Well, here we are rushing towards the end of another year. For me, it was another good year for books and reading, though alas, I think I am going to fall a couple of books short of my Goodreads challenge of reading 45. Close though — and I still have this weekend! (Not gonna happen).
Anyway — I wanted to look back and think about a few of my favorite books of the past year. And I always say favorite, because “best” suggests that I’ve sampled way more books than I have and am rating their literary value. Favorites are the ones that I want everyone else to read because I think they’re wonderful.
Using those criteria as a guide, my favorite book this year was the short-story collection Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. I reviewed it earlier this year, and I think this set of stories, mostly about the Indian immigrant experience in America (and the West), is a beautiful and moving exploration of family, duty, love, and culture. A rare 5-star for me.
I also really enjoyed the Stephen King time-travel/alternate universe novel 11/22/63. I have been fairly skeptical of his larger books, preferring his short stories and novellas, but I thought this book was terrific — well-realized characters, an amazing sense of place, and great pacing for a long book that leads to a exciting climax. This is a great book for those usually put off by King. 4-stars.
I think the one book that’s stayed in my mind this year that I haven’t reviewed already is the debut novel Christopher Coake, You Came Back. In it, Mark Fife is a man that is finally putting his life back together years after his marriage disintegrated in the wake of his young son’s accidental death. Mark’s current life is rocked when a woman appears and tells him that she and her son, who now live in his former house, have seen the ghost of his deceased son. Mark thinks the woman is crazy. Mark’s former wife, Chloe, wants to find out if it could be true.
You Came Back is and is not a ghost story. It is mostly a story of relationships — and they are presented in very realistic-feeling manner. It’s also a story of the sorts of things we tell ourselves in lonely dark hours. It’s a story of hope against reason and whether love and sorrow and forgiveness really can conquer all. I think one of my favorite things about this story is the multi-layered implication of the title. Initially, the title seems to clearly refer to their son coming back to Mark and Chloe, but it could just as well be about Chloe coming back to Mark, or in end, Mark coming back to himself after tragedy. Super book. 4 solid stars.
I could go on and on, but I think three that really stuck with me is a pretty good place to stop. How about you? What were some of your favorite reads this year?