Favorite Books – 2013Posted: December 30, 2013
I have to say, I read some really bad books this year! (In my humble opinion.) Or, put another way, I read a lot of books I really did not like. That’s probably more appropriate (and accurate).
It’s always so disappointing to start a book and find 5, 10, 50, 117, 239 pages in that you have no way to relate to it, you aren’t drawn to the characters, the story does not move or inspire you, and you’re just stuck.
I’m one of those people who cannot NOT finish a book I’ve started, so I’ll power through even the worst of them – which is an enormous waste of time, and ultimately really gives me no satisfaction. But an unfinished book would haunt me for years, I’m fairly certain.
It’s also a bummer to read something you’ve heard so many good things about – whether from family, friends, fellow book-clubbers, or reviews – and not like it one bit. Then I feel like I’m missing something, or I didn’t get it and should have. That happened several times this year.
Well, anyway. This is about the books that were GOOD! Here are those I really enjoyed:
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – My book club read this last winter, almost a year ago! For me, The Paris Wife kicked off three stories about women drawn to creative, artistic men, following them as they pursue their ambitions. Paris in the 1920s was rollicking, filled with an artistic community that lived hard and fast. At the center of this social circle: Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Hadley Richardson. While Earnest is proving his worth in the literary world, Hadley struggles to define her place and hold their marriage together. At first it sounds like a novel, carefree life, but it’s easy to see how quickly it can unravel.
The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle – This was one that my book club absolutely loved. It was an extremely difficult story to read, and by the end you’re just exhausted for the characters fighting adversity day in and day out. There was a passionate discussion and we actually spent the entire time on the book – no tangents that night. It makes you think long and hard about how quickly we place judgment and the stereotypes we unfairly assign.
A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse – This book was….quirky. I liked it. I can’t even remember where I heard about it, but I loved the idea of this literary super team uniting to build a storefront with cherry-picked titles. Not everyone appreciates their efforts, though, and the store owners unexpectedly find themselves having to protect their dream and the secret committee behind it.
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler – I had to read this on the heels of The Paris Wife. Another perspective of the Lost Generation, this time from Zelda Fitzgerald. Like Ernest and Hadley, the Fitzgeralds’ marriage begins passionately and compulsively, but grows strained under the pressures of F. Scott’s career and the high intensity of their lifestyle. Zelda seems largely misunderstood, living in an era when women often took a backseat to their husband’s dreams and eccentricities were mistaken for some darker malady. In the end, Zelda’s talents and zeal appeared to be lost and it felt like she was largely alone to find her way.
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan – I knew mostly nothing about Frank Lloyd Wright, his work, his life, or his affair with Mamah Cheney until reading this story. It was fascinating, but the most frustrating after The Paris Wife and Z. The characters are so much less sympathetic to me. While I could applaud Mamah Cheney’s quest for independence and yearning to break free from the world she was expected to live in, and the person she was expected to be in that world, she often came off as totally indifferent. She just got up and left her husband, her kids, her best friend, her life – and never really apologizes for it. The ending, though….after everything, just made me feel hollow and sad for everyone.
Tell me – what did you read and love this year? I can’t wait to kick off 2014 reading!