Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Ten Books of 2012

     Made it through another retail Christmas (my 22nd!). So it must be time for another year end roundup. 2012 was another wonderful year of reading for me, I read 70 books - averaging 1.35 books a week, just a touch behind last year's average. You can click on the title of some of the books to see my original review.

1. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. I knew this was something special almost as soon as I started it. What propelled it to my number one spot is the fact that even now, 4 months after I finished it, parts of the book are still with me. I find myself wanting to be fishing, walking through the woods with a great companion, or flying in a small plane. The Dog Stars tells the story of a man struggling to survive in a world where 99% of the population was wiped out a decade earlier. The writing in this book is beautiful and took me away to another place - the biggest thing I ask for in a book.

2. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield. A wonderful piece of Southern literature by an excellent new writer. Highly recommended to me by one coworker and one former coworker, I am so glad that I listened to them. The girl in this book, Swan Lake, is a worthy successor to Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird.

3. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. The first really good book this year and my favorite for a good chunk of the year. A fascinating look at the life of a young man in North Korea. This is a culture we know so little about and Johnson really brings it to life in this sometimes horrifying and sometimes hilarious tale.

4. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. Easily the best nonfiction I read this year, this is devastating look at life in a Mumbai slum won the National Book Award this year. The author spent 3 years researching this book, conducting numerous interviews with the subjects. They really come alive and are people you deeply care for.

5. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Quite possibly the funniest book I have ever read, this is the memoir of The Bloggess, a woman who grew up in a small Texas town. The only book on this list I have read twice - once to myself and the second time aloud to my wife over a period of time. Please read this book! 

6. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. A beautifully lyrical story of a retired British man that sets off to walk across the country to visit an old acquaintance dying of cancer. Has some of the feel of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society".

7. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. This wonderful children's book about a physically deformed boy entering the 5th grade made me laugh and cry.

8. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I love mysteries and thrillers, probably my favorite genre. I read a lot of them and all too many of the new authors I try are formulaic. That is why it was exciting to come across this book which felt fresh and original, albeit very dark.

9. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. Excellent story of a young girl coming of age during a time when the earth's rotation is slowing down. Days are becoming much longer, throwing off, people, animals, and crops. The book keeps a steady hand moving between her concerns with life as a 12 year old girl and dealing with the possible end of the world.

10. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. Very good Southern fiction about a group of people in a small community in the Carolinas. After a boy dies during a church service, the investigation into it reveals many secrets, some long buried. Great characters kept me glued to this story.

     A few honorable mentions: "Where's You Go Bernadette?" by Maria Semple, "The Twelve" by Justin Cronin, "The Gods of Gotham" by Lynsday Faye, "Heft" by Liz Moore, "Telegraph Avenue" by Michael Chabon, "Among Others" by Jo Walton. And a nod to the most disappointing book of the year for me - "The Red House" by Mark Haddon. It may not have been the worst book I read this year, but it was close and I had it on my list of my most anticipated books of 2012.
     And to wrap it up, a little pat on the back for myself. I know I am not much a of a writer, but I do enjoy sharing my thoughts on books. The publishing site Edelweiss chose my review for Telegraph Avenue as one of their featured reviews on the book. Almost like being published! :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More Quick Reviews

1. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (5/5). I hate to sound over the top here, but this is the single funniest book I have ever read. Jenny Lawson, better known as "The Bloggess" online,  tells the story of her very strange life in this hilarious memoir. She grew up in a small West Texas town with a father who was an amateur taxidermist and who's idea of fun was dropping a live bobcat into a family member's lap. I read this myself and then immediately turned around and started reading it aloud to my wife when she was cooking or we were in the car going somewhere. This became dangerous at times, when she was laughing so hard she almost had to pull over. Highly recommended!

2. Redshirts by John Scalzi (3/5). Funny & interesting science fiction novel, but probably my least favorite of John Scalzi's novels so far. This one looks at the redshirt ensigns on a galactic space cruiser on an exploration cruise. They realize they are dying at a fast pace and start trying to figure out why. I laughed out loud several times, but  didn't think that the whole thing held together all that well.

