Here are the books that stuck with me long after the cover was closed (in no particular order).
- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. The premise of this book, that the main character can taste the emotions of the person who prepared the food, was fascinating to me. Ultimately the book is about how we deal with emotions, our own and others, and whether we allow ourselves to truly feel.
- The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer. I've been both a stay-at-home mom and a work-outside-the-home mom and from the very first line this book resonated with me. Each of the women in the book struggles with finding and accepting her role in the world, her smaller community, her family. You look at other moms and think "she's got it all figured out" only to be incredibly surprised that she's thinking the same thing about you.
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I loved the language and the intellectualism of this book. Putting these three three protagonists, a middle-aged French concierge (kind of like a superintendent of a building) trying to hide her intelligence, a depressed 13-year-old girl and a dapper Japanese elderly gentleman, together was pure genius.
- Room by Emma Donohue. Haunting, terrifying, and intriguing. What is language? What is reality? What is home? What is family? What is safety?
- Elizabeth I by Margaret George. I confess that anything by Margaret George will be loved by me before I have even opened it. Her work is so well researched, so intimate, so in-the-moment that it is easy to forget you are reading about a well-known historical figure. Perhaps it is the first-person narrative, but you really feel that you know the subject. And Elizabeth I (and her dad, Henry VIII) are two of those hypothetical people I'd like to have dinner with.
- Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran. I love historical fiction. This book gave me a lot of insight into the French Revolution and the history of waxworks. I did not know anything about Madame Tussaud other than her name and the multiple museums that share it. That an art we now view as somewhat kitschy has its roots in the struggle to share information openly with all classes was riveting.
- The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York by Chandler Burr. I originally found this book because of reading "Perfumes: The Guide" and "The Emperor of Scent " and it was fascinating! The author gives an inside view of the perfume industry and follows the creation of a perfume from idea to creation to marketing. It also talks about the fairly recent trend of celebrity perfumes, which is interesting in itself. I love how reading one book can lead you on a journey of discovery about a subject, to other things the author has written, to things you never would have thought you'd be interested in.
- Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Whether or not you have been touched by Alzheimer's personally, please go read this book. Your notions of what constitutes self, memory, and what is quality of life may get turned on their ears.
- Faithful Place by Tana French. I don't normally read suspense, but this third book by Tana French, like her other two grabbed me and didn't let go until the last page. I particularly like it when books reference familiar characters. It's like greeting old friends and fosters my favorite illusion that these are real people living real lives somewhere out of our consciousness until we can check in with them again. There were so many twists and turns that it was impossible to figure out the ending until you got to it. I appreciate that in an author and in a book.
- Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Nefenegger. Creepy but in a good way. As a twin and a mom of twins, I found this book about twin sisters of twin moms very interesting. I don't really have a way to describe this fully, you just have to trust me on this one.
- The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean. I love fashion and I love history, therefore I must love vintage fashion, right? A sweet story of family and finding your way in the world with storytelling magic along the way.
- The Harry Potter Epic, Books 1-7 by J. K. Rowling. Yes, I've read them before but I really do recommend that you read them straight through, one after the other. You get a better appreciation for J.K. Rowling's genius that way. And yes, even though you know how it ends all the little details still take you by surprise. That we can still be enthralled after 14 years, 7 books and 8 movies is a marvel.
- The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs by Christina Hopkinson. I could have written this book. Why didn't I write this book? Hilariously funny in the way that has you looking over your head for speech bubbles. The author *must* be reading your mind and putting out there all the things you think but would never dare say out loud. Very British, reminiscent of Bridget Jones' Diary and a happy ending to boot.
- Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor. Part travelogue, part spiritual journey, part family saga, this book really touched me. Partly because we had just seen "The Way" right before I started reading this and I was in the mindset of spiritual journeys, this book made me remember things I'd forgotten. My wish to travel, the ways travel can open your eyes to things you already know deep inside, the ebb and flow of family relationships, the many faces devotion takes. I also enjoyed all the references to art, poetry and literature. I googled myself silly for awhile! It was a bit of a shock at first to find myself identifying with the "mature mom" half of the team rather than the daughter half, but I can't be the only one who has to remind themselves of the passage of time and your chronological age vs. your internal age. Sue Kidd struggles with issues of aging, menopause, moving onto another stage of life and wondering if it's going to be productive and if so in what form? All things I realized I was struggling with myself but not being able to articulate or put into concrete thought. And in the laws of serendipity, after googling all the religious icons in the book and remembering how beautiful I find them, I found a small one of the Virgin Mary while cleaning out a box. I think it might have been a baby shower gift. It's on my computer desk now.
- The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. A new favorite author. Like Tana French her work is so dense and has so many twists, turns and connections that you cannot possibly figure it all out until the last page. Every so often there is a little clue and you think "ah ha!" only to be turned on your head later on. Wonderful!
- My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke. A class act and a gentleman. That he's one of my favorites didn't hurt either.
- The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delaney Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock. Fascinating retrospective of an 18th-century gentlewoman's life and her creation of 985 mixed-media collage (previously unknown) botanically correct flowers (now housed in the British Museum). Like Traveling With Pomegranates, it is a meditation of creativity late in life, how one's life history culminates in unexpected ways. For all those still wondering "what will I be when I grow up" this book offers hope and inspiration.
- The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittney Ryan. My deepest admiration goes to those authors who can take a well-known story like Santa Claus and re-imagine it to make something totally new, totally believable and totally loved. This year I got to share this book with M. and he loved it just as much as I do.
Special Shout Out to my sister, R. who recommended some of these and many others as part of our family & friends book club.