This year I read 55 books with a total of 17,785 pages. Not my best, not my worst. And for the most part, they were worth the time. And really, that's the most important part!
Books with links click back to my reviews earlier this year.
Here is my Top Twelve (in no particular order)
Death of a Bookseller -- Bernard J. Farmer (mystery) -- This was the 100th British Library Crime Classic offering and I think it might be my favorite of the many I've read. Set in the world of antiquarian book collecting, it was both a well crafted and intriguing mystery and conveyed a good deal of information!
Truly, Madly, Deeply -- Alan Rickman (autobiography/memoir) -- This is the diary of the late actor and not written in a prose form but as diary entries, some longer than others, most short. He takes us behind the scenes of his life and career. After I read it, I liked him even more.
All About Me -- Mel Brooks (autobiography) -- I laughed all through this autobiography, as you might expect from a book by the writer/director. From his happy childhood, through his celebrated film career and his marriage to actress Anne Bancroft, Brooks is both honest and generous -- and yes, very funny!
I Must Say -- (autobiography_ Martin Short -- Martin Short is another favorite actor/comedian of mine and this book (written in the late 1990s, long before "Only Murders in the Building") is a gem. Like Brooks, Short is funny but also honest as he recounts his career, his friendships with actors including Steve Martin, Andrea Martin and Gilda Radner, and most touchingly, his children and marriage, a relationship cut painfully short by the untimely death of his wife. I was going to pass this one along; I couldn't part with it.
The Gershwins and Me -- Michael Feinstein (biography/memoir/analysis) -- It was hard to know if this was more about George and Ira Gershwin and their music or the author/singer but in any event, it was fascinating. For those interested in the composing team, this is not a linear book but bounces around from show to show, and not necessarily in order. And it doesn't matter. You'll learn loads -- and be entertained.
Lessons in Chemistry -- Bonnie Garmus (fiction) -- Now a television series, this bestseller follows the life of Elizabeth Zott, chemist-turned-cooking-show-host and her relationship with the father of her child, her colleagues, her daughter and her work. I wasn't sure when I started this. Then I couldn't put it down.
Tom Lake -- Ann Patchett (fiction) -- Patchett is another favorite author and this one is -- at least for me -- her best. Is it because it combines theatre with Michigan and cherry orchards? Maybe. But it's also a wonderful story, as a woman tells her three daughters of her life as an actress and the now-famous actor with whom she once worked. Exquisite.
Devil in the White City -- Erik Larson (history) -- This is an oldie I discovered for the first time, focusing on two people during Chicago's World's Fair (The Columbian Exposition). One, celebrated architect Daniel Birnbaum; the other, a serial killer. It's history -- but Larson writes as close to fiction as one will find in a history book.
The Fifth Risk -- Michael Lewis (non-fiction) -- The author of "The Big Short" and "Moneyball" turned his attention to politics in this excellent look at the early days of the Donald Trump transition and how numerous departments were thrown into chaos by lack of planning and badly placed leaders who were given cabinet positions because of influence and not because of any knowledge in the area in which they were charged. Chilling.
On Tyranny -- Timothy Snyder (non-fiction) -- The shortest book I read all year (126 pages) and the most powerful. Snyder looks at how democracies fail and lists 21 points, demonstrating how they were instrumental in slowly tearing down democracies in the past over centuries. It is a chilling warning -- and one that is happening as I write this -- bit by bit -- in our own country. And what can we do about it? Snyder has answers. All we have to do is implement them with courage and resolution.
Kaffe Fassett in the Studio -- Kaffe Fassett (arts) -- The designer of fabrics, knitting and needlework patterns and more invites readers into his life and home -- and what a home it is! The array of color and patterns may startle you (it did me and I'm a color nut). It will also enchant you. His life is interesting; his work is magnificent. I keep going back to it.
These Precious Days -- Ann Patchett (essay) -- This is one of two essay books by Patchett that I read this year and the one I most enjoyed. Every piece was a gem. Many, if not all, had been published before but most were new to me. Another book with which I could not part.
Books by Category
As always, mysteries led the pack, many by favorite authors in series, including Martin Walker, Jacqueline Winspear, Louise Penny, Elly Griffths and Christopher Fowler, among others. Also frequently appearing on the mystery list were vintage offerings from the British Library Crime Classics series.
The Sunlit Weapon -- Jacqueline Winspear (Sad news, Maisie fans -- Winspear's next Maisie book will be the last in the series.)
The Last Remains -- Elly Griffiths (More sad news for fans of this series -- this is the last of the Ruth Galloway books.)
Biographies, Autobiography, Memoir
Biographies/Memoirs was the next most-read category with offerings
ranging from the Royal Family to show business to a favorite children's
book writer/illustrator. Another highlight in that list was of a man
you've never heard of -- yet who had a remarkable story to tell.
I don't actively seek out fiction but often one is recommended or comes my way. Two remarkable ones are listed in more detail above, but I also found books of interest by two upcoming authors and one whom many call an old favorite.
I am not world's biggest historical fiction fan. "The Woman Before Wallis" about Wallis Simpson and Consuelo Vanderbilt, was interesting enough and probably had some truth to it. But I'm still not fond of the genre.
History and Contemporary Issues
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage -- Ann Patchett
The best eye candy came from designer Kaffe Fasett, who shared in glorious colorful detail his home packet (and I do mean packed) with his art, fabrics, quilts, and needlework.
And the ones I wouldn't recommend? (Remember, it's purely a matter of taste!) -- Bill Bryson's "Neither Here Nor There," Gil North's "The Methods of Sergeant Cluff," and (unless you are into historical fiction fluff) "The Woman Before Wallis."
And now, we're into 2024! More mysteries, to be sure, but the big, fat Barbra Streisand autobiography is my current read and sneak preview -- it's terrific!
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