Best of 2013

Life after Life is AMAZING! I have been a fan of Kate Atkinson since Behind the Scenes at the Museum. I love the Jackson Brodie mysteries. Her books are quirky and smart, with a caustic wit that is (mostly) irresistible. Life after Life is an ambitious and wonderfully unclassifiable blend of Downton Abbey, Connie Willis (Blackout/All Clear), Groundhog Day (yes, the movie), and In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat that flies with the page-turning appeal of a Gone Girl, or Atkinson’s own mysteries. The book opens in November 1930, as Ursula Todd pulls the trigger on a gun aimed at Hitler. On a cold and snowy day in 1910, Ursula Todd dies before she can draw her first breath. And that’s just the first five pages! –Sara, Atlanta
Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, again honors his Chinese heritage and Seattle through this heart-wrenching story of William, an orphan, and Liu Song, his mother, whom he believes has become an actress and singer, named Willow Frost. Set in the Twenties and Thirties, it is a book calling to be read and then shared with all of your best friends. –Sandra, Seattle Definitely not for the squeamish, but that is what makes this a non-stop page-turner. Hill’s descriptive creative writing style peaks when he opens the gates to Christmasland and lets all enter at their own risk. Once inside, the reader will discover the truth and leave with an open gawk. He is definitely a topnotch horror author and one to be reckoned with. No doubt the torch will be carried from the past and into the future by Joe Hill. –Mike, Albuquerque
In this story spanning decades, Hosseini weaves an intriguing tale of how lives can be forever changed through a single event. A desperate father sells his 4-year old daughter to a wealthy couple. The separation is felt keenly by her older brother, who never quite relinquishes the dream of being reunited. The author moves the reader through the years and across oceans, teaching us what it means to love and care...and how people traverse real-life journeys. Another absorbing novel from a master storyteller. -Margaret, Pittsburgh
Mr. Hiaasen is in tip-top form with his latest hilarious misadventure set once again in beautiful Key West. Ex-detective Yancy (lost his badge for “vacuum hosing” his lover’s husband in public), now a restaurant inspector, tries to solve a murder that starts off with an arm found on the end of a fishing line. He hopes to get his badge back if he solves it, but what he goes through is intensely funny and creepy at the same time...magical!!! –Ron, Los Angeles Once again, Lahiri gives the reader scenes of life growing up in India. The story revolves around two very different brothers. One is the parent-pleaser and the other is the idealistic, rebellious one. When one ends up a victim, the “good brother” steps in, marries his dead brother’s pregnant wife, and moves to America. Good deeds do not always bring good results. The topics of competitive siblings, parental love, and mending relationships are all addressed in this beautifully-written, riveting tale. -Margaret, Pittsburgh
Publishers Weekly says The Son “speaks volumes about humanity—our insatiable greed, our inherent frailty, the endless cycle of conquer or be conquered.” Three generations of the McCullough family tell the story of living in Texas: Eli is captured and raised by Comanche Indians, his son Peter wants nothing to do with the world his father had forged from dirt and blood, and Jeannie ultimately inherits the family fortune. A woman running a corporation in the man’s world of oil and a son trying to break out of family dealings would make for an interesting story in the hands of a talented writer like Philipp Meyer but his tales of life with the Comanche will make your heart pound and your jaw drop. –Sydne, Atlanta
At first glance you expect this to be a boy-meets-girl story where love overcomes all obstacles, but author Jojo Moyes has other ideas. This engaging novel tells the story of a deeply unhappy quadriplegic and the caregiver hired by his mother to distract him from his own demons. Moyes allows us a little time to get to know the characters before introducing a deadline that lends suspense and uncertainty to the outcome. Emotionally engaging and heartbreaking. –Buzzy, Raleigh Due to the continuous and excessive storms that caused devastation to the Gulf Coast, the federal government provided a declaration of a geographical boundary. The result was an apocalyptic no-man’s-land. Survival becomes a struggle against Mother Nature’s elements and the roving deadly bandits hunting for food and shelter. Michael Farris Smith tells this story with a heavy-handed grim dystopian setting balanced with beauty and hope. –Mike, Albuquerque