3. Wonder by R.J. Palacio (5/5). Wonderful children's/young adult book about a physically deformed boy entering the 5th grade. His parents decide to enroll him in school instead of homeschooling him. The book changes narrators several time, giving a well rounded view if his life. Heartwarming and a good lesson for kids without hitting you over the head with it. This book has one of the best cover designs I have seen recently.

4. Among Others by Jo Walton (4/5).  Excellent fantasy novel about a 15 year old girl at a boarding school in England in 1979. A confrontation with her mother, who may or may not be a witch, has left her crippled and her twin sister dead. Her escape from this world are the science fiction novels that she reads, many of which I read during the same period. I really enjoyed reading this novel, but will have to go back and reread the ending at some point - I found it a bit confusing. Winner of the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

5. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (5/5). Wow! An excellent thriller with many twists and turns. One of the best thrillers I have read in a long tie. It is well crafted and filled with unforgettable characters that you never quite know how you feel about. A man comes home from work one day to find blood on the floor and his wife missing. We hear the wife's voice through her diaries, and the husband narrates his experiences as he tries to figure out what happened to her.

6. Ballgame! by Josh Lewin (3/5).  Good memoir by Josh Lewin, the TV play by play guy for the Texas Rangers for many years. An interesting look at his early career and good behind the scenes stuff on how the Texas Rangers finally became a MLB power. He and Tom Grieve made an excellent broadcasting team for the Rangers, it was a sad day when they did not re-sign him 2 years ago.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars
by Peter Heller
2012 Knopf
Rating 5/5

      A poetic post-apocalyptic story? This is it! This debut novel by Peter Heller is set in the Rocky Mountains after a super-flu epidemic has killed off almost everyone, This is an amazing mixture of poetic reflection, beautiful writing about nature & some amazing intense action. The hero, Hig, is an amateur pilot, who maintains the perimeter by flying patrol in his aging Cessna with his faithful dog, Jasper. His partner in survival is Bangley, a former neighbor who is a survivalist and weapons expert.
     After a hunting trip that goes bad, Hig, takes off an a mission to find a mysterious voice he heard on the radio years before. The book really takes off here and Hig's life changes profoundly. At times, "The Dog Stars" is every bit as depressing as McCarthy's "The Road", but there is a sense of hopefulness that makes this a joy to read. This is a book that makes me want to go fishing and to learn how to fly a plane. It is also a  book that I wanted to go on long after I finished reading it.
     Part of my favorite review of the book - "In the midst of all the devastation, Heller shows us the stunning beauty of the natural world. The pages of “The Dog Stars” are damp with grief for what is lost and can never be recovered. But there are moments of unexpected happiness, of real human interaction, infused with love and hope, like the twinkling of a star we might wish upon, which makes this end-of-the-world novel more like a rapturous beginning.” – San Francisco Chronicle.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Some Quick Reviews

   I have let myself fall behind on the book reviews, so here are some short ones to catch up a bit.

1. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield (Rating 5/5). This is an amazing book about an out of work preacher's family in 1956 Arkansas. Financial problems force them to move in with his in-laws. Great characters and story make this feel like a worthy successor to "The Help". The little girl named Swan Lake (yes, really) has much of the feel of Scout from "To Kill A Mockingbird". One of the best of the year. My friend Lesley wrote a great review that led me to read this. You can check out her review here.

2. In One Person by John Irving (Rating 3/5). The newest novel by one of my favorite authors was a disappointment. I was intrigued by the plot, but could not get interested in the characters. This is the story of a bisexual man's life, it is especially heartbreaking during the AIDS breakout of the 1980s. Irving's writing is excellent as usual, but several themes from previous books are repeated here.

3. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown by Paul Malmont (Rating 3/5). A fun thriller set during World War II featuring a team of real life science fiction writers (including Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague deCamp, and L. Ron Hubbard) on a military mission that involves the secret history of Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison, an imminent Nazi threat, and more. The author did a lot of research and it was a good read, but then the ending didn't quite hold up for me.

4. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (Rating (2/5). Well reviewed fiction about a young woman among a group of people in a lifeboat after their ship is sunk in the Atlantic in 1914. Intriguing at first, with it's story of survival and conflict in the lifeboat, but it soon bogs down with a courtroom drama.  

5. Alpha by Greg Rucka (Rating (3.5/5). Excellent thriller - think "Die Hard" at Disneyland. The new head of security at a large California theme park must stop a terrorist attack the same day that his ex-wife and daughter are visiting the park. Well plotted, edge of your seat action - would make a great movie.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Telegraph Avenue

Telegraph Avenue
by Michael Chabon
2012 Harper
Rating 4.5/5
Received an E-galley from the publisher.

     Finally, one of my 10 most anticipated books of 2012, that lived up to my hype. While this Michael Chabon novel isn't on the level of the Pulitzer Prize winning "The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier and Clay", it is nonetheless a wonderful read.
     Telegraph Avenue is the name of a street in a neighborhood of Berkeley, CA nicknamed Brokeland. It is home to a fascinating group of characters that populate this book. The book is set in and around Brokeland Records, a vintage record store owned by Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe. They find out that a new superstore with a large music section is planning on opening in the neighborhood. While it will bring many badly needed jobs to the area, it will also almost certainly put Brokeland Records out of business. There are many other story lines going on throughout the book featuring various other friends and family, including Nat's gay, Tarantino obsessed teenage son.
     I loved the characters (including a charismatic parrot) and the dialogue rang true to me, peppered with references to old jazz and R&B, comic books, and cult films. "Telegraph Avenue" is one of those books that makes you miss the characters once it is over.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


by Liz Moore
2012 W.W. Norton
Rating: 4/5
Received an E-galley from the publisher.

"Heft" is a moving, well written story of two people - a morbidly obese man who has not left his home in 10 years and a teenage boy dealing with an alcoholic mother. The two are not aware of each other's existence, but are connected by a mutual person in their lives. Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds never leaves his home. A former student gets in touch with him and he starts making changes in his life, hiring a maid to help him get his home ready for a possible visitor. Unexpectedly, this contact with this teenager who comes to clean comes to mean more to him then he expected.
     In another part of New York, Kel Keller is the poor kid in a rich school with a promising baseball career. The biggest stumbling block in his life is his alcoholic mother whom he has to care for. As she gets worse, his personal & athletic lives deteriorate.
     The two characters are sympathetic, but not entirely likable. But as the book goes on, you grow to love and root for them both. Their story shows that there are different definitions for "family". As I hit the last fourth of the book, I could not put it down. Highly recommended. I just wish the book had been about 5 pages longer, it ends somewhat abruptly. The San Francisco Chronicle said: “Few novelists of recent memory have put our bleak isolation into words as clearly as Liz Moore does in her new novel.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers
By Katherine Boo
2012 Random House
Rating: 5/5

     This true story of life in a slum in Mumbai, India is one of the most beautifully written and devastating non-fiction books I have ever read. It follows several families that live in a slum in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement close to luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. The main person that we follow is Abdul, an enterprising Muslim teen who works everyday gathering the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. As the book progresses, he is accused of a horrible crime and we see the effects on his family as well as others in the settlement.
     The author is married to an Indian native and lives both there and in the United States. She spent 3 years researching this book, gathering documents and interviewing the people over and over again. Her writing is wonderful, I was hanging on every word. The book showed that razor thin edge between hope and disaster. The outlook on life that some of these people have in spite of their conditions are breathtaking. It is a book that is both inspirational and disturbing at once. The amount of corruption in local and national government in India is hard to take.
     One of the reviews called it Dickensian, which did not occur to me as I was reading it, but is very apt  The Washington Post review said: "It is astonishing on several levels: as a worm’s-eye view of the “undercity” of one of the world’s largest metropolises; as an intensely reported, deeply felt account of the lives, hopes and fears of people traditionally excluded from literate narratives; as a story that truly hasn’t been told before, at least not about India and not by a foreigner. But most of all, it is astonishing that it exists at all…. a searing account, in effective and racy prose, that reads like a thrilling novel but packs a punch Sinclair Lewis might have envied.” I highly recommend this book for a look into a culture we know all too little about.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


