The end of the year and the start of a new one is typically the time for readers to reflect on what they have read during the past year. And this year, I’m excited to get to be one of them, because I finally remembered to keep track of my year’s worth of reading. Huzzah!
I had not tracked my books read since first grade — that year, my total was 300, and I enjoyed a lot of “Book It” personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut. But last December, I noticed several of my friends had tracked their 2018 books, so I thought I would give it a try.
Fast forward 12 months and I’m happy to report that I finished 30 books. It is not quite on par with my 300 titles from first grade, but I will take it. Life feels a bit busier nowadays, and the books I currently read are a tad longer.
Of those 30 titles, here are my top six picks, in no particular order:
• “A MAN CALLED OVE” by FREDRIK BACKHAM. Even though Backman has been popular for several years, this was the first one I’ve read by him. I loved it! The characters in this book are exceptionally drawn and real. Ove might seem like a crotchety old man on the outside, but underneath he’s a warm and kindhearted old grump who is beyond lonely. His busybody neighbors help rectify this, and man, what a good read.
• “CIRCE” by MADELINE MILLER. I listened to this one using our Overdrive service, and it was a powerful experience. Most everyone has heard of the Greek character Circe, the sorceress who famously turned men into pigs. But in Miller’s retelling of this tale, you learn so much more. The storytelling elements of this book are spot on, and readers will be hard pressed to not peek ahead while reading.
• “THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE” by LISA SEE. I not only learned an amazing amount about tea from this book, I learned a lot about the Aka, a native tribe that live in the mountainous areas of China. See had to do a lot of research to pull this one off, and it shows in her descriptive and thorough writing. The characters, who are flawed, well-rounded and beautiful, combine with the unusual setting and compelling storyline to create a masterpiece of fiction.
• “THE STORY HOUR” by THRITY UMRIGAR. This is the story of Maggie, an American psychologist, and Lakshmi, a young Indian woman. The pair meet after Lakshmi tries to commit suicide, and Maggie is so affected by the woman and her silent grief that she agrees to counsel Lakshmi on a pro bono basis. Soon, they start to feel and act more like friends and less like doctor and patient. This makes for a complicated relationship and a fascinating story. You get to know Lakshmi’s backstory and the reason she felt like suicide was the only answer, and you get to learn about Maggie’s life at the same time. The story is engrossing and the ending has a nice surprise twist that will have readers guessing until the end.
• “EVVIE DRAKE STARTS OVER” by LINDA HOLMES. I wrote a full review for this one in October but could not pass up a chance to mention it again. Holmes’ writing style is quirky and captivating. Her tale of a guilt-ridden widow and a former Major League Baseball player will keep you interested until the final pages.
• “MRS. EVERYTHING” by JENNIFER WEINER. Jennifer Weiner is one of my favorite authors. If she writes it, I will read it. “Mrs. Everything” does not disappoint. Told through the alternative viewpoints of two sisters — Jo and Bethie Kaufman — from early childhood into their senior years, she weaves a story of love, loss and, ultimately, forgiveness.
I have enjoyed seeing my final reading list so much that I’m making one of my 2020 goals to do it again. I am not sure I will surpass 30, but we will see. Thanks for taking the time to share in my reflection and reading about my favorites. I wish you a wonderful new year of reading!
Jeana Gockley is the library director for the Joplin Public Library