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What was the best book you read this year?


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My Dark Vanessa...well-written and disturbing enough that it left a lasting impression on me.  Definitely not light content.

I also really liked two memoirs - The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story because it was so inspirational and also When Life Gives You Pears - touching and humorous.  

Looking forward to seeing the other responses!  

 

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Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (young adult fiction)

John Green deals with anxiety and wrote such a terrific main character of a teen girl with anxiety.  As an anxious person I really appreciated how things were presented.  I read this for a book club before covid hit.  Others with anxiety appreciated it and those who have never dealt with it felt like it gave them a glimpse and some understanding of anxiety.

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Great thread!  

This was a terrible year for me reading-wise.  The pandemic has really messed with my ability to concentrate.  Lots of picking up books and then putting them down.

Probably the best book I read was The Next Mormons, by Jana Riess.  

Edited by JennyD
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I don’t have a shining standout this year, but some books I enjoyed especially were:

The Warmth of Other Suns.  I had started this several years ago and did not care for it, but this time I checked the chapter headings each time they switched and knowing the locations helped me keep the stories straight.  And it was fantastic.

Journeys North.  This is the best long hike book I have read, and I’ve read a lot of them.  Although Wild is close.

Both are nonfiction that reads like a novel.

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10 minutes ago, JennyD said:

Great thread!  

This was a terrible year for me reading-wise.  The pandemic has really messed with my ability to concentrate.  Lots of picking up books and then putting them down.

Probably the best book I read was The Next Mormons, by Jana Riess.  

Yes! I had a bad reading year, too. I started a bunch of books, but I couldn’t sustain interest in many of them. (I recently gave into readers and I think that will help.)

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I've read a lot this year, but for the most part it was comfort re-reading of old faves. 

I did read Jan Karon's Mitford books for the first time this year. I did enjoy them, though after about book 8-9, I was ready to wrap it up, lol. I don't have patience for lengthy series. 

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I read a lot of speculative fiction this year; apparently I wanted to get as far away from the real world as possible. I think the one that will stick with me the most is The Sparrow. I'd had it on my list ever since I saw Stacey Abrams speak back when she was running for governor....the primary, even, so very early on. Someone asked her for her favorite book, and she wouldn't narrow it down to just one, but she did single out The Sparrow as one favorite, and said something about how it was about what would happen if Jesuits were the first to make contact with aliens, and that got my attention. So finally read it, and it was excellent: entertaining but also well-written and smart and thought provoking. I'd put The Glass Hotel in the runner up spot. 

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I'm really enjoying The Midnight Library right now. 

"Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?" 

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Following closely. 

This has been a terrible year for me reading wise too; I’ve started many books but finished few. I tend to prefer non fiction but most books have not only been too heavy, but also hit too close to home (political or emotional). Beyond my bandwidth, if you will. I think I need some light fiction, maybe a series. I’d like to support my local bookshop! (It is not open to the public for browsing, so I have to know what I want in advance).

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You might enjoy reading through this week's Book A Week thread -- posting favorite title of the year was part of the prompt for this week's posts! 😄 


Top 2 favorites this year:

- The Other Bennet Sister (Hadlow)
The first half of the book is like getting to watch the 2005 film version of Pride & Prejudice through the eyes of the quiet sister, Mary, and the second half is getting to see Mary blossom into her own person after the events of Pride & Prejudice; better than average writing, and a lovely, slow pace to allow for character development.

- The Return of the Thief (Turner)
The 6th and final book in the Queen's Thief series. Almost as good as the 5th book (Thick as Thieves) -- which is the strongest-written book of the series. The series has it's ups and downs -- book 1 is great; book 2 is pretty good; books 3 and 4 have good sections, and then have parts that are total train wrecks; book 5 is nearly perfect, and book 6 is also very well-written and a satisfying conclusion to the series.


