By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Pfft. Who has time? Who can take hours and hours to actually read a book, especially if it’s not all that good? Why waste that kind of time?
You wonder that often, which is where I come in. It’s my job to find the good stuff for you and, for this calendar year, these are the books I loved best that you shouldn’t miss…
At the top of my list, “Pilgrim’s Progress” by Tom Kizzia starts out with a semi-confusing (but heart-poundingly brilliant) escape by two young women. You’re not sure who they’re running from, or why – but you find out soon enough that their father has sent them scurrying. You’ll also find out how one man set an Alaska community on edge and what happened to him and his very large family. The ending of this book comes all too soon and it’s truly every bit as stellar as its beginning; I read it more than six months ago, and I’m still in awe…
Like many people, I kind of went on a JFK-assassination streak of reading this year. There were certainly a lot of books out on the subject, but “Dallas 1963” by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis was my favorite. But that’s not why this book is on this list. It’s here because it answers the question, “Why Dallas?” and in answering, it gives readers a good sense of the time and the country’s attitudes. We’re transported back 50 years in the telling of this story - politically, socially, morally, and beyond. It’s one of those books you could read, and then turn around and read again.
It’s easy to think that “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup is a novel. It’s easy to forget that you’re reading words from a man who lived some 150 years ago, that he really was sold into slavery, didn’t see his family for more than a decade, endured life as a wrongly-held man. It’s easy to think it’s all fiction - until Northup’s words not-so-gently remind you that this book is truth. That shook me up many times, and whether or not you’ve seen the movie, this is a don’t-miss book.
Adding “The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell” by William Klaber to this list is kind of cheating. That’s because this book is fictional, but is based closely on the true story of a woman who lived as a man in the 1850s. That was scandalous, to be sure – but what was even more scandalous to the pioneers that knew her was that she was able to survive a splashy court case and later, successfully married another woman. Written as a series of diary entries, this book includes action, adventure, jaw-dropping events, history that’ll blow your mind, and I loved it.
For some reason, I found “One Summer: America 1927” by Bill Bryson to be this years’ most relaxing read. Maybe it’s because Bryson meanders through a mere five months of one year in history. Maybe it’s because there’s no rush in this book; it just moves gently from one topic to another to another, telling this story and that one, page after page and before you know it, this brick of a book (528 pages) is over.
Like any great summer, it’s over too soon.