Did you get some reading done during the holidays? I had all sorts of good intentions, but I only managed to read two books during the break. Fortunately, they were good ones: Written in Stone and The Mouse With the Question Mark Tail. If you're looking for historical fiction featuring American Indian characters or a fine coming of age story, check out Written in Stone. For a witty mouse adventure story, try The Mouse With the Question Mark Tail.
Youth services librarians and other fans of children's/YA literature are counting down the days until the American Library Association announces the Youth Media Awards on January 27. I will be reading like a madwoman until then. I always get asked for my opinion on the winning books, and I really, really, really, really hate it when I have to tell people that I haven't read it/them. Of course, my primary concern is that we have the winning books (at least for Newbery and Caldecott) in our collection, which is why I'm going to pore over Elizabeth Bluemle's list of starred books for 2013 (don't know if this is the final update) and wait for predictions from Heavy Medal, Calling Caldecott, and Someday My Printz Will Come before I do a final order-before-the-announcements and hope for the best.
Until then, I'll post my favorite reads from 2013. Since I'm still reading children's/YA from 2013, I'll hold off on those lists for now and post my favorite adult fiction/nonfiction titles.
Favorite Adult Fiction
I routinely fall behind in my goals for adult fiction. I'm extremely picky about what I like in adult fiction. I'm naturally drawn to historical fiction (usually not royalty related unless it's about a historically important royal; CANNOT wait for Eva Stachniak's sequel to The Winter Palace in March!) or to books in which the geographical setting is important (country/state/city). I'm also extraordinarily picky about what I don't like in adult fiction:
- I don't have much patience for stories about quarter-life/midlife crises or stories in which the family patriarch/matriarch dies and the family argues over the will and brings up past hurts before learning the true meaning of family and forgiveness.
- I'm still trying to figure out how "New Adult" is different from "chick lit," because it looks like New Adult is largely stories involving twenty-something girls having quarter-life crises. How this is different from Bridget Jones/Shopaholic/Nanny Diaries "chick lit" books, especially since I don't see much diversity in the genre outside of these type of books?
- And a big fat dislike button to 300+ page novels that only take place during one entire day. If your character is storming the beaches at Normandy on D-Day, this is okay. If your character is slowly realizing the banality of his existence in the suburbs/North Dakota prairie/Beverly Hills mansion/Wall Street career in a 24 hour cycle, I probably won't want to read it. Others will. And that's fine.
- Also, zombies.
But enough of that. Here's what I did read and enjoy:
The Aviator's Wife
The Golem and the Jinni
The Light in the Ruins
Blood and Beauty
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
The Painted Girls
The Last Runaway
These are awesome reads; you really can't go wrong with any of them. However, my favorite would have to be The Golem and the Jinni. I had never read historical fantasy before reading this, and didn't think I would really like the genre. (Bad, bad!) How wrong I was! It's heartbreaking, gorgeously written without sacrificing plot development, and brilliantly depicts late 19th century immigrant New York (and its interaction with upper class New York).
Favorite #2 would be The Aviator's Wife. It's a sensitive, honest, thrilling, and devastating look at Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Charles Lindbergh....their opposing personalities, pressures of fame, public disgrace due to their Nazi sympathies, and the horror and media circus surrounding the kidnapping of their infant son. An amazing read.
My adult nonfiction reads:
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm Ravaged Hospital
I Am Malala
Jim Henson: The Biography
Saving Italy: The Race to Save a Nation's Treasures From the Nazis
The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum
Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing
Thank You For Your Service
Slimed: An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age
The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way
The Astronaut Wives Club
The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War
The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey Into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II
Oh, WOW. These are all awesome books. Wonderful, brilliant, eye-opening in different ways. Just go ahead and read them all. Same for the adult fiction titles. But my #1 favorite has to be Jim Henson: The Biography. When you anticipate a book for an entire year or so, you're likely to end up disappointed in some way. Just too much expectation for one book. That didn't happen with Brian Jay Jones's fabulous biography of the Muppets creator. A must for Muppets fans, who will bawl, bawl, bawl like a toddler denied a candy bar at the supermarket when they read the final chapter. Favorite #2? The Ordinary Acrobat. A must read for those who think circuses are sad spectacles for children. The lives of jugglers, trapeze artists, and clowns (and the history of their crafts) is intimately explored in this immensely engrossing read.
But the other books are terrific reads! Take note of The Last of the Doughboys, since we are observing the 100th anniversary of the start of World War II.
Hope I sparked your interest in some of these excellent books!
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library
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