Recommended books: Christmas 2012

Word count: 794 words

Reading time: Just over 3 minutes

Looking for some book suggestions in time for Christmas? I’ve just reached my goal to read 52 books this year. (For more book suggestions, be sure to check out my list from June, as well.)

My habit is to post for you the names of ALL the books I’ve read, twice a year. Last June, when I told you about the 24 titles I’d read by that point, many were non-fiction. Since then, I’ve had a fiction renaissance with 17 of my 28 new titles falling into that category. Woo hoo!

I name the books I like in the “recommended” part of the list. Books I didn’t enjoy (remember: reading is personal) I’ve placed in the “other” list. Please note I don’t generally read mystery/thrillers, sci fi or fantasy (one exception, below). I pass no judgment on those who do; my tastes just don’t run in those directions.

*RECOMMENDED FICTION in order of preference 

  1. Cohen, Leah Hager. The Grief of Others. This interesting and sensitively written book describes a family that loses a baby 57 hours after birth. Lest you fear it’s mere chick lit, let me share one sentence: “His toenails: specks of abalone.” Isn’t that exquisite?
  2. Wagamese, Richard. Ragged Company. Four homeless people start going to movies together and then win a $13.5 million lottery. Skillfully managed plot, well told.
  3. O’Farrell, Maggie. The Hand that First Held Mine. The main character finds her way from rural Devon to the centre of postwar London’s art scene in Soho. Fifty years later, a contemporary London couple has their first child. How are these two stories related? A good book although I found the ending too pat.
  4. Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. My kids got me started reading John Green and this, I think, is one of his best works. It’s the story of a young girl with terminal cancer. Affecting and not the least bit sentimental.
  5. Groff, Lauren. The Monsters of Templeton. A genealogical mystery story with some very fine writing even though I disliked the ending.
  6. Palacio, R.J. Wonder. Not quite as fantastic as a review had lead me to believe, but a charming book about a young boy who has a facial deformity.
  7. Diaz, Junot. This is How You Lose Her. I’d been hearing the buzz about Diaz and picked up this book to get a taste of his writing. His voice is irresistible and very distinct. Warning: it’s sexually explicit.
  8. Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl. I don’t typically read mysteries but found this one unputdownable. Great beach read!
  9. Joyce, Rachel. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. This book almost didn’t make it to the recommended portion of my list. Parts of it are very weak but aspects of the story – about a man who walks 600 miles across England to visit a friend in a hospice – are genuinely charming.
  10. De Bernieres, Louis. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. I was late to reading this 1995 novel that combines history, fantasy and love story. The writing style is old-fashioned but I liked the way de Bernieres tells his story from a plethora of perspectives.

*Other fiction (alphabetical by author) 

  1. deWitt, Patrick. The Sisters Brothers
  2. Genova, Lisa. Love Anthony
  3. MacIntyre, Linden. Why Men Lie
  4. Morais, Richard. The Hundred-Foot Journey
  5. Ondaatje, Michael. The Cat’s Table
  6. O’Melveny, Regina. The Book of Madness and Cures
  7. Otsuka, Julie. The Buddha in the Attic

*RECOMMENDED NON-FICTION in order of preference 

  1. Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers. I’m a sucker for anything by Gladwell. Really enjoyed this study of the over-achievers among us.
  2. Graff, Gerald & Birkenstein, Cathy. They Say, I Say. This would be a terrific Christmas gift for any college-age students in your life. It’s a smart guide to writing better essays.
  3. Foer, Joshua. Moonwalking with Einstein. Loved this story of a writer who trained himself to become US memory champion. Very entertaining.
  4. Newport, Cal. So Good They Can’t Ignore You. I’m a big fan of Newport and agree with him that skills are more important than “passion” when it comes to work.
  5. Gentile, Olivia. Life List. Phoebe Snetsinger was told she had less than a year to live. An avid backyard birder, she decided to spend that year traveling the world in search of birds. Her doctors were wrong and Snetsinger went on to see more species than anyone in history.
  6. Grescoe, Taras. Straphanger. A fascinating history of rapid transit around the world. I agree with Grescoe: we’re all too wedded to our cars.
  7. Sinek, Simon. Start with Why. I found this book a bit clumsily written, and include it here mainly because I endorse his idea that great leaders always ask “why?”

*Other non-fiction (alphabetical by author)

  1. Evans, Tom. This We Know
  2. Feldman, Deborah. Unorthodox
  3. Mnookin, Seth. The Panic Virus
  4. Vanderkam, Laura. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think

What are the best books you’ve read this year? Please share your suggestions below. (If you don’t see the comments box, click here and then scroll to the end.)