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Top of the Heap 2013 December 17, 2013

Posted by Maureen in Fiction, First Novel, Non-Fiction, Thoughtful Ramblings, Top Ten.
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So, another year come and gone; hard to believe. If you missed any of these great books, be sure to take the time in 2014 to catch up! Happy Holidays!

First, the fiction…

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

A spectacular first novel that should not be missed. Presents the story of Auggie, a young boy who is born with pronounced facial deformities. Due to his condition, his parents home-school him until 5th grade when they decide it is time for him to face the real world at school. Auggie must deal with not only his own feelings about his appearance, but with the reaction and subsequent treatment at the hands of others because of it. Geared toward tweens and teens but should be required reading for all. A real lesson in humility and tolerance.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Another stunning first novel. Kent visited Iceland as a student and heard about the legend of a woman named Agnus Magnúsdóttir – the last woman to be executed in that country in 1829. Her book is a fictionalized account of Agnes’ life after her conviction when she is placed on a rural farm in the north of Iceland where she awaits her death sentence. The descriptions of the barren, icy landscape and the meager human existence intertwined with the mysterious story of Agnes and the murder she is accused of committing make for compelling reading. One of my favorites this year.

The Returned by Jason Mott

Wow, this one sticks with you! All over the world, people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. Just walking back through the doors to their homes as if they never left. How is this happening? Why is this happening? Though at first it seems wonderful as people are reunited with loved ones they have lost, a larger ethical question looms. Is this right? Are these people dangerous? Are they really human? A special bureau is created to handle “the Returned,” to ferry them to their families and help them re-integrate back into society. But not everyone wants them back. And they are willing to go to great lengths to keep them at bay. A thought-provoking first novel which has been developed for television; it will be titled “Resurrection” and debut in March 2014.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

If you like dark psychological books, this one is for you. The story of two brothers and their families and the horrible event that has the adults meeting for dinner in an upscale Amsterdam restaurant. Paul, the father of fifteen-year-old Michel, is a mentally unstable but generally well-meaning father. His brother Serge is an up-and-coming politician currently running for prime minister. Over the course of their meal, family history and sinister secrets are revealed that will change everyone’s lives forever. This book reveals itself slowly but as the suspense continues to build, you will not be able to put it down. Gripping.

Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

A dishelved private eye with a domestic situation and his new temporary secretary who is whip smart get involved in the sensationalized death of a famous supermodel by request of an old childhood friend. Written by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym, this book is actually quite entertaining and definitely worth a read. She’s still got it!

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A classic that I am now reading with my daughter! A book worth sharing.

Now the Nonfiction!

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higshida

Originally written in 2007 by a thirteen-year-old nonverbal Japanese young man with autism, this book is his attempt to explain to the outside world why he acts the way he does. David Mitchell (author of Cloud Atlas) and his wife KA Yoshida discovered the book and decided to translate the work into English. Broken into small “chapters,” the book addresses some of the most obvious behaviors Naoki exhibits. It is fascinating to read his reasons behind the behaviors and upon doing so, really come to realize the self-awareness he possesses. A very brief but very powerful book.

Remodelista by Julie Carlson

Wow is this a beautiful book on design! Tons of wonderful photographs and ideas! All I need now is a bunch of free time and a winning (billion dollar) lottery ticket!

Square Peg: My Story and What it Means for Raising Innovators, Visionaries, and Out-of-the-Box Thinkers by L. Todd Rose

This is one fascinating and inspiring book. The author, who began as a middle school troublemaker and moved on to being a high school dropout and teenage father, is now on the faculty at Harvard. In this book, he argues that the education system in the United States is failing some of our best and brightest, just because they think differently or cannot sit still. Makes you wonder.

What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits & Pieces by Katie Quinn Davies

I loved this book by photographer and food blogger Quinn for it’s spectacular photographs and interesting recipes. It is like taking a personal journey through her eyes into the land of good food. Enjoy!

—Maureen

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