In January of 2009, I set a goal to read two books a month throughout the year. In order to accomplish more with the limited time available to me, I began regularly visiting the public library and checking out books on CD. I accomplished so much more once I started taking advantage of my daily work commute, which is an hour round trip.
Now that December has arrived, I reflected on the books I have read this year, which will soon total 23 (just need to squeeze one more in this month!). Here are my top book picks out of the books I read this year:
Best Cross-Cultural Reads:
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: Profound insights into the mother/daughter relationship as well as Chinese culture, Chinese history, and what it means to be an immigrant.
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri: Indian-American author Lahiri also astounds with her insightful glimpses into relationships of all kinds, but particularly those of family, and her examination of the meaning of exile and isolation.
Best Light Reads:
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: A 30-something career-woman deals with her divorce and depression by spending a year living in Italy, India and Indonesia. In each place, she explores a different theme and writes a book based on what she learns and experiences. Who wouldn’t want to live that (vicariously)?
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver: The prominent writer Kingsolver buys a n old home on a fertile plot of land, moves her family to rural Missouri, and spends a year eating only what they can produce and grow themselves (or barter for with other locals). Anyone interested in the locavore movement will love reading about each season and how Kingsolver survived it all.
My Life in France by Julia Child: I listened to this one on CD, and it was delightful. Julia’s unique personality shines through as she describes in her own characteristic way her experiences moving to France as a middle-aged military wife, the sensual experience of eating her first French meal, her battle to perfect her technique as the only female chef at the Cordon Bleu, and finally her years-long effort to write a veritable "Bible" of French cooking.
Best Psychological Thriller:
Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky: Here is a thrilling murder-mystery with depth, that dares to question: What is the effect of isolation upon the human mind? If a crime is beneficial to society, is it still morally wrong? How does an imperfect human in a corrupt society and a fallen world find redemption? Not only is the plot interesting, but the book is fascinating from a historical, philosophical, religious, and social perspective, particularly when compared with the author’s own life.
Best Historical-Fiction Read:
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende: Similar in style to the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this novel follows several generations of a prominent Chilean family and reflects the tumultuous, fascinating history of the country.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: The wonderful, brief, deceptively simple parable that catapulted this Brazilian author to international fame. You can’t help but love this book and its message, which empowers and makes readers believe in following their dreams.
The Time Traveler’s Wife: I hated the characters in this book. Not a single decent human being amongst them. The two main characters were equally horrible people and their relationship was based solely on lust. Neither person developed any moral, spiritual, or in any other depth from start to finish. By the end, I just wanted them all to go away.
Next up: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I have an odd quirk that only allows me to read certain books when it feels seasonally correct. Russian literature and winter weather have always seemed to go hand in hand! Then again... I need one more quick read before the end of the year in order to meet my goal... Any ideas?