High­lights from any year but 2015

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Den­ver Post staff

So, how many books have you read so far this year?

Kid­ding! We know it’s only the se­cond week of the year and you may have spent most of the first week try­ing to fig­ure out how to get your new dig­i­tal devices to work.

Now, though, it’s time to think about read­ing goals for the year, and we find that there’s no bet­ter way to get mo­ti­vated for that than to look back at what we loved last year.

We’re also fi­nally freed from that end-of-the-year dis­ease that causes laser-fo­cus on books pub­lished in the pre­vi­ous 12 months — be­cause who only reads books from the cur­rent year?

Here, our staff shares some fa­vorite re­cent reads re­gard­less of pub­li­ca­tion date, and some read­ing res­o­lu­tions to go with them.

“The Weird Sis­ters” by Eleanor Brown (2011)

This tale of three sis­ters by Eleanor Brown, who lives in High­lands Ranch, has just the right amount of fun and wicked­ness to bal­ance the ques­tions about fam­ily, re­la­tion­ships and pur­pose. It be­gins with the daugh­ters of a pre-em­i­nent scholar of Shake­speare run­ning away to home, rather than from it. (Though ... well, no spoil­ers.) Each sis­ter has her se­cret, but of course you’ll have to wait for the third act to see how it all pans out. Read it now, be­cause Brown’s next book is out this sum­mer (see below).

“One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude” by Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez (1967)

Some­times it takes awhile to get around to the clas­sics. (Cut me some slack, this

book was first pub­lished be­fore I was born.) I lost my­self in this novel in the same way I’d es­cape into books when I was a kid, fully ab­sorbed in the beauty, tragedy and hu­man­ity of the tale. The re­peated fam­ily names can get con­fus­ing in this mag­i­cal-re­al­ism saga, but it’s still the best book I read in 2015.

Books I’m look­ing for­ward to read­ing in 2016:

• “The Light of Paris” by Eleanor Brown (July 2016)

• “Zero K” by Don DeLillo (May 2016)

• “The Mir­ror and the Light” by Hi­lary Man­tel (Maybe 2016? It was planned for last year, but didn’t quite make it.)

— Jenn Fields

“Amer­i­canah” by Chi­ma­manda Ngozi Adichie (2013)

What I love about be­ing in a book club is you end up read­ing works you might not have oth­er­wise picked up or known about. That was the case with this novel by a Nige­rian au­thor who also wrote “Half of a Yel­low Sun.” She tells the story of a young Nige­rian woman who comes to the United States for a univer­sity education and ends up work­ing and writ­ing a blog about her ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore re­turn­ing to her na­tive coun­try and her first lover 15 years later. It’s par­tic­u­larly timely with race and iden­tity be­ing front-burner is­sues in Amer­ica. The book un­der­scores what it is like to be part of a dou­ble mi­nor­ity and how one’s eth­nic­ity af­fects love, fam­ily and ev­ery­day re­la­tion­ships.

Look­ing for­ward to read­ing:

• “My Name is Lucy Bar­ton” by El­iz­a­beth Strout (Jan. 2016)

• “Life Af­ter Life” (2013) and “A God in Ru­ins” (2015), both by Kate Atkin­son

— Suzanne S. Brown

“Lone­some Dove” by Larry McMurtry (1985)

Sure, it’s an 800-plus-page Western about a cat­tle drive — I’m not ashamed to ad­mit I hes­i­tated a mo­ment be­fore pluck­ing it from my par­ents’ book­shelf this past spring — but Larry McMurtry’s 1985 epic is the kind of book you’re lucky to en­counter a hand­ful of times in your life. Just try not to get swept up in the ad­ven­ture, ro­mance, friend­ship and drama of Woodrow Call and Au­gus­tus McCrae’s last, great jour­ney. I failed, fan­tas­ti­cally.

“Sta­tion Eleven” by Emily St. John Man­del (2014)

Dystopian fic­tion may seem a dime a dozen lately, but don’t let that keep you from this in­ven­tive 2014 novel — my fa­vorite book­club book of 2015. Emily St. John Man­del weaves an in­cred­i­ble tale of the end of the world as we know it and a trav­el­ing troupe of per­form­ers who live by the words, bor­rowed from the TV show “Star Trek: Voy­ager,” “sur­vival is in­suf­fi­cient.”

