I was and remain completely obsessed with this book. I recommend it to practically everyone I know. The writing is beautiful and the story is so compelling. Qais Akbar Omar writes of his childhood in Afghanistan, growing up throughout the various regimes - Soviet, Taliban, American. It is the story of a family and of survivors in a land that has been completely torn apart by strife. We in the U.S. often hear about Afghanistan on the news, but rarely do we get to hear about it from someone who grew up there. Reading this book felt like listening to a symphony, it was so melodic and beautiful. Omar left me wanting more and more of his writing and stories.
This was one of the first books that I read in 2013, and I believe they are making a movie set to be released in 2014 (so read it before you watch!). This is technically young adult fiction, but the story is beautiful (and heartbreaking). If you cry when you read, you'll be a mess after this one, but oh what a story. Green writes of a young girl who is fighting cancer, while experiencing some of the normalcy of being a teen, falling in love, fighting with your parents, and trying to get through high school. This book has quote after quote, so get your highlighter ready. It's a book that's easy to read and even easier to recommend.
This one might not be for everyone, I'll say that up front. I LOVED it. But, I love any story, movie, article, really anything that concerns large marine life. This is a work of non-fiction, that will transport you back to the late 1700s. The American Colonies are still forming. Essex, Massachusetts, is a town on the coast whose primary occupation is whaling in the South Pacific. In the tale that inspire Herman Melville's Moby Dick, the whaleship Essex finds itself rammed by a sperm whale with a vengeance, leaving the sailors shipwrecked and fighting to survive on life rafts. It will truly be unlike anything you've read about early American history before, and Philbrick is a wonderful historical writer.
One of my favorite books of all time is Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken, and I am constantly looking for a history book as well written with a story as compelling. I cannot tell you that The Boys in the Boat is that book, but it does come pretty close. Daniel James Brown tells the story of the 1936 U.S. Olympic Rowing Team. The story starts during the Great Depression, chronicling the upbringing of Joe Rantz, who was raised on a farm by a very poor family before enrolling in the University of Washington. The book focuses primarily on the personalities that make up the team and the difficulties they overcame to be the team rowing in the Berlin Olympics. Meanwhile, Brown reminds readers that Hitler's Germany is simultaneously growing in power and threatening to ruin the nine American's quest for Gold. The races are written such that the reader feels like they are there in real time, and the characters seem close enough to touch. This was a wonderful book, and I wholeheartedly recommend.
This book has topped quite a few lists as one of the best books of 2013. I do not disagree. Eleanor Catton's book won the Man Booker Prize this year. It's a very literary novel, and quite a long read as well. But, at the heart, The Luminaries is a murder mystery set in nineteenth century New Zealand. There are two possible modes of reading the book (the plot track, those who want to enjoy a good story, and the symbolism track, for some of us English majors out there). Catton assigns each of her characters to one of the signs of the zodiac and then sets the planets in movement, playing out her various scenes based on the astrological implications. I posted a two part review on Bookasaurus (Part I and Part II) for those that want to dig deeper. This novel is highly rewarding, but not for the casual reader.