It looks like I ended the year reading about 2 dozen books, which may not sound like a lot, but I’m a notoriously slow reader. Looking back it was a satisfying year, with several of the best being ones selected by our monthly book club. Now I’ll wrap up the five best of the year – all well worth checking out if you’ve got a gift card, e-reader, or library pass burning a hole in your pocket!
1. Shades of Grey (The Road to High Saffron) by Jasper Fforde
Known for his oddball worlds from the Tuesday Next and Nursery Crime series, Fforde seems to have reached a new level in this engrossing book. Imagine a world where no one can see all colors – only a few in varying degrees. The colors you can see force you into a section of the class system – Blues are modestly powerful, while Reds are low on the totem pole. To keep this postmodern world going, color is sourced from scrap items and sold as a commodity. Quirky and humorous, the book takes a very dark turn that just pulls you in all the more. This is the first in the series, and I can hardly wait for the next installment.
2. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
A boy grows up unable to speak to humans, developing a particular form of sign language that proves useful in training dogs – the family business. All is well until the death of his father, which might have been at the hands of his uncle. The uncle moves in and starts romancing his mother, and…sound just a bit familiar? This book has its underpinnings in the story of Hamlet, yet it is a strong piece of Americana that takes place in the remote parts of Wisconsin. It’s a book you’ll never want to end.
3. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The movie version got me curious about the book – which turned out to be even richer than I’d imagined. It’s a love story in which time moves along generally in a forward direction, but along the way it flashes around to different times in the life of our two main characters. Clare has come to accept as normal that the love of her life, Henry, has a disorder that causes him to skip time – often at random and rarely is it safe. It sounds on the surface like a romance novel but it’s so much more than that – rich in the study of its characters and compelling in its premise. A real page-turner.
4. Room by Emma Donoghue
Parents of young children might want to wait awhile to read this one – just make sure you read it! The book is written from the perspective of a precocious 5 year-old boy named Jack who lives in what appears to be an idyllic existence with his Ma. As the story unfolds we start to see the darkness underneath – that they are in fact prisoners forced to live in a single room by Ma’s captor. Despite this ugliness, Jack is quite happy – because this is all he’s ever known and Ma has shaped his worldview to fit this situation. What happens when Ma realizes it’s time to escape – at any cost? This compulsively readable book wouldn’t work in the least if it wasn’t for a narrator we can all root for. Enjoy the adventures of Jack the magnificent.
5. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
My best non-fiction book of the year taught me more about the situation in Pakistan than any newspaper or TV show. After getting through a few chapters on mountain climbing, Greg’s story takes shape – he meets the people of a poor village in remote Pakistan and is nursed to health. He looks around and sees that the children, particularly the girls, have no school. He makes a promise to come back some day and build them a school. That promise leads him into a tumultuous existence both in the States and abroad as he works not only to build this school, but many others. Education promotes understanding, and understanding promotes peace. Islam is not the enemy, and we have much to learn from people throughout the Middle East. Check out this book and see why it’s become required reading for U.S. government staffers working in the region.
That’s my list – what was your top 5?