I >>>just<<< made my goal of reading 52 books this year, finishing the last page of the last book as the sun went down on December 31. It was a pretty good year of reading — so many good thick novels that exceeded my expectations. Here they are, my top ten for the year:
- Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin: It’s well-written and there’s plenty of 80s and 90s nostalgia that was great but I really loved this book because it elevated friendship to the marquee level it deserves. Friendship doesn’t play second fiddle to romance, which is so very rare.
- We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman: This book destroyed me. I cried the whole way through. But goddam is the writing beautiful and the cry is so thorough and satisfying. Life is beautiful *and* everyone you love dies.
- Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver: It’s been years since I’ve read any Kingsolver and this one did not disappoint. Epic tale of growing up in modern day Appalachia in poverty and trying to survive. I didn’t want it to end.
- Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel: this is the first book I read from Mandel and boy, was it beautiful. Speculative fiction that was so foreign in every way, except for the heart-breaking humanity of the characters.
- The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel: After loving Sea of Tranquility so much I went straight to this backlist title and loved it so much. I want to be the guy who lives in the hotel by himself at the end! It’s my new retirement plan.
- Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain: listened to this on a long solo drive. While it wasn’t the life-changer that Quiet was, it was still amazing. “If we could honor sadness a little more, maybe we could see it—rather than enforced smiles and righteous outrage—as the bridge we need to connect with each other. We could remember that no matter how distasteful we might find someone’s opinions, no matter how radiant, or fierce, someone may appear, they have suffered, or they will.”
- These Precious Days by Ann Patchett: I find her a little self-righteous and pretentious as a public figure but goddamn if everything she writes isn’t nearly perfect. This is a great collection of essays mostly set during the pandemic.
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus: A delightfully easy read but one with very real characters, including a new feminist hero in Elizabeth Zott. This would be a fantastic mini-series.
- Crying in the Bathroom by Erika Sanchez: When publishing is truly inclusive, it makes room for memoirs like this one. Sanchez wasn’t famous, she wasn’t in a cult. She was just an ordinary woman growing up in America and she shares what it was like in a way that made me think about all of the ways our lives are the same, and all the ways they’re different.
- Vera Kelly: Lost and Found : I wish I could remember how I found this series. Set in the early 70s, Vera Kelly is a lesbian spy and adventurer. This was the third book in the series and I think, the best. But if you read it, you should start with the first, which is also a gem. (Oh god, someone please make this into a TV series!)
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