Welcome to my annual attempt to share some of my favorites from the approximately 50 books I read this past year! I first produced a Holiday Book List in 2010 and judging by traffic since then, it continues to be one of your favorite posts.
Before we dive in, here’s a reminder to Support Your Local Indie. Even if you can’t make it into an actual bookstore, bookshop.org sends a portion of each purchase to the store of your choice. Couldn’t be easier… which is why all but a few of the following links take you there.
Okay, here we go.
Historical Fiction (all but one has a present-day storyline as well)
Horse (Geraldine Brooks) This was a book group pick and far less coastal than my usual read…though it’s not quite as “horsey” as the title suggests, and there is an excellent description of Woods Hole’s unique mix of scientists and fishermen. The best historical fiction compares present to past in order to develop new insights, and that’s exactly what this one accomplishes.
Painting the Light (Sally Cabot Gunning) From Boston’s art circles to Martha’s Vineyard farming, this late 1800s novel reminds us how radical it once was for women to have opinions—and to ride a bicycle! (The beautiful hardcover is out of stock, but the audiobook is available.)
Of Women and Salt (Gabriela Garcia) Three generations of Cuban women struggle against personal and political betrayals.
Great Circle (Maggie Shipstead) A fictional tale of the first female aviator who flies over both the North and South Poles, enriched by the present-day story of the woman who’s playing her in a movie. (Backordered, but links to other options)
Contemporary Fiction (several have a historical twist)
Remarkably Bright Creatures (Shelby Van Pelt) My review started: “Really—an octopus narrator? Yes, and it works! The reason, in a word, is: VOICE. (Aided, of course, by the fact that octopuses are “remarkably bright creatures.”)”
Cross Current (Christine Kling) Another “thrilling” fictional peek into Fort Lauderdale’s coastal commerce—including the migrant trade.
The Sound Between the Notes (Barbara Linn Probst). A concert pianist striving to recover her previous excellence wonders who she would be if she loses the skill that’s defined her since childhood.
The Plot (Jean Hanff Korelitz) As I put it in my review: “A struggling novelist named Jacob Finch Bonner dreams of writing a bestseller—and then does, but only by stealing the “sure thing” plot idea of his writing student.”
One Italian Summer (Rebecca Searle) Chick-lit enriched by the main character’s interactions with her dead mother (as a 30-something).
One By One (Ruth Ware) A mountain-based thriller about a work retreat that turns deadly.
Black Cake (Charmaine Wilkerson) When their mother dies, her son and daughter discover she wasn’t who they’d thought.
Fresh Water for Flowers (Valérie Perrin) The main character is a caretaker in a French cemetery, but don’t let that put you off! “Valérie Perrin has given readers a funny, moving, intimately told story of a woman who believes obstinately in happiness.”
The Cartographers (Peng Shepherd) I listened to this audiobook twice (the second time for book club), and though it was slightly predictable (even on the first read) I really enjoyed the steady dropping of breadcrumb-clues. A young cartographer grapples with the death of her mentor/father and has to make sense of his legacy, a cheap gas station map.
Woodrow on the Bench (Jenna Blum) The subtitle says it all: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog.
Story or Die (Lisa Cron) For writers who want to understand the brain science behind story.
Happy book buying, and thanks for reading!