2017: The Year of Women – Good and Bad!
Those of my readers who have been following this blog for a while, know that I had to stuff seven novels into my favorites of 2016 list, and eight books ended up on list for 2015. This year, I have nine books that deserved a full five stars. Notably, one of these is a non-fiction book. Since I usually make these lists about fiction, that one non-fiction five-star book will get a special award. That means that once again, I need to cram eight books into this list. With no further ado required, let the countdown begin.
#5 – Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
When Lillian goes for a walk on New Year’s Eve, the places she visits bring back memories of her very full life. This novel took its inspiration from real-life poet and Macy’s ad-writer Margaret Fishback, who gained fame for her clever ads and humorous poetry in the 1930s. This totally delightful book of semi-biographical historical fiction brings an essentially unknown woman into the limelight at last. (Oh, and by the way, where have you been all my reading life, Kathleen Rooney?)
#4 – Girl in Disguise by Greer McCallister
In McCallister’s second novel, she takes on telling the story of Kate Warne, America’s (and maybe the world’s) first female detective, who walked into the Pinkerton’s Detective Agency in 1856 and insisted Pinkerton take her on as an agent. With the little information left about Warne and her escapades, Macallister succeeds in weaving a story of intrigue and mystery, tinged with very good measures of thrills and adventure along the way (not the least of which is how they saved President Abraham Lincoln from being assassinated before he could be sworn into office), in a portrait of a woman that will fascinate as well as educate.
#3 – Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss TIED with The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
Krauss’ long awaited fourth novel is, to my mind her best yet. In this book, Krauss gives us parallel stories of two characters that travel from New York to Tel Aviv, while neither of them ever meets the other. Despite these disconnected tales, Krauss leads us to draw our own comparisons and contrasts with what she both reveals from and hides underneath their adventures. Rushdie’s latest novel moves back into the realm of solid reality, to revolve around the newest wealthy family at “The Gardens,” a gated New York Community – the Golden family. Not only do they all have strange names (straight out of ancient Roman and Greek history and mythology), but they themselves seem a bit odd. René is a fellow resident, with ambitions in film-making, including a project to document the Golden family, but René hasn’t decided if he should tell their true story or make up something fictional; either way, René can’t seem to stay away from the Golden House.
#2 – See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
The infamous Lizzie Borden was a woman that the public (but not the jury) believed murdered her father and stepmother with an axe. (Hence the gory “nursery rhyme”: Lizzie Borden with an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, gave her father forty one!”) Since the science of forensics at the time was primitive at best, they found neither proof of Lizzie’s guilt nor any other suspects. That means we will never know the whole truth. Using this mystery, Sarah Schmidt devises her own ideas about Lizzie Borden, her family and the murders, all of which she put into her dark and highly emotive debut novel.
#1 – The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce TIED with the novel Beartown by Fredrik Backman AND the novella The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
Last year, Backman’s novel and novella got demoted (after grabbing the first-place spots in 2014 and 2015) to the second-place spot, but both of his two works of this year left me breathless. However, Joyce’s fourth book had me bawling like a baby, so I couldn’t place her novel any lower on this list. UPDATE: I have decided that I must also include All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan as another book TIED for first place this year (although it was first published in Israel in 2014 in Hebrew, the English version only came out in 2017, so it does deserve to be here as well)! And honestly, had I finished reading this book before I posted this list, it might very well have moved all three of the others off of the #1 spot – it is THAT amazingly beautiful.
NON-FICTION Award: Not Quite Lost: Travels without a Sense of Direction by Roz Morris
Who would have thought that a self-published book would be so absolutely delightful, but this one certainly is just that. Morris, who is an accomplished ghost-writer, took the step to finally publish under her own name, and the world is better for it. This lovingly written diary takes us along Morris’ many travels (mostly across Britain), where random entries in hotel or B&B guest books spark the imagination and become new adventures both thrilling and beautiful. Although I haven’t read her fiction (not really my thing, as they’re kinda fantasy/Sci-Fi books), if this little memoir is anything to go by, they must be wonderful.
That’s it for this year, and here’s wishing everyone a 2018 filled with more amazing books. (Who knows, but maybe I’ll need to make that list a “top ten” one!) You can find my previous lists here: