Another year gone, another stack of books read and shared. The books listed below are a good cross-section of titles on my reading list. A few of them were provided by Carole and Kathy, two of my most trusted book critics, and a few titles I stumbled upon on my own. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order.
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — A compelling story that also serves as a history lesson. I knew people suffered, did without during World War II, but I never stopped to think of what exactly that meant. This book tells that story with heart, wit and engagement — and a few interesting voices.
Drood — Long, but oh so good. I loved every page of this tale of Charles Dickens' last years of life, told by his friend Wilkie Collins (himself an author of great repute: The Woman in White, anyone?). I was absolutely smitten by the second chapter.
Beginner's Greek — I re-told this lovely, charming and breathtaking tale of star-crossed love over and over this past summer to Judy, Leigh and anyone else who would listen as I hungrily consumed the tale of Peter and Holly. I was sorry to finish this one.
The Geography of Bliss — I am thrilled to have discovered Eric Weiner on a top 100 list and will continue to read him as he continues to report and publish. His assessment of these locations is fair and lively, and I felt as though I was there with him through his rich descriptions and humorous observations.
The Graveyard Book — Neil Gaiman never fails to entertain and enlighten. Apparently he thought up this story a couple of decades ago when his child would play in the graveyard next to his home. How, exactly, does one raise a child in a graveyard — especially if one is a ghost? You'd be amazed. I know I was.
A Reliable Wife — Twists, turns and unexpected beauty in this sleeper novel of a mail order bride who isn't what she appears to be. Nor is her new husband — or anyone else in the story. Robert Goolrick illustrates turn-of-the-century poverty in America.
The Strain —David describes this as vampires meet CSI. How easy would it be for vampires to infiltrate New York City? Written by movie director Guillermo del Torro and horror writer Chuck Hogan, the book is the first of a planned trilogy. I'm anxious for the second installment in 2010.
Johannes Cabal the Necromancer — If all scary books and horror tales could be this clever and enjoyable, I'd read even more of them. The debut novelist Jonathan L. Howard offers a unique and interesting tale of Hell, redemption, traveling circuses and decomposition. (Not in that order.)
The Twilight Saga — An old-fashioned love story between a lovely young girl and her vampire boyfriend takes a few unexpected turns as we find out whether love can conquer all. After you finish these hefty tomes, you will understand, finally, the meaning behind "Team Jacob" and "Team Edward." Twilight: it's not just for teenage girls anymore.
Astrid and Veronika — Two women's lives intertwine in this well-written modest novel. The character-driven story is rich and full, and readers will appreciate friendships even more as they read this thin but robust novel.
Bonus favorite: A Christmas Carol. After watching every film adaptation on earth of this classic ghost tale, I decided to take a page from Carole's book and read Dickens' tale. When I say the book always is better than the movie, I usually mean it — but with this book, I am as emphatic as I can be. If you have yet to read this book, do so. Don't wait until Christmas: this book of redemption is good any day of the year.
The book I enjoyed least this year was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was too lurid for me, like the close-up shots of gooey corpses in the television crime shows. I don't mind graphic descriptions, but I do mind gratuitous descriptions of awful experiences. This book had both.
What are your favorites? What terrible books have you read (and lived to tell the tale)?