Editor’s note: Several of our regular blog writers have looked back at the books they read in 2017, and they’ve each written their own “Year in Review.” This is the first installment. Enjoy!
My Year in Books: Literary Travels
One of my favorite things to do in December is reflect on the books I’ve read over the past year. Reading is a bit like traveling, and it’s really nice remembering all the places I’ve been able to visit over the past year. In my “real life” I was blessed with trips to Hawaii and Colorado this year, but thanks to the books I’ve picked up this year, I’ve been able to travel to many other places and times. Here are some of the highlights:
I journeyed to Australia in the twisty domestic thriller “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty. This book recently inspired an award-winning miniseries on HBO, but the book is even better, offering a darkly humorous and suspenseful tale of how friendships and lies can lead to murder.
“The Wonder” by Emma Donoghue took me to an isolated town in 1850s Ireland. This surprisingly taut historical suspense follows Lib, an English nurse, as she looks into a possible miracle — the case of a young girl who is said to have not eaten anything in months. Lib’s faith in science pits her against the religious faith of the community as she sets out to find out just what is going on. I journeyed to Italy in “With Malice” by Eileen Cook. This YA thriller follows Jill, who is struck with amnesia after being involved in an accident in Italy that killed her best friend. Recovered memories leave Jill wondering if it really was an accident.
I was able to Maine twice this year in my reading travels. Stephen King took me to a small island of the coast in “Dolores Claiborne.” It was a timely book as it prominently features an eclipse, and Frances Sternhagen’s narration of the audiobook version made a fascinating story even better. She brought Dolores to life in such a way that I felt I was listening to a real Down Easter recounting the events that lead to her employer’s death and her husband’s murder. My second trip to Maine explored the state’s rugged backcountry in “The River at Night” by Erica Ferencik. In this book, a group of friends decide to spend a weekend bonding during a float trip through the Maine backwoods. An accident leaves them without a guide, and their dream vacation quickly turns into a nightmare.
Happy reading (and travels) in the new year!
2017, A Year in Reading
It’s the season when I look back at all of the great reading I’ve done over the past twelve months and bestow my own personal awards in categories I invented myself. Let’s get right to the list of winners.
Book I Can’t Stop Thinking About : “The Cove” by Ron Rash. This tale of historical fiction is set deep in Appalachia during World War I. When a mysterious and mute stranger is taken in by a young woman already mistrusted by much of the community, loyalties are tested, prejudices revealed and the depths of human treachery and kindness are plumbed.
Funniest Murder Mystery: “The Good Byline” by Jill Orr. Take Lucy Ricardo of “I Love Lucy,” change her name to Riley Ellison, make her a millennial library assistant in Tuttle Corner, Virginia, recently dumped by her boyfriend, looking for love online and inadvertently involved in a murder investigation, and you’ll end up with this book.
Memoir That Tugged My Heartstrings: “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley. The book’s cover explains what this one is about. “As a five-year-old in India I got lost on a train. Twenty-five years later, from Australia, I found my way back. This is what happened in between.”
Most Haunting Poetry Collection: “The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded” by Molly McColly Brown. The characters in these poems are fictional, but are based on the real history of a real institution.
Best Book Based on a Favorite Classic Novel: “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin. This is “Silas Marner” for the modern age. Like Marner, Fikry is a lonely man, a misfit in his community and bitter over lost love. He gets a second chance at happiness when an orphaned toddler wanders into his life. A bonus for avid readers is that Fikry owns a bookstore and this story abounds with literary allusions.
I look forward to 2018 and many more reading adventures.