2016 Top-10 Pick! For pure fun, read Curtis Sittenfeld's 21st Century rewrite of Pride & Prejudice. If you've loved the Austen, you will surely be delighted by Sittenfeld's rendering of the Bennet sisters' very contemporary rivalries and personal pickles, and of Mr. Darcy as a Silicon Valley billionaire. If you aren't as familiar with the original, this romp of a novel may very well give you the insight you need into its cast of characters to return to your old high school assignment with fresh eyes. If I had all the time in the world, I'd read this one again, then the original.
2016 Top-10 Pick! While this story tells of suffering, it is, at its core, about love and innocence and beauty. Set in Australia in the 1950's, its protagonists are young polio patients who reside in a special clinic, away from their familes. Though they receive excellent care from good people, they are nevertheless deprived of the intimacies of home. The touching ways in which these young characters find affection with one another is the basis of what is ultimately a lovely, warm, and affirming novel. There is a simultaneously ancachronistic and timeless feel which serves today's reader a sort of soothing, fragrant broth.
2016 Top-10 Pick! I confess: I'm a little bit of a sucker for intellectuals (i.e., people smarter than I am) with messy lives. Maybe it's a touch of envy-stoked schadenfreude, some reassurance that had I just pursued that PhD I briefly dreamed of I wouldn't necessarily be happier. Whatever my personal psychology, Jane Alison's Nine Island went right to that spot. For its brief pages, I inhabited its little world, where a middle-aged-but-still-young, single academic has decamped to a Miami high-rise to finish her transliteration of Ovid's Metamorphoses and to recover from a failed relationship. This is a smart, quirky little book, suited best for quirky people, even merely smart-ish ones. Maybe especially so for them.
2016 Top-10 Pick! As an independent bookstore owner, working mother, daughter of aging parents, and wife of an underemplyed husband, this light-hearted but genuine novel spoke to me as if I were its only reader. But I'm confident its appeal is actually quite universal–at least to the universe of women between the ages of 25 and 55! A Window Opens entertained me, warmed my heart, and made me laugh over and over again.
2016 Top-10 Pick! The impossibly young and briliant Moor takes us on an erudite exploration of trails in all their variety in this book of essays. Contemplative, informative, and full of insight, these pieces scrutinize the ways we find our way, through the forest, over highways, and in the digital ether.
2016 Top-10 Pick! Maria Semple, daughter of Lorenzo Semple, who created the Batman TV series, has madcap camp in her DNA. Her portrayals of a certain subset of affluent and educated Seattleites are social satire with a heart; she skewers with compassion, discretion, and an endearing dose of self-deprecation. I like this one even more than Where'd You Go, Bernardette? and can't wait for another.