Look­ing for­ward to read­ing:

• “The Good Lord Bird” by James McBride (2013)

• “The Se­cret Place” by Tana French (2014)

— Em­i­lie Rusch

“To Kill a Mock­ing­bird,” by Harper Lee (1960)

No, I didn’t read this Amer­i­can clas­sic on com­mu­nity and ju­di­cial racial con­flict back in high school, when I tech­ni­cally should have. But that worked out for the best. Read­ing “To Kill a Mock­ing­bird” just as protests erupted af­ter the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice cleared a white Fer­gu­son, Mo., po­lice of­fi­cer in the shoot­ing of an un­armed black man made Harper Lee’s beau­ti­fully writ­ten nar­ra­tive even more poignant. Would white lawyer At­ti­cus Finch’s de­fense of a black man have been more ef­fec­tive to­day? It’s a ques­tion you can’t help but ask.

“Eu­pho­ria,” by Lily King (2014)

Stranded at John F. Kennedy Air­port for five hours with no un­read book, I chose Lily King’s “Eu­pho­ria” from an emer­gency list of books text mes­saged by a friend. This tragic, ver­dant tale of love and ob­ses­sion is as tan­gled as the New Guinea jun­gles in which cul­tural an­thro­pol­o­gists Nell Stone, her hus­band Fen­wick Schuyler and their col­league An­drew Bank­son are work­ing, thick with sex­ual ten­sion and western anx­i­ety. It was an ex­hil­a­rat­ing read — even with­out the ben­e­fit of know­ing much about Mar­garet Mead and her two hus­bands, af­ter whom the main char­ac­ters are mod­eled.

“The Color of Wa­ter: A Black Man’s Trib­ute to His White Mother,” by James McBride (1995)

This mem­oir of jazz mu­si­cian, jour­nal­ist and nov­el­ist James McBride ex­plores iden­tity as de­fined by choice and com­mu­nity. The story moves flu­idly be­tween the per­cep­tions of McBride as he nav­i­gates to adult­hood from child­hood in hard New York City poverty and his mother’s nar­ra­tive, re­counted in her own voice, as she tran­si­tions from be­ing the abused daugh­ter of an im­mi­grant Ortho­dox Jewish rabbi in south­east Vir­ginia to be­ing the mother of 12 black chil­dren who fi­nally finds the love of God in the Bap­tist church.

Look­ing for­ward to read­ing:

• “In­fi­nite Jest,” by David Foster Wal­lace (1996)

• “The Buried Gi­ant,” by Kazuo Ishig­uro (2015)

— Dana Coffield

“How to Live Safely in a Sci­ence Fic­tional Uni­verse” by Charles Yu (2010)

The off­beat, dead­pan sci­ence fic­tion crafted here of­ten draws com­par­isons to Dou­glas Adams (“The Hitch­hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”), and that’s not un­fair, but what’s on of­fer here is deeper and more search­ing than the time­less slap­stick goofs of “Guide.”

Yu’s nar­ra­tor, also named Charles Yu, is a lonely timemachine me­chanic with a mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­peared father, slid­ing through uni­verses with strange rules, pity­ing peo­ple who don’t un­der­stand the lim­its of time travel.

“The Left Hand of Dark­ness” by Ur­sula K. Le Guin (1969)

This sci­ence-fic­tion leg­end is less space­far­ing, more space fan­tasy; less tech­nol­ogy, more phi­los­o­phy. A hu­man am­bas­sador (or mis­sion­ary?) vis­its a planet in­hab­ited by peo­ple bi­o­log­i­cally sim­i­lar to known hu­mans, apart from their anatomy and pro­cre­ation, and there­fore their re­la­tion­ship with gen­der.

How much that — along with other el­e­ments of their en­v­iorn­ment — in­forms their cul­ture is an on­go­ing ques­tion for the am­bas­sador, whose job it is to draw them into the galaxy’s ever-ex­pand­ing civ­i­liza­tion.

Look­ing for­ward to read­ing:

• “The Se­cret Lives of Web Pages” by Paul Ford (June 2016) • “They May Not Mean To, But They Do: A Novel” by Cath­leen Schine (June 2016) • “Death’s End” by Liu Cixin (Au­gust 2016)

— Dave Bur­dick

“All the Light We Can­not See” by An­thony Do­err (2014)

Beau­ti­ful, even po­etic lan­guage, glo­ri­ous im­agery in a well-con­structed novel that’s an easy read but so rich you don’t want to rush it. It’s too lim­it­ing to call Do­err’s cre­ation a war novel. It’s also a ro­man­tic, philo­soph­i­cal med­i­ta­tion on time and hu­man­ity.