The best summation of this gripping narrative came from The Boston Globe: “the ethical complexities of making life-and-death judgments in the absence of perfect information and clear guidelines.” When Katrina hit New Orleans there were hundreds of people at Memorial Hospital – patients, staff and family members of both that took shelter there. The generators were in the basement which quickly flooded and, as a microcosm of the whole city, conditions were hectic but orderly to begin with but rapidly broke down. More than 500 interviews convey a story of confusion, heart-breaking decisions made on the fly, instances of heroism and incredible hubris. Hopefully, this can be used as a model for what not to do in a crisis but, as in life, no one is totally good and no one is totally bad. -Sydne, Atlanta
While thoroughly documented and well detailed, Lawrence in Arabia reads like a thriller. Scott Anderson’s book gives critical attention to the man (and several other key players), the era, and the region. A necessary (and fascinating) title for anyone interested in the modern Middle East. –Ed, Atlanta Bill Bryson is back with his trademark wit and style. In One Summer: America, 1927, he tackles one particular summer in American history, and both informs and entertains his readers in equal measure. –Anne, Atlanta
Focusing on the last 30 years, Packer’s book examines our nation in crisis. Packer profiles the lives of a handful of citizens at all levels of social strata in an effort to delineate the forces that are ripping our country apart. In telling these stories Packer utilizes many of the strategies of John Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy. Perhaps Packer uses these strategies because the story he is telling is so similar to that of Dos Passos work; the conditions of these times being so closely paralleled by those of the 20’s and 30’s. The effect here is similarly dazzling and dismaying, a necessary book. Here’s the first line: “No one can say when the unwinding began, when the coil that held Americans together in its secure and sometimes stifling grip first gave way.” –Matt, Los Angeles
This is one of my favorite books of the year. I have never played D&D but David’s storytelling and the history of the game made me fall in love with it. Pick it up and you may find yourself looking for a DM and looking forward to rolling a D20. -Justin, Atlanta Jim Gaffigan pens this comical view of parenting young children from the perspective of a somewhat hapless father. Instantly you can relate to the whole family and the everyday trials they face living seven deep in a two bedroom NYC apartment. Gaffigan is humorous throughout and often has you literally laughing out loud. A quick and easy read sure to entertain new and old parents alike. – Megan, Roanoke
Mary Roach’s books are disgusting examinations of the human body—and I love every single one of them. Her latest, Gulp., is an examination of the human digestive system which includes: America’s terrible imported olive oil, the bacteriafighting properties of saliva, the intricacies of smuggling, the possible reason for dragon mythos, and why Elvis died on the toilet. Hilarious and highly informative, Gulp. is a must-read. (Warning: Do NOT read Gulp. right before, during or right after meals, but it’d probably make an interesting bathroom read.) – Laura, Pittsburgh
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is a humorous collection of short essays and random musings. David Sedaris has taken his personal life lessons and combined them with over the top rantings to make an enjoyable read. This book will have you going from laughing out loud to somewhat disturbed and completely relating to it. -Brian, Cleveland What is a villain? Chuck Klosterman uses his razor-sharp wit and keen knowledge of pop culture to explore the subject. Among the topics skewered are the film Death Wish, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and the O.J. Simpson trial. Chuck Klosterman offers a surprisingly hilarious and insightful look into a commonplace topic. -Mike, Boston
This is a book about cheese; about a flamboyant Spanish farmer and cheesemaker named Ambrosio; about storytelling and community; about modern American culture and Old World values; a book about an author named Michael Paterniti. It is utterly compelling and beautifully written. It ripens and transforms in its telling in the same way that does a good cheese, or wine, or history. And in the weeks since I’ve finished it, its flavors have only grown richer. I highly recommend a tasting. –Sara, Atlanta

