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What are the best books you've read this year? (Also add in non-fiction?)

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What are the best books you've read this year?? What about non-fiction...self-help, cookbooks, etc.?

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Best novel: Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

Best kids' novel: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street.

Best Christian theology books: tie- New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp, The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson

Best history books: A History of the American People by Paul Johnson and Churchill:Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts.

Best education related book: On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior.

 

Edited by ScoutTN
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I read The Worst Hard Times with my high school students and thought it one of the best novels I've ever read. Even the introduction was worth re-reading, the writing was that good.

Best short stories: Diaries of Adam and Eve (Mark Twain) - so funny...and accurate!

Best motivational novel: That Printer of Udell's

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Best fiction: Augustown, A Gentleman in Moscow, News of the World (a reread), Circe

Best nonfiction: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, Washington: A Life, We Were Eight Years in Power

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3 hours ago, ScoutTN said:

Best novel: Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

Best kids' novel: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street.

Best Christian theology books: tie- New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp, The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson

Best history books: A History of the American People by Paul Johnson and Churchill:Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts.

Best education related book: On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior.

 

I did not read them this year but I couldn’t agree more with your Novel and History selection.  

For me, THIS year, I’ll have to go back and look.   

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Fiction: Natasha Pulley's two books. (And a whole lotta Terry Pratchett!)

Non-fiction: Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner? by Katrine Marcal

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None of these came out this year, but

Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison), Circe, Song of Achilles, and when we were in Cambodia “First they killed my father” (which really is a young adult book). I did not read much beyond lonely planet and work documents this year! This changes now 😉 

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I spent a good chunk of this year immersed in The Game of Thrones series. It's normally not a genre that appeals to me, but the storytelling is simply fantastic. I also thoroughly enjoyed The Great Alone.

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25 minutes ago, Momto5inIN said:

A Gentleman in Moscow

Would I like this one if I couldn’t at all get into Rules of Civility (admittedly I don’t try hard). 

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I’m in the middle of Hillbilly Elegy and it’s really good. 

Also, Dear Bob and Sue is a travel memoir that’s good.  

The Survivors: Pandemic is good. I think it’s on kindle unlimited. It’s fiction and the beginning of a series.  I’m waiting patiently for book 2.  

 

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I will say two non- fictions- 

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, 

and Ghettoside by Jill Leovy

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Edited by TravelingChris
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1 hour ago, madteaparty said:

Would I like this one if I couldn’t at all get into Rules of Civility (admittedly I don’t try hard). 

Haven't read that one so I don't know. It was a little hard to get into, but by the middle when he meets the little girl I was so charmed by him that I loved it 🙂

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I've been doing a lot of driving and listening, I hope that counts as "reading" (I did actually read some of these, but listened to some as well!)

Best Fiction: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (also, I listened to The Help this summer - I have read it in the past, but the audiobook was excellent. The voices really brought it to life even more than reading or the movie. So good!!)

Best NonFiction: Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team

Best Fluff: Crazy Rich Asians

Best YA Fluff: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Best Self Help:  Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

We will be traveling tomorrow and I'm hoping to use some of your ideas above to take advantage of the Audible sale!

eta - we also enjoyed listening to the book about the feather heist!  The Feather Thief - Beauty, Obsession and the Natural History Heist of the Century

Edited by WendyLady
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Ooooh, more book threads! 🙂

Best Classic: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Best Fiction: Memoirs of a Geisha (not really a memoir)

Best New-to-me author: William Alexander. I loved all three of his memoir-type books: The $64 Tomato, 52 Loaves, Flirting with French

Best Self-Help: Carol Dweick’s Mindset; Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose

Best Memoirs: The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande;The Glass Castle

Best Audible narration: Bill Homewood reading The Hunchback - sublime! 

Best spiritual: Amish Grace

Biggest surprise love (book not in a genre I normally choose - gay fiction): Less 

 

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7 hours ago, BakersDozen said:

I read The Worst Hard Times with my high school students and thought it one of the best novels I've ever read. Even the introduction was worth re-reading, the writing was that good.

I can't find this?  Who wrote it?  Thank you.

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23 hours ago, BakersDozen said:

I read The Worst Hard Times with my high school students and thought it one of the best novels I've ever read. Even the introduction was worth re-reading, the writing was that good.

Best short stories: Diaries of Adam and Eve (Mark Twain) - so funny...and accurate!

Best motivational novel: That Printer of Udell's

I’m about half way through listening to “The Worst Hard Times ”, it is a good book. 

