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January 1&15, 2017 BOOKLIST
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Trends, you ask? Sorry, but I’ve found over the years that it’s nigh on impossible to find anything like a trend in the personal reading choices of my Booklist colleagues. Every year I ask the staff to choose their favorite reading (or listening) experience of the previous year that wasn’t done on Booklist time, and every year the results provide a textbook definition of the word eclectic. A pillow book here, a misheard book title there, a massive Civil War history, a couple of books about different Roosevelts, one set entirely indoors, the other in a jungle without doors—nope, there are no trends here whatsoever. Maybe that’s what makes working at Booklist such fun.
The Civil War Trilogy, by Shelby Foote
Even if I hated this, there’s no way I’m reading 3,000 pages and then not calling it the best read of the year. Thankfully, I can say I’d happily read 3,000 pages more. OK, 1,000. OK, 500. OK, I guess no more pages. Still! The reading experience of a lifetime. —Daniel Kraus
Cora Fry’s Pillow Book, by Rosellen Brown
I rediscovered Brown’s incisive portrait in verse and fell in love all over again with a brief poem that slyly suggests that reading should take precedence over housework. —Donna Seaman
Dietland, by Sarai Walker
This felt like it was mistitled because it’s way more than a fictional account of trying to lose weight; it’s really about female empowerment, but it’s also like peeking through someone’s journal. —Melissa Wood
God’s Favorite, by Lawrence Wright
Wright is mostly known for his critically acclaimed nonfiction, but his only novel, about General Manuel Noriega, our man in Panama during the War on Drugs, is superb. It tells a horrific yet darkly comic story—one worthy of Graham Greene—of a ruthless despot who took refuge in the Vatican embassy while the U.S. Army blasted rock music in its attempt to capture him. —Ben Segedin
Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin, read by Roy Dotrice
I’ve resisted reading this for years, and I really didn’t want to get involved in the TV series. Even so, looking for something different to listen to last New Year’s Day, I downloaded the audio and was hooked by Dotrice’s narration and the addictive storytelling. —Joyce Saricks
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
This will go down as the funniest book ever read by my book club. Funny because one woman (a dear friend who will remain nameless) realized, well into our discussion, that she’d read Girl on a Train. Which is not the same book. —Annie Bostrom
The Infernal, by Mark Doten
You may have come across Doten’s perfect short story about Trump’s last days in the bunker after he started WWIII. I did, and that’s why I picked up this darkly giddy, madly inventive novel about the War on Terror, a 2014 book as demented as 2016 turned out to be. —Eugenia Williamson
Me and the Devil, by Nick Tosches
Tosches’ Faustian fantasy just hit me in a really good way. There’s something appealing about growing older and more experienced. You know what you like. You home in on the best of what you like. Here even grocery lists are given rich descriptive paragraphs. I know this one will be good for a reread. —Michael Ruzicka
The Neapolitan Quartet, by Elena Ferrante. Read by Hillary Huber.
A friend of mine couldn’t abide Huber’s reading of Ferrante’s smash best-seller. I’m baffled. To me, Huber’s voice is absolutely riveting—sensual, rhythmic, hard and soft as required—and the combination of that vocal allure with the story of Leanu, Leela, Nino, and the rest of the gang from the “Neighborhood” on the wrong side of the tunnel in midcentury Naples is completely irresistible. —Bill Ott
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; The Home Front in World War II, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
While doing research on Eleanor Roosevelt for a book I’m writing for young readers, I had the opportunity to read many fine books about the First Lady. But no one does history that’s more readable, relatable, and well researched than DKG. —Ilene Cooper
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard
Visits to family mean two things: one, I’ll be having more cocktails than usual; and two, I’ll be reading a book about adventurers bedeviled by poor planning, bad luck, and uninformed decision making. This past Thanksgiving in Minnesota, I worked off the calories by white-knuckling this riveting account of our twenty-sixth president’s whimsical decision to explore an uncharted Amazon river. —Keir Graff
The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
I bought this in 2012 and never got around to reading it until this year (I was in Greece, and it’s a retelling of The Iliad).I don’t really have much to say other than Reader, I wept! On a bus. For an hour. In front of people. And if you make me talk about it, I will weep again. —Maggie Reagan
The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss
In the second installment of Rothfuss’ stunning epic fantasy, Kvothe tastes bloodshed for the first time, foreshadowing his dark destiny. And though his cleverness usually gets him out of major scrapes, the few times Kvothe says or does something stupid, it is really, frickin’, face-palm-worthy stupid, which—for me—makes him all the more endearing. —Biz Hyzy
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