My Favorite Books of the Past Five Years…

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A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining a group of women to talk about books. I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer evening!  Smart and interesting friends. Good conversation. Yummy food. The goal was to give them some ideas for their own reading or their children’s reading. A wonderful invitation, but a rabbit hole of sorts. So many books and so little time (literally – an hour)!  A framework was in order. I decided to list my favorite books of the past five years. I went back through my reading log – the one I’ve kept for nearly 25 years.  As regular readers know, I write down the title and author of every book  I read. No notes. No thumbs up or down.  Just the basic facts. As the years go by, my colorful notebooks become more precious. When friends ask for suggestions, if I can’t remember reading a certain book (it happens), or I want to look back at my reading life – there’s the list.

Anyway….I looked back at the hundreds of books I’ve read since 2008 and here’s what I came up with.  No special order or logic. Some of these books may have just been a case of the right book at the right time. And obviously there are huge omissions. The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice aren’t here because I read them for the first time more than five years ago.

Here’s my list:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter

The Rain Before It Falls by Jonathan Coe

The Privileges by Jonathan Dee

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Small Island by Andrea Levy

Sisterland and American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak

The Cradle by Patrick Somerville

Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Three Junes by Julia Glass

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips

Rules of Civility by Amore Towles

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Brooklyn by Colm Tolbien

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In addition to the list above, I decided to give myself a “desert island” challenge with three genres: memoirs, graphic novels, and children’s fiction. The self-imposed limit was five books in each category. They may not be the “best” by the standards of awards committees or reviews, but they are the ones that have stuck with me over time.  I have a “Pavlovian” response to each of these books.  Someone mentions them, and I automatically say….”I love that book so much!”

5 Memoirs

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

5 Graphic Novels

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie by Lauren Redniss

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

5 Children’s Books

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

One more list…a good one from NPR – The Ultimate Backseat Bookshelf: 100 Must-Reads for Kids 9-14. Here’s the link:

http://www.npr.org/2013/08/05/207315023/the-ultimate-backseat-bookshelf-100-must-reads-for-kids-9-14

By the way, the picture at the top of the post is from my walk on Nantasket Beach a few days ago.  The light was so beautiful.

And The New Yorker cover….the magazine arrived while I was writing this post and the cover is perfect!

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6 thoughts on “My Favorite Books of the Past Five Years…

    • Hi Carie,
      That’s awesome! Such an interesting dilemma to think about. I wish we lived close enough to meet at Starbucks and talk about it!

      • I’ll send you my thoughts when I finish. I must admit I’m a slow reader these days and I think it has to do with an article you mentioned not too long ago. I stare at a computer all day long, so when I get home staring at a tablet to read feels like work instead of a pleasure.

      • I agree! That’s why I’m finding myself reading “real” books more often and using the Nook for shorter pieces!

  1. I’ve finally finished! (Gotta love long weekends!) I really enjoyed the book. It was so frustrating as a parent reading this and trying to put myself in Tom and Isabelle’s shoes. I would like to think that I would have come ‘clean’ once the truth was discovered of Lucy-Grace’s origins. I could easily put myself in their shoes though. I really loved that despite everything and all of their flaws, Tom and Isabelle stayed together. I love books that make me think – and this one did! I was constantly thinking about life and all of the curveballs it throws at us…and the choices we make in those times has such an impact.

    • Hi Carie,
      I agree! You can’t help reading Light Between Oceans and wondering “what would I do?” It’s a good discussion book.
      Happy New School Year!

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