The Best Books We Read This Year

Here is a list of some of the best books we read this year:


The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Joel)

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Brenda)

Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Jeanne)

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (Pam)

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Brenda)

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (Jeanne)

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland (Jeanne)

Dark Days by Dewy Roscoe Jones (Jeanne)

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (George)

Family Pictures by Jane Green (Dawn)

Finding Camlann by Sean Pigeon (Joel)

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (Chris)

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (George)

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Brenda)

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Pam)

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Pam)

Longbourn by Jo Baker (Brenda)

Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Chris)

Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes (Pam)

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (Brenda)

Night Film by Marisha Pessl (Joel)

Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier (Joel)

Nothing Gold Can Stay  by Ron Rash (Joel)

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Joel)

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt (Jeanne)

Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman (Jeanne)

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Jeanne)

Still Life by Louise Penny (Pam)

Sweet Thunder by Ivan Doig (Pam)

Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders (Chris)

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (Pam)

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chris)

Wool by Hugh Howey (Joel)



The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (George)

Command and Control by Eric Schlosser (Joel)

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (Chris)

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (George)

Foundation by Peter Ackroyd (Joel)

Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff (George)

Into the Abyss: An Extraordinary True Story (George)

Londoners by Craig Taylor (Joel)

The Lost Whale: the True Story of an Orca Named Luna by Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm (Beth)

The Longest Road by Philip Caputo (Brenda)

Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World by Simon Garfield (Jeanne)

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (Jeanne)

The Nutshell Sties of Unexplained Death by Corinne May Botz (Jeanne)

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson (Brenda)

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Beth)

Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman (Jeanne)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Dawn)

Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein (Denise)

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman (Brenda)

Through the Eye of a Needle by Peter Brown (Joel)

To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild (Joel)

Vanished by Wil Hylton (George)

The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanargarne (Dawn)

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus by Reza Aslan (Joel)


Graphic Novels:

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction (Denise)

Hawkeye: Little Hits by Matt Fraction (Denise)

The Property by Rutu Modan (Dawn)


Young Adult and Children’s Fiction:

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson (Brenda)

Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech (Jeanne)







Discussible Books

Most of the books on this list are favorites from discussions held at the library between 2007 and 2013. A few of the titles are books we haven’t discussed yet, but will soon and are potential favorites. Not every title will appeal to all readers, but all will promote lively discussions.  Brenda


Chevalier, Tracy. The Last Runaway

Coomer, Joe. Pocketful of Names

deWitt, Patrick. The Sisters Brothers

Doig, Ivan. The Whistling Season

Donnelly, Jennifer. A Northern Light

Dunant, Sarah. Sacred Hearts

Erdrich, Louise. The Round House

Follett, Ken. Pillars of the Earth

Ford, Jamie. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Gloss, Molly. The Hearts of Horses

Hill, Lawrence. Someone Knows My Name

James, P.D. Death Comes to Pemberley

Joyce, Rachel. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

King, Laurie. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

Kingsolver, Barbara. Prodigal Summer

Larsson, Stieg. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

McLain, Paula. The Paris Wife

Moon, Elizabeth. The Speed of Dark

O’Nan, Stewart. Last Night at the Lobster

Parkin, Gaile. Baking Cakes in Kigali

See, Lisa. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Shaffer, Mary Ann and Annie Barrows. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Simonson, Helen. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Stockett, Kathryn. The Help

Trigiani, Adriana. The Shoemaker’s Wife

Vreeland, Susan. Clara and Mr. Tiffany; Luncheon of the Boating Party

Walls, Jeannette. Half Broke Horses



 Algeo, Matthew. Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure

Beavan, Colin. No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries he makes about himself and our way of life in the process

Caputo, Philip. The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America from Key West to the Arctic Ocean

Child, Julia. My Life in France

Eggers, Dave. Zeitoun

Goodman, Matthew. Eighty days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World

Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Krist, Gary. City of Scoundrels: The Twelve Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago

Kurson, Robert. Shadow Divers : The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II

Millard, Candice. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President

Peacock, Nancy. A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning, and Life

Salisbury, Laney & Aly Sujo. Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art

Spring Book Award News

Several book awards have been announced recently. Here is an up-to-date list of the winners of a wide variety of book awards. More awards will be announced soon; I’ll update this list this summer. Brenda

Award Winning Fiction and Non-Fiction, 2012-2013

Christian Fiction Awards

Christy Awards, 2012

Contemporary: Tatlock, Ann. Promises to Keep.

Contemporary Romance: Kendig, Ronie. Wolfsbane.

