I love best-of, end-of-year reading lists, and I hope you enjoy ours. Happy New Year Reading!
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton. I avoided reading this book for several years because its high concept — Pride & Prejudice, except everyone is a dragon — sounded painful. But as I read and loved more and more of Walton’s books, I finally decided I had to give her the benefit of the doubt. It completely confounded my expectations. Now my son has read it (I’ll let you know if it gets him hooked on Jane Austen) and my wife is next.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. It’s an inexplicable, brilliant, utterly entertaining book that moves between genres (thriller, mystery, horror) featuring over-the-top violence, supernatural beings that recall Gaiman’s Sandman, and a super cool library I’d love to visit. Scott Hawkins even answered a few of my questions.
Decoded a novel by Mai Jia. I'm fairly well-read in the history of codes and ciphers. With this novel I had fun trying to figure out which details about real codebreakers were taken and assembled by Jia in new and sometimes disturbing ways.
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. I spend so much time looking for the book that someone else needs that I sometimes forget that I need them, too. I was struggling with big changes in my life and it was a relief to root for Pat Peoples and see how much family, friends, and irrational hope helped him. I’m reading Quick’s The Good Luck of Right Now and it’s another great book with characters to guide me when I need it.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It had exactly what I needed to catch my attention during a reading slump — space opera science fiction, survival during a zombie-like outbreak, political intrigue, smart writing, and a unique format made of up interviews, transcripts, captain's logs, and more.
The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. I can't stop thinking about this book, with its opposites of black and white, rich and poor, love and death. The characters of Henry and Flora are so endearing I still think about them.
The Marvels by Brian Selznick. This gorgeous YA novel explores visual and lyric storytelling woven through thirteen-year-old Joseph's life and an exquisite and peculiar living lineage of imagined 17th century English actors. After hearing Selznick's tour de force presentation at AASL, every gold-tipped page turned effortlessly in my hands.
Saltwater Cowboy by McBride. I felt like I was riding along with this renegade, pot-smuggling criminal, trying to pass DEA checkpoints. It’s a crazy, true story of smuggling thousands of bales of pot through Florida into the US.
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. Stead is a master of weaving complex, interconnected stories that all manage to come together in the end, and this is no exception. The dual narrative -- one more middle-grade, about the consequences of social media gone awry, and the other YA, about a friend's betrayal -- is heart-tugging and thoughtful.
The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra. These nterconnected stories of an artist, a ballerina, a pair of brothers, and a group of grandmothers incorporate romance, art, and the politics of Lenin's Russia. I became so engrossed that I couldn't stop my tears. And the writing is so beautiful, I bought Marra's other book as well.