Top 2 favorites last year:

- The Goblin Emperor (Addison)
Well-written, believable fantasy. Detailed world building, rich character development. I loved every page of this story and it is the rare book that I think is just about perfect. Very unusual as this is not a "quest-adventure" fantasy, but is more about politicking and court intrigue -- done in an interesting way, not a boring way, lol.

- News of the World (Jiles)
Realistic fiction in the historical (1870s) West. Stark, beautiful, writing style. Powerful, sometimes brutal, yet redemptive story. (I am cringing at the movie trailers I am seeing as a sort of folksy Tom Hanks and modern revisionist adaptation of this incredible novel.)

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If you could listen to just ONE book on audio, it simply must be The Night Circus, narrated by Jim Dale. I fully plan to listen to this over again this coming year and I only “read” it a few months ago. 

 

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42 minutes ago, Lori D. said:

You might enjoy reading through this week's Book A Week thread -- posting favorite title of the year was part of the prompt for this week's posts! 😄 


Top 2 favorites this year:

- The Other Bennet Sister (Hadlow)
The first half of the book is like getting to watch the 2005 film version of Pride & Prejudice through the eyes of the quiet sister, Mary, and the second half is getting to see Mary blossom into her own person after the events of Pride & Prejudice; better than average writing, and a lovely, slow pace to allow for character development.

- The Return of the Thief (Turner)
The 6th and final book in the Queen's Thief series. Almost as good as the 5th book (Thick as Thieves) -- which is the strongest-written book of the series. The series has it's ups and downs -- book 1 is great; book 2 is pretty good; books 3 and 4 have good sections, and then have parts that are total train wrecks; book 5 is nearly perfect, and book 6 is also very well-written and a satisfying conclusion to the series.


Top 2 favorites last year:

- The Goblin Emperor (Addison)
Well-written, believable fantasy. Detailed world building, rich character development. I loved every page of this story and it is the rare book that I think is just about perfect. Very unusual as this is not a "quest-adventure" fantasy, but is more about politicking and court intrigue -- done in an interesting way, not a boring way, lol.

- News of the World (Jiles)
Realistic fiction in the historical (1870s) West. Stark, beautiful, writing style. Powerful, sometimes brutal, yet redemptive story. (I am cringing at the movie trailers I am seeing as a sort of folksy Tom Hanks and modern revisionist adaptation of this incredible novel.)

Oh! Sorry for the repetition! I sometimes peruse that thread but I get overwhelmed 🥴. Thanks for posting here, too, Lori. Your thoughts on books are always appreciated!

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Just now, Hyacinth said:

Oh! Sorry for the repetition! I sometimes peruse that thread but I get overwhelmed 🥴. Thanks for posting here, too, Lori. Your thoughts on books are always appreciated!

No worries about repeating! You will get responses from people who don't typically post in the BaW threads by posting your own thread! 😄 The more threads the better, when it comes to books. 😉 

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Opium and Absinthe by Lydia King. This was a new author for me. I found it as a free/cheap prime book I think. ? It was really interesting to me because 1)the medical stuff and 2) it was a great mystery without being too scary for me. I usually do cozy, British mysteries and this was a nice step up from that. I immediately read The Impossible Girl (also by King) and liked it just as much. 
 

like another poster above, I read and really liked The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story. I just found it to be extremely interesting and I learned things I didn’t know about NK. 

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36 minutes ago, Quill said:

If you could listen to just ONE book on audio, it simply must be The Night Circus, narrated by Jim Dale. I fully plan to listen to this over again this coming year and I only “read” it a few months ago. 

 

Yes! It was amazing!!!