Contemporary Series: Clark, Mindy Stars & Leslie Gould. The Amish Midwife.

Historical: Austin, Lynn. Wonderland Creek.

Historical Romance: Klassen, Julie. The Maid of Fairbourne Hall.

Suspense: James, Steven. The Queen.

Visionary: Stengle, Ann Elisabeth. Veiled Rose.

First Novel: Yttrup, Ginny. Words.

Horror Awards

Bram Stoker Awards, 2011

Best Novel: McKinney, Joe. Flesh Eaters. 

Best First Novel: Bird, Allyson. Isis Unbound.

Literary Awards

Carnegie Medal, 2012: Enright, Anne. The Forgotten Waltz.

Man Booker Prize, 2012: Mantel, Hilary. Bring Up the Bodies.

National Book Award for Fiction, 2012: Erdrich, Louise. The Round House.

National Book Award for Non-Fiction, 2012: Boo, Katherine. Behind the Beautiful Forevers.

Nobel Prize for Literature, 2012: Mo Yan

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2013: Johnson, Adam. The Orphan Master’s Son.

Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 2013: Kings, Gilbert. Devil in the Grove

(for more Pulitzer awards, visit the Pulitzer website.)

Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2012: Miller, Madeline. The Song of Achilles.

 Mystery Awards

Agatha Awards, 2012

Best Novel: Penny, Louise. The Beautiful Mystery.

Best First Novel: Boyer, Susan M. Lowcountry Boil.

Anthony Awards, 2012

Best Novel: Penny, Louise. A Trick of the Light.

Best First Novel: Henry, Sara. Learning to Swim.

Best Paperback Original: Hyzy, Julie. Buffalo West Wing.

Edgar Allan Poe Awards, 2013

Best Novel: Lehane, Dennis. Live by Night.

Best First Novel: Pavone, Chris. The Expats.

Best Paperback Original: Winters, Ben H. The Last Policeman.

Best Fact Crime: French, Paul. Midnight in Peking.

Romance Awards

Rita Awards, 2012

Best First Book: Jones, Darynda. First Grave on the Right.

Contemporary Series Romance: Morgan, Sarah. Doukakis’s Apprentice. 

Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure: Dees, Cindy. Soldier’s Last Stand.

Contemporary Single Title Romance: Lowe, Fiona. Boomerang Bride.

Historical Romance: Bourne, Joanna. The Black Hawk.

Inspirational Romance: Miller, Serena. The Measure of Katie Calloway.

Novel with Strong Romantic Elements: O’Neal, Barbara. How To Bake a Perfect Life.

Paranormal Romance: Harrison, Thea. Dragon Bound .

Regency Historical Romance: Dare, Tessa. A Night to Surrender.

Romance Novella: Linden, Caroline. I Love the Earl.

Romantic Suspense: Robb, J.D. New York To Dallas.

Science Fiction & Fantasy Awards

Arthur C. Clarke Award, 2013

Beckett, Chris. Dark Eden.

Hugo Awards, 2012

Novel: Walton, Jo. Among Others.

Novella: Johnson, Kij. “The Man Who Bridged the Mist”, in Asimov’s, Sept./Oct. 2011.

Novelette: Anders, Charlie Jane. “Six Months, Three Days”, on

Best Short Story: Liu, Ken. “The Paper Menagerie”, in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2011.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, 2012: E. Lily Yu.

Nebula Awards, 2011

Novel: Walton, Jo. Among Others.

Novella: Johnson, Kij. “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” in Asimov’s Science Fiction, October/November 2011.

Novelette: Ryman, Geoff  “What We Found,” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September/October 2011.

World Fantasy Award, 2012

Novel: Tidhar, Lavie. Osama.

Novella: Parker, K.J. “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong” in Subterranean Press, Winter 2011.

 Western Awards

Spur Awards, 2012

Best Western Long Novel. Harrigan, Stephen. Remember Ben Clayton.

Best Original Paperback Novel: Boggs, Johnny. West Texas Kill.

Best Western Short Novel: Boggs, Johnny. Legacy of a Lawman.

Best First Novel: Mims, Meg. Double Crossing.


Readalikes for The Shoemaker’s Wife

The Big Read Selection for 2013 is The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani, a novel about Italian American immigrants in the early 1900s. Here are some more novels you might enjoy:

Alcott, Kate. The Dressmaker.  Titanic survivor in New York City.

Cohen, Paula. Gramercy Park.  Set in the 1890s, famous Italian tenor rents house near Gramercy Park while singing at the Metropolitan Opera, falls in love.

Duenas, Maria. The Time in Between.  Spanish fashion designer stranded in 1930s Morocco, opens dress shop.

