Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Favorite Books Read in 2006

This was the first year I’ve kept track of what I’ve read, so I thought it would be fun to take a look back at my year of reading. I read about 45 books this year on my own and read aloud another 10 – 12 to our boys at bedtime (and I may have missed a few!) I’m definitely reading more – and a much wider variety – than I used to, and I’m enjoying my fuller reading life immensely. Here are some of my favorites from this year, including a few that make my Favorite Books Ever list as well.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. I was stunned by Lamb’s writing. I read this book non-stop over the course of a few days, driving my husband crazy because I hardly set it down. I lived and breathed the world of Delores for days, thought about her, and even dreamed about her. Lamb (a man, no less!) has an incredible ability to make Delores real, and the story of her life is the story of real life, full of pitfalls and joys and overcoming adversity. I recently grabbed a second-hand copy of Lamb’s other masterpiece, I Know This Much Is True, and I can’t wait to dive in and lose myself again.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. How did I live for 41 years without reading this compelling classic? I’m embarrassed to admit I once thought it was a book about hunting! The characters, the plot, the setting, and the background of 1940’s southern segregation all kept me captivated. Definitely on my best-of-all time list.

The Ride of Our Lives by Mike Leonard. I saw Mike Leonard’s video clips on the Today show about his trip across the U.S. with his parents and couldn’t wait for his book to come out. It was wonderful – a combination travelogue and tribute to his parents and grandparents. The book was funny, touching, and inspirational and made me wish I could hang out with the Leonards. My husband enjoyed it as much as I did.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I’m probably the last reader alive to finally discover this best-seller. My book group read it last winter, and I missed the meeting but eventually got to the book last month. Wow. It was just as incredible as everyone had told me. Engaging and entertaining but also very educational, the book drew me in. I came to care for the characters. The story itself was compelling and had emotional depth, and I learned so much about Afghanistan and its people. Books like this are so important in our global community; they help us to recognize the basic humanity that we all share, no matter what our religion or culture.

March by Geraldine Brooks (won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006). I thought I didn’t like historical fiction before I read this book for one of my book groups. I loved it and never wanted it to end. Set during the Civil War, it tells the story of Mr. March, father of the famed Little Women, and what happens to him while he’s away from his family serving as a minister in the war. His story and his character were compelling, but I was also transfixed by the details of the war, slavery, and plantation life.

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty. The plot sounds a little strange, but this book has plenty of heart. It’s the story of a man considered by himself and everyone else to be a complete loser – overweight, chain-smoking, drinks too much, and stuck in a dead-end job. Then, his beloved parents die in a car crash. In his grief (and drunken stupor), he takes off on his childhood bike and ends up on a trip from his home state of Rhode Island all the way across the U.S. to California. It’s the tale of his life-changing journey, both physical and emotional.

The Ha-Ha by Dave King. My aunt lent me this book, and I was surprised to find myself captivated by its unusual main character. Howard is a Vietnam vet whose head injury left him unable to speak or write. His life of silent isolation is interrupted when an old girlfriend leaves her nine-year old son in his care while she checks into rehab. While the cautious relationship between the two might seem predictable at first, there are plenty of surprises and emotional depth, and the story never becomes overly sentimental. I found myself thinking about Howard long after I’d finished the book, always a sign of a good read.

I can't wait to see what wonderful books 2007 will bring!

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