I had a hard time reading books this year but have been listening to audio books. Jim Dale is always great but this story was amazing

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Pachinko because I wanted to learn more about different Asian cultures and this was an entertaining way to gain exposure

Wild Trees because I really prefer nonfiction and learning new things

Evening and Morning because I've never read work of fiction that took place in the years 997-1007, plus it has some information about architecture from that time period

 

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I’ve read (or listened to) a lot of excellent books this year - and I probably can’t recall ones from early in year as well as recent ones

Favorite for general fiction: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

Humor: Paula Poundstone The Totally Unscientific Search for Human Happiness 

 

Nonfiction any category top finishers: The Secret Teachings of Plants (Buhner) and Wohlleben, Peter: trees or animals books,  and Schweizer, Peter Secret Empires, and a few more 😉

 

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This year, Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (who also wrote Warmth of Other Suns, one of Carol's picks).

Last year The Water Dancer was top pick, in other years Night Circus, Master and Magarita and Till We Have Faces all have been top picks.

All of these look great, thank you...

3 hours ago, happi duck said:

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (young adult fiction)

John Green deals with anxiety and wrote such a terrific main character of a teen girl with anxiety.  As an anxious person I really appreciated how things were presented.  I read this for a book club before covid hit.  Others with anxiety appreciated it and those who have never dealt with it felt like it gave them a glimpse and some understanding of anxiety.

 

1 hour ago, Laura Corin said:

The Thomas Cromwell trilogy by Hilary Mantel.  Astonishing world-building.

 

30 minutes ago, Farrar said:

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

It was just a beautiful mix of strong female voices - most of them Black and/or queer. I consumed it practically in a single sitting. I loved it.

 

Here's hoping for a more sustained attention span in the year ahead...

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Not this year but my all time favorite book besides To Kill a Mockingbird is Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads With an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn. 

Eta my why:  I love memoirs and getting to peek into another's life.  NWND is funny and touching.  As with anything regarding NA history it's infuriating too.  I learned a lot.

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My favorite books this year were Zoe Ferraris's trilogy about various characters (the main one being a female forensic scientist) involved in crime solving in Saudi Arabia. It was a fascinating peek into a culture and a country I know very little about. The mystery was good as well, but the snapshot into Muslim life in Saudi Arabia is what made it my favorite. It felt like traveling in a year where that was impossible. 

I had quite a few close seconds, especially from the YA category. 

And I just finished Piranesi by Susanna Clarke last night. It was by far one of the most intriguing and different books I've read in years. I'll definitely be mulling it around for a while. 

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Another who didn't read much once the pandemic hit. The few books I did read were less than impressive. So I guess if I have to pick a favorite, it would One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It's the last book I read before the pandemic hit. It's not a book that I would have chosen for myself personally. A friend lent it to me and wanted to know what I thought about it. It was much better than I expected. I cannot stand her writing style, so I had to listen to it on Audible. I have to admit--the message was really good. 

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What an awesome thread! Thank you @Hyacinth!!

When I was a kid my mom would have looked at my list (below) and said, "See, you need to learn how to follow directions." (Not when it comes to books, Mom.") 🙃

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil -- awesome on audio. I can't recommend it enough on audio where you can hear the different Southern accents. I've listened to it three times. The author won a Pulitzer for it. Such a great story. And it really happened.

 

We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union. Not "the best," but I'm so glad I read it.

 

Nothing to See Here -- two kids who catch on fire. Sounds weird but very absorbing.

 

Cutting for Stone -- Brilliant book written by a surgeon. So good it's hard to put down.

 

The Choice by Dr. Edith Eger -- This book sounds like a total downer, but it's not! Edith and her sister were sent to Auschwitz and both survived. There's a "boob" contest and other funny/normal moments like Edith's mom loving Gone with the Wind. This is the first concentration camp book I've ever finished and I'm so, so glad that I stuck with it. I won't give any spoilers, but let's just say that Dr. Eger is a rock star when it comes to turning lemons into lemonade.

 

Simple Dreams by Linda Ronstadt -- Such a great book if you love music. I didn't know that Linda was hugely instrumental in bringing the Eagles together. This is an amazing read about Linda's life. She doesn't discuss health issues because this book came out before they nailed down her diagnosis. And if you want to read about her boyfriends -- she gives a couple of guys a sentence or two, but this is not a "kiss and tell." It's strictly about how she grew as a vocalist. So good!!