Forster, E.M. A Room With a View.  Written and set in early 1900s, an Italian pensione caters to British tourists.

Gentle, Mary. The Black Opera.  Nineteenth century Italy, opera librettist.

Mazzucoo, Melania. Vita.  Two children from southern Italy try to survive in New York City’s Little Italy in 1903.

McDonnell, Adrienne. The Doctor and the Diva.  Early 1900s opera singer seeks treatment for infertility.

Mignola, Mike and Christopher Golden. Father Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism.  Young priest teaches orphans at a convent during World War II, redesigns old handcrafted puppets to tell Bible stories, but the puppets come to life in this horror novella.

Moser, Nancy. An Unlikely Suitor.  Italian American dressmakers in 19th century NYC and Newport, Rhode Island.

Olafsson, Olaf. Restoration.  Set in Tuscany in 1944.

Pezzelli, Peter. Home to Italy.  Recently widowed Peppi returns to his native Italian village and finds that his old friend and fellow mountain biker Luca now owns a candy factory run by his lovely daughter Lucrezia.

Russell, Mary Doria. A Thread of Grace.  Northern Italy in the 1930s and 1940s. Many thousands of Jewish refugees fled here during World War II.

Schoenewaldt, Pamela. When We Were strangers.  Italian American immigrant finds work as seamstress in 1880s Cleveland and Chicago.

Trigiani, Adriana. Lucia, Lucia.  Italian American seamstress looks back on her life in NYC.

Trigiani, Adriana. Very Valentine.  Family owned shoe company in New York City, started in 1903 by Italian American immigrants.

Walters, Jess. Beautiful Ruins.  1960 Italy and modern day United States.


Recent African American Fiction

In honor of Black History Month, here is a list of recent African American Fiction. There are lots of young adult titles this year.

General Fiction

Dickey, Eric Jerome. An Accidental Affair.

Jackson, Neta. Come to the Table. on order

Johnson, T. Geronimo. Hold It ‘Til It Hurts.

Monroe, Mary. God Don’t Make Mistakes.

Morrison, Toni. Home.

Perlman, Elliot. The Street Sweeper.

Roby, Kimberla Lawson. The Perfect Marriage.

Weber, Carl. The Family Business; The Man in 3B.

Historical Fiction

Austin, Lynn. All Things New.

Mathis, Ayana. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.


Wimberley, Darryl. Devil’s Slew

Paperback Romance

Day, Zuri. Love on the Run.

Evans, Harmony. Lesson in Romance.

Girard, Dara. Secret Paradise.

Hart, Regina. Smooth Play.

Hill, Donna. Everything is You.

Perrin, Kayla. Surrender My Heart.

Rochon, Farrah. A Forever Kind of Love.

Washington, AlTonya. His Texas Touch.

Science Fiction

Mosley, Walter. Merge; Disciple.

Urban Fiction

K’wan. Animal.

Morrison, Mary. If I Can’t Have You.

Souljah, Sister. A Deeper Love Inside. on order

Young Adult

Carter, Nikki. On the Flip Side.

Flake, Sharon. Pinned.

Hartman, Brett. Cadillac Chronicles.

Magoon, Kekla. Fire in the Streets.

Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux. No Crystal Stair.

Simone, Nin-Ni. Hollywood High.

Volponi, Paul. The Final Four

Walker, Brian. Black Boy/ White School.

The Best Books We Read in 2012

We read a wide variety of excellent books this year. I hope you find some memorable reading on this list. We’d love to hear what books were the best you read this year. I’m already adding some of these titles to my list of books to read next year. Brenda


11/22/63 by Stephen King (George)

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Chris)

Alien Diplomacy by Gini Koch (Denise)

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (Courtney)

Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe (Chris)

Canada by Richard Ford (George)

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Brenda)

Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (Chris, Pam)

The Confession by Charles Todd (Brenda)

Dear Life by Alice Munro (Chris)

Divergent by Veronica Roth (Joy)

Doc by Mary Doria Russell (Pam)

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear (Brenda, Pam)

Every Day, by David Levithan (Chris)

The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein (Courtney)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Brenda, Joy)

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (Brenda, Chris)

Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King (Pam)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Beth, Chris, Courtney)

Hammered (The Iron Druid Chronicles) by Kevin Hearne (Denise)

Harvest of Rubies by Tessa Afshar (Joy)

The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe (Joy)

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (Pam)

Illuminations: a Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt (Pam)

John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk (Brenda)

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Joy)

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters (Brenda)

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Courtney)

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (Joel)

