Thursday, June 19, 2008

The 2008 List: Top Picks

The top picks weren’t as obvious this year: no Glass Castles or Eat Pray Loves emerged. But I picked a few – two because they did get a few mentions; another from last year that I happen to know many of you enjoyed; and an old one that I loved and am imposing on you:

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. Several of you mentioned this, and Picoult seems to come up a lot. This particular novel is about a high school shooting. “I haven't read anything that great recently but can't put this one down. Good summer fiction.”

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks: This one also got a few votes. “I just finished this. One of the most interesting, well-written books I've read in a long time. She's a masterful writer and tells a terrific story.” And: “I am in the middle of Brook’s latest and am totally captivated. As she has in her other books, the characters are quickly real to you and important. But this one is a mystery, really, about tracing the history of an ancient book. So far I love it, but I have always loved her books!”

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Revin. This was on last year’s list, and I know many of you have read it since. If you haven’t, do. It’s a wonderful book about a guy who builds schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. For those who don’t love travelogues (like me), let me give you permission to skim some of that in the beginning. (The mountains are really super craggy. That about sums it up). The writing is not always elegant, but it’s about such a wonderful character – a force of nature himself – and you will find it incredibly inspiring.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. It’s a little late to call this a “hot book,” considering it was published in 1859. Last year I mentioned it as one I planned to read because of Nora Ephron’s rhapsodic endorsement here. Ephron wrote, “Days pass as I savor every word. Each minute I spend away from the book pretending to be interested in everyday life is a misery. How could I have waited so long to read this book? When can I get back to it? Halfway through I return to New York to work, to mix a movie, and I sit in the mix studio unable to focus on anything but whether my favorite character in the book will survive. I will not be able to bear it if anything bad happens to my beloved Marian Halcombe.” This is EXACTLY how I felt reading this book (except the bit about sitting in a studio mixing a movie, since I wasn’t doing anything a tenth as glamorous). I could not put this book down.

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