Claims to fame: this is the “original YA novel,” with one of the best narrators in English literature. We hear the story of this eccentric 1930s English family—struggling to make ends meet in a tumbledown castle—through the eyes of 17-year-old Cassandra—bright, witty, and wise beyond her years. Replete with love, magic, writer’s block, and bear costumes. More info →
You all kept telling me to read this and I’m so glad I finally listened. The jacket description didn’t sound interesting to me, so don’t worry if it doesn’t sound good to you either. Just pick it up and start reading and you’ll be hooked. A beautiful, mesmerizing book for fans of Wendell Berry, Marilynne Robinson, and Amor Towles. More info →
I enjoyed this book at the time, yet I didn’t expect it to end up on my Best Of lists. But the story and characters have stuck with me for months. Spanning 30 years, told from 4 different viewpoints, this novel swept me into the world of classical ballet—a world I didn’t know I’d been longing to enter. The Times hated it, but nevermind that.
(A warning: check all your preconceptions about good girl ballerinas. There’s lots of language, and so much cocaine.)
This deeply-researched, fascinating glimpse into twitter’s early days has the pacing of a good novel and is rich with interesting insights into social media, the larger web, start-up culture, and human nature. You can’t make this stuff up—but if you tried, you could only hope to invent anecdotes as bizarre and readable as the ones in this account. Recommended reading for Jon Krakauer fans—and anyone who spends much time on social media. More info →
All the clichés about “a breath of fresh air” apply: this memoir was fresh and unexpected and utterly surprising. I didn’t know that “pastrix” was a word before I sat down to read, but it’s a term used by some Christians to describe female pastors they don’t recognize as such. A wildly irreverent, profanity-filled spiritual memoir, filled with humor, f-bombs, and grace. Not everyone’s cup of tea. More info →
A brilliant, difficult book—easy to read, but the content will make you want to weep for humanity. This meticulously researched, journalistic account of what went down in the aftermath of Katrina reads like a novel and won the Pulitzer to boot. So good and so readable, but so very sad. More info →
Speaking of books that make you cry: Goodwin brings history to life in the (800+!) pages of this historical narrative. The first hundred pages or so are slow-going, but those who hang with it will be rewarded.
I had no idea how much I didn’t know about Lincoln and the Civil War, and I’m grateful for my new deeper, richer appreciation of the near-miraculous Lincoln administration and the unspeakable tragedy of his assassination. I cried like a baby at the end: for the man, for his family, for the South, for our country. “Now he belongs to the ages.”
I devoured all the Outlander books this fall. I hate picking favorites, but this might just be my most-loved of the eight so far, if only because at page 1 I couldn’t understand how Gabaldon could possibly resume her story where book 2 ended and take it in any direction at all that made me not hate her. It works. I’m impressed. More info →
A captivating story, well-told. The characters in this war novel are fascinating and altogether unexpected, and the book’s setting couldn’t be lovelier: much of the action takes place in Saint-Malo, France, a unique walled port city on the English Channel. An intelligent, detailed, literary novel that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. More info →