We all know the power of word-of-mouth and how it affects sales, but with Contagious: Why Things Catch On we can begin to know why and understand. Jonah Berger breaks the concepts down into talking oints with his well-written and easy to understand six STEPPS. Business owner to Marketing professional and all those in-between will benefit from reading this book. -Mark, Roanoke Mr. Gladwell’s latest insightful bestseller lays out in 3 parts (Advantages of Disadvantages, The Theory of Desirable Difficulty and The Limits of Power) how we too can slay giants in our lives like David did Goliath....Power To The Underdogs! Mr Gladwell uses several real life stories he’s discovered to make it very clear that one should never feel powerless, and that in many circumstances weakness can be a surprising and effective strength. –Ron, Los Angeles
You will not look at processed foods and how they affect your body the same way after reading this book. If you want to eat healthier but your mind needs a gentle nudge to help you do it, read Salt, Sugar, Fat. Moss did extensive research for the book including interviews with the executives who turned the food industry into the sugar peddler it is today. Moss tries to present the most unbiased account possible but the truth is much harder to sugar-coat than our breakfast cereal. -Justin, Atlanta
One thing I know for sure is that this book sells itself! After reading this book you need to get to the heart of things, the heart of what matters: Go small—it’s as simple as that. Then the one thing will be staring at you! –Susan, Pittsburgh Lean In (regardless of where you are in your career) challenges you to truly understand what you want in life and to recognize the actions that are holding you back. Whether they are the actions of others or your own, Sandberg offers practical solutions for achieving your goals. “Lean In” is as powerful a mantra as “Just Do It.” – Laurie, Boston

Bored with acting prim and proper, Mr. Tiger decides to go wild by shedding his clothes and running free. He finds true happiness with compromise. A delightful tale with an expressive tiger. Its illustrations are to be slowly savored. –Anne, Rochester
The first in a dystopian trilogy, The Testing takes place in a society that weeds out its best and brightest youth and puts them to the ultimate test. Cia is a student who is thrilled to be chosen for the tests, but she quickly realizes that the stakes are higher than she ever imagined. Those that pass will shape the future, but those that fail…
Reminiscent of The Hunger Games, this was a thrilling read and has me looking forward to the rest of the series! –Jennifer, Atlanta
Ulysses might be a superhero, but it’s Kate DiCamillo who’s the magician. She’s created yet another timeless, moving, and hysterical tale about an improbable hero:a squirrel whose run-in with a vacuum cleaner (and a cynical little girl named Flora) bestows upon him a talent for poetry, and the power to “fight the forces of darkness and evil.” Just as in our own, those forces create plenty of sadness in Flora’s world. Stories and humor and love are the antidotes: joy is the rabbit that DiCamillo never fails to pull from the hat. –Sara, Atlanta

Q&A with Kate DiCamillo
Read the first seven chapters of Flora & Ulysses
The Day the Crayons Quit is cute, quirky, and a joy to read. Young children will enjoy the fun, bright illustrations while their adults will be gently laughing at the truths about life that the crayons so wonderfully portray. –Anne, Atlanta
When David’s father is killed by an Epic, he spends the next 10 years studying Epics obsessively. Each Epic has their own fatal flaw, which they desperately try to hide, but David’s meticulous research allows him to destroy them (with a little help from a group of rebel assassins). Steelheart is geared toward a Young Adult audience, but fangirls and fanboys of all ages will love David’s focus. –Christine, Chicago


"Best of" Flashback to 2012

“It’s amazing to see a story that for a long time existed only in my imagination become visible. The Fault in Our Stars movie is happening because of an amazing script and great producers and a wonderful director and this beautiful, awesome cast, but it is also happening because of the many people who have read and loved and shared Hazel and Gus’s story so generously. If people didn’t like the book there would be no movie and we all understand that, so please know that everyone on this set feels a tremendous responsibility to the story and to its readers.” –John Green, from the set of The Fault in Our Stars, soon to be a major motion picture starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, and Willem Dafoe.
A major motion picture in 2014

See all of the Best of 2012 here


Margaret - Pittsburgh

1 - And the Mountains

by Khaled Hosseini
2 - Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes
3 - The Signature
of All Things

by Elizabeth Gilbert
4 - Knocking on
Heaven's Door

Katy Butler
5 - The Lowland
by Jhumpa Lahiri
6 - Maya's Notebook
by Isabel Allende
7 - A Good Hard Look
by Ann Napolitano
8 - The Bartender's Tale
by Ivan Doig
9 - Songs of Willow Frost
by Jamie Ford
10 - Flight Behavior
by Barbara Kingsolver

Anne - Rochester

1 - Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes
2 - The Story of
Beautiful Girl

by Rachel Simon
3 - The Unbecoming of
Mara Dyer

by Elizabeth Gilbert
4 - A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness
5 - The Husband's Secret
by Liane Moriarty
6 - Lover At Last
by J.R. Ward
7 - Every Day
by David Levithan
8 - Slammed
by Colleen Hoover
9 - Three Graves Full
by Jamie Mason
10 - Now You See Her
by James Patterson

