Friday, April 11, 2014

6 Books That Stuck With Me

I was looking through our archives the other day and realized that my most popular book post was almost entirely full of crazy books. And while I stand by those books, I don't want that to be the only thing you guys think about my book taste.

As I was trying to formulate a theme for this post, books were jumping out at me from my bookshelf as books that I just never forgot because they were beautifully written, compelling, and quietly wonderful. Enjoy!

Digging to America by Anne Tyler. If you've never read an Anne Tyler book, you are missing out. I think this has been my favorite so far, maybe because I read it when my baby was about six weeks old and I really identified with the young mothers in the book. The premise is that two families adopt little girls from Korea on the same day and meet each other in the airport - and they decide to remain in contact so the girls can be friends, even though they have basically nothing in common. One of the families is your typical crazy "all-American" family, the other are Iranian immigrants. Their parenting styles, values, manners, etc. are fascinating, and the idea of what it means to belong really comes out as the relationships grow and change and as the girls grow up.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. This is one of those strange books that didn't have a particularly fast-paced storyline or dramatic characters, but it drew me along anyway because it was just so beautiful and real. It's a sprawling story of two couples who meet when they are young and just starting out and remain friends throughout their lives, and it's sad and happy and wonderful and awful and just feels very true to me. Wallace Stegner's writing style is exquisite.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I read this book because I liked The Kite Runner and my brother picked up a really beautiful copy for me at a used book store in New York. The relationship between the two women in the novel is so beautiful, and the book is just heart-wrenching and wonderful. It's also an accessible way to get some perspective about a culture you may not understand very well (it's set in Afghanistan).

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. This is one of my most-recommended books when people just want a really compelling story with some good romance and some substance. All of Susanna Kearsley's books have a similar premise - the modern-day heroine develops some kind of link with someone from the past (sometimes she's channeling memories, sometimes she has visions when she touches things, but there's always some kind of weird psychic link in her books, and you get used to it). In this one, the heroine begins to have strange dreams about Jacobite sympathizers in the 1700s. She thinks it will make a great topic for her next novel, but as she starts writing, she discovers the things she was dreaming about were true - and she continues having more dreams. She becomes more and more wrapped up in a story that she becomes more and more convinced really happened - and she isn't sure she's going to like where it ends. It's a really fun way to do historical fiction (quite a few of the characters in the ancestral memories really WERE real people) and it's really captivating despite the kind of weird premise. (Side note: if you like it, I just discovered by accident  (12 chapters in) that Kearsley's The Firebird is a followup of sorts, which gave me closure where this book didn't.)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I'm still thinking about this one. Basically, it's a book about a girl who is hired to take care of a quadriplegic, thinking it will be an old man. Instead, she finds a young man who is bitter that his once full, active life has been taken from him, and who no longer wants to live. The relationship between the two main characters is just lovely, and although I still can't decide how I feel about the way it ended, overall I was just wowed.

So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger. This is a book about an author who wrote one wildly popular book and quit his job - and then lost his inspiration. Seven unfinished novels later, he leaves his family at home to follow an old train robber who is trying to settle his life - in the hopes of finding inspiration. (Meanwhile, they're being chased by a dogged lawman as they have one adventure after another - in the least cliche way possible.) It's a really lovely book, and I kind of love the main character's wife, even though she's not present for quite a bit of the book while he's chasing his story.  Lovely writing, lovely story. (I also love this author's Peace Like a River, but more people have heard of it. This one is really fun and not as widely circulated I think.)

Disclosure: This is an affiliate post. The opinions are my own.

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