I’ve discovered I have very eclectic taste in reading material. In other words, I work at the library and read anything and everything that catches my eye. My favorites for last year range from comedy – Dad is Fat!, to tragedy – Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea. Animal stories – Dog On It a Chet and Bernie Mystery, and people stories – Coming Clean, a hoarders’ story. Someday I will be a lady of leisure and have time to read all the books in the library, but in the meantime . . . here’s the lowdown on some of the standouts.
(Do you have a favorite? I’d love to hear about it.)
Growing Up Amish, By Ira Wagler
This is the true story of a young man growing up in the Amish community. Ira Wagler tells a fascinating story of life among the Amish – and it’s nothing like the embarrassing reality shows that litter the cable channels. The author grew up in a loving family with lots of brothers and sisters. His parents though kind and supportive were also very devout and expected their children to follow suit. Ira, a rambunctious teenager had a hard time falling in line, and the result is both heartbreaking, and heartwarming. I was entranced by this book, and found myself googling the author to find out what happened in the next chapter of his life.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? By Mindy Kaling
You may remember Mindy Kaling from her stint in the excruciatingly funny T.V. series, The Office. But even if that show wasn’t your cup of tea, this book might be. Kaling is hilarious as she recalls embarrassing moments from her childhood and adolescence. She also dishes the – not exactly dirt on her co-workers from The Office, and shares behind the scenes tidbits from other shows she’s worked on. Kaling is self-effacing, and funny, and reading the book felt like swapping stories with a college roomie.
The Kitchen House, By Kathleen Grissom
From the opening paragraph, Grissom’s book grabs you and doesn’t let go. The reader is hurtled into the inner sanctum – the kitchen house – of a colonial plantation, and the stories of the inhabitants keep you riveted. The events in this novel are narrated by many voices, from the slaves in the kitchen, to the plantation owner and his family. The message is clear – man is meant to be free. One man should not own another, and even the wealthy can be slaves if they worship the wrong gods.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, By Helen Simonson
I wasn’t sure about the Major at first. His gruff and ethnocentric character was hard to like, but something kept me going and I soon caught on. Major Pettigrew’s bluster was all bluff, an attempt to conceal his own feelings of inadequacy, but underneath the rough exterior lay the heart of a marshmallow. When the Major has an unexpected breakdown over a death in the family, his widowed neighbor Mrs. Ali comes to his aid. Embarrassed by his display of weakness, not to mention the unexpected feelings for one he considers beneath him, Major Pettigrew resolves to avoid further contact. This is not to be however, and the result is delightful story of two lonely people who find love when they least expect it. I’ll read this book again someday.
Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea, By Barbara Demick.
This is a haunting chronicle of day-to-day life in North Korea. While not my usual fare, this affected me profoundly, and changed the way I see the world. For a detailed review of Ordinary lives click here:
Cutting for Stone, By Abraham Verghese
Have you ever read a book where you so love the characters that you wished they lived next door? Cutting for Stone is one of those. An epic story of twin boys, one given up for dead at birth, who go on to live amazing lives. Set in a charity hospital in Ethiopia, the Doctors work miracles in this understaffed and overwhelmed facility. Though the medical details can be a bit graphic at times, they serve to heighten the stakes in this heart wrenching tale of love and survival.
Dad is Fat, By Jim Gaffigan
A perfect beach read. Gaffigan is a stand up comedian who lives with his wife and five children in a small apartment in New York City. This collection of essays on parenting is great fun, and will strike a chord with anyone who has ever tried to retain their dignity while raising small children.
Coming Clean, a Hoarder’s Story, By Kimberly Rae Miller
Kimberly Rae Miller grew up in a house of horrors.Her parents were hoarders, and though they acknowledged their problems and regretted what they were doing to their beloved daughter, they were powerless to stop. Despite spoiled food in the refrigerator, rats skittering through piles of garbage, and unusable plumbing Kimberly survives and manages to keep their family’s secret. The author tries to underplay the frightening aspects of her childhood, and goes on to focus on how she coped with the after effects. This book is a success story on many levels. Coming clean is so well written that you care about the author and find yourself rooting for her to make it.
Dog On It, A Chet and Bernie Story, By Spencer Quinn
Chet and Bernie are partners in crime, crime solving that is. Bernie is a somewhat bumbling, but well-intentioned human, who owns a detective agency. Chet is his partner and dog. The story is told through the eyes of Chet who though very bright, still does dog things like wolfing old abandoned hot dogs he digs up from under the Bar-B-Cue grill. This story is a light-hearted mystery that holds your interest and will definitely make you laugh
Fall of Giants, By Ken Follett
While not a huge fan of war stories, I started this because I loved Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth, and World Without End. This turned out to be just as good, and I inadvertently learned a lot about the lead up to, and start of World War I. The author makes these characters come alive and I really cared about what happened to everyone. Though a long book at 985 pages, I didn’t want it to end, and I look forward to reading the next installment.
I’m already hard at work on next years list. Happy reading everyone!