Since everyone else, except NPR is doing a top ten list, I decided I would do my yearly round-up of the best books I read this year. My only caveat is that they may not have been published this year. Oh, and I should mention they are numbered but the numbers don’t mean anything except to remind me to stop at ten. Without further preamble, here we go:
- Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (aka The Blogess). Inappropriate at time, but all-around hilarious. I could not stop laughing. I think the book appealed to my neurotic, anxiety-ridden personality. I could totally identify with her. And my husband and I have had similar arguments, which just cements for me that we are normal and everyone else is not. I really loved this book.
- Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halperin. Another gut-buster. I absolutely loved this book. Roll on the floor laughing good. I think anyone can relate to their dad being odd and saying inappropriate things.
- Ghostman by Roger Hobbs. A thriller and a rollercoaster ride all wrapped into one. This is a book I think more people should have been talking about. It’s a debut novel, which blows me away. It’s about a guy who has no real identity and is the “clean-up” crew for cons gone bad. If you like thrillers, it’s the best one I read this year.
- No Easy Day by Mark Owen. This book got a LOT of publicity and there are some people who claim it’s factually wrong (Mark Bowden’s The Finish came with a disclaimer card saying that his book was different on the details). True or not, it’s a compelling, page-turning read about Seal Team Six and the killing of Osama bin Laden. (See also, Manhunt by Peter Bergen)
- Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. My book club had issues with the ending, and I did as well, but this is a beautifully written. I wouldn’t have even had to have been to Italy you will go with him in this book. I was blown away by the language and the story. It’s truly fantastic.
- Mo Meta Blues by Ahmir Thompson, better known as ?love from the Roots. A memoir of his childhood in Philadelphia, the formation of the Roots (one of the greatest hip-hop bands ever), and their evolution. But more than that, this book was a musical education. Questlove knows his stuff. Pure and simple. He has worked with everyone from Al Green to Dave Matthews and you can see him on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon as the house band. Even if I didn’t know who he was or what band he was in, this book would have rocked me. He discusses musicians I have never heard of and explains how music works. Fascinating enough for me to finish in a day.
- Fearless by Eric Blehm. I love him. I loved this book. This is the story of Adam Brown, good kid, crackhead, Navy Seal. Yes, you read that right. He got into crack after high school and had a long struggle with addiction. The fact that he overcame that addiction to become a Navy Seal is only half of the story. I wish that we, as a society, would honor heroes that actually are. And he is. I gave this book to my son to read because I think that he will learn so much about character, perseverance and determination.
- The World Without You by Joshua Henkin. The story of a family who comes together a year after their only son’s death as a journalist cover a “war in the middle east”. I was drawn into the story of how the death of one family member who is unknowingly the linchpin of the family tears them apart and how they try to struggle through the loss. I was really surprised by this book. I can’t remember where I heard about it, but I am so glad I did. The family is Jewish and one daughter is orthodox and lives in Israel. The book is also about differences in belief and faith. I found it a fascinating and well-written story.
- Wave by Sonali Deraniyagla. This is a memoir about the author losing her husband, children and parents in the Tsunami in Indonesia in 2004. Like the waves that took her family, the author overwhelms you the same way. At one point, I wasn’t sure if I could finish the book because it was overwhelmingly sad. I cannot put into words how sad this book was. However, I will say that although the only happy ending I wanted was to get her family back, there is a glimmer of hope at the end. I admire her strengh to survive such an enormous tragedy.
- Tie. Sycamore Row by John Grisham. Twenty years later, John Grisham returns to the first character he ever wrote, Jake Brigance from A Time To Kill. A Time To Kill has always been my favorite Grisham book. And I was happy and a bit afraid to see him return to Clanton, Mississippi. The book picks up a couple of years after the Carl Lee Hailey trial and involves the will of a very rich white man who leaves his estate to his Afrian-American housekeeper. This book was so good. Grisham seamlessly picked up on the characters that made A Time To Kill so good. I am also glad that he did not pick another criminal matter. The probate of the will is fascinating and it has enough legal jargon to satisfy the legal junkies, but not confuse a non-legal reader.
My second number 10 is The Gods Of Guilt by Michael Connelly. The latest installment in the “Lincoln Lawyer” series. Unlike several reviewers, I liked the detail that Connelly goes into when he describes the court and the legal strategies and arguments he is going to use. I also loved that this book picked up some time after the last one. At the end of the last book, Mickey Haller was running for DA. This book picks up after the election, which he has lost, and which, has caused him to be estranged from his ex-wife and daughter. Harry Bosch makes a brief cameo in the book as well. The title comes from one of the characters, Mickey’s former mentor, Legal Seigel, who says the jury are the Gods of Guilt. This book was different from the other Mickey Haller books in that it was a little more introspective and a little more morose than the prior books. There are plot twists and spoilers that are awesome. I think Connelly could write just about anything and I would read it.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: The John Ceepack series by Chris Grabenstien; See No Evil by Robert Baer (the basis of the movie, Syriana); Hands Through Stone by James A. Ardiaz.
There you have it. The ten (11) best books I read this year. And few extras thrown in because it’s the holidays.