Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - The Best of the Best

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for bloggers who like books and lists.  It's awesome and is graciously hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's topic is the top ten books read in the last 3 years.  These are not books published in the last 3 years but read by me in the last 3 years and they are in no particular order.  I am currently in the midst of a fugue of influenza so if none of this makes any sense, I deny any responsibility.  It's the flu talking.

Atonement by Ian McEwen
This is a pretty famous book so I don't know how much I need to say about it.  It follows the consequences that a lie told by a 13 year old in pre World War II Britain has on the lives of herself and two others.  It is gorgeously written, thought provoking and delivers a one two punch at the end that makes you question everything you've just read.  Also a deftly done and vivid historical fiction that brings the reality of war clearly into focus.  I found that when I picked it up I had trouble putting it back down.  It was everything a great novel should be!

Memory (#10 in The Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster Bujold
Lois McMaster Bujold never fails to astonish me.  I don't even like Miles Vorkosigan very much and this book spends half the book swimming around in his head and yet I still finished the book feeling blown away.  This is a turning point in in Miles' life and in the Vorkosigan series and it packs an emotional and satisfying punch.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
There is something about Edith Wharton's writing that sucks you completely into the world she's writing about.  Lily Bart, the heroine of this story must be one of the most masterfully written characters in literature.  She's selfish and vain and materialistic but the story of her downfall broke my heart.  How does Wharton do that?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
The hype around this book when it first came out made me avoid it for a long while, which was in fact insane.  Dreamy and atmospheric and utterly delightful.   This book mixes mystery, fantasy, historical fiction and romance in a way that I was completely absorbed by.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
This was the big book of 2012 and I wanted to read it as soon as I heard about.  I'm one of those people that will be more exhausted after a day of guiding a group of volunteers through a gentle stroll then I will after a day of digging ditches. In other words I'm an introvert and people suck the life right out of me.  It doesn't mean I'm unfriendly or hate people or that I could live as a hermit but I do need to re-charge with some quality alone time (reading of course:0).  I knew this before reading this book but I think deep down I think I felt like it meant I had a failed in some way.  Cain's book was revelatory for me, in that it did teach me some new things about myself and others like me and most of all it convinced me that being an introvert is not failing, it's an asset that I should embrace.  Yay for emotional growth!

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is a book about which it is best not to reveal too much but it left me feeling emotionally distraught, disturbed and depressed – i.e. this is a book that really tapped into some core emotions.  This emotional reaction is brought on slow and easy with a mystery that unspools in a perfectly paced narrative.   

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
I read this in the final two days of the year I read it and I couldn’t have asked for a better final read.  It was contemplative but light and funny at the same time.  I’ve found myself talking about it with several people urging them to read it and it has stuck with me.  

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
I do love books that ignore the barriers of genre.  The Shadow of the Wind is an epic historical romance and mystery which also flirts with the idea of the supernatural.  Great characters and great storytelling. 

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
A group of unlikely people, led by Jesuit priests, make first contact on an alien planet and it does not end well.  That's the basic plot but the book is so much more than that.  It's a book about religion and faith which is filled with tragedy that somehow manages also to have a great sense of humor.  An engrossing read that also happens to tackle some big ideas.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
This book was a key one in 2013 as I made my acquaintance with YA fiction. This book embodied what is great about YA fiction.  Strong narrative, grand adventure, heroic characters, growing up.  The wonderful thing about Seraphina is that it never feels forced or melodramatic and the characters are so authentic despite operating in a fantastical story.  AND it is highly imaginative with such a unique and creative take on dragons.  LOVED IT!

Ask me tomorrow and my list may be different but I think this is a good list for now.  What are some of your favorite reads of recent years.

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