Surely one of life’s most satisfying pleasures is to cuddle up on a sofa or favorite reading chair with a good book. It nourishes both body and soul! There are all kinds of reasons to read, and my tastes and reading moods vary widely. Sometimes I want to be educated and inspired, but other times, I just want to be whisked away to another place and time by immersing myself in a good story and the lives of its characters.
I read a lot this past year. From my reading journal, here are a few of my 2017 favorites. I would have given them all 4 to 5 stars out of 5.
- Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston.
This nonfiction work is and a cross between Indiana Jones and National Geographic. The author is part of an expedition team that went into the rainforest of Honduras to find a lost city that had been whispered about for centuries. Drama, danger, and fascinating discoveries.
- The Guilty by David Baldacci.
Don’t start reading this thriller unless you’ve got plenty of time or you don’t need much sleep. Or, as in my case, you just want to escape into a whale of a good story. U. S. sniper Will Robie and his equally lethal sidekick Jessica Reel manage to uncover a viper’s nest of trouble in Will’s hometown, where he has returned because his father has been arrested for murder.
- The Widower’s Wife: A Thriller by Cate Holahan.
Insurance investigator Ryan Monahan doesn’t believe Ana Bacon’s fall from a cruise ship was a tragic accident. Flashback pieces of the story are interwoven with Ryan’s investigation very effectively, and more than one plausible explanation emerges. As Ryan gets closer to the truth, however, potential witnesses start showing up dead.
- News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles.
Timeless and ever-fascinating themes of family, loyalty, and trust—what makes them and how powerful they can be—are woven into an unusual and well-told story set in the aftermath of the Civil War. An aging itinerant widower is paid to deliver a little orphan girl to distant relatives. She had been kidnapped as a young child and raised by Kowa Indians as one of their own. She was wild, spoke no English, and wanted only to escape back to her Kota family. As her relationship with the man turns from hatred and fear into trust and love, they both make choices that change their lives forever. This was lovely and heartwarming.
- The River Bank: A sequel to Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows by Kij Johnson.
I could never have imagined a more seamless sequel by a completely different author about 100 years after the first book. If you were as charmed and enthralled by Kenneth Greene’s enchanting The Wind In The Willows—and its remarkable characters Mole, Rat, Toad, Badger, and others—as I was, you’ll be amazed at this continuation of their lives and story. The arrival of two female animals to the River Bank sets events in motion for Rat to play host and be seduced back into his selfish and profligate ways. Absolutely charming…
- Beartown: A Novel by Fredrik Backman.
The author of A Man Called Ove returns with an entirely different kind of story, one that reveals him as a versatile and talented writer. Rich and multi-layered, the author uses remarkably well-drawn characters to plumb the heights and depths of the human psyche, revealing strengths and weakness, courage and fear, goodness and meanness, often in the same characters. Bear Town is a tiny place, nestled deep in the woods and in severe economic decline. But it’s a hockey town and its junior team has made it to the national semi-finals. A violent act sends the town into turmoil and brings out the worst and best in everyone. Particularly unusual is the author’s ability to inspire empathy in even the most unlikable of his characters. This was more than just a novel; it was a spiritual experience.
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. I’m so happy to have discovered this remarkable author. Five stars for the book’s attention-grabbing opening line: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” As Lydia’s story unfolds through the alternating voices of her Chinese-American family, we find a complex plot, rich characters, and powerful themes of family secrets, expectations passed from one generation to the next, and the hurt we often inflict on those who don’t look the same as we do.
What books have enriched your reading life lately…and why? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
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