Recommended reading: Christmas 2013

Looking for some book suggestions in time for Christmas? Here’s my roundup based on my reading so far this year. 

My habit is to post for you the names of  all the books I’ve read, twice a year. Last June, I told you about the 27 titles I’d read by that point. Here is a description of the 30 other books I’ve enjoyed in the remainder of my reading year. Yes, I really do read more than a book a week.

I name the books I really liked in the “recommended” parts 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. I pass no judgment on those who do; my tastes just don’t run in those directions.

*RECOMMENDED FICTION in order of preference  

  1. Gaiman, Neil. The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Even though I usually dislike fantasty, I adored this book. So beautifully written (a bit E.B.White-ish) and so insightful into the life of a child.
  2. McEwan, Ian. Sweet Tooth. Enjoyed this literary thriller about a young woman who works for the British Intelligence Service. The surprise ending stunned me.
  3. McCann, Colum. Let The Great World Spin. I’m not convinced about MCann’s ability to plot but his writing is remarkable. I scribbled endless notes to myself about his metaphors, similes and sentences. This guy is a master.
  4. Southwood, Kate. Falling to Earth. Historical fiction about a real-life Illinois town flattened by a tornado in 1925. Told from the point of view of one family unharmed by the event.
  5. Meloy, Maile. Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It. Insightful, affecting, simply-written short stories that almost rival those of Alice Munro in their ability to find depth in the everyday.
  6. Waldman, Adelle. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. As the title suggests, the book dissects the love-life of a young male. The twist? It’s written by a woman.
  7. Gillmor, Don. Mount Pleasant. Really enjoyed this satirical look at consumer debt. The writer has a great ear for metaphor.
  8. Lamb, Vincent. The Headmaster’s Wager. A page-turner about a Chinese business man who settles in Saigon.
  9. Ozeki, Ruth. A Tale for the Time Being.  Story of a writer who discovers a lunchbox washed up on the beach in British Columbia. Told from two points of view: the writer and the Japanese lunchbox owner.
  10. Messud, Claire. The Woman Upstairs. Interesting, compelling book filled with fabulous writing. The twist ending was a bit too O. Henry-ish for me. But, wow, Messud can write!
  11. Roth, Philip. Nemesis.  Plainly written novel offering an intriguing study of polio.
  12. Walter, Jess. We Live In Water. Interesting collection of short stories all based in Spokane.
  13. Walls, Jeannette. The Silver Star. The story of two sisters, in the 1970s, who move from smalltown California to Virginia after being abandoned by their dysfunctional mother.
  14. Gauer, Stephen. Hold Me Now. A well written crime novel, set in Vancouver.
  15. Ferguson, Will. 419. Everything you want to know (and then some) about Nigeria and email scams, wrapped in an entertaining tale.
  16. Buchanan, Cathy Marie. The Painted Girls. Historical fiction set in late 19th century Paris, telling the (mostly) imagined story of the young dancer who modeled for Edward Degas.
  17. Juby, Susan. The Woefield Poultry Collective.  Amusing read about 30 acres of scrub land pretending to be a farm.

Other fiction

  1. Belmond, C.A. A Rather Lovely Inheritance.
  2. Eng, Tan Twan. The Garden of Evening Mists.
  3. Marra, Anthony. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.
  4. Spalding, Linda. The Purchase.
  5. Vassanji, M.J. No New Land.
  6. Williams, John. Stoner.

*RECOMMENDED NON-FICTION in order of preference  

  1. Grealy, Lucy. Autobiography of a Face. Deeply affecting memoir by the late poet whose young life was changed following disfiguring surgery.
  2. Winterson, Jeanette. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal. A tragic life helped Winterson become a successful author. Here’s her memoir — both funny and heartbreaking.
  3. Oakley, Barbara. A Mind for Numbers. Due to be published this summer (I read an author’s draft) this book offers many useful ideas on dealing with procrastination. Aimed at math & science students but could help writers, as well.
  4. Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class as Soulcraft. A philosopher who’s a bike mechanic also has some interesting thoughts on blue vs white collar work.
  5. Kerman, Piper. Orange is the New Black.  Competently written memoir about what it’s like for a white middle-class woman to end up in prison (however briefly.)

Other non-fiction

  1. Berdik, Chris. Mind Over Mind.
  2. Thomas, M.E. Confessions of a Sociopath.

What are the best books YOU’VE read this year?  We can all learn from each other so please share your thoughts with my readers and me by commenting below. (If you don’t see the comments box, click here and then scroll to the end.)