In recounting my favorite books read this year, it might be a little obvious that I'm working in a public library again. More recent works, more super popular works, and if you look at my Goodreads account, you'll see that I read way more books this year (audiobooks and my long commute make for happy listening) at 89, but that was still short of my goal for the year of 100. Despite expecting a baby next year, I'm still planning to try for 100 again.
- Zealot by Reza Aslan (2013): Comparing the historical Jesus of Nazareth to the biblical Jesus Christ is a pretty audacious task, but Aslan, an experienced religious scholar manages to be respectful while still questioning almost everything about the facts of Jesus's life. Part of the way he gets away with this is by beginning his book with a long discussion about the relationship between truth and fact. Maybe not for everyone, but anyone interested in the life of Jesus of Nazareth should give it a try.
- Expecting Better by Emily Oster (2013): As I found myself expecting again, it couldn't have been a better time to find Oster's book or, as I like to call it, the pregnancy guide I wished I'd had the first time. Frustrated with the arbitrary rules given to pregnant women, Oster investigates the evidence between the often conflicting guidelines and lays out the evidence on the risks of eating things like lunch meat, sushi, or alcohol while pregnant, as well as the dangers of different drugs and the efficacy of treatments such as bed rest. A must-read for anyone who's pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant.
- World War Z by Max Brooks (2006): Do yourself a favor and listen to the complete audio edition of this story. I'm sure it's good in print, but this version is done by a cast of over twenty actors and really makes you feel the individual stories of survival during the Zombie Apocalypse. If you're burnt out on zombies, you won't feel that way after reading this collection of stories from survivors from around the globe as the world begins to function again and rise from the ashes.
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012): I know, everyone loves this book, but that's because it's that good. A book about cancer that isn't sappy or schmaltzy in any way. A book about teenagers falling in love for the first time that isn't overly sentimental. A book about how meeting our heroes can be such a disappointment. A book about how our friends can be the best thing in our life not by doing anything extraordinary, just by being there.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusack (2006): A story of WWII we don't hear very often. Liesel Meminger is just an ordinary girl in a working class neighborhood near Munich when the war begins. She isn't a Nazi. She isn't a Jew. She's just a German trying to live her life, something that becomes increasingly difficult as the war rages on. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much going on in this book. Get your tissues ready.
Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
- A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld (2009): Follows the story of seven Hurricane Katrina survivors before, during, and after the storm, this graphic novel shows us that most people's stories were still getting sorted out even years after the storm.
- By the Iowa Sea by Joe Blair (2012): Beautifully written memoir from a repairman/writer going through a mid-life crisis. So much I shouldn't have been able to identify with and yet I did.
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (2011): Just different enough from all the other teen YA series with female protagonists out there today, Karou happily lives her life in two separate worlds until she suddenly finds it impossible to return to the only family she's ever known.
- Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (2002): Now classic tale of the amazing feat of constructing the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the serial killer who ran rampant in the city at the same time.
- The Honest Toddler's Guide to Parenting by Bunmi Laditan (2013): If you are the parent of a toddler, you must read this book and follow @HonestToddler on Twitter. While the books is primarily humorous, there bits of truths on child development and parenting hidden amongst the jokes.
- The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine (2012): Touching story of friendship between a white girl and black girl in 1958 Little Rock that also underscores the danger facing those who supported integration.
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999): Classic, heart-breaking tale of a girl who can't speak about the terrible thing that happened to her at a party the summer before freshman year. Essential reading for anyone trying to understand the effects of sexual assault among teenagers.
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (2010): It's hard being a teenage boy and two great YA authors explore that through two high school juniors both named Will Grayson. Also Tiny Cooper may be my favorite fictional character ever.
- Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009): Another tough issues book by Anderson that devastatingly hits the nail on the head. This time we're dealing with best friends struggling with eating disorders.
- Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy (2011): Story of a girl in Afghanistan who has her cleft lip fixed by American soldiers, but memorable because of the number of details used to portray life in Afghanistan, and how it often leads to misunderstandings with American troops stationed there.