Books, Books & More Books – My Favorites from 2017
She is too fond of books and it has addled her brain. – Louisa May Alcott
You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me. – C.S. Lewis
I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads from this past year. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did. They’d make great Christmas gifts if you’re still looking.
I love historical fiction. Being transported to faraway places and times past—really, is there anything better? It’s no surprise that the majority of books I read fall into this category. These books were treats to read, truly transportive and enjoyable.
The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner
The House at the Edge of Night takes place on the fictional, enchanting island of Castellamare off the coast of Italy. Banner skillfully weaves a tale that spans nearly a century centered on the life of Amedeo Esposito, his family, and their connection to a cliffside café known as The House at the Edge of Night. The story follows the family through two world wars, the reality of fascism in Italy, and the great recession. Love, rivalries, passion, friendship and forgiveness make this beautiful, epic tale a rewarding and transportive read.
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
Beatrice Nash arrives in the coastal town of Rye in East Sussex, England. It is the summer of 1914, and she is to become the town’s new Latin master. Mourning the loss of her dear father, she has accepted the teaching position. Having a woman Latin master is more than what some of the townspeople bargained for. As she is befriended by Agatha Grange and her son, Hugh, Beatrice is able to move forward with her responsibilities and begins to enjoy life again in the beautiful coastal town. However, war is closing in, and for Beatrice it will change her in ways she never imagined. Simonson’s tale is filled with warmth, charm and wit.
In this dual time period tale, Gaynor brings to life a real-life mystery that enthralled much of England during World War I and after—that of the Cottingley Fairies.
Young Frances Griffiths has seen the fairies while playing at the garden stream behind her cousin, Elsie’s home. The girls claim to have photographed the enchanting creatures. Their photos garner the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who believes they are authentic. The entire nation is swept up in the wonder of the magical fairies.
In the present day, Olivia Kavanagh inherits her grandfather’s bookshop and comes upon a forgotten manuscript which slowly brings to light the story of the fairies and sheds new light on her own story.
Gaynor’s tale is charming and fascinating. Most enjoyable.
Here are a few of my favorite non-fiction books that I read this past year.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
If she hasn’t yet, Susan Cain should be given an award for this, her unbelievably well-researched tome on introversion. A self-proclaimed introvert, Susan, a former attorney, walks readers through her pursuit of trying to get a better understanding of the strengths introverts have and how to maximize those strengths in a world that rewards extroversion in the workplace, the church, and society at large. Cain brings to light many introverts who’ve contributed greatly to society such as Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Suess, and Steve Wozniak. It was a fascinating read. As a fellow introvert, I learned so much from Cain and appreciate her efforts to not only encourage introverts, but to shed light on how organizations can benefit by working with introverts and their unique strengths.
Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle
If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favorites, and I tweet out her wise words regularly. Many of those words have come from this book. Walking on Water is one of those keeper books I return to again and again, year after year. For anyone with a creative bent, this book speaks to the heart of creativity and faith. It’s like sitting down to tea with Madeleine and soaking in her insights—wise insights—on the creative process. My copy is now tattered and is an old friend that I most enjoy revisiting.
I loved Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize winning All the Light We Cannot See. The only reason it’s not listed with my other historical fiction favorites above is because I read it prior to this year. It is one of my all-time favorites and will go on that list if I make one. (If I do, I’ll share it.)
So when I saw Four Seasons in Rome I knew it was a must-read for a variety of reasons. First, did I mention I loved Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See? Doerr’s use of language in it is beautiful. He uses metaphor effortlessly and beautifully. Second, Four Seasons in Rome is a memoir of Doerr’s time while doing a residency after receiving the prestigious Rome Prize from the Academy of Arts and Letters. In Four Seasons, Doerr chronicles his time spent writing All the Light at the residency, just after he and his wife had twins. As a writer, I’m always interested in learning more about the creative process, and the opportunity to read about Doerr’s was a draw. Lastly, I love Rome. I love Italy. Enough said.
This book was a great combination. A travel memoir of sorts written by a writer I admire who shares his journey of first-time parenting as he endeavors to write a most beautiful book. Four Seasons in Rome did not disappoint. It was a fun, intelligent read—arm chair travel at its best. Bella Roma.
Happy Reading or Happy Gifting!
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