 

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson -- a meaty book on Churchill and Hitler. Churchill plays the heroes' hero. This book just came out so the holds at the library will be long. Also I scanned all some of the intricate bombing info. and carefully read the parts I loved the most like Churchill's relationship with his wife and adult kids. Just saying: don't let the book's size scare you away from reading it. And compared to some of the Churchill books it's a quick read.

 

I'm sorry I can't follow directions! But, again, great idea @Hyacinth!

 

, Wendy

 

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1 hour ago, Seasider too said:

I’ve read a number mentioned. To add a different title, I enjoyed The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. Fascinating. 

This is on my to-read list - it looks great.  I want to read The Mothers by the same author, too.  

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Hard to list just one.   I totally loved and enjoyed:  

House in the Cerulean Sea

Book woman of troublesome creek 

Priory of the Orange Tree

Ten Thousand Doors of January 

Space opera - Dark Horse and the whole Class 5 Series. 

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5 hours ago, Kassia said:

I also really liked two memoirs - The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story because it was so inspirational

Yes, this was especially good and learned so much about their culture. 

 

5 hours ago, Hilltopmom said:

I loved The Night Circus & the BookWoman of Troublesome Creek

Me too!  Read Night Circus a couple years ago and Book Woman this year. Amazing story and very emotional. 

5 hours ago, theelfqueen said:

I know I keep saying it but In This House of Brede.... I loved this book...

https://smile.amazon.com/dp/0829421289/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_fabc_wMo7Fb5RY52CE

It's in my stacks to read this year! 

4 hours ago, AmandaVT said:

I'm really enjoying The Midnight Library right now. 

I've been dithering about getting it and finally added to my virtual stacks.  

 

4 hours ago, Laura Corin said:

The Thomas Cromwell trilogy by Hilary Mantel.  Astonishing world-building.

Hubby bought me Wolf Hall for Christmas.  Yay! 

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White Teeth by Zadie Smith. The writing was sooo good! Best book I’ve read in a long time.  
 

Someone earlier mentioned Turtles All the Way Down and I have to second that for those who enjoy YA. I just finished it teo days ago.  I’ve read several John Green books years ago and liked them but didn’t love them. Maybe it was just that I had taken a break from him that I enjoyed this so much. But I think he did a fantastic job of explaining OCD. It was not a topic that I had any interest in at all, so the fact that he made the book an enjoyable read while being so empathetic to the character so really impressive. 

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4 hours ago, kokotg said:

I read a lot of speculative fiction this year; apparently I wanted to get as far away from the real world as possible. I think the one that will stick with me the most is The Sparrow. 

I loved the Sparrow. Read it years ago and really loved it. (I don’t recommend the sequel though. Just leave The Sparrow as it ends)

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4 hours ago, ScoutTN said:

Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman

Love Sharon Kay Penman. I'll be reading When Christ and His Saints slept soon.

4 hours ago, Momto6inIN said:

The Count of Monte Cristo

We are doing a readalong on 52 Books starting in February. Come join us!

 

3 hours ago, Quill said:

If you could listen to just ONE book on audio, it simply must be The Night Circus, narrated by Jim Dale. I fully plan to listen to this over again this coming year and I only “read” it a few months ago. 

 

Jim Dale, really! Fun. I'll have to listen to it. Loved the story. 

2 hours ago, Chelli said:

And I just finished Piranesi by Susanna Clarke last night. It was by far one of the most intriguing and different books I've read in years. I'll definitely be mulling it around for a while. 

Thanks, I'll have to get it. I like her writing!

 

1 hour ago, Alicia64 said:

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil -- awesome on audio. I can't recommend it enough on audio where you can hear the different Southern accents. I've listened to it three times. The author won a Pulitzer for it. Such a great story. And it really happened.

