It's something I love to this day. I can get lost in the bookstore and books are my favorite gifts to receive.
I started keeping lists of what I read back in high school. Back then it was on index cards and now and then I come across one of them. Now they're in a small notebook with the year, the year's book goal and a long list!
Last year brought lots of good reading hours -- what a year of books! As I went through my list, I realized what I really love reading most (mysteries) and yet found some of the best of the year to be in other categories.
In 2016 I read 60 books. This year, the goal was 52 and I read 59 books. But, I did surpass the number of pages, definitely reading heftier books, by and large. (And lots of them had pretty tiny print, which should have been even more pages.
I want from 18,325 pages in 2016 to 19,570 in 2017 -- so at least I didn't feel like a slacker.
Here's a category-by-category look.
A good category and three of my favorites were locked in here -- "Stephen Sondheim: A Life" (by Merle Secrest); Susan Branch's "A Fine Romance" and Trevor Noah's "Born a Crime" made my best list. Those titles are pretty self-explanatory!
- "At Home with the Queen" (Brian Hoey -- backstairs at the Palace and pretty fascinating)
- "HM Qqueen Elizabeth II" by Anne Butler (mostly photos)
- "Prince Harry" by Penny Junor (I never like her books but I did enjoy learning more about Harry)
- "Making Masterpiece" by Rebecca Eaton (this is as close to best-of as it could be. She's the producer of "Masterpiece" on PBS and there are tidbits about many of my favorite Masterpiece and Mystery series. It's fun and dishy. And also $1 at Dollar Tree.
- "No Ordinary Time" by Doris Kearns Goodwin -- about the Roosevelts during WWII. Fascinating. And very well done and research. And very long.
- "As Always, Julia" by Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, edited by Jean Reardon. This was a collection of letters between Julia and her pen pal, Avis written before and during "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Very revealing about cooking, the process of writing the book, politics of the 1950s and Julia's life in France. ALMOST Best of list.
- "Life Goes On" by Becca Rowan. This compilation of Becca's blog pieces over a two year period tracks her journey through her mother's illness and the grief that followed, along with her passion for writing, music and discovery. Just lovely.
- "Faces of America" by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a compilation of interviews from his TV series with more details on genealogy searching. Included are Mike Nichols, Meryl Streep, Malcolm Gladwell, Queen Noor, Dr. Oz, Eva Longoria, Kristi Yamaguchi, Yo-Yo Ma and Stephen Colbert (among others). It was through Gates' interview with Colbert that I learned a) that we are distantly related and b) more about our mutual seventh great grandfather!
My best of the year was on this list and it came courtesy of Lynne at Irish Garden House -- Antoine Laurain's "The Red Notebook" (wonderfully sweet romance set in Paris). Also on the Best of from this group was "Broken for You" by Stephanie Kallos (one of the best books I've read related to grief and loss) and "The Little French Bistro" by Nina George (finding freedom and one's self when running from an emotionally abusive relationship and landing in the French countryside.)
Others in the Fiction category include:
- "The Windsor Factor" by D.J. Taylor. So-so historical fiction about Fascist influence in Britain during the WWII years.
- "Radio Girls" by Sarah Jane Stafford. More spying in WWII Britain but this time the BBC plays a bigger role. Good feisty female characters and an enjoyable read.
- "Cooking for Picasso" by Camille Aubray. A young woman whose family owns a cafe finds herself delivering food to Picasso, who is living incognito in Provence.
- "Under the Influence" by Joyce Maynard. A woman's life falls apart, held together by her child and the family of questionable morals that takes her under their wing.
- "Christmas in Paris" by Susan Vreeland. Sweet romance set in Paris that would make a decent Hallmark Christmas movie.
- "Lisette's List" by Susan Vreeland. Very enjoyable read about WWII Provence and a woman who learns of the work of Chagall, Matisse, Pisarro and others. Very enjoyable.
- "The Magician's Assistant" by Ann Patchett. Another book where coping with grief takes center stage, bringing the main character into contact with the family of the deceased. Very nice. Patchett usually is.
|A photo spread from "Paris in Bloom"|
"The Girls of Atomic City" by Denise Kernan. Similar to "Hidden Figures" only these women are working in plants to build the atomic bomb. Fascinating but too many characters, albeit real ones.