Edited by Rachel
Added book title and fixed typo
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Favorite books from this year:

My Antonia -- I've read this several times and always love it

Othello

Speak -- I liked the graphic novel better than the book

The Good Earth -- an excellent book, though I'm still not sure that I like it

Pride and Prejudice

Leaving Glorytown -- YA about a family's escape from Cuba under Castro's rule

A Raisin in the Sun

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A phenomenal memoir: Daring by Gail Sheehy. (I had an appointment to interview Ms. Sheehy and read her memoir to prepare for the interview. Holy smokes! Sheehy was like the female Forest Gump. So, so good. Be sure to read to chapter two or three. At a certain point I couldn't put it down. So worth your time. My article w/ Sheehy: https://www.nextavenue.org/take-loved-ones-car-key-away/)

Incredible fiction: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Then because Pachinko was so good, I read her first book called Free Food for Millionaires. Both are way, way beyond good.

Another memoir that I really enjoyed: I Can't Make This Up by Kevin Hart. Amazing to see his relationship w/ his mom and how he became mega-successful. Very inspiring.

Last Girl Before Freeway (Joan Rivers' memoir -- loved it. Shows what we can do into our 80's. I wasn't a Joan Rivers fan, but this book really shows you who the woman was.

A Man Called Ove -- out of five stars I'd give this book six!!

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared -- somebody on TWTM recommended this book and thank you to that person. Fantastic read!!

I love these book threads!

Alley

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Dot Journaling was a book I read toward the beginning of the year and while it wasn't that great, it did inspire me to start a bullet journal which has been very helpful.

12 Rules for Life by Jordan Petersen is my Number 1 pick for nonfiction/self-help. I even read it twice and then watched quite a few of his lectures on youtube. (If you look for him on youtube- look for his lectures, not the other crap that's just a waste of time IMO)

I'm not sure I could pic l just one novel, but I have really enjoyed Diane Chamberlain this year.

The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman and The Power by Naomi Alderman were also near the top of my list.

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So hard to pick but here goes:

Anna Richard’s The Road Home and Laura Kinsale’s Midsummer’s Moon touched my heart.  Thank you to KarenI  for introducing me to these two authors.

Lian Dolan’s Elizabeth the First Wife and  Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm made me laugh.

Historicals Robyn Cadwaller’s The Anchoress and Julia Drosten’s The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter enthralled me while Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour pulled me into the history of the times.  Mark Helprin’s Soldier of the Great War pulled me from the present into the past and back again and put my emotions through the ringer.

Tahareh Mafi’s Shatter Me and Mindy McGinnis’  A Madness So Discreet and Dean Koontz Innocence gave me the chills.

Two WWII novels - Leon Leyson’s The Boy on the Wooden Box made me cry while John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas irritated me with the child’s naivete.

Edited by Robin M
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Fiction: Brenda Novak's Hanover House Series. This tied in a little with my work but also scared me silly late at night under the covers.  🙂

Non-Fiction: I am reordering "The Benedict Option" because it expired on me before I could get it done.

                    "Out on the Deep Blue" by Leslie Leyland Fields

I would like to add more biographies and need some good authors suggestions, please.

I also enjoyed a few of Julia Spencer Fleming's book for mind candy.

ETA: What does "fluffy" mean to you all? No depth? Not thought provoking? Read it and forgot it? 

Edited by Liz CA
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The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Would this be a book you would recommend for a high school literature class? The students have read The Good Earth, The Worst Hard Times, The Jungle...not exactly light reading.

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The Good Earth -- an excellent book, though I'm still not sure that I like it

If I had to choose just one book for my high schoolers (and everyone else, for that matter) to read, this would be the book. It gets better every time I read it - the life lessons are incredible.

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2 hours ago, Liz CA said:

 

ETA: What does "fluffy" mean to you all? No depth? Not thought provoking? Read it and forgot it? 

Fluffy is entertaining which to me are romance or urban fantasy involving interesting characters, some comedy, light hearted stories.  They can take you out of the world and provide food for thought, but aren’t dense.  Does that make sense?  

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27 minutes ago, Robin M said:

Fluffy is entertaining which to me are romance or urban fantasy involving interesting characters, some comedy, light hearted stories.  They can take you out of the world and provide food for thought, but aren’t dense.  Does that make sense?  

That’s what it means to me, also.  ‘Fluff’ doesn’t really stick with me a long time, at least not usually.   And I’m not one to look down on fluff ever.  Sometimes life is just too complicated around here and ‘fluff’ is desperately needed.   Sometimes I just can’t read something too deep or too thought provoking.  I love fluff. 

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5 hours ago, BakersDozen said:

If I had to choose just one book for my high schoolers (and everyone else, for that matter) to read, this would be the book. It gets better every time I read it - the life lessons are incredible.

