I’ve been compiling a list in my journal of books that I want to read this year. It is mostly fiction, as fiction is one of the great loves of my post-kid lifetime that I have mostly let slip away, and I miss it a lot.
But making this list involved a great deal of careful curation. I read reviews and browsed book lists and took notes. I had my eye out for words like “poignant” and “life- affirming” and avoided words like “dark” or “tragic.” There are entire worlds inside those covers- and there are many that are not good places for me to visit.
As I’ve grown older and gotten to know myself better, I’ve come to accept that I will carry the stories and characters of the books I read, and the movies I watch, and the news stories I listen to, around with me long after the books have been hauled off to the thrift-store and the TV and radio turned off. I need to choose carefully.
I need books that reminds me of the beauty of the world, the strength of the human spirit. They can break my heart, they can force me to think of things in a new way, but they can’t invade my mind with terror or darkness. There has to be hope. There has to be beauty.
And so this is the list I’ve compiled to read this year. Obviously I can’t confirm that they meet all my criteria until I actually dive into them (it’s a leap of faith I tell you!) but I have high hopes for these books and I thought I would share them in case there are other soft-hearted lovers of fiction who need some ideas of what to read this year.
The Storied Life of AJ Filry by Gabrielle Zevin. Booklist had me at “sweet, uplifting homage to bookstores.” But then there is a baby too, so clearly I have to read it.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson A YA book in verse about growing up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s. I’ve heard such good things about this one plus I am a closet YA addict.
The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart Everything I read says this book is charming and funny and whimsical and I’ve seen it compared to The The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I loved.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman The reviews of this book about a grumpy old man learning to leave his solitary world by a boisterous young family are pretty glowing and I think it sounds just like my kind of book.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson I started listening to this as an audiobook and I really want to love it, but it does make me rather drowsy in the evenings after the kids are in bed (though that is a rather drowsy time of day regardless- so it isn’t necessarily reflective of the quality of the book!) I found a copy at my library sale and I’m going to try again that way.
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okaparanta I know this one is going to hurt to read, so maybe it doesn’t belong on this list, but I want very much to read it. When I know that the book will break my heart as I get glimpses into the real, true sadness and beauty of the world, I am willing to carry it with me.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce I started this book list with my New Years list in hand, and then forgot about it for awhile, and now I am starting to finish up some of the books on it. I read this book and I loved it. It was slow, and sweet and heartwarming. I’m looking forward to picking up the next one too.
I am loving reading fiction again, and I guess I’ll need to keep adding to this list as I go, as I’m finally in a life place where I am whipping through books again. In the meantime I hope this list can help out some other soft hearted lovers of fiction who are looking for something good to read this year.
books image by wackystuff