Best of 2017

Bestof2017I’ve only got a few hours left in my reading year, so I doubt I’ll be able to add to my favorites even though I am in the middle of SIX books. I sometimes have two or three books going at once, but this many shows how scattered my reading — and life — has been this past month.

I set my 2017 reading goal at 50 books, but fell short with only 42 read. That’s just one more than last year. Ho-hum. Supposedly, I read 13,277 pages (about 500 fewer than last year) but I was more finicky this year and abandoned several books, some even 200 or more pages in.

Here are my favorites for 2017, in no particular order although Silence definitely rates at or near the top:

  • Silence by Shusako Endo
    Several months after I read Silence, I visited the island of Hirado in Japan where real-life events similar to those in the book took place. At a small, local museum, I saw a rare surviving fumie, a small piece of wood with the image of Christ on it that Japanese officials used to get Christians to apostatize. It was so insignificant looking, but likely had caused such unspeakable suffering. Fascinating and terrible history in a great book.
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
    This book languished in my TBR for about 10 years, and took my Pulitzer project to get me to read past the first 20 pages. Chabon’s story set in the nascent comic book publishing world in the 1940s NYC. I’ve never been a comic book reader, but I was glued to this one because I loved the characters and Chabon’s zippy style.
  • Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
    I asked the internet universe for a good new Western and my old friend PJK delivered with this one. The narrator, Jack Crabb, is a Forest Gumpian character, who finds himself in every major wild West historical event you can think of. It’s very different from, but to my mind just as good as Lonesome Dove.
  • The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
    Carson McCullers captures in writing what Diane Arbus captures on film. Sad, but hard to look away from.
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
    The more I read Cather the more I fall in love with her. This book captures the atmosphere of New Mexico, even 100+ years after the events it depicts.
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
    This one made it on a lot of best-of lists, so my admiration is hardly unique. Need to get over my aversion to short stories and read more George.
  • The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
    With Alma Whitaker, Gilbert creates one of the most richly developed characters I’ve ever met in a novel. I wish she’d float off the pages and come over for tea. We’d talk about moss.

Looking forward to a fresh start in 2018!

Best of 2016

bestof2016I’ve had one of my best reading years in a long time. My book nerd stats: I’ve read 40 books (likely 41+ by the time the ball drops), or 14,068 pages. Thirteen of the books were over 400 pages, and as usual, the longer books tended to be my favorites of the year. Here are those favorites, with only the first one being in order: Continue reading