I enjoy looking back and figuring out which books I most enjoyed every year. The lightest one was Keeping the House; just the thought of that book makes me smile. Darkest: Returning to Earth, by Jim Harrison who I always think of as a real "man's man", but I've always enjoyed his writing none the less. Most commercial: the Laura Lippman thriller. Most well-written: The Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo. Best first novel: Free Food for Millionaires. Most unusual: The Inhabited World. Here they are:
* Keeping the House by Ellen Baker. 1950: Pine Rapids, Wisconsin. Newlywed Dolly Magnuson compulsively breaks into a deserted house that once housed the prominent Mikelson family; she starts cleaning and taking care of it. And then what happens when a Mikelson turns up?
* Returning to Earth by Jim Harrison. A Chippewa-Finnish man prepares for his death from ALS; how his friends and family prepare for his departure; their grief and healing.
* The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle. While her mother disappears into a deep depression and her father tries to make a go of their dusty Colorado ranch by teaching rich girls how to ride horses, young Alice Winters copes by developing some new obsessions.
* Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee. The life and times of a Korean American girl from Queens who goes to Princeton, but cannot continue to climb ever higher towards the American dream without selling her soul. An epic novel of class, society and identity
* What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman. Two sisters disappeared from a Baltimore area shopping mall 30 years ago. A woman who was recently in a car accident claims to be one of the sisters – is she or isn’t she?
* The Inhabited World by David Long. A man who committed suicide haunts the house where it happened, trying to recall his own story. He also studies the life of his house’s present tenant. Not as depressing as it sounds!
* Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson. The healing friendship of two women in Sweden, one 20-something, one elderly.
* Truck: a Love Story by Michael Perry. A part-time EMT in small town Wisconsin, Perry remodels and rejuvenates his beloved truck, grows a backyard garden beleaguered by squirrels, attempts a love life and philosophizes from his "Scandanavian stoic" point of view. It's not (all) about the truck!
* The Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo. Repercussions of childhood: what happens to two who stay in a small upstate NY town, and to one who leaves and finds fame in the international world of art. A caring tone, believably flawed characters, and many rich themes make this a deeply rewarding read.
* An Alphabetical Life by Wendy Werris. The memoir of a lifelong bookseller who got started in the trade quite accidentally.