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Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading

With the solstice and the (official) change of seasons coming around next week, it's time for me to share my fall reading Top Five list.  While my reading has certainly slowed down lately (I attribute this to all my movie-watching at this time of year) (and that gift-knitting I said I wasn't going to do), I have read some really excellent books this fall.  Really . . . I think I saved the best for last when it comes to reading in 2019!  

So.  Here we go!  My list . . . Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading


I was reading The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead just as the summer was turning to fall -- and it's still haunting me.  It is powerful, heart-wrenching, compelling and spare. Colson Whitehead provides just enough detail to take you right to the edge . . . and then he lets you fill in the rest of the narrative all on your own. It's just masterful!  If you haven't read this one yet, I recommend putting it on your to-read list in 2020.  (And his description of watching the New York Marathon?  Just WOW.)


I love Ann Patchett novels, so I grabbed The Dutch House from Audible as soon as it came out this fall.  This one is just a great story beautifully told -- about childhood memories and unbreakable sibling bonds, the strength of family and the ties of place and home. It’s about jealousy and grudges and the price of devotion. It is simply marvelous!  I read the audiobook version of this book, which is narrated by Tom Hanks. What a treat! His narration added so much to the story. I recommend this book all the time now -- and especially the audiobook version.


I have a hit-or-miss relationship with Alice Hoffman novels. I loved The Dovekeepers, for example, but have been lukewarm about many of her others. (I think it’s the magical realism. It just doesn’t always work for me.)  But in her latest novel, The World That We Knew, it DOES work! In fact, the entire novel . . . just works, magical realism and all. Hoffman weaves together a beautiful tale of love, sacrifice, family, and faith against the backdrop of the Holocaust and Nazi horrors. The characters are beautifully and lovingly drawn, the language is lovely, the story compelling. The pace never bogs down, the historical facts are well-placed and meaningful, and the magic is . . . well . . . pretty magical. I was captivated!  I highly recommend this one, and especially for readers who enjoy historical fiction . . . with a touch of magic. (And for those who loved The Dovekeepers, for sure.)


Now, we've got what turns out to be my favorite book of 2019 . . . The Topeka School by Ben Lerner.  I loved this book -- but it's just not going to be for everyone.  It's a dense and challenging read -- with a great payoff  (if you can get there). It’s a brilliant book – one I can’t stop thinking about AND one I can’t seem to describe either (yet I keep trying). The writing is amazing. The characters have depth. There are shifting timelines and voices – that work. But when I try to tell people about the book, I . . . can’t. It’s a story about a family in late 90s Kansas. It’s a coming of age story. It’s about parallels in time and space. It’s about language. It’s about raising children (boys, in particular) in a culture of toxic masculinity. It’s about debate and forensics. It’s about mental health. It’s about Kansas and what WAS the matter there . . . and how that led us to where we are now. And. It’s just freaking brilliant. That’s all.  (I recommend this for those who enjoyed Lerner's previous novels Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04, as Adam Gordon is, once again, the main character.)


This brilliant (but flawed*) book - The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates' first novel - took me a very long time to read. Not because it is a slog of a book. (Not really.) And not because it is overly academic in scope, either. (Because it isn’t; not at all.) It simply took me a very long to read because there is so much . . . weight . . . to it. I needed to take my time. I needed to let things simmer.  (I'd say it also took a long time to read because it is . . . too long.  *Characters tend to talk in "essays" - and especially in the middle portion of the book.)  In the end, The Water Dancer is a story of memory as a power to transport. It tells the gut-wrenching truth of family separation and shares the humanity of enslaved people.  I highly recommend this one -- but prepare to spend some time with it.


How about you?
What books would make it to your Top Five list of fall reading?


If you want to see what I'm reading now, or check out my recent reviews on Goodreads, just check out the sidebar here on my blog.  You can find me here on Goodreads.  And you can read my Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading list here.