Reading is one of my great life passions. It is a thrill to become totally immersed in a good book. As a member of two monthly book clubs, I enjoy most things I read, but each year come away with only a few books that I can say I truly loved. Below are the six I read in 2011 that I could not put down, and a couple that I’ve picked up in 2012 that are already on my favorite books list.
Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese; Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles–and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton; A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book—a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, “Nell” sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled.
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay; Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten-year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door to door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard—their secret hiding place—and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.
Room by Emma Donoghue; To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack’s curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave; This novel explains the intertwined fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple–journalists trying to repair their strained marriage with a free holiday–who should have stayed behind their resort’s walls. What happens on a Nigerian beach brings her into their world and forever alters the course of their lives.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand; The story is that of Louie Zamperini – a track and field star of the 1930’s, who participated in the Berlin olympics, was part of the US air force in WWII, was shot down over the ocean, was adrift in the Pacific for over a month, was held as a POW by the Japanese forces and finally made it back to his life and has had the courage to live it to its fullest.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford; Great to read after the above book, Unbroken, because it gives an entirely different perspective during the same time period in history. Chronicling the relationship between two 12 yr. olds, a Chinese boy, and Japanese girl in San Francisco in the early 1940’s. It provides a brief glimpse into what each culture had to face as American Immigrants in a bitter-sweet tale.
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, The Man Who Would Cure The World by Tracy Kidder; Compelling and inspiring, Paul Farmer sets out on his mission to cure infectious diseases, and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. From Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia, Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.” At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”–as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.
I cannot wait to delve into the next books that are lining up for 2012, and anticipate finding new favorites among them. The Tiger’s Wife, The Paris Wife, and Freedom are a few on my list. What is on your list? Please share your recent favorites. Did you find any that you loved?