I wasn't sure if I wanted to do a 'Best Of' post. Then I read my friend Julia's favorites post and decided, why not? I told her imitation is flattery and set about trying to narrow my list to just five. Now that was the hard part.
1. The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue - I read this book back in February and I am still touched - and slightly haunted - by it. Ms. Domingue's writing is rich, imaginative and seemed well thought out to me. Once I was done with the book, I immediately went on the hunt for more books by this author. Imagine my surprise to learn that this was her one - and so far, only - work of fiction. According to her official website, the second book is in the works. I know I am looking forward to reading more by Ronlyn Domingue. If you enjoy a mix of history, a touch of romance and loss, and a bit of mysticism - then I definitely recommend this book.
2. Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger - This was an ARC that I read in January for Barnes and Nobles First Look program. I am still so grateful for the opportunity I was given to read and review this book. I count this book among my all-time favorites. The settings are exquisite and I love the way Mr. Monninger used nature as a sort of character in the book. You know from the first pages of the book that the story is, to some degree, about loss but the love, the natural settings and the exquisite attention to detail are well-worth the journey.
3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - I am drawn to books - fiction and nonfiction - about World War 2. This was a horiffic and abyssmal time in human history but I feel that it is a time we should not be allowed to forget and sweep under a rug. Guernsey is a tiny island in the English channel that was occupied by the Nazis during WW2. This book is about a group of the Guernsey islanders who refused to give up in the face of tyranny. I cried reading this book but I also found hope in it. I was reminded of the strength of the human spirit. The funny thing is - it took me three tries to really get into this book. However, once I got into it - I could not put it down.
4. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson - I discovered Mr. Larsson and his Millenium series this year. While I mostly enjoyed the entire series (some of it was admittedly a bit too graphic for me) I really loved the second book in the trilogy. Lisbeth Salander is a strong and rather eccentric character and I just loved her. Her character made the series for me and I felt she shined the absolute most in this book - which is why it is one of my favorite reads of the year. Sadly, we won't be receiving any more books from the now deceased Larsson, but he left us with a most intriguing trilogy of books and one of the best female characters in a long time.
5. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein - This is another book that made me cry - quite a lot, in fact - and had moments of loss that I pretty much knew were coming. However, it was such a unique book and I adore the fact that it was told from the perspective of a dog. I know there are other stories about dogs and maybe even some from the dog POV but this is the first I've read. Enzo (the dog) so clearly loves and adores his person Denny. He knows things that are going to occur in Denny's life before he does (usually because of his sense of smell) but he can't do anything to warn him. He can only be there for Denny in the most loving and supportive way possible as his human deals with his life. It's just a beautiful story and I loved it so much. There is supposedly a movie version of the book coming in 2012. I will be interested in seeing how the book translates to film.
In addition to these amazing books, I discovered three more authors that I just adore. They are: Julia Quinn (she writes witty and beautiful romance novels that are filled with the strong characters I love), Sarah Addison Allen (mystical books with a touch of romance and a whole lot of human heart) and Stuart Neville (he wrote a book that opened my eyes to a lot of Irish history. It was brutal but also very intriguing). I will definitely be open to reading more books by any of these authors in this post.
I would love to know others' favorite books of the year.