Yes, this is why I included The Good Earth on my best reads of the year list.  The reason I'm not sure I like it is that it is grittier than most things that I read.  And I hated some of the characters -- also a sign of a good book because I felt something about the characters.

The book was engrossing in a way that made it hard to put it away when I had to do something else.  I found it really hard to be interrupted by my littles while I was reading this in a way that I don't usually face.  I think I would have enjoyed it more if I didn't have to deal with spilled milk and 5th grade math while I was reading it.

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Favorite fiction: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Favorite non-fiction: The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken

Favorite family read aloud: Every Living Thing by James Herriot

Favorite educational book: Rethinking School by SWB

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13 hours ago, Junie said:

Favorite books from this year:

My Antonia -- I've read this several times and always love it

This is one of my all time favorites! I rarely reread books, but I have read this one several times. 

You may also like Giants in the Earth by OE Rolvaag. It’s set in the same general time period and area. 

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Ooh, so glad you started this thread, OP!  I read a lot of very good non-fiction this year, hard to narrow it down.  Some of my favorites:

Fiction

Henry James, Portrait of a Lady

Anthony Horowitz, Magpie Murders

Nonfiction

Jordan Ellenberg, How Not to Be Wrong

Judith Shulevitz, The Sabbath World

Mark Leibovich, The Big Game

Jack Wertheimer, The New American Judaism

Practical Nonfiction

Mark Cucuzzella, Run for Your Life

Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep

Cookbooks

Dorie Greenspan, Everyday Dorie

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, The Food Lab

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Non-fiction: The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb was a really fascinating look at the brain functions and physical actions which affect depression. Unlike a lot of self help books it details small things which are research proven to affect your mood and anxiety levels. Research papers detailed in the back for further information. If you suffer from anxiety or depression or know someone who does, this is a really helpful resource that makes it clear why things happen and what kinds of actions can help create “an upward spiral” instead of a downward one. Runner up: Forest Forensics by Tom Wessels, which takes a look at how humans effect the land (’reading’ whether land was a field or how long ago it was clear cut based on humps, holes, stumps, and rocks).

Series brain candy: Martha Wells’ Murderbot series (1st one: All Systems Red), a group of 4 novellas (so each is 150 pgs or so) following the emergence of an AI/cyborg consciousness. At first it’s like a sullen teenager who can’t look at anyone in the eye and just wants to watch television in his room. Over time it struggles with identity and responsibility. All the while trying to keep humans from doing the stupid things which lead to their deaths (it’s a security consultant/guard). I’m not going to argue that it was the deepest thing I’ve read this year, but they are short, action-packed, thoughtful, and they show the evolution of an identity without telling you that’s what they’re doing. Runner up: Differently Morphious by Yahtzee Croshaw, but only if you get the audiobook which is read by the author. He reads it hilariously. It helps to have some understanding of the cthulu mythos. If you think it would be funny if Jasper Fforde wrote The Laundry Files, then you would like this.

Fiction: I didn’t over-the-moon love anything this year but I did really enjoy The Coroner’s Lunch, The Curse of Chalion, Cranford, The Walking Man, and Remnant Population. I read Remnant Population recently, but it's probably my favorite fiction of the year. I love that it's a science fiction novel focused on an elderly woman and spends most of its time following her very normal life and feelings (gardening, being annoyed with her DIL, wanting more time to herself). The 'action' doesn't even start until after chapter 7 and serves to develop the main character! People are rewarded not for intellectual pursuit or career success, but for experience, nurturing, courage, and individuality! Pretty encouraging stuff. 

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20 hours ago, Thatboyofmine said:

I’m in the middle of Hillbilly Elegy and it’s really good. 

 

This was my hands down favorite book the year it came out--I think 2016.  I got my book club to read it the following year, and everyone loved it.  I enjoyed rereading as well.  My husband did not enjoy it as much--I think he took it personally because his dad is from Ohio and his parents were from Appalachia.  He kept saying, We weren't this bad off.  Which was true.

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I reread "The Age of Innocence" this year, and although it is superbly written I found myself getting very impatient with it.  I did not like it nearly as much as when I was younger.  The ending ticked me off a lot, and that was the last straw.

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10 hours ago, Robin M said:

Fluffy is entertaining which to me are romance or urban fantasy involving interesting characters, some comedy, light hearted stories.  They can take you out of the world and provide food for thought, but aren’t dense.  Does that make sense?  

 

9 hours ago, Thatboyofmine said:

That’s what it means to me, also.  ‘Fluff’ doesn’t really stick with me a long time, at least not usually.   And I’m not one to look down on fluff ever.  Sometimes life is just too complicated around here and ‘fluff’ is desperately needed.   Sometimes I just can’t read something too deep or too thought provoking.  I love fluff. 