I usually don't read a lot of nonfiction and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

 

1 hour ago, Alicia64 said:

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson -- a meaty book on Churchill and Hitler. Churchill plays the heroes' hero. This book just came out so the holds at the library will be long. Also I scanned all some of the intricate bombing info. and carefully read the parts I loved the most like Churchill's relationship with his wife and adult kids. Just saying: don't let the book's size scare you away from reading it. And compared to some of the Churchill books it's a quick read.

Hubby just finished reading it as well and has been encouraging me to read it too. Glad you enjoyed it.

 

Thank you, @Hyacinth  I'll probably be adding more books to my stacks and wishlist.  

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3 hours ago, Ausmumof3 said:

The Master and Margarita I think.  It hasn’t been an over good year for me reading wise but I did find that kind of fun weird and hard to put down.

This one is on my list for next year.  One of my best friends is Russian and this is her favorite Russian novel.  And then I read somewhere that it was Mick Jagger's inspiration for the song Sympathy for the Devil.  My friend and Mick Jagger could not possibly have less in common, so any book that they both love must be good.

3 hours ago, Chelli said:

My favorite books this year were Zoe Ferraris's trilogy about various characters (the main one being a female forensic scientist) involved in crime solving in Saudi Arabia. It was a fascinating peek into a culture and a country I know very little about. The mystery was good as well, but the snapshot into Muslim life in Saudi Arabia is what made it my favorite. It felt like traveling in a year where that was impossible. 

I read these a few years ago and loved them!  I wish she'd write more.

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6 hours ago, Ausmumof3 said:

The Master and Margarita I think.  It hasn’t been an over good year for me reading wise but I did find that kind of fun weird and hard to put down.

I saw a theatrical version of that... well, before the pandemic. It all gets blurry. It was so good. Captured the weirdness of the book.

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You know, there was this trilogy based on Russian legends that I read last winter that was really beautiful and exceedingly well written.  I wish I could remember for sure whether I read it in 2019 or 2020.  If it was 2020, then I did indeed have a favorite book all year after all, albeit a group of three:

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Girl in the Tower

The Winter of the Witch

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For me, this year, it was Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker. Mostly because both of my daughters also read it when I did and it sparked some magnificent conversations about us womenfolk living life in an honest, true, motivated sort of way. Loved it (can't remember a time when all 3 of us read a book together!). We actually listened to the audiobook, which I'd highly recommend. I bought the book afterwards so I could highlight some passages on a re-read.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fierce-free-and-full-of-fire-jen-hatmaker/1132184307?ean=9780718088149

I also read a LOT of forgettable fiction this year. 😕 The one I enjoyed the most was the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I didn't expect to enjoy it at all but found it to be a really fascinating, enlightening prequel. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-ballad-of-songbirds-and-snakes-suzanne-collins/1133952083?ean=9781338674453

10 hours ago, happi duck said:

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (young adult fiction)

John Green deals with anxiety and wrote such a terrific main character of a teen girl with anxiety.  As an anxious person I really appreciated how things were presented.  I read this for a book club before covid hit.  Others with anxiety appreciated it and those who have never dealt with it felt like it gave them a glimpse and some understanding of anxiety.

So interesting to read a few TAtWD recommendations! I have anxiety and read this based on a few recommendations and I HATED it. Reading this book sent my anxiety through the roof in allllll the ways. I finished it (because NOT finishing made me feel even more anxious) and by the time I got to the hand sanitizer part of the story was in a full blown panic attack. DH had to walk me back slowly. 😕

I told my kids to never read it. lol It was like one big trigger after the other for my brain and I'm not even OCD!

It's interesting how things can affect people so differently.

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I read so many books this year.   Many, many good ones.  

Tied for first:

Dracula.  Not what I was expecting (horror) but rather a moving story of loyalty and virtue.  

Til We Have Faces.  Very thought provoking, especially after listening to some lectures I found on YouTube about it.  

