Tis the time of year for book lists! I love to see what other book read and thought you might too. We met on Tuesday night and discussed December’s book and looked back over this list.

Conclusion? We did not have one dud this year! And every book other than January and April’s books were someone’s favorite. The summaries are from Amazon. Happy browsing and then reading!

January — The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford

February — Before We Were Yours: A Novel by Lisa Wingate: Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

March — Rules of Civility: A Novel by Amor Towles: On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society—where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve.

April — Clock Dance: A novel by Anne Tyler: Willa Drake has had three opportunities to start her life over: in 1967, as a schoolgirl whose mother has suddenly disappeared; in 1977, when considering a marriage proposal; and in 1997, as a young widow trying to hold her family together. So she is surprised when in 2017 she is given one last chance to change everything, after receiving a startling phone call from a stranger. Without fully understanding why, she flies across the country to Baltimore to help a young woman she’s never met. This impulsive decision, maybe the first one she’s consciously made in her life, will lead Willa into uncharted territory—surrounded by eccentric neighbors who treat each other like family, she finds solace and fulfillment in unexpected places.

May — Washington Black by Esi Edugun: Eleven-year-old George Washington Black—or Wash—a field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is initially terrified when he is chosen as the manservant of his master’s brother. To his surprise, however, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning, and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human. 
 
But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, they must abandon everything and flee together. Over the course of their travels, what brings Wash and Christopher together will tear them apart, propelling Wash ever farther across the globe in search of his true self. Spanning the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, London to Morocco, Washington Black is a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, and of a world destroyed and made whole again.

June — Olive, Again: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout: Prickly, wry, resistant to change yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic, Olive Kitteridge is “a compelling life force” (San Francisco Chronicle). The New Yorker has said that Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” and she has never done so more clearly than in these pages, where the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire us—in Strout’s words—“to bear the burden of the mystery with as much grace as we can.”

July — Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn: Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal phrase containing all the letters of the alphabet, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is “a love letter to alphabetarians and logomaniacs everywhere”

August and our 25th Anniversary! — Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned—from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren—an enigmatic artist and single mother—who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

September — A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell: In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.” The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill’s “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” She became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines and–despite her prosthetic leg–helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it. 

October — Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

November — Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger: Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

December — The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson — We pulled out this classic for something light to read.

Are you in a book group? What did you read?

Categories: Uncategorized

Amy

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  1. Michele December 10, 2021 at 9:40 am - Reply

    Amy! I have just added nine of these books to my ‘To Read’ list! (And two of the three I didn’t add, I’d already read). Of course, it may be years before I get to them with all the books I’ve been loading into my Kindle the last few months. Was it you who recommended Destiny of the Republic? It seems like it must have been. That was one of my favorites this year. I found it in the library and happened to be in the middle of it when I got Covid. It was a good companion, and I am still telling people how I have a new favorite president and asking why we were never taught anything about Garfield except that he was assassinated so soon after his election.
    Anyway, yay for book lists! I’ve read quite a few I would have missed out on if I didn’t see them in yours! Merry Christmas and happy winter reading!

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      Amy December 10, 2021 at 5:18 pm - Reply

      It was me who recommended “Destiny of the Republic!” I love that we reader can help each other “get a fix” :)!!! And right about Garfield?! I’m glad he could be a Covid companion :)

  2. Megan Smith December 10, 2021 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    I love that you read Celeste Ng. I loved Little Fires Everywhere (and the TV show) when I read it last year and then loved Everything I Never Told You even more when I read it this year. There is just something about the way she shows the unsaid things about people’s stories that is just remarkable.

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      Amy December 10, 2021 at 5:20 pm - Reply

      Megan, that was the consensus of most of the group too! We loved Little Fires Everywhere so were curious about Everything I Never Told You . . . then loved that one even more! And I agree, she’s a master at teasing out what is not said and it’s impact on relationships. I’m glad you enjoy them too :)!

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