 

I asked because I often think I read fluff because I want to just be entertained; I have enough stuff going on at work so I don't need anything heavy BUT I dislike romance and love bite your nails crime stories. They are fiction but perhaps not always fluff (while some are) and depending on the author, ideas, questions, conundrums, etc. stick with me and I ponder it.

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44 minutes ago, Liz CA said:

I asked because I often think I read fluff because I want to just be entertained; I have enough stuff going on at work so I don't need anything heavy BUT I dislike romance and love bite your nails crime stories. They are fiction but perhaps not always fluff (while some are) and depending on the author, ideas, questions, conundrums, etc. stick with me and I ponder it.

Since you love crime stories, have you tried Cozy mysteries? They are lighter and there are quite a few I have enjoyed.  Cleo Coyle Coffeehouse Mysteries is one of my favorites.  

Edited by Robin M
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2 hours ago, Carol in Cal. said:

This was my hands down favorite book the year it came out--I think 2016.  I got my book club to read it the following year, and everyone loved it.  I enjoyed rereading as well.  My husband did not enjoy it as much--I think he took it personally because his dad is from Ohio and his parents were from Appalachia.  He kept saying, We weren't this bad off.  Which was true.

We traveled and spent a LOT of time in parts of Appalachia and southern Ohio when I was a kid (my parents' business took them through those areas on an almost weekly basis for many years), and the book didn't ring very true for me, either. I'm still puzzled that so many people think it's so great. There was a lot of it that seemed really wrong based on what I remember, and on the people we met. But I was a kid, so maybe my memory or perception was off. 

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Two really good books written by our own MamaSheep: Dragon Ascending and Dancing with the Viper (which is currently free in ebook form on Amazon).

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My favorite non fiction book of the year was It's Not Fair Learning to Love the Life You Didn't Chose by Melanie Dale.  It was real, raw, and even laugh out loud funny at times.  I read it in tiny sections over the course of 6-8 weeks as I just couldn't digest more than that at a time.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0310342147/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_wpsjCbHRCN8X5

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I tend to binge-read an author or a topic.  This year, two authors caught my attention.  For some reason, there wasn't a lot of biography on the list this year, but my "holds" list at the library indicates that 2019 will amend that.  It has typically been my wheelhouse.

This year I read Tom Wolfe for fiction and cultural commentary.  His book The Right Stuff is ... the right stuff.  Such a wonderful book--history, biography, and a ripping good yarn with fantastic writing.  I also very much liked and learned a lot from his cultural commentaries From Bauhaus to to Our House, and The Painted Word, which are commentaries on modernism in architecture and art. Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test still eludes me, and Bonfire of the Vanities has not held up over time--I read it a long time ago, and it was excellent in observation of the Roaring 80s, but ... just doesn't hold up.  Something weak in the plot, I think, not the cultural observation.

The Right Stuff put me on a binge of reading about the Space Program and that was interesting, but no one else's book measured up to Wolfe's.  Believe it or not, the movie Apollo 13 tells that story better than 5 books put together.  I didn't proceed past the Apollo program.  Factoid:  my former boss worked on the Apollo 8 program, writing the code that brought the capsule back through the atmosphere.  Very dicey.  He told me one time that the pocket calculator I had on my keychain was actually more capable than the rooms-and-rooms of computers they had at their disposal, and yet, they went to the moon.  So I had an interest in reading about this from a personal angle.  

The other author was Rod Dreher, starting with The Benedict Option.  It is often mis-cast as Chicken Littleism and a call to withdraw from the world, but that casting is by people who read the premise of the book and write a review without reading the book.  it is *really* a call to people of faith (whether in God or in ecology or whatever) to *act* like you really believe what you say you believe.  It's a good one to straighten and strengthen the spine. 

The other book, How Dante Can Save Your Life, is autobiographical, about finding his way through a lifetime of family dysfunction through Dante's Commedia--Inferno, Purgatoio, Paradiso.  I am not a poetry reader (as he is not, either) and yet this book proved to be the way to healing for him, and he tells a good story, and I got some Dante instruction along th way, and some new ways of thinking about. my own life. 

 

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I probably read about 30 books this year, and I honestly can't remember any of them except the one that I just finished and am taking back to the library today.  I'm not sure if that says something about this year's reading selections, or my memory.

Oh, I take that back.  The most memorable/favorite one was Small Fry, by Lisa Brennan-Jobs.  There were a LOT of parallels with my own complicated relationship with my father.  I'm always relieved to find a memoir where someone else puts into words the things that I can't ever describe.

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