“The Cir­cle” by Dave Eg­gers (2013)

A tad ob­vi­ous at times, but this tale of life in­side the world’s most pow­er­ful In­ter­net com­pany is spot on. Eg­gers brings hu­mor and valid con­cerns to mat­ters of pri­vacy, sur­veil­lance, cor­po­rate greed, am­bi­tion and the fu­ture of democ­racy, no less. Read it be­fore the movie comes out this year.

Look­ing for­ward to read­ing:

• “War and Peace” by Leo Tol­stoy (1869) — An eight-hour BBC adap­ta­tion of the epic will be simul­cast on A&E, Life­time and His­tory Chan­nel, in four two-hour in­stall­ments, be­gin­ning Jan. 18. If I start read­ing now, can I beat the tele­cast?

— Joanne Ostrow

“Cre­at­ing the Worlds of Star Wars: 365 Days” by John Knoll (2012)

My ob­ses­sion with be­hind-thescenes tid­bits on the mak­ing of the first six “Star Wars” films led me to gorge on this weighty (744 pages!), pic­ture-heavy book, which reads like a gen­eral-au­di­ence ver­sion of my fa­vorite spe­cial ef­fects pe­ri­od­i­cal, Cine­fex. It also dou­bled as a tech-minded bit of home­work for the De­cem­ber re­lease of “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awak­ens,” and one writ­ten by a man deeply in the know, Os­car-nom­i­nated In­dus­trial Light & Magic wizard John Knoll.

“The Hob­bit: The Bat­tle of the Five Armies Chron­i­cles – Art & De­sign” by Weta Work­shop (2014)

Since I can’t seem to get enough pro­duc­tion in­tel on my fa­vorite sci-fi and fan­tasy films, the ex­tended edi­tion re­lease of “The Hob­bit: The Bat­tle of the Five Armies” in 2015 gave me an ex­cuse to re­visit the gor­geously hard­bound se­ries of “The Hob­bit: Chron­i­cles” books from New Zealand’s Weta Work­shop. This one, which cov­ers the fi­nal film in Peter Jack­son’s re­cent Mid­dleearth tril­ogy, delves with im­prob­a­ble and lov­ing de­tail into the artis­tic de­sign, sets, cos­tumes, crea­tures and more in the ad­mit­tedly dis­ap­point­ing but wildly am­bi­tious 2014 film.

“The Spirituality of Im­per­fec­tion: Sto­ry­telling and the Search for Mean­ing” by Ernest Kurtz and Kather­ine Ketcham (1993)

You don’t have to go through a ma­jor life event (as I did) to ap­pre­ci­ate the col­lected and globe­span­ning wis­dom in this book, which de­ploys He­brew, Greek, Mus­lim, Bud­dhist and Chris­tian prin­ci­ples in an at­tempt to em­brace life’s fun­da­men­tal para­doxes. Those averse to re­li­gion also needn’t fear the grab-bag of tales and com­men­tary, which al­low for a sort of take-it-or-leave-it free­dom of in­ter­pre­ta­tion for vir­tu­ally any reader.

Look­ing for­ward to read­ing:

• “Sick in the Head: Con­ver­sa­tions About Life and Com­edy” by Judd Apa­tow (2015)

• “Doc­tor Sleep” by Stephen King (2014)

• “Sil­ver Screen Fiend: Learn­ing About Life from an Ad­dic­tion to Film” by Pat­ton Oswalt (2015)

— John Wen­zel

“The United States of Arugula: How We Be­came a Gourmet Na­tion” by David Kamp (2006)

One of the big­gest rev­o­lu­tions in re­cent decades cen­ters around food, and it’s funny to think of a time when sushi was a strange and scary food in Amer­ica. I couldn’t put this book down — Kamp does a mas­ter­ful job of sto­ry­telling with a colorful cast of out­sized char­ac­ters who crafted the scene we know to­day. It blends culi­nary his­tory, food pol­i­tics, and pop­u­lar cul­ture in a way that ex­plains the Amer­i­can fas­ci­na­tion with the food scene.

Look­ing for­ward to read­ing:

• “All the Wild That Re­mains: Ed­ward Abbey, Wal­lace Steg­ner, and the Amer­i­can West” by David Gess­ner (2015)

• “Thir­teen Moons” by Charles Fra­zier (2007)

• “Arc­tic Dreams” by Barry Lopez (1986)

— Colleen O’Con­nor

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