The totals? I topped my goal of 60 books with 62. And this year, I topped last year's page count -- in 2018 it was 16,785 and this year, 18,238, a good 1,500-plus pages.
The Top Fifteen (in no order) (others below by category)
The Gourmand's Way by Justin Spring -- This is at the top of the list. It covers six Americans who lived in France during or after WWII and whose writing on French cooking helped to bring it to the attention of mainstream America. included are Alice B. Toklas, Julia Child, Richard Olney, MFK Fisher and more. You'll learn plenty about cooking, wine, France and the lives of these remarkable individuals. Totally fascinating and a very well-written read!
Educated by Tara Westover -- This memoir has topped the NYT best seller list for months, with good reason. The author writes of her restrictive youth, schooled at home in an emotionally abusive situation by survivalist parents and traces her journey to study in Cambridge a PhD at Harvard. Completely fascinating.
The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown -- Tina Brown name-drops with the best of them as she recounts her years editing Vanity Fair. In addition to the name recognition, it's a fascinating look at the major-magazine publishing industry. I'd be surprised if Brown has many (any?) friends left after this one but it sure is fun!
Becoming by Michele Obama -- The former First Lady delivers what is said to be the best selling memoir of all time, telling of her youth in Chicago, her college years, her relationship with Barack Obama and life in the White House. I loved her before; I am a total fan now.
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt -- This isn't an easy read but it's a good one for history fans. It tells the story of how Poggio Bracciolini, a 15th-century papal emissary and obsessive book hunter, saved the last copy of the Roman poet Lucretius's On the Nature of Things (On the Nature of Things) from near-terminal neglect in a German monastery, thus reintroducing important ideas that sparked the modern age.
Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes -- The creator of Downton Abbey turns his lens to the 1960s and a group of bright young things, one of whom, now dying, asks his former friend to find the woman who had his child forty years before. The book jumps back and forth in time as the story tells of this group of British socialites in the 60s and the present day.
The Gown by Jennifer Robson -- Historical fiction and fun for fans of the Royals. The plot focuses on two women who worked in Norman Hartnell's couture studios and were tasked with making the wedding gown for the Princess Elizabeth. A young woman goes on a quest to solve a mystery about her grandmother and discovers a secret.
The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown. Does Tina Brown have any friends left? I doubt it. But I learned a lot in this fascinating look at editing and publishing one of the nation's top magazines. She's a wonderful writer with a witty, wicked sense of humor and just the right amount of cattiness. This book is loads of fun!
Game Change by John Heileman and Mark Halperin -- This is an oldie and it tells the fascinating story of the 2008 election campaign from primaries to the presidential race with John McCain and Barack Obama. It's a wonderful inside look of presidential politics. The characters may have changed but it's worth a read in 2020.
Fashioning Art from Paper by Dennita Sewell -- This largely photo book is so gorgeous. Written to accompany the "Fashioning Art from Paper" exhibition of Isobelle De Borchgrave, it provides much information about the artist and her techniques.
|The illustrations in Fashioning Art from Paper are stunning!|
A Better Man by Louise Penny -- This is the most recent entry in the Inspector Gamache series, set in the (unfortunately) fictional village of Three Pines, with occasional visits to Montreal. In this one, Gamache, demoted after an incident in the previous book, tackles a murder in his own town while a potential flood threatens the lives of its residents.
Here Comes Trouble by Michael Moore -- Whether you like or dislike documentarian Michael Moore, you might well love this memoir that covers stories of the author's youth (and to some degree his later years.) Growing up in a small town near Flint, Michigan, Moore tells of a time past and a place long gone in many ways and how that -- and his family -- shaped his life and career.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert -- Set in the 1940s and beyond, this novel follows a young woman who, after being kicked out of college, goes to live with her aunt, who runs a theatre in New York City. It's a coming of age story with a fun twist and engaging characters.
The Suspect by Fiona Barton -- I love Fiona Barton's books and in this case her lead character, journalist Kate, finds the story she's assigned to report hits far to close to home, taking her from London to Thailand, partly to report, partly to search for her missing son. Could he be involved in a double murder?
The Last Painting of Sara DeVos by Dominick Smith. Historical fiction set in three time periods -- 1600s Netherlands, late 1950s New York and Sydney in 2000. It follows the work of an artist, a collector and a forger-turned-curator in what is a combination detective and love story.
And finally, the best book I didn't read -- but looked at every single page! Poured over, to be honest!
Truly, this seven-inch square book is one I treasure. Thanks, Rita of Sketchbook Wandering, for recommending it!
The four categories are Memoir/Biography; Mystery; Fiction and Non-Fiction. Books are not listed by preference. Top Picks are highlighted with additional notes about some of the others.
