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Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The LRG List of Best Books in 2016

With only two months left of this year, the time feels right to go over my picks for the Best Books of 2016. After all, literary award season is off and running(with much congrats to Paul Beatty for being the first American to win the Man Booker Prize for The Sellout!) and Best of lists are already starting to show up elsewhere.

Before we begin, I have to say that there are a few books that I haven't finished reading just yet but otherwise would surely be on this list. So, honorable mention goes to A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.

 Hopefully by New Year's Eve or early 2017, I 'll have both of these excellent novels finished and nestled upon my bookshelves. In the meanwhile, here are my top choices for the finest page turning I've done in 2016:

BOOK LOVERS' DELIGHT: I was fortunate enough to start off the year with a wonderful debut novel that celebrated the love reading. Katarina Bivald's The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend has a charming leading lady in Sara, who leaves her home country of Sweden behind to meet her American pen pal Amy in the small Iowa town of the title.

Sara arrives, only to discover that Amy has recently passed away but most of the locals are happy to make her welcome. To repay that kindness, she uses Amy's massive home library to start up a used bookstore in town.

 Soon, plenty of residents are more invested in reading and in each other's lives, not to mention that Sara soon finds herself in love. Will she stay or will she go back to Sweden if her love is not returned?

This is a must-read for any lifelong reader and the perfect thing to lift your literary spirits at any time of year, or any year for that matter!

JOURNEYS INTO THE PAST: Two of the books I've read this year can be seen as historical fiction although their true travels are of the heart.  

Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend is based upon the real life spy adventure undertaken by Frances Conway during WWII. She enters into a marriage of convenience in order to provide cover for Ainslie, an experienced intelligence officer who had to bring a wife along to the Galapagos islands for a mission to check out suspected enemy agents.

The story does have a few thrilling sequences but the center of the story is Frances as she goes from being a runaway teenager who is betrayed by her best friend to an adult woman wondering about the choices made in her rather lonely life. It's a hauntingly beautiful book that explores the true depths of love and friendship in more ways than one:

News of the World by Paulette Jiles happens to be a nominee for the National Book Award this year and even if it doesn't win, this short but savvy novel is a treasure.

A retired military officer and widower, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd makes his living in 1870 by traveling to small towns and giving public readings of newspapers to those eager to hear. On one stop, he is commissioned to bring a former captive of the Kiowa tribe, a ten year old girl named Johanna, home to the only living relatives she has left.

Their travels come with a lot of setbacks,including a pursuit by men with ill intentions, but what abides in the end is the bond between Kidd and Johanna, two outsiders that feel at home with each other. I've read an earlier novel by Jiles,Enemy Women, which made me want to read this one and yet, I truly think that this surpasses that book by a country mile. A movie version isn't necessary but it would be great to see both of these characters come alive on the silver screen,showcasing their true grit, so to speak:

LOST IN LOVE: It's been awhile since I read Terry McMillan and I was happy to get reacquainted with her in I Almost Forgot About You. Dr. Georgia Young feels resigned to the dull daily life she's leading until word of the passing of a former boyfriend causes her to look up a few old loves to learn what she may have done, right or wrong, to determine how those relationships turned out.

This walk down memory lane jolts Georgia into making a few other changes in her life, despite what her family and friends might think. The book has a lovely laid back style to it that allows you to join Georgia in her self exploration of her past and cheer her on as she takes steps to find a future that suits her best. IAFAY is a relaxing read that doesn't serve up empty calories-in fact, it's a feast of stylish substance.

 WALK THROUGH THE FIRE: While I have been catching up with Stephen King's Bill Hodges trilogy this year, his son Joe Hill has released a whopper of a paranormal saga that sets him apart from his father's legacy in the best sense of the term.

The Fireman is set in modern times, where a mysterious plaque known as Dragonscale is killing people via spontaneously combustion. School nurse Harper Grayson has a double risk upon contacting this bizarre virus as she's pregnant yet she hopes to give birth to a healthy child.

Her best chance of survival lies with the mystery man known as The Fireman, who seems to be in control of his illness and can harness it's powers to protect himself and others. Harper finds refuge with him and others affected by Dragonscale yet their is more than one battle that needs to be waged until true safety is found for all. This is one of those lovely long books that you really don't want to end but when it does, you long to see what the author comes up with next:

NOT SOME DAMSEL IN DISTRESS: Blogger Tim Hanley followed up his amazing look at Wonder Woman(Wonder Woman Unbound) with an in depth view of one of the other heroes of the Superman comics,, only her super powers include determination and moxie.

Investigating Lois Lane covers all of the aspects of this top reporter for the Daily Planet, from her comic book days to small screen versions and even her portrayal in the most recent superhero movies. Hanley traces her history with skill and grace, showcasing the writers, artists and actresses who made this character such a cultural icon over the years well.

Lois has gone from just being the token newspaperwoman and love interest of Superman to becoming a feminist icon in her own right. Granted, her strengths and weaknesses often change for better or worse with the times but one thing always remains and that is Lois Lane is a coolly confident heroine that anyone can admire and emulate:

Despite the chaotic nature of this year, there have been some great books to help us all get through these tough times and I thank every writer out there for that. Hopefully by this time next time, our greatest national crisis will be where to put all of the new and wonderful books that are sure to come out in our personal libraries:

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