The Broke and the Bookish asks us to share the top ten books we've read this year. I would say that overall, my reading thus far this year has tended toward the lackluster, but looking back, there have definitely been a few highlights. Here they are!
1. Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen - This book has a dark premise but a great child narrator that balances things out.
2. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card - Yep, I finally read Ender's Game this year. I actually liked it more until I went to book group and everybody reasonably pointed out that Ender maybe shouldn't have been as sympathetic a character as he was.
3. Falling Under by Danielle Younge-Ullman - This is a book that I'd barely heard of until I was reading it. It's about an artist dealing with lots of issues in her past and a host of anxieties in her present while she is in search of the happiness she's afraid to find. The dialogue really pops, the main character is very sympathetic, and flashbacks to her childhood are written in the second person which is an interesting device that really works.
4. The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson - Interconnected short stories about one mid-western family very successfully convey a sense of the past few decades of the American experience. I liked this much, much more than I expected.
5. Beauty by Frederick Dillen - A girl from a blue collar background grows up to be in the business of burying failing companies for her bastard corporate employers. When the rug is pulled out from under her, she sets her sights on resurrecting a company instead. Corporate jargon made the beginning kind of a slog. A winning main character and a small town with spunk turned it around.
6. One Hundred and Four Horses by Mandy Retzlaff - I loved this memoir of a couple saving the abandoned horses of Zimbabwe during Robert Mugabe's plundering of the nation. It's full of heart and feels like hearing the very personal story of an old friend.
7. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink - This non-fiction about the horrible situation at Memorial Medical Center in the wake of Hurricane Katrina definitely lived up to all the hype. Fink's re-telling of the events during and following the hurricane kept me on the edge of my seat, often with my mouth dropped open in horror. It's a big book, but the pages fly by, and Fink does an admirable job of conveying both sides of the story, so that the complexity and scale of the failures that occurred there could never quite be blamed on any one person or entity, nor is anybody absolved of all guilt.
8. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis - I don't go in for the whole graphic novel thing very often, and I'm still not sure how much of a children's book this is, but, the bottom line is that I loved it. Sis's story and his drawings do a remarkable job of depicting the resilience of the human spirit, even under a totalitarian regime determined to squelch it. Maybe I should go in for this graphic novel/children's book/whatever this is thing a little more often!
9. The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood - It's not the psychological thriller I was expecting, however it is an excellent character study and thoughtful consideration of what it is that constitutes "wickedness."
10. Bright and Distant Shores by Dominic Smith - Okay, I'm totally cheating because I'm still reading this now. Smith alternates between late 19th century Chicago and a trading ship in the South Seas. The book is full of colorful characters, perfectly set scenes in all manner of exotic places not to mention Chicago itself, and Smith's beautiful writing. I'm not sure where it's headed, but I'm liking the journey.
What's the best book you've read so far this year?