Let’s jump right into it!
2010 — Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
My mom read this first and said, “You must read this!!!” She was right. Though I’m sure it had been done before, Olive was my first novel told in what at first seemed like unrelated short stories. Brilliant writing and Brilliant story telling. Though it has been 10 years since we met, I can’t for more Olive time and am eager to read Olive, Again which I’ve heard rave reviews.
2011 — Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson
I wrote in my notebook, “Beautiful. Simply beautiful. As one reviewer wrote, ‘The disarmingly simple prose in the novel is filled with profound wisdom.’ What started out as a letter to his young son by his elderly father turned in a reflection and the complexities of life.”
In December I read Lila, the third book with these characters. It gives the background to his young wife. This year I plan to reread Gilead.
2012 — The Beginner’s Goodbye: A Novel by Anne Tyler
From Amazon: “Crippled in his right arm and leg, Aaron grew up fending off a sister who constantly wanted to manage him. So when he meets Dorothy, an outspoken, independent young woman, she’s like a breath of fresh air. He marries her without hesitation, and they have a relatively happy, unremarkable marriage. Aaron works at his family’s vanity-publishing business, turning out titles that presume to guide beginners through the trials of life. But when a tree crashes into their house and Dorothy is killed, Aaron feels as though he has been erased forever. Only Dorothy’s unexpected appearances from the dead—in their house, on the roadway, in the market—help him to live in the moment and to find some peace. Gradually, Aaron discovers that maybe for this beginner there is indeed a way to say goodbye.”
Are you beginning to notice a theme of what I’m drawn to? People further down life’s path that want to make a difference. Good grief, this feels a bit like baring my soul and we are only to 2012. Carry on, Amy. Carry on.
2013 — Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
I’ll be honest, I have four “best” of nonfiction books for that year and no first time reads in novels that stood out. I did reread Crossing to Safety and absolutely loved it. 2013 is the year I transitioned from China to America after nearly 20 years. Nonfiction was helping me make sense of my world more than fiction was at that point. I highly recommend Crossing to Safety. And just now,
2014 — And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
I wrote, “Wow! I don’t read much fiction, but maybe I should read more. Hosseini did an amazing job telling an epic story spanning three countries, five decades, and multiple story lines with grace and dexterity.
Bookended by brother and sister Abdullah and Pari, this note from Abdullah to Pari moves me. It was written after he was diagnosed with Alzheimers and before they were reunited.
“‘They tell me I must wade into waters, where I will soon drown. Before I march in, I leave this on the shore for you. I pray you find it, sister, so you will know what was in my heart as I went under.'”
I repeat, wow.
2015 — A Separate Peace by John Knowles
In truth, I read four or five novels in 2015, so A Separate Peace probably wouldn’t have made the cut in any other year. The Tuesday Night Book Group I’m in read this because one of my nieces (or another member’s kid) read this for school and many of us had not read it. It is famous and worth reading, I should have read it long before 2015!
From Amazon, “Set at a boys’ boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.”
2016 — Wonder by R. J. Palacio
One of my niece Katy’s favorite books, I chose it as a Velvet Ashes Book Club read. August has cranial abnormalities and his story confronts the deep part of ourselves where we judge those different from us and what it means to be beautiful or valuable. One of the highlights for me
2017 — A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman
I wrote, “This book is amazing! It is brilliant story telling—and from a marketing perspective, to reinforce Ove’s name, brilliant! I loved watching Ove navigate life after his wife died. He was true to his grumpy self, but also open to community. His story showed how very much we all need each other.”
2018 — Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
From Amazon, “Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle, proud of her country roots and the ‘Indian-ness in her blood,’ travels from Ohio to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents. Along the way, she tells them of the story of Phoebe Winterbottom, who received mysterious messages, who met a ‘potential lunatic,’ and whose mother disappeared. As Sal entertains her grandparents with Phoebe’s outrageous story, her own story begins to unfold—the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother.”
Also read for the Velvet Ashes Book Club and the conversation it stimulated was rich! If you’re looking for a great book to discuss, try Walk Two Moons.
2019 — Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel by Gail Honeyman
I wrote, “I LOVE this book SO MUCH!!!! Eleanor is 30 and has very poor social skills, saying exactly what she thinks in a literal way. Mom described this book as Eleanor unfolding like a flower blossom. The storytelling was outstanding as Honeyman dropped clues that kept the story moving forward and the reader curious. This is a book about loneliness and the power of human connection.”
If you missed it, here are my thoughts on the last decade of books I read and tomorrow I’ll share my top nonfiction of each year of the last decade. Share some of your favorite fiction below! I can’t wait to hear. Amy