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (Courtney)

Room by Emma Donohue (Courtney)

The Round House by Louise Erdrich (Brenda, Chris)

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (Courtney)

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (Joy)

The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes (Joel) 

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (Joy)

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Joy)

The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani (Pam)

A Simple Murder by Eleanor Kuhns (Brenda)

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill (Brenda)

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Chris)

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (Chris)

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussman (Joy)

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Courtney)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (Chris)

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Chris, George)


Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis (Brenda)

America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert (Joy)

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (Courtney)

Death at SeaWorld : Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity by David Kirby (Beth)

A History of the World in 100 Objects, by Neil MacGregor (Joel) 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (George)

I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship: Hilarious, Heartwarming Tales About Man’s Best Friend from America’s Favorite Humorists by Wade Rouse (Courtney)

Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World by Mark Frauenfelder (Denise)

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings (Brenda)

No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen (George)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Joy)

Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (Courtney)

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, by Anne Marie O’Connor (Joel) 

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (Brenda)

This Machine Kills Secrets: how WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World’s Information by Andy Greenberg (Denise)

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham (George)

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant (George)

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (Brenda, Courtney, Pam)

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans (Joy)


Medieval Mysteries

In compiling this booklist, I was thinking about why I find reading medieval mysteries so appealing. I think it’s the detailed settings and ways of life that are so different than life today, but with characters modern readers can relate to and revisit in further books in the series. Characterization, setting, and plot are all important in medieval mysteries, and all the books listed here are part of a series. 

Medieval Mysteries

Ash, Maureen. The Alehouse Murders introduces Knight Templar Bascot de Marins, recovering from injuries in Lincoln, England, and his young, mute servant, Gianni. 

Clare, Alys. Fortune Like the Moon begins the Hawkenlye series, with Helewise, Abbess of Hawkenlye and Josse d’Acquin, French knight. 

Clark, Cassandra. Hangman Blind introduces Abbess Hildegard. 

Franklin, Ariana. Mistress of the Art of Death begins the Adelia Aguilar series. Adelia is an Italian-trained medical examiner working for Henry II. Her Muslim bodyguard Mansur pretends to be the physician for Adelia. 

Frazer, Margaret. The Novice’s Tale is the first Sister Frevisse mystery, set at St. Frideswide Abbey in England. This is one of my favorite series, with excellent setting, story, and characters. Sister Frevisse gets to travel more than most medieval nuns, so there is also variety in the settings. There are 17 books so far. She has a related series as well. A Play of Isaac is the first book featuring Joliffe, an actor, playwright, and a spy. He travels with a small troupe of actors who are like a family, often struggling to make ends meet, but preferring travel to settling down in one place. 

Gellis, Roberta. A Mortal Bane introduces London madam Magdalene la Batarde and Sir Bellamy Itchen. 

Gordon, Alan. Thirteenth Night is the first Fool’s Guild mystery, featuring Theophilus or Feste, a jester and secret agent, and Viola, who becomes his wife and apprentice. The pair travel extensively, from Italy to Constantinople. 

Grace, C.L. A Shrine of Murders is the first book featuring Kathryn Swinbrooke, Canterbury physician. 

McIntosh, Pat. The Harper’s Quine is the first in the Gil Cunningham series. Gil is a young lawyer in Glasgow, who is assisted in his investigations by French mason Master Pierre and his daughter Alys. Strong female characters and vivid portrayal of village life add appeal. 

Newman, Sharan. Death Comes as Epiphany introduces Catherine LeVendeur, student of Heloise at the Paraclete in France and Edgar, her betrothed and student of Peter Abelard. 

Peters, Ellis. A Morbid Taste for Bones is the first in the classic twenty-one book Brother Cadfael series, set at a Benedictine Abbey in Shrewsbury, England, near the border of Wales. Brother Cadfael is a monk, herbalist, and former man at arms.  

Robb, Candace. The Apothecary Rose features soldier turned spy Owen Archer, and his wife Lucie, an apothecary in York. 

Roe, Caroline. A Remedy for Treason begins the Isaac of Girona series. Isaac is a blind Jewish physician in Spain.

Sedley, Kate. Death and the Chapman begins the Roger the Chapman Tales. Roger is a peddler, traveling around England, which he enjoys more than life at home in Bristol with his mother-in-law and young child.

Tremayne, Peter. Absolution by Murder is the first in the Sister Fidelma series. Fidelma is a dalaigh, or legal advocate, in 7th century Ireland, and is sister to Colgu, the King of Muman. She is assisted in her investigations by Brother Eadulf of Canterbury.




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