There were dozens of fantastic new releases in 2012, but I fell far behind in reading them. Now, it’s time to catch up–as always, my New Year’s resolution for 2013 is to read more. (Do you expect anything less from me?)
Here are the top ten books I vow to read before this year’s end.
10. The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli
Haunting, tough, triumphant, and profound, The Forgetting Tree explores the intimate ties we have to one another, the deepest fears we keep to ourselves, and the calling of the land that ties every one of us together.
I loved Soli’s first novel, The Lotus Eaters, and can’t wait to see if she can repeat the magic.
9. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.
8. The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Rian Malan
The Lion Sleeps Tonight is Malan’s remarkable chronicle of South Africa’s halting, sometimes violent, steps and missteps, taken as blacks and whites try to build a new country. The collection comprises twenty-three pieces. . . . The stories, combined with Malan’s sardonic interstitial commentary, offer a brilliantly observed portrait of contemporary South Africa.
I’m planning on traveling to South Africa over the summer, and this will be one of several required readings.
7. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.
6. NW by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners – Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan – as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end. Depicting the modern urban zone – familiar to town-dwellers everywhere – Zadie Smith’s NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters, mercurial and vital, like the city itself.
5. Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston
Stuck in a dead-end relationship, this fearless narrator leaves her metaphorical baggage behind and finds a comfort zone in the air, feeling safest with one plane ticket in her hand and another in her underwear drawer. She flies around the world, finding reasons to love life in dozens of far-flung places from Alaska to Bhutan. Along the way she weathers unplanned losses of altitude, air pressure, and landing gear. With the help of a squad of loyal, funny, wise friends and massage therapists, she learns to sort truth from self-deception, self-involvement from self-possession.
4. Dear Life by Alice Munro
Alice Munro’s peerless ability to give us the essence of a life in often brief but always spacious and timeless stories is once again everywhere apparent in this brilliant new collection. In story after story, she illumines the moment a life is forever altered by a chance encounter or an action not taken, or by a simple twist of fate that turns a person out of his or her accustomed path and into a new way of being or thinking.
3. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
In Al Tafar, Iraq, twenty-one-year old Private Bartle and eighteen-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city. Bound together since basic training when Bartle makes a promise to bring Murphy safely home, the two have been dropped into a war neither is prepared for. With profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on mothers and families at home, The Yellow Birds is a groundbreaking novel that is destined to become a classic.
2. Arcadia by Lauren Groff
In the fields of western New York State in the 1970s, a few dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what would become a commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this romantic, rollicking, and tragic utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and after. With Arcadia, her first novel since her lauded debut, The Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff establishes herself not only as one of the most gifted young fiction writers at work today but also as one of our most accomplished literary artists.
1. The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez
A lyrical and authentic book that recounts the story of a border-town family in Brownsville, Texas in the 1980’s, as each member of the family desperately tries to assimilate and escape life on the border to become “real” Americans, even at the expense of their shared family history. This is really un-mined territory in the memoir genre that gives in-depth insight into a previously unexplored corner of America.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each Tuesday, bloggers create top ten lists about reading, writing, blogging, and more!
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