- Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz *
- The Magicians, Lev Grossman
- Between Friends, Amos Oz *
- The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish *
- The Beautiful & the Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Sentence is Death, Anthony Horowitz
- The Word is Murder, Anthony Horowitz
- Sons & Lovers, D. H. Lawrence
- The Dying Detective, Leif G. W. Persson
- The Alchemist, Paulo Coehlo
- My Cousin Rachel, Daphne du Maurier *
- Between the World & Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates *
- One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Twenty Love Poems & A Song of Despair, Pablo Neruda *
- Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, & Finding Joy, Sheryl Sandberg *
- Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks *
- A Bookshop in Berlin, Francoise Frenkel
- Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk
- The Door, Magda Szabo
- Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
- Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald *
- Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik *
- The Boy in the Suitcase, Lene Kaaberbol
- The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
The past year brought many challenges and great change. Throughout it I made an effort to prioritize reading and was able to finish more books this year than I had in the last several. Titles followed by an asterisk are ones I would recommend:
By the end of 2016 I was pleased with the fact that I had read 25 books, 14 more than the previous year! While my reading goal had been a bit higher, an ambitious 50, I was still pleased with the fact that I read more than twice as many as I had done the previous year. Here are the books I read in 2016, starting with the most recent, including an asterisk near my favorites of the year:
At the start of the summer this past year I wrote a blog post titled "Summer Reading" with a list of 14 books that I had placed on my to-read list for the break. I managed to read a few from that list during the course of the summer as well as several others throughout the year. While I had hoped to read many more books in 2015, the books I did read were enjoyable and I have outlined them briefly below, beginning with those read most recently. Please comment below with any of your favorite books from 2015!
The Terror, Dan Simmons
Colorado author Dan Simmon's The Terror is what I would consider a "historical-horror" novel that I had started several years back, but for whatever reason didn't finish. I picked it up again over Thanksgiving break and was NOT disappointed! Simmons is an excellent story teller with a knack for detail and pulls you into his narrative to the point where it is hard to get out-this is a good thing! I loved the component of historical fiction which focuses on the mid 19th century Northwest Passage expedition of the HMS Terror & HMS Erebus which was ultimately lost. Simmons also weaves in a unique component of Inuit folklore which was very intriguing. This is not your typical Stephen King horror novel, but equally engrossing and well written.
Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith
Ah Robert Galbraith, the mystery author pen-name of our beloved JK Rowling. The third book of the Cormoran Strike series, Career of Evil is very similar to the first two. The brooding detective and his unlikely partner find themselves in the midst of another puzzling case that is unique and certainly keeps the reader entertained. While this isn't the best mystery novel I've read, it certainly served its purpose as a quick, entertaining read that kept me occupied for a few days. Needless to say, I am a proud part of the Harry Potter generation and can say without hesitation that I will continue to read whatever JK Rowling has to offer.
The Girl in the Spider's Web, David Lagercrantz
The latest book in the Millennium Series did not disappoint. David Lagercrantz stayed true to Steig Larsson's characters and storytelling while bringing his own style and depth to The Girl in the Spider's Web. Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist engage in yet another thrilling investigation, this time centered on Salander using her hacker skills to bust into the network of the NSA. Granted a part of me felt a little guilty for reading the book based on the controversy surrounding Larsson's estate following his passing, however I am so glad that I read it. And I will anxiously await the next two books in the series with Lagercrantz is also scheduled to pen for publication in 2017 and 2019.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
Of the 10 books I read in 2015 A Thousand Splendid Suns was hands down my favorite. Khaled Hosseini is a flawless writer and his narrative is exquisite. The book follows the lives of two women independently in Kabul but goes on to explore how these lives not only intersect but later become intertwined after the Taliban establishes its power in the city. Hosseini's novel is a story of women, their struggles, and ultimately their strength. He focuses on themes of family, forgiveness, and ultimately the condition of women in Afghanistan under control of the Taliban. I would highly recommend this tile for your next book club, as a stocking stuffer for a friend, or for this year's summer reading list.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe
This was a really fun book to read and it held great appeal for the archivist in me. The protagonist is Connie, a hard-working Harvard graduate student struggling to find a unique angle for her dissertation who is pulled away by her free-spirited mother to do some cleaning at an old family cottage near Salem. The story follows Connie as she searches not only for lost family history, but also for a primary source that holds incredible implications for her research on the Salem witch trial era. While the passages that flashback to the Salem witch trials are a little overdone, this is overall a solidly entertaining novel.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg
Charles Duhigg's book is an excellent study on habits and habit forming actions. He establishes what he calls the "habit loop" and how that impacts a person's decisions, both conscious and unconscious. Throughout the book he utilizes the habit loop to explain not only individual habits, but also the habits of companies/organizations, as well as the habits of society and groups of people. This is certainly an interesting book that can help you understand how habits start (if you are coming from a business standpoint) and how habits can be stopped (if you are coming from a self-improvement standpoint.) Either way this is a great book that might be a good way for you to kick off the new year and stick to those New Year's Resolutions!
Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope, Wendy Holden
I was fortunate to attend the North American launch of this book in May 2015 and was highly moved by the stories of these three young women who, despite all odds, carried and gave birth to children in the final months of the Holocaust, all who survived. As any account of the Holocaust, parts of this book are particularly hard to get through, but those horrific struggles make the story of survival even more compelling. Wendy Holden beautifully weaves the lives of these three women together, despite having never met one another even though they were liberated from the same camp, Mauthausen, as possibly the only three women there with newborns.
The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
While this was certainly an engaging read, it was also very dark. Hawkins takes the reader into the minds of several individuals who are all, in their own way, deeply unstable. Throughout the story it is impossible not to get enmeshed in each of the characters' issues which is relatively disturbing, however speaks to the writing abilities of the author. While I did enjoy the mystery aspect of the book I would have to admit that I felt relieved and as though a burden had been lifted off of me once I had finished reading it.
The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust, Edith Hahn Beer
It is always really interesting to read a book after having met and gotten to know the subject of the story. Or her daughter. In March of 2015 my employer, the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, hosted for one week the daughter of the Nazi Officer's Wife, Angela Schluter. Angela expounded on her mother's incredible story of survival during the Holocaust by hiding in plain sight. This was a very fluid book and incredibly captivating. Edith Hahn Beer tells her story with a sort of fierce honesty and straightforwardness that is incredibly down to earth and refreshing.
The Distant Hours, Kate Morton
This is the first book I've read by Kate Morton after many people suggested her books. She tells this story beautifully and every word in the text is well thought out and intentional. She utilizes flashbacks to tell how the life of a young woman in contemporary times intersects with three sisters who experienced their heyday in the midst of the second world war. The Distant Hours is a powerful, captivating book and definitely provides enjoyable reading entertainment.
Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope (Non-Fiction: History)
In her 2015 book Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope author Wendy Holden tells the story of three young Jewish women in Nazi occupied Europe who were torn from their idyllic lifestyles and thrown into the horrors of the Holocaust. Holden follows each of these women through their separate yet parallel courses through various ghettos and camps, never losing sight of the unique characteristic of these three women’s experience.
Born Survivors is the story of three women each of whom, despite horrific conditions, managed to carry and give birth to a child in the midst of the malnutrition, disease, filth, and abuses imposed upon them by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. Mothers Priska, Rachel, and Anka were in a group of over 1,000 prisoners who were first in the Frieberg labor camp before being packed into cattle cars and transported across Eastern Europe for sixteen days, ending their journey at Mauthausen just a few days before its liberation in 1945. Throughout their struggle the three women never came into contact with one another nor were they aware that they were not alone in their situation.
Despite the women’s lack of knowledge of one another, Wendy Holden has artfully woven together these three stories in a way that leaves the reader feeling personally invested in the fates of these expectant mothers facing the most dire of conditions. Not unusual to many Holocaust survival narratives, Holden’s book illustrates the extreme, inhumane conditions in which people fought to survive and in which many ultimately perished. However what makes this research on the Holocaust so unique is that it not only tells the stories of the three mothers and their harrowing experiences, but it also tells the story of their children who, against all odds, would live to become the youngest of today’s Holocaust survivors.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of attending the North American book launch of Born Survivors in Skokie, Illinois and was delighted to hear not only from the author of the book, but from the born survivors themselves. Hana Berger Moran, Eva Clarke, and Mark Olsky, a doctor and long-time Wisconsin resident, reaffirmed Holden’s depiction of the three children who met for the first time at the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Mauthausen on May 8, 2010. “We have been brought together by chance but we now have a permanent bond and feel such a sense of togetherness. I am absolutely delighted to call them my sister and brother.” The connection between the three “siblings” is no doubt a reflection of their shared experience, but also a result of the bond they share in remembering the incredible courage of their mothers in ensuring that their children would not only be born, but that they would live to survive.
After posting my intended summer reading list last week, I knew that I would need to get off on the right foot and get into the list with plenty of momentum, so I decided to choose a book that had been recommended to me by multiple people as a real page-turner. I selected The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Thanks to summer break I was able to complete the book in less than 24 hours. So yes, it was a page-turner.
However that is not to say that the book was easy going. I can honestly say that I have never encountered the types of characters created by Hawkins in my life. Every single one of the main characters in the book are completely depressing. Between alcoholism, depression, anxiety, and pathological lying the reader is exposed, from the first page, to the extreme issues plaguing the primary players throughout the story. The author has created characters so troubled that to learn what goes through their minds throughout the story proves incredibly challenging to read...to the point of causing physical discomfort to the reader. But maybe this is an example of Hawkins' writing abilities.
She has created a story that weaves the viewpoints of three different women together in such a way that the troubles of each woman, emotional and psychological, are completely real. This writing style in Hawkins' book is very engaging and overall well done. The plot itself, an absolute mystery thriller, is very good and complete with a stellar twist. If readers can stomach Hawkins' characters then they are in for a well done and fast paced story.