books I’ve loved lately

This book was a big hit this year:

You know what’s awesome about that? Guess who used to be my Dad’s coworker in my sleepy little hometown of Spokane? That’s right… Jess Walter! So I borrowed my mom’s inscribed copy of it.

Truthfully, I think it’s written for a generation older than me (which I think is why my mom looooooved it). I prefer some of Jess’s other books, including The Financial Lives of the Poets (which I have inscribed) and my favorite of his works:

Truthfully, I never in a million years would’ve thought I’d like this book- it’s about an ex-mafia guy who’s in witness protection. It helps that he’s in witness protection in (hometown!) Spokane, Washington. It really helps that it takes place during the Reagan-Carter election and ends up being a rather beautiful rumination on voting and decisionmaking and changing one’s life. I love it a lot.

I have lots and lots of favorite books but here are some of the best I read in 2013.

Everyone ever loved this book, so I don’t know that my perspective is needed. However, I just wanted to state for the record that I loved it too. Jack is a wonderful character, and having recently spent some months working with small children, Emma Donoghue wonderfully captures the worldview of one. I also found the plot so gripping that I read it all in one night, resulting in me being thoroughly useless at work the next day.

I’m lucky enough to have a mother in a book club, which means that she reads the latest releases and vets them for me, passing along recommendations about what is and isn’t worth reading. She loved this book, as did I. The subject matter is thoroughly horrifying, with the book beginning as it does with a brutal rape of a young boy’s mother. However, the character study of the narrator, a teenage boy, is beautifully done. The exploration of tribal life on an Indian reservation and the legal system that contains frighteningly big holes governing crimes committed on tribal land, is subtly worked into the book and deeply thought provoking. Though an aura of sadness lingers over the book, it’s a beautiful read. Louise Erdrich has never steered me wrong in any of her other books, either.

Speaking of authors I consistently love, Margaret Attwood! So who has read Oryx and Crake? *Raises hand* Okay me too. So this book takes place in the same vaguely futuristic (but disconcertingly not deeply so, which is what Margaret Attwood is so good at capturing, a la The Handmaid’s Tale) world as Oryx and Crake. However, it is told from the perspectives of two female protagonists, and to me they make more compelling narrators then Snowman does in Oryx and Crake. Attwood is also just wonderfully imaginative in this book, creating a world just different enough from the current one to totally transport you away.

And finally, because I love biographies:

So I got this book as the government shutdown was just beginning, looking for a historical perspective on it. I found it somewhat reassuring (though really, it just made me want him to be president again). I also find it fascinating to read about these damaged little boys who become big important adults with tragic flaws. He’s a great writer, and though this book is really really REALLY long (I had it in the front seat of my car and the “Passenger Seatbelt Unbuckled” light came on) it’s also such a good read that it doesn’t feel like it.

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