by Nick Harkaway
2012 by Knopf
Rating: 4/5

     I loved Harkaway's "The Gone Away World", it was one of the most fun books that I have ever read. I had a lot of fun with this one too, but it wasn't quite as good. I still loved exploring his world and fascinating characters.
     Joe Spork, the son of one of London's most successful criminals, wants nothing to do with his dead father's lifestyle. He just want to run his repair shop for clockwork machines. Unfortunately, his past catches up with him and he is thrust into an adventure that may involve him saving the world. Joe is an everyman character, not the most exciting person in the book, but the easiest to identify with. He is surrounded by a cast of amazing & strange people, including Edie Bannister, an 80 something former British super-spy and her aging, blind, and somewhat noxious pug.
     This is a hard book to categorize, it is a mystery/thriller, science fiction, historical, love stories. "Angelmaker" and "Gone Away World" both are closer to a more grounded "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" then anything else I can think of. "Gone Away World" was a near perfect book in my opinion, this one seems a bit padded, but still was a great read. Here is one of my favorite quotes about it, from the author of one of my favorites from 2010: “A puzzle box of a novel as fascinating as the clockwork bees it contains, filled with intrigue, espionage and creative use of trains. As if that were not enough to win my literary affection, Harkaway went and gave me a raging crush on a fictional lawyer.” - Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Red House

The Red House
by Mark Haddon
2012 Doubleday
Rating: 1/5
Received an E-galley from the publisher.

     I had "The Red House" on my list of most anticipated books of 2012. I absolutely love Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time" and I found his "A Spot of Bother" a fascinating, but disturbing look at a British family.
     Unfortunately, I didn't find anything likable about the characters or story in "The Red House". An estranged brother & sister and their families vacation together in the English countryside in an effort to get to know each other better.The book is somewhat similar to "A Spot of Bother", in that it deals with some not very likable people, but there is no sense of humor or any redeeming qualities here.
     Haddon is experimenting with narrative voice here, having all eight family members take turns in telling the story. The problem is that everyone of these people are selfish, nasty, and just plain mean to each other. I could not wait for this one to end. I will give Haddon another chance if he does another book, but this one was just not for me. Interestingly, Library Journal loved the book, but Publisher's Weekly didn't much care for it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Few Quick Reviews

     These are some short reviews of books I have read the last couple of months, but don't feel like writing a full blown reviews for. Several are worth reading, but just didn't blow me away.

1. Taken by Robert Crais (Rating 4/5). Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are partners in a private detective agency in LA. Crais has been telling their stories for years and a few years back began alternating between using one and then the other as the lead character. In this book, they are both top billed and tracking down a young couple kidnapped by smugglers of illegal aliens. This is one of Crais' best.

2. The Last Greatest Magician in the World by Jim Steinmeyer (Rating 3/5). A detailed, but sometimes slow biography of Howard Thurston, the last "Greatest Magician In the World". A contemporary of Houdini, Thurston had the biggest magic act and was considered the master magician of the time. The pressure to be the top act led to physical and financial problems for most of his life. An important book if you are interested in the history of magic.

3. Back To the Moon by Travis Taylor & Les Johnson (Rating 2/5). This science fiction novel had an interesting premise - America's return to the Moon in the 2020s. Unfortunately , the author is not much of a writer. The characters and dialogue are very dry.    

4. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (Rating 3/5). Well reviewed and best selling young adult book about two teens with cancer. The book is well written and has very good characters, but the ending was a bit weak for me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master's Son
by Adam Johnson
Random House 2012
Rating 4/5

     Pak Jun Do grows up in an orphanage in North Korea. The man he believes to be his father runs the place and Jun Do keeps the boys in line. Later he become a tunnel rat, making clandestine trips to both Japan and South Korea, and later is included on a diplomatic visit to Texas. I found this a fascinating look at the culture of North Korea, one I knew very little about. Propaganda is a big part of the narrative and sometimes loudspeaker announcements are used to fill in back story. There are time jumps and changes in the characters that tell the story that can be confusing, but to me that added to the sense of mystery and wonder of the story. In some ways, this is a fairy tale of what a simple man can accomplish.
     The Washington Post review said “A great novel can take implausible fact and turn it into entirely believable fiction. That’s the genius of The Orphan Master’s Son." and I agree completely. The things that happen in this novel are sometimes completely unbelievable, but somehow you just accept them as part of Jun Do's life. Despair, starvation, and brutal torture are also a part of his story, but in the long run, I found it an uplifting book.   

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

10 Most Anticpated Books In 2012

     Just a quick post of the books that I am most looking forward to in 2012. These all come out in the first 6-7 months of the year, so there are probably some exciting titles coming out later in the year that I just haven't seen any info on yet. In no particular order:

1. Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. I loved his "The Gone-Away World"; wonderful post apocalyptic science fiction, with a touch of Douglas Adams. The new one is described by the publisher as "blistering gangster noir meets howling absurdist comedy as the forces of good square off against the forces of evil, and only an unassuming clockwork repairman and an octogenarian former superspy can save the world from total destruction." Your bit of book trivia for the day - Nick Harkaway is the son of John le Carre.

2. The Twelve by Justin Cronin. The second book of a proposed trilogy that stated with "The Passage" in 2010. Another post apocalyptic novel, this one with the few surviving humans taking on genetically mutants with many of the attributes of vampires. One of the more literary horror novels that you will read.

3. In One Person by John Irving. A new John Irving? Now if only Pat Conroy had a new one this year too. Irving can do almost no wrong in my eyes and I can't wait for this new one. This title is "an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man who is dedicated to making himself “worthwhile.” Going to see John Irving speak in Dallas to promote the book this Spring. Woohoo!

4. Redshirts by John Scalzi. One of the best science fiction writers working today. His books are adventures that make you think and almost always laugh out loud. Reminiscent of Robert Heinlein, no doubt one of the things that attracts me to his writing. This one is told from the point of view of one of those poor saps on an away mission wearing a red shirt.

5. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. Another author whose every work I have enjoyed reading. Not a lot of info on this one, but it takes place in the title area of San Francisco and involves a record store. Good enough for me. If you haven't yet, check out Chabon's "The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay".

6. Gold by Chris Cleave. The author of "Little Bee" looks at two childhood friends that are now competitors in the Olympics. Sounds intriguing to me, and comes out right before the start of the London Games.

7. Bridge Of Clay by Marcus Zusak. The author of the amazing "The Book Thief" tells a story he describes as "about a boy building a bridge and wanting it to be perfect. He wants to achieve greatness with this bridge, and the question is whether it will survive when the river floods." He has been working on this for more then 10 years which could mean something really special or something really overwritten.

8. They Eat Puppies, Don't They? by Christopher Buckley. The son of William F. Buckley writes some of the funniest and most biting political satire out there. Two lobbyists attempting to gain support for a new weapons system, start a rumor that the Chinese are trying to assassinate the Dalai Lama. A political crisis (and I hope laughs) ensue.

9. The Red House by Mark Haddon. Haddon started out as a children's author, but both of his adult books, "The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night Time" and "A Spot of Bother" are favorites of mine. "The Red House" is the story of two connected and chaotic families sharing a vacation home."

10. Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore. One of the funniest writers around follows a young baker-painter as he joins the dapper  Henri Toulouse-Lautrec on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the supposed “suicide” of Vincent van Gogh.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Family Fang

The Family Fang
by Kevin Wilson
2011 Ecco Books
Rating 4/5

     It took multiple good reviews and 2 friend's recommendations to get me to read this one, it just didn't sound like it would be something I liked. It turned out to be one of the more fun books I read in 2011. All four members of the family are funny and at least a little insane, but the kids are people it would be fun to hang out with.
     Caleb and Camille Fang and their children Annie and Buster work together as performance artists. They stage strange pieces, usually in shopping malls, involving unwitting shopkeepers and customers alike. The family films everything with hidden cameras and has become wildly popular in the art world. The book alternates between looking back at these performances and how Annie and Buster are dealing with life as adults. Annie is a mid level actress whose career seems to be unraveling and Buster is a journalist with 2 novels that were not big sellers.
     As much as they want to escape the Fang legacy, they are drawn back to their parent's home and into what could be the grand finale of their career. I found myself laughing out loud several times as I read this, and then being drawn into the drama of Annie and Buster's lives. At 320 pages, this novel was over much too quickly for me.
     I like the Miami Herald's review: “[A] wildly original new novel…The Family Fang is bizarre, unique, unerringly comic, breathtakingly wonderful.”
     I think that this could make an amazing film, Nicole Kidman has already optioned tt. I would hope that if she is going to appear in it, she would be the mother and not try to play the adult daughter.

Top 10 Books of 2011

   Sorry it has been so long since I posted here, but another retail Christmas seemed to suck up all of my time. 2011 was a fantastic year of reading for me, I read 73 books - averaging 1.4 books a week. Any of my top three books this year could have been a number one in another year, they were that strong. You can click on the title of the books to see my original review of the books.

1. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. A beautifully written debut novel about so much more then just baseball. Reminded me of some of John Irving's best work. This finished on several Top 10 lists for the year and Amazon picked it as the book of the year.

2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. As much fun as I have had reading a book in many years. I have started drifting back into more science fiction the last couple of years and have been enjoying it immensely. This isn't any great literary work, but I had a grin on my face from page one.

3. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. Westerns have never been one of my favorite genres, I can only think of one other true Western appearing on one of my Top 10s over the last 10 years. Quirky characters, amazing dialogue, some major weirdness - the Coen brothers really need to make this into a movie.

4. Swamplandia by Karen Russell. Another wonderful debut novel about a family of fake American Indians running a two bit alligator themed park. A real park, Gatorland, was a favorite destination when I was a kid and that drew me to this title. At times laugh out loud funny and at least once disturbing enough to make me want to put it down and walk away. But I could not leave these characters for long. One of the NY Times 10 best books of 2011.

5. Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt. Great children's book about finding your own strengths in life. It also works as a love letter to librarians and art. Wonderful read even for adults.

6. 11/22/63 by Stephen King. One of the best books of King's career - great sales and fantastic reviews. I loved the feel of small town life in Josie, Texas. Dallas and Fort Worth don't fare very well in the story, but feel real. Don't think of it as time travel story, or a horror novel, or a JFK history, it is just an amazingly well told story. One of the NY Times 10 best books of 2011.

7. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. Very cool story of a family of performance artists. Alternates between when the kids were young and their later lives. These are probably the literary characters from this year's books that I would most like to meet in real life. Finished on Top 10 lists by Esquire, Time, People, and Kirkus Reviews.

8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Not a very plot heavy book, but an amazing setting and enticing characters. I would love to be able to find and visit the Night Circus one day. A magical book for adults who love the worlds of Harry Potter and Ray Bradbury

9. Nightwoods by Charles Frazier. I have very much enjoyed all three of Frazier's novels, with "Cold Mountain" being one of my all time favorites. This is a scaled down story compared to his others and the only one set in more modern times, but still a great read. Not much dialogue, these characters aren't very talkative, but a beautiful setting and wonderful adventure.

10. Once Upon A River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. A teenage girl lives on her own along a Michigan river after her father dies. At first depending too much on men she meets along the river, then slowly learning to live independently. The river is as much a character in this one as Margo.

     A few honorable mentions: "Fuzzy Nation" by John Scalzi, "Iron House" by John Hart, "Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher, "The Floor of Heaven" by Howard Blum, and "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides. Oh, and jeers to "Micro" by Michael Chrichton and Richard Preston, easily the worst book I read this year - avoid it at all costs!