Books have always been my refuge. In them, I can withdraw, escape, and free my soul. Books inspire, intrigue, motivate, educate, and spark my creative fire. I cannot imagine a life without them.The problem is, in recent years, my desire to escape has all but disappeared. I spend less time sitting by the window watching the rain fall and more time out walking in it. I spend less time writing down my blood and bones and more time singing my heart out. I love my life and the people in in it, and every moment I can find to spend with them is precious. In other words, happiness has hampered my reading habit.
With the dawn on this new year, however, I’m committed to turning this trend around. (The not-reading-enough trend; not the happy-with-life trend – I’m holding on to that one!) To this end, I asked some experts – writers from my NaNoWriMo group, plus a few trusted book people in my life – for their best book recommendations. With those suggestions, I put together my reading list for the year. I thought that I’d share it today, in case you’re planning to up your reading game this year too.
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The improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.
• EPIC! I liked the historical connection to Washington and the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, not to mention the character development. ― Helen K.
• I had the privilege of hearing Daniel James Brown talk about writing the book and his experience compiling the contents of the book. ― Lila R.
Gripping psychological debut thriller.
• Making her smash debut, Paris keeps the suspense level high. In the same vein as Gone Girl or Girl on the Train, this is a can’t-put-down psychological thriller. ―Library Journal
• Behind Closed Doors takes a classic tale to a whole new level…This was one of the best and most terrifying psychological thrillers I have ever read…each chapter brings you further in, to the point where you feel how Grace must feel. The desperation, the feeling that no one will believe you and yet still wanting to fight because someone you care deeply about will get hurt. ― San Francisco Book Review
• This thriller kept me sitting on the edge up to the very last page. ― Helen K.
In the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, A Man called Ove is a thoughtful, uplifting exploration of the profound impact one life can have.
• This feel good story about a grumpy old man next door shows how one life can have a profound effect on many others. I read the book and saw the movie and loved both. ― Jill B.
• One of the most moving novels I have read this year. I defy anyone to read this book and look at a quiet withdrawn person the same way ever again. ― Cayacosta Reviews
An “insightful, stark, and heartbreaking” [Publishers Weekly] novel about three lives entangled during World War II, from the bestselling author of Little Bee.
• Witty and quick. I’m a sucker for WWII plot lines, and I loved getting a glimpse of London during the war. ― Nicole S.
• With dazzling prose, sharp English wit, and compassion, Cleave paints a powerful portrait of war’s effects on those who fight and those left behind.” — People Book of the Week
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
First in the Dresden Files series.
• It begins the wonderful adventures of Harry Dresden, the only openly Practicing PI Wizard in Chicago. — Christina S.
• What would you get if you crossed Spenser with Merlin? Probably you would come up with someone very like Harry Dresden, wizard, tough guy and star of [the Dresden Files]. — The Washington Times
• What’s not to like about this series?…It takes the best elements of urban fantasy, mixes it with some good old-fashioned noir mystery, tosses in a dash of romance and a lot of high-octane action, shakes, stirs, and serves. — SF Site
A historical crime novel with a Jane-Eyre-style heroine as a gutsy, heroic serial killer. (I know! Right?!?)
• Reimagination of Jane Eyre with a complicated heroine and a lot of murder. — Elinor H.
• [Faye’s] writing crackles with wit, conveying a hip 21st-century sensibility while remaining true to Brontë’s vision… and her historical research and thoughtfully drawn characters make Jane Steele a compelling page-turner. — Pasadena Weekly
• This is a wonderfully wicked book. The deadly first chapter actually made me gasp. Jane Steele is a character you will not soon forget. Great evil fun!
— R.L. Stine, author of Goosebumps and Fear Street
An epic love story that spans sixty years, generations’ worth of feuds, and secrets withheld and revealed.
• The last time I read a literary thriller so profound Cormac McCarthy’s name was on its spine. But Peter Geye is his own man and Wintering is as unique and menacingly beautiful as its Minnesota borderlands setting. — Richard Russo
• Simultaneously epic in scope and deeply personal, Wintering is a remarkable portrait of the role that one’s environment—and neighbors—can play in shaping character and destiny. — Skip Horack, The San Francisco Chronicle
Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
• Told with the authoritative simplicity of a fable…Stedman’s intricate descriptions of the craggy Australian coastline and her easy mastery of an old-time provincial vernacular are engrossing. As the couple at the lighthouse are drawn into and increasingly tragic set of consequences, these remote, strange lives are rendered immediate and familiar. — The New Yorker
• This fine, suspenseful debut explores desperation, morality, and loss, and considers the damaging ways in which we store our private sorrows, and the consequences of such terrible secrets. — Martha Stewart Whole Living
In an evocative novel of the promise, hope, and disappointment, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s.
• Beautifully written, eye-opening, gripping, and written by a woman of color. — Rachel A.
• Brilliant… Adichie entwines love and politics to a degree rarely achieved by novelists. That is what great fiction does – it simultaneously devours and ennobles, and in its freely acknowledged invention comes to be truer than the facts upon which it is built. — Elle
(I’m embarrassed to admit that this one has been on my reading list for almost two years now.)
• The protagonist is a blind Jewish Girl, and the antagonist is a Nazi soldier who ‘sees’ her. It’s thought provoking and adds humanity to a dark side. Interesting perspectives in light of our political climate. — Jeanne R.
• If a book’s success can be measured by its ability to move readers and the number of memorable characters it has, Story Prize-winner Doerr’s novel triumphs on both counts. He convinces readers…that war—despite its desperation, cruelty, and harrowing moral choices—cannot negate the pleasures of the world. — Publishers Weekly
Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
• Enchanting, magical & beautiful, with just the right amount of tragedy & love. — JSA
• The Night Circus is a gorgeously imagined fable poised in the high latitudes of Hans Christian Anderson and Oscar Wilde, with a few degrees toward Hesse’s “Steppenwolf” for dangerous spice. The tale is masterfully written and invites allegorical interpretations even as its leisurely but persistent suspense gives it compelling charm. An enchanting read. — Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love
• A Romeo and Juliet tale drenched in magic realism, The Night Circus defies both genres and expectations. In short, it’s a showstopper. — The Boston Globe
Naomi Novik introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.
• Cool fantasy story that stands out from the rest, doesn’t try to be the next Harry Potter. Best book I’ve read in a couple years! — Meg G.
• Novik here delivers a tale that is funny and fast-paced, laced with hair-raising battle scenes and conspiracies; it also touches on deeper ecological concerns we grapple with today. — The Washington Post
• Drawing on her Polish heritage and fairy-tale tropes, [Novik] has penned an original and fully realized fantastical place guaranteed to enthrall her longtime fans and attract new readers. This exceptional fantasy for adult and teen readers should appeal to those who love fairy-tale influenced stories such as Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End. — Library Journal
What about you? What’s on your reading list this year? If you’ve read any of the books on this list, I’d love to know your thoughts too!
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