Mike - Albuquerque

1 - Nos4a2
by Joe Hill
2 - Rivers
by Michael Farris Smith
3 - Dad Is Fat
by Jim Gaffigan
4 - Bellman & Black
by Diane Setterfield
5 - Of Dice and Men
by David M. Ewalt
6 - The Ocean at the
End of the Lane

by Neil Gaiman
7 - The Golem and the

by Helene Wecker
8 - The King's Deception
by Steve Berry
9 - The Third Bullet
by Stephen Hunter
10 - Violet Eyes
by John Everson

Sara - Atlanta

1 - Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
2 - Vampires in the
Lemon Grove

by Karen Russell
3 - A Tale for the
Time Being

by Ruth Ozeki
4 - Flora and Ulysses
by Kate Dicamillo
5 - The Son
by Philipp Meyer
6 - The Telling Room
by Michael Paterniti
7 - The Book of My Lives
by Aleksandar Hemon
8 - The Night Guest
by Fiona McFarlane
9 - Song Reader
by Beck
10 - Beautiful Whale
by Bryant Austin

Matt - Los Angeles

1 - Little, Big
by John Crowley
2 - How Music Works
by David Byrne
3 - Professor Borges
by Jorge Luis Borges
4 - The Ocean at the
End of the Lane

by George Packer
5 - The Unwinding
by Ernest Cline
6 - Vampires in the
Lemon Grove

by Karen Russell
7 - The Son
by Philipp Meyer
8 - Miles
by Miles Davis
9 - Tenth of December
by George Saunders
10 - Of Dice and Men
by David M. Ewalt

Sydne - Atlanta

1 - Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
2 - The Lion Seeker
by Kenneth Bonert
3 - The Son
by Philipp Meyer
4 - Snow Hunters
by Paul Yoon
5 - Rivers
by Michael Farris Smith
6 - Going Clear
by Lawrence Wright
7 - Five Days at Memorial
by Sheri Fink
8 - Cartwheel
by Jennifer Dubois
9 - Flora
by Gail Godwin
10 - Big Brother
by Lionel Shriver

Susan - Pittsburgh

1 - Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes
2 - Orphan Train
by Christina Baker Kline
3 - The Silver Star
by Jeannette Walls
4 - The Unfinished Work
of Elizabeth D.

by Nichole Bernier
5 - Etched in Sand
by Regina Calcaterra
6 - The History of Love
by Nicole Krauss
7 - The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Valerie - Cleveland

1 - The House at the
End of Hope Street

by Menna van Praag
2 - Traveling Light
by Andrea Thalasinos
3 - Master St. Elmo
by Caro Smith Senour
4 - The Dog Who Danced
by Susan Wilson
5 - Dolls Behaving Badly
by Cinthia Ritchie
6 - Killer Stuff and
Tons of Money

by Maureen Stanton
7 - Orphan Train
by Christina Baker Kline
8 - Sisters on the Fly
by Irene Rawlings
9 - Alchemy Arts
by Kate MacKay
10 - Third Degree
by Greg Iles

David - Boston

1 - Shades of Earth
by Jojo Moyes
2 - Incarnate
by Jodi Meadows
3 - MILA 2.0
by Debra Driza
4 - With All My Soul
by Rachel Vincent
5 - The Elite
by Kiera Cass
6 - Siege and Storm
by Leigh Bardugo
7 - Throne of Glass
by Sarah J. Maas
8 - Crown of Midnight
by Sarah J. Maas
9 - Anna Dressed in Blood
by Kendare Blake
10 - The Monstrumologist
by Rick Yancey

Ron - Los Angeles

1 - David and Goliath
by Malcolm Gladwell
2 - Joyland
by Stephen King
3 - Manuscript Found
in Accra

by Paulo Coelho
4 - Vampires in the
Lemon Grove

by Karen Russell
5 - The Son
by Philipp Meyer
6 - Enon
by Paul Harding
7 - Five Days at Memorial
by Sheri Fink
8 - Wilson
by A. Scott Berg
9 - Bad Monkey
by Carl Hiaasen
10 - Songs of Willow Frost
by Jamie Ford

