When I was in Wisconsin over the holidays, Nick’s mother and I chatted about what we were reading, which gave me the idea to share some of my favorite and recently read books here, in case anyone else is looking for suggestions.
I’ve always enjoyed reading for pleasure and typically read at least a book a week. I rarely sit and read for any real length of time though, except in summer when we are on the boat; I sneak in most of my reading to and from work on the subway, at lunch while I eat, and for a few minutes before heading to bed.
If you are a book lover like I am, I recommend Good Reads, a free website and mobile app for book descriptions, reviews and ratings. It also allows you to track what you’ve read and would like to in the future, and you can even follow friends and peruse their reading lists. At the beginning of the year, Good Reads challenges you to enter a reading goal for the year and tracks your progress. I challenged myself to read 40 books for the year; so far I have nine books done and just started another.
Just a note that while I like nonfiction, I tend to read mostly fiction (who doesn’t need a break from reality?), and I rarely read the most current books, since I (electronically) check out all of my books from the D.C. public library.
1. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
From the author of The Emperor’s Children (also a great book), the main character is a lonely unwed school teacher who dreamed of living another life as an artist, but has instead become the quiet, trusty woman upstairs. A new student appears in her class and she becomes heavily entwined with and used by each member of the family.
2. Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
The main character Anna has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II; half the story is told from her perspective, and the other half from her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by Americans. Trudy slowly uncovers her mother’s story and realizes much of what she thought to be true is actually not.
3. The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
This story is about a young Afghan girl who chosen by her family to live as a bacha posh, a common practice that allows daughters to dress and live as boys, allowing her to go to school and run errands for the family. Unfortuantely, her opium-addicted father is indebted to a vicious warlord, who takes the 13-year-old as a bride. Her story of suppression and survival is told alongside that of her great-aunt Shekiba’s, whose life took a similar path.
4. The House Girl by Tara Conklin
A young lawyer takes the lead on a class-action lawsuit seeking repararions for families of slaves. In her pursuit to find a “face” for the lawsuit, she uncovers the story of Josephine Bell, a runaway slave who’s name has long been entangled in an art world controversy since many believe that she was the actual creator of work credited to her owner, Lu Anne Bell.
5. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This book is set in the future, after a flu has caused civilization to collapse. The book follows several of those that are left and tasked with trying to survive, rebuild their lives and find purpose and meaning.
6. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
A fantastic book about two brave French sisters who struggle to survive and save the lives of others, each in their own way, through World War II.
7. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
The main character Georgie is a successful sitcom writer who lands the opportunity of a lifetime, which requires her to be away from her family and husband during the holidays and causes strife in her marriage. During the trip, Georgie’s calls to her husband go unanswered, until she calls him from the old landline phone in her childhood bedroom; she quickly realizes she’s speaking to her husband in the past, early in their relationship when they were first dating, which gives her the opportunity to make different decisions about their relationship in the present.
8. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
Despite being authored by horror novelist Stephen King this book is a science/historical fiction story about a man who finds a portal to travel back in time to the 1960s, where it becomes his mission to prevent the Kennedy assassination. He quickly realizes that every time he interrupts or alters history that the future is also rewritten. The main character ends up spending more and more of his time building and living a life in the past.
9. All the Light We Cannot See By Anthony Doerr
This is a lovely story about the parallel journeys of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy during World War II, but whose paths eventually cross and have a lasting impact.
10. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The main character Rachel is an alcoholic and jobless, but continues to take the train into the city everyday to keep up the charade that her life is on track. Rachel frequently sees a woman who’s house faces the train tracks, and one day sees a news report that the woman has gone missing. Rachel fumbles her way through solving the crime (and while the book can be a bit slow in parts, there are a few twists at the end that make it worth reading).
What about you; do you have any must-read book suggestions?