A good category this year. In addition to those featuring in the top picks, "The Little Princesses," by Marion Crawford, was an endearing look at Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret by their governess (who was later shunned by the Royals for writing the book). "Victoria the Queen" and "King Edward VIII" were both heavy lifting but well written and certainly very interesting. "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" was fascinating and "C'est La Vie" -- the story of a woman adjusting to a new life in Paris after the death of her husband, just fun.
Educated by Tara Westover
The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown
Becoming by Michele Obama
King Edward VIII by Philip Ziegler
Royal Sisters by Anne Edwards
The Little Princesses by Marion Crawford
Victoria the Queen by Julia Baird
Here Comes Trouble by Michael Moore
Dancing with the Devil by Christopher Wilson
C'est La Vie by Suzy Gershman
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tara Bailey
Dear Madam President by Jennifer Palmieri
French Milk by Lucy Knisley (graphic memoir)
This is my favorite genre so the list is long. You'll see several books by the same author here -- I like series. Louise Penny and Jacqueline Winspear never disappoint. New to me was Susan Hill, whose "Serrallier" mysteries are fantastic. Digging into the British Library series has been fun. These are classics from the 30s and 40s, often by writers you haven't heard of (and I wonder why not!). I discovered the wonderful Martin Walker's "Bruno" mysteries, set in Provence and revisited the fun 50s New York couple, Mr. and Mrs. North by Frances and Richard Lockridge. I love the Chief Inspector Maigret mysteries -- short and always good.
|The Lockridge "Mr. and Mrs. North" mysteries were very vintage, from the cottage. And such fun!|
The Emma Jameson "Blue" series started out good and drove me nuts near the end with great continuity errors (if you are going to set a street in London, make it in the location where it actually is! And get the character names right from book to book. It's the editor in me.)
Best of all, Ann Cleeves has a new series and a new detective, Matthew Venn, who is the "star" of "The Last Call." I look forward to more from her with this character.
Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny
A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss
The Colour of Murder by Julian Symons
The Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker
The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill
The Shadows in the Street by Susan Hill
The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes
The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill
The Incredible Crime by Lois Austen Leigh
Ice Blue by Emma Jameson
Blue Murder by Emma Jameson
Something Blue by Emma Jameson
Black and Blue by Emma Jameson
Blue Blooded by Emma Jameson
Dim Sum Dead by Jerilyn Farmer
The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear
Antidote to Venom by Freeman Wills Croft
Maigret and the Death of the Harbormaster -- Georges Simenon
The Case of the Borrowed Brunette -- Earl Stanley Gardner
Maigret and the Headless Corpse -- Georges Simenon
Maigret and the Good People of Montparnasse -- Georges Simenon
The Resistance Man by Martin Walker
Death Takes a Bow by Frances and Richard Lockridge
A Better Man by Louise Penny
Murder Comes First by Frances and Richard Lockridge
Death of an Angel by Frances and Richard Lockridge
Voyage into Violence by Frances and Richard Lockridge
The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
Murder Has Its Points by Frances and Richard Lockridge
A Murder is Suggested by Georges Simenon
Maigret's Doubts by Georges Simenon
The Suspect by Fiona Barton
The Mistletoe Murders by P.D. James
Silent Nights edited by Martin Edwards
I don't read a lot of fiction but those I read didn't, for the most part, disappoint. Four made my top list (above)
The Christmas Star -- Donna VanLiere
Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan
Past Imperfect - Julian Fellowes
The Gown - Jennifer Robson
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Last Painting of Sara DeVos
Non-Fiction and Miscellaneous
|I adored this book. Avebury is officially on my England 2020 list!|
I really loved the political books "Fear" and "Game Change" this year. And I was glad when blogger Mike Biles of A Bit About Britain compiled British history into "A Bit About Britain's History," which is a delightful read and scholarly (but not too scholarly). Susan Branch's "Vineyard Seasons" is a cookbook with stories that delights. "To the Manor Reborn" is a must for Anglophiles who can follow how Avebury Castle was restored by the BBC to several periods in which the home was occupied by various owners. This is history too but with a lot of design thrown in. Thanks, Jenny Woolf, English Travel Writer! Four star!
Fear by Bob Woodward
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
To the Manor Reborn by Sian Evans
Game Change by John Heileman and Mark Halperin
Fashioning Art from Paper by Dennita Sewell
The Gourmand's Way by Justin Spring
A Bit About Britain's History by Mike Biles
Not so Prim Rose by Margot Shaw
Vineyard Seasons by Susan Branch
All in all, a good reading year. I've started 2020 with Ann Patchett's "The Dutch House." So far, so good!
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