Megan - Roanoke

1 - Ordinary Grace
by William Kent Krueger
2 - Truth in Advertising
by John Kenney
3 - The No. 1 Ladies'
Detective Agency

by Alexander Mccall Smith
4 - Beautiful Ruins
by Jess Walter
5 - The Ophelia Cut
by John Lescroart
6 - Fifty Shades of Grey
by E L James
7 - Zoo
by James Patterson
& Michael Ledwidge
8 - Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
9 - 11/22/63
by Stephen King
10 - Swingland
by Daniel Stern

Laurie - Boston

1 - The Kitchen House
by Kathleen Grissom
2 - Cooked
by Michael Pollan
3 - Once Upon a Flock
by Lauren Scheuer
4 - Rework
by Jason Fried
& David Heinemeier Hansson
5 - The Coastal Table
by Karen Covey
6 - Lean In
by Sheryl Sandberg
7 - My Notorious Life
by Kate Manning
8 - Unbroken
by Laura Hillenbrand
9 - Dirty Love
by Andre Dubus III
10 - Defending Jacob
by William Landay

Sandra - Seattle

1 - Songs of Willow Frost
by Jamie Ford
2 - One Summer
by Bill Bryson
3 - Knocking on Heaven's

by Katy Butler
4 - Etched in Sand
by Regina Calcaterra
5 - The Ocean at the End
of the Lane

by Neil Gaiman
6 - Bellman & Black
by Diane Setterfield
7 - Flora and Ulysses
by Kate Dicamillo
8 - David and Goliath
by Malcolm Gladwell
9 - Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
10 - Decisive
by Chip Heath
& Dan Heath

Christine - Chicago

1 - The Astronaut Wives Club
by Lily Koppel
2 - The Goldfinch
by Donna Tartt
3 - Crazy Rich Asians
by Kevin Kwan
4 - Chronic Resilience
by Danea Horn
5 - The Art Forger
by B. A. Shapiro
6 - Steelheart
by Brandon Sanderson
7 - Night Film
by Marisha Pessl
8 - MaddAddam
by Margaret Atwood
9 - The Revolution Was

by Alan Sepinwall
10 - The Testing
by Joelle Charbonneau

Lee - Cleveland

1 - The Last Lecture
by Randy Pausch
2 - Revolutionary Summer
by Joseph J. Ellis
3 - James Madison
by Richard Brookhiser
4 - The End of Your Life
Book Club

by Will Schwalbe
5 - Proof of Heaven
by Eben Alexander
6 - Big Data
by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger
7 - Dream New Dreams
by Jai Pausch
8 - Rumsfeld's Rules
by Donald Rumsfeld
9 - Defending Jacob
by William Landay
10 - Lean In
by Sheryl Sandberg

Justin - Atlanta

1 - Salt Sugar Fat
by Michael Moss
2 - Wool
by Hugh Howey
3 - My Beloved Brontosaurus
by Brian Switek
4 - Of Dice and Men
by David M. Ewalt
5 - Black Code
by Ronald J. Deibert
6 - Bad Apples
by John Layman
7 - The Eye of Minds
by James Dashner
8 - Gulp.
by Mary Roach
9 - Straight Flush
by Ben Mezrich
10 - Blackout
by Robison E. Wells

Anne - Atlanta

1 - Shadows
by Robin McKinley
2 - The Screaming Staircase
by Jonathan Stroud
3 - The Drunken Botanist
by Guy Gavriel Kay
4 - Under Heaven
by Lois McMaster Bujold
5 - Horde
by Ann Aguirre
6 - Embers of War
by Fredrik Logevall
7 - Losing It
by Cora Carmack
8 - One Summer
by Bill Bryson
9 - The Mushroom Hunters
by Langdon Cook
10 - Behind the Beautiful Forevers
by Katherine Boo

Laura - Pittsburgh

1 - Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
2 - The Ocean at the End
of the Lane

by Neil Gaiman
3 - Etiquette & Espionage
by Gail Carriger
4 - Dark Triumph
by Robin LaFevers
5 - Gulp.
by Mary Roach
6 - Openly Straight
by Bill Konigsberg
7 - Scarlet
by Marissa Meyer
8 - NOS4A2
by Joe Hill
9 - Two Boys Kissing
by David Levithan
10 - Fangirl
by Rainbow Rowell