Runner's Up:

- We The Living.  Very powerful, very frightening, beautifully written.  Coincides with our modern history studies.  This is not my first time reading works by Ayn Rand, but it is the best of hers I've read.  It feels like you are reading dystopia, but it is actual history... which makes it extremely disturbing and touching.  

- The Far Pavilions.  An amazing, sweeping epic that comes full circle.  I am trying to get to know other countries and cultures and improve my history knowledge through well-written historical fiction, and this definitely fit the bill.  

 

I could go on and on.  I stumbled into a really good batch of books this year.  Only one real flop: 1Q84.  

 

 

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Really enjoyed listening to Hamnet, Inheritors, Valentine, and Pull of the Stars.

Mexican Gothic was delightful (keeping in mind that gothic gets weird).

Caste was excellent, and it has been interesting to follow reactions to it. I also enjoyed Istanbul.

How to Feed a Dictator was a surprise winner.

Loved The Five Books of Jesus.

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Too many books this year to choose just one, so here is a list of 37 standouts among the 233 I read, arranged in about the order I encountered them:

■ Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men (Carolyn Criado Perez; 2019. Non-fiction.)
■ Women and Power (Mary Beard; 2017. Non-fiction.) 
■ Five Days at Memorial (Sheri Fink; 2013. Non-fiction.)
■ Zeitoun (Dave Eggers; 2009. Non-fiction.)
■ Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey (Alberto Manguel; 2007. Non-fiction.) 
■ Severance (Ming La; 2018. Fiction.) 
■ Catch and Kill (Ronan Farrow; 2019. Non-fiction.) 
■ Parnassus on Wheels (Christopher Morley; 1917. Fiction.) 
■ The Bookshop (Penelope Fitzgerald; 1978. Fiction.) 
■ The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes; 2011. Fiction.) 
■ The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human (Jonathan Gottschall; 2012. Non-fiction.) 
■ The Lost Books of the Odyssey (Zachary Mason; 2007/2010. Fiction.) 
■ The Nickel Boys (Colson Whitehead; 2019. Fiction.) 
■ The Book of Delights (Ross Gay; 2019. Non-fiction.) 
■ The Blue Castle (L.M. Montgomery; 1926. Fiction.) 
■ The Odd Woman and the City (Vivian Gornick; 2015. Non-fiction.) 
■ The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. I: The Pox Party (M.T. Anderson; 2006. Fiction.) 
■ Thick and Other Essays (Tressie McMillan Cottom; 2019. Non-fiction.) 
■ Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Ruth Franklin; 2016. Non-fiction.) 
■ Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster (Adam Higginbotham; 2019. Non-fiction.) 
■ Lost Children Archive (Valeria Luiselli; 2019. Fiction.) 
■ The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist (Adrian Tomine; 2020. Graphic non-fiction.) 
■ The New Wilderness (Diane Cook; 2020. Fiction.) 
■ Radio Golf (August Wilson; 2005. Drama.) 
■ Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (Isabel Wilkerson; 2020. Non-fiction.) 
■ They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Milton Mayer; 1959 (2017 edition). Non-fiction.) 
■ Disappearing Earth (Julia Phillips; 2019. Fiction.) 
■ Parable of the Sower (Octavia Butler; 1993. Fiction.) 
■ On Immunity: An Inoculation (Eula Biss; 2014. Non-fiction.) 
■ Theory of Bastards (Audrey Schulman; 2014. Fiction.) 
■ New Boy (Tracy Chevalier; 2017. Fiction.) 
■ Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered (Ruth Klüger; 2001. Non-fiction.) 
■ Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel; 2009. Fiction.) 
■ The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge (M.T. Anderson; 2018. Fiction.) 
■ The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today (Bryan Doerries; 2015. Non-fiction.) 
■ Bring up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel; 2012. Fiction.) RFS
■ We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence (Becky Cooper; 2020. Non-fiction.)

Edited by -M-
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