As the year comes to an end, I have read almost everything I had set aside on my (many) bookshelves to read this year and I am pondering what to read next, I will take a few minutes to reflect on what I read. Stephen King once said that if you don’t have time to read then you don’t have time to write. I think that he is right- how can you write if you never read? I teach creative writing and sometimes teach English and I firmly believe that the reason children cannot write well is not due just to a proliferation of electronic devices, but due also to their lack of time spent in literary engagement. When I taught middle school English each grade (6-8) read eight novels over the course of a year. That being said, I have been a reader all of my life and plan to continue doing so. My tastes in reading material are varied, but tend to gravitate toward fiction and I like a story steeped in history but am not limited to any particular genre. I will start with the best books.
1.The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. I absolutely loved this one. AJ is a widowed bookstore owner who has his valuable and rare book by Poe stolen (the book that was to be his ticket to retirement.) While investigating the theft, a surprise that changes his life changes the direction of the book. It is littered with references to books and stories I have read and I highly recommend it.
2. Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel. I picked this up at my school’s book fair and it was a well written YA novel that I would easily use in class. The main character has a freak accident the leaves her needing a face transplant during her senior year in high school. The novel is about how she and everyone around her deal with the changes.
3. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Using odd old photographs as the catalyst for the plot, Ransom Riggs wrote an interesting tale about a boy who discovers he has inherited some interesting powers that he must use as he travels in time to save himself and his new friends.
4. Saving Mona Lisa by Geri Chanel. A non fiction book, not to be confused with my novel Hiding Mona Lisa, which provided some historical background for my Louvre trilogy. Fascinating reading about the evacuation of the Louvre during WWII. (Read the Louvre Trilogy when you are done!)
5. The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. It’s been around a long time but I just got around to reading it this summer. A look at the civil rights movement and the relationship between a little girl and some people from her mother’s past.
6. Paris The Novel by Edward Rutherford. A lengthy novel about three families whose lives intersect over centuries as the city of Paris grows and develops. Since I am traveling to Paris in the spring I found this one fascinating and really enjoyed it. Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of the book.
Now for the books I read but didn’t love….
1. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Okay I know it got the Pulitzer prize and a million five star reviews. My husband calls it “All The Book We Cannot Read” because it took me almost a year to get past the second chapter. I’m sorry, but I never got into the story or bonded with the characters and the story ended abruptly without really ending. I would have thought I was crazy, the one person who didn’t get it based on the reviews, until my friend Sara Martin concurred. ( Maybe the fact that it is written in present perfect tense that I equated it with reading term papers in MLA?) Sorry, but I won’t be thinking of this book or its characters when I actually go to St. Malo in the spring….
2.Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Let’s just say by the fifth time the main character died and was reborn it had become a little redundant.
3. Z by Therese Aine Draper. This one falls in a genre I call “Books about the lives of famous men’s wives.” I loved The Paris Wife so I tried this one, based on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald. While it was well written, I ended up not liking either Zelda or F. Scott Fitzgerald and was more than a little depressed when it ended.
If you are looking for something to read before the end of the year, check out my books at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com.