Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 3 Books of 2012

Growing up, my family wasn't wealthy - not by a long shot. My mother, however, never let that stop her from finding things for us to do. Every single Saturday, while running our errands, she made sure that we stopped by the public library. It was one of the best things she could have done for me: I was an avid reader and would devour the books I got each week.

That tradition instilled in me a life long love of reading. So this year, I decided to keep a list of all the books that I read. It was entertaining to do - in the end,  I read over 100 books in 2012, and looking back over the book list is a fun sort of year-in-review for me. I thought I'd share three of my favorites here with you.

1. The Real Minerva, by Mary Sharrat: Focusing on three women living in the small town of Minerva, Minnesota in 1923, this novel is simply riveting. Its written in a simple but poetic voice, and the characters are not only believable but so realistic that you can't help but ache for their troubles. I loved the details of small town life in the Depression, and the way that the three main characters all break the mold for women living in that time and place, and are forced to live with the consequences of those choices, both good and bad. If I had to pick just one book for the year, this would be it.

2. Bee Season, by Myla Goldberg: This novel gets off to a slow start, for me at least, but once it gets going, it REALLY gets going. It is meticulously plotted, and the author reveals aspects of each character  poignantly and compellingly. I didn't imagine that a book centered around a spelling bee could pull me in so completely and be so absorbing, but my heart was actually racing while reading the last climactic scene. I really enjoyed how Goldberg explores family dynamics in this book, and the shifting perspective really helps illuminate how each family member views the others and views their own place in the family. I just found out (while googling the cover image) that this has been turned into a movie - has anyone seen it? Was it any good?

3. 11/22/63, by Steven King: I was pretty suprised by this book, I think at least partially because I always wrote Steven King off as a trashy horror novelist. I was dead wrong on that front, and this book blew me away (although I hated the first chapter). I love how King re-imagines the past again and again, and incorporates aspects of a traditional horror novel in with a book that is really about the dichotomy of intentions versus results, the importance of human connections, and the lengths to which one will go to preserve them. I also read The Shining this year (right around Halloween), and had nightmares for weeks - proof of some pure, great storytelling.

I haven't lived with my mother now for 10 years. But I still do go to the library when I'm out doing my errands, and I'm so glad she instilled that habit in me.

What books have you been reading lately?

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