ove (not as good). But I love watching a character develop and you fall in love with Arthur and his wife. It is a reminder we all have different versions of our own life.
5) Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is inspired by real women in WWII. Their stories are powerful and enthralling.
6) Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shondra Rhimes. I am not one to read books by celebrities and I only picked this one up because I first saw it on sale at the Kennedy Center who is usually pretty discerning. While a book about her own journey, much of her observations hit home and were very insightful. It was also laugh out loud funny. So much so that I would go find my husband to read parts to him.
7) When Breadth Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is the true story of his own death. But written by a man who was both a Doctor and a writer, it was easy to read and very thought provoking.
9) The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett was a historical novel perfect for both genders. The first (and best) book takes place during the first world war in Russia, England, Germany and the United States. This book is also great for those that prefer one long book while on vacation instead of picking up several. This book is close to a thousand pages and will keep you entertained for the entire time. The second two books are also good but nothing beats the first book in a series.
10) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlso Ruiz Zafon was recommended to me by a friend (and librarian) and I could not put it down. It takes place in Barcelona after the WWII and is a wonderful combination of history, character and place.
P.S. Some recent favorites that I didn’t read in the last year but I can’t resist recommending:
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is one of my favorite books in years. You will love Ove and be compelled to think differently about those in your world who rub you the wrong way. (Of note, I have since read all of his books and they are fantastic).
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah has hit all of the best seller lists for a reason. Based on a true events the book tells the story of two sisters throughout WWII.
A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin is the true story a family that emigrated from the Ukraine to the United States during the 1980s. The story is not only interesting and well written, it is far enough removed from present day that I think it can help us reflect on current events concerning immigration and refugees.
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr follows two very different lives during WWII. Both are interesting perspectives about what we see, what we don’t see and what we don’t want to see.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is one of my all-time favorite books and is perfect for the traveler as you move from England to Turkey to Romania in this wonderful novel. It is one of the few books I have read multiple times.