Other Non Fiction
My favorite here was mostly photos, "Paris in Bloom," by Georgiana Lane -- fabulous, luscious photos of Paris, primarily floral.
- "Christmas Joy" by Susan Branch (if this had more pages it would be a favorite because Susan Branch always is. Wonderful illustrations and ideas and recipes for Christmas activities.
- "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voscamp. Highly inspirational book on living and our many gifts.
Here we go. I read 34 books in this category and with the exception of Louise Penny's books and and "The Coroner's Lunch," all of them were either by British authors or set there (or both). I didn't pick a favorite because they were mostly all good and many by the same authors. The new Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear ("In This Grave Hour") is always a treat. And I love the Louise Penny "Gamache" books and the Deborah Crombie "Kincaid and James" series -- and read a lot of them (eleven Crombies and seven Pennys.) I'm caught up with both series and can't wait for a new one by either author.
NOTE: This probably goes without saying to mystery readers but I strongly suggest reading series like the Crombies, Winspears, MacNeals and Pennys in order as the personal character development plays a key factor in getting the most out of these, either historically or from a period view.)
Also fun were the Classic British Crime series by Poisoned Pen Press and I did two by J. Jefferson Fargeon and one by Freeman Willis Croft. I'll read more of these.
I also discovered Peter Lovesey's Edward VII mysteries, "Bertie and the Crime of Passion" and thanks to Mae, Jill Paton Walsh's Imogen Quy series. Others included the new Maggie Hope "The Queen's Accomplice" (Susan Elia MacNeal) and Colin Cotterill's "The Coroner's Lunch" along with two by Charles Todd set in WWI (both very good) and Rhys Bowen's "Her Royal Spyness." Also on the list, another Bryant and May book by Christopher Fowler. I'd recommend any of these authors.
Here's the list:
By Deborah Crombie: "Dreaming of the Bones," "Kissed theSad Goodbye," "A Finer End," "And Justice There Is None," "Now You May Week," "In a Dark House," "Water Like a Stone," "Where Memories Lie," "Necessary as Blood," "No Blood Upon Her," "The SOund of Broken Glass," "To Dwell in Darkness" "Garden of Lamentations."
By Louise Penny: "A Trick of the Light," "The Beautiful Mystery," "How the Light Gets In," "The Long Way Home," "The Nature of the Beast," "A Great Reckoning." And, "The Hangman" (not in the chronology.)
Others: "The Queens Accomplice" (Susan Elia MacNeal), "In this Grave Hour" (Jacqueline Winspear), "Thirteen Guests" (J. Jefferson Farjeon), "The Coroner's Lunch" (Colin Cotterill); "Her Royal Spyness" (Rhys Bowen), "Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart" (Christopher Fowler), "The Shattered Tree" (Charles Todd), "The Wyndham Case" (Jill Paton Walsh), "An Unwilling Accomplice" (Charles Todd), "Bertie and the Crime of Passion" (Peter Lovesey), "The Hog's Back Mystery" (Freeman Willis Croft), "The Price of Justice" (Jill Paton Walsh), "Angels in the Gloom" (Anne Perry), "Mystery in White" (J. Jefferson Farjeon).
SO, for this new year?
The pile is tall (or maybe I should say, the piles ARE tall!). They are a mix of "girl" thrillers (books in the genre of "Girl on the Train" or "Gone Girl"), some bios, some British history, some Paris... Oh, I won't be bored!
And then there's a comprehensive historical bio of Henry VIII's six wives, Danubia (on the Hapsburgs, among others), more Roosevelts... and who knows what will come along in-between! All this is great for cold winter nights -- and we have them! I think I'll have to pull out "Paris in Bloom" again, just for the floral eye candy!
I've already finished two this year -- but they were short: Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road and Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. I'd read "Charing Cross" before -- decades ago and it was fun to revisit it. "Duchess" was new to me. These are fast reads and so delightful -- especially if you love books or England.
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