I always face the end of year with trepidation. Will I get my Christmas cards done? (Answer: No.) Should I get the mint M&Ms even though I will suck back the entire bag and get a stomachache (Answer: Yes.) Will I have read anything on the year-end “Best Of” book lists? (Answer: Meh.)
Everyone’s got an opinion. That’s the beauty of books. There’s something for everyone and no one has to agree. I like to think that I share the same level of upper-crust criticism on what should be defined as “the best” with at least one or two critics, but alas, I often miss the mark.
Whatevs. I like what I like. So if the holidays provide you the chance to catch up on some reading, get ready for your book club’s list selection for next year, or at least knock off one book that “everyone” read this year, here are a few worthy of your time. Spoiler: There’s no “50 Shades” of anything on this list.
Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
Well worth the day it will take to read—just throw down some kibble for the kids and prepare to fat ass it on the couch. You’ll be fully engrossed in the tale of Pasquale the Italian innkeeper, Dee the actress kinda on the lam, Michael the schmucks Hollywood agent and … Richard Burton. Oh, yes.
The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey
A debut effort from an Alaskan author with a gift for weaving a really magical tale or partnership and parenting. Having read on the heels of “The Night Circus,” it had the same mystical feel and a wondrous love story.
The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman
THE love story of the year for me. Rivers of tears at the end. And, surprising, in that I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction. Or lighthouses. Near Australia. Similar to “The Snow Child” in that the story’s center features a childless couple with a woman so desperate she’ll do or believe anything to bring said child into their lives.
The Midwife of Hope River, by Patricia Harman
I first described this as a lovely book and I’m sticking to it. You’re not going to be turning pages as quickly as you would “Gone Girl,” but it’s not that kind of story. You’ll want to take your time to get to now Patience Murphy, a small town’s only midwife in the early 1930s. Life, death, regrets, and love all come together here.
The Casual Vacancy, by J.K Rowling
On some “Best Of” lists, this book tended to be a little polarizing—people either loved it or hated it (“There’s no magic!). I fall into the “Two Snaps!” category. Great character development, soapy fun, and if the reports are true, coming to BBC in another year or two. Move over, Downton Abbey, the Mollisons, Weedons and Jawandas are coming to town.
In One Person, by John Irving
Frankly, I think this book was sadly overlooked by others for “Best Of” lists. Irving’s latest is what I like to call “an investment piece” — it’s going to cost you a lot of your time to make it to the end—but what a finish. The story of William “Billy” Abbott, a bisexual (Were you surprised? This is Irving.) growing up in the 60s, 70s and through the AIDS crisis in the 80s.
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Look, if you haven’t read this yet, my guess is you just don’t like to read. If you did like the tale of batshit crazy Amy and her hubby Nick, you should also make time to read “Sharp Objects” and “Dark Places” — equally heavy on the crazy.
The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker
If you liked Tom Perrotta’s “The Leftovers,” this tome has a similar feel. I actually preferred this to the other hot YA book of the year, “The Fault in our Stars.” Walker has a great way of reminding me just how much I hated middle school. Sad, desperate and not at all a happy ending, but so well-written that you won’t care.
Want to know what everyone else thinks? Here goes: