Bookshelf

by Graham Fox

It’s been a great year for reading! If one of your goals for the New Year is to read more, then one of the easiest ways to get back into the reading spirit is to read books off the “best of” and award books lists.

I’ve been reading like crazy to stay on top of all the best reads of the year, and here’s a few I loved from those lists.

“Circe” by Madeline Miller

Let’s face it — Greek Myths and the pantheon of gods involved can be hard to digest and understand. If you have a lingering hangover from high-school and college readings and think you’ve just about had it with dense Greek mythology, think again. Madeline Miller takes the story of Circe, the witch and goddess who transformed men into pigs when they visited her island, into a delightful and thought-provoking read. The story is told from Circe’s perspective and we learn to understand and care for a character who in my tales is a one off defeated by heroes.

“There There” by Tommy Orange

The gravitational pull for everyone in “There There” is The Big Oakland Powwow at the Oakland Coliseum, Oakland’s first attempt at a big powwow. Each storyline slowly converges on Oakland, and each character find themselves wrapped up and involved in the Powwow even if they resist. At its heart, this novel is a story of good versus evil and forgiveness versus revenge. Tommy Orange’s first book has taken the literary world by storm and appeared on almost every “best of the year” list.

“Friday Black” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

This short story collection by Nana Wame Adjei-Brenyah is an amazing debut book of short stories. If Netflix’s “Black Mirror” was evolved into a collection of short stories, this would be the book that would result. Often twisted and dark, this version of our various futures is well written, insightful, and disturbing.

“Elevation” by Stephen King

Stephen King is truly an American master of fiction, as show by this short novel. This book doesn’t have the horror of King’s usual writing but has plenty of the paranormal. The relationships inside are both interesting and heartwarming. You can read this book in a few short hours and at the end look up at the sky and down at the scale and smile. It’s all going to be OK.

“Warlight” by Michael Ondaatje

The fog of war drifts in and out “Warlight,” a masterful piece of almost historical fiction. Lose yourself in dreamy landscapes, darkness, smuggling, mystery and danger that always follows but rarely reveals itself in post-WWII London. The beautiful prose and compelling vignettes make the main character’s life as a child and then as a young man discovering the truth of his past hard to put down and difficult to stop pondering. Michael Ondaatje shows why he is a master of the literary fiction craft in this beautiful novel.

“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah writes amazing characters. Characters you can understand, care for, and who you scream at as they make questionable and dangerous life choices. This story follows a family as they depart for the farthest reaches of Alaska so that the father can escape his PTSD and live life simply. Instead, they find themselves trapped by darkness that is more restrictive than the busy cities they fled. This modern day Romeo and Juliet story is impossible to put down.

“Flights” by Olga Tokarczuk (translated by Jennifer Croft)

The wonderful piece of Polish literature, flawlessly translated by Jennifer Croft, is crafted from 116 stories. Some tales are several sentences, some a few paragraphs, some pushing on for pages, but all are intriguing and all somehow connected yet without connection. Flights sparkles with wit, storytelling, and atmosphere. Lose yourself into a Tokarczuk’s flights of fancy, you won’t be disappointed.

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