Thankful for Five-Star Bossy Favorites
I'm always thankful for books and reading, so I wanted to reshare some of my five-star reads from the past in case you need a great long-weekend read or book gift idea.
A five-star read is a special one for me. It may make me feel all the feelings, and/or may be intriguing and make me think, and it's usually engaging enough that it's tough for me to put down.
Which standout books have you read this year? Do you have all-time favorites you always recommend to others? What makes them your favorites?
01 The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
This book! This book is about everything. Family, pain, love, music, influence, trust, wonder, brutality, invention, discovery, loyalty, and most of all, faith—in some cases, lost and found again. And also...aliens.
In The Sparrow, humans find proof of extraterrestrial life, and the UN begins deliberating about those on Earth should proceed.
Meanwhile, a small team from the Society of Jesus quickly strikes out on its own to approach the planet first. The life they find there is wondrous and overwhelming, and it forces them to rethink their assumptions about humanity and the universe.
I don’t usually read books again, but I could use a copy of my own to highlight upon rereading. The Sparrow took a little time to get going for me, but then I was blown away.
For my full review of this book, please see The Sparrow.
02 Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
I adored this young adult LGBTQ+ love story by Christina Lauren (the pen name for the writing team Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings).
The characters in Autoboyography are thoughtful and young and funny and defiant but good, and they make mistakes and pay for them and live within their awful messed-up moments and their painful consequences, and they try to figure out their lives as teenagers must.
They feel first love and angst so deeply and talk about it so so SO much, and somehow it wasn’t insufferable to read about at all, it was just perfect and made me laugh (and at one point cry, ahem).
The Autoboyography dialogue is fantastic and witty but feels effortless and like it comes from actual teenagers--a difficult tone to pin down.
This is fantastic contemporary young adult fiction.
Click here for my full review of Autoboyography.
03 When We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood
In 1963 the Woods were a typical Catholic immigrant family in Mexico, Maine. But when Monica's father dies suddenly, Monica and her three sisters begin to drift, and the family seems in danger of feeling unmoored forever.
When We Were the Kennedys is a memoir about grieving deeply, leaning on family and community in a crisis and in common suffering, and figuring out the impossible: how to move on after devastating tragedy.
Wood gorgeously evokes the many characters and unfathomable events that changed her family's existence--as well as that of her community and the entire country--in 1963.
I loved this fantastic memoir! Wood's memoir is heartwarming and funny and tragic and vivid. I ate it up in a single day.
For my full review, please see When We Were the Kennedys.
04 Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
Twelve-year-old Edward Adler is the sole survivor of a plane crash. He struggles to move forward, but he feels stuck, as though part of him will always be lost.
Edward tries on the mantle of taking responsibility for every life lost; he wallows in the despair of others and their hopes that he will pursue their loved ones’ lost dreams and right their wrongs; then he messily works out how to create his own lucky, unshackled, truest life.
Dear Edward was so much more than I expected, but thankfully Napolitano didn’t rely solely on her book’s promising premise. She wrote the hell out of this and created an irresistible and true-feeling character in Edward. Nothing is too easy here, nor is it ever melodramatic in Napolitano’s hands.
I loved this book. I kept thinking about it while I was doing other things, and I just wanted to get back to Edward to find out how things were going.
I read this book with my longtime book club. For my full review, please see Dear Edward.
05 The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati
In The Gilded Hour, Donati shapes a historical fiction story about an eccentric family and a broad surrounding cast of characters--and it's all centered around independent women with unconventional women's roles in society in nineteenth century New York City.
The Gilded Hour explores how these women's abilities and constraints intersect with women's rights of the time period, social responsibility, and conventions, all in an immensely readable book rich in period detail, great dialogue, and satisfying elements of love, mystery, and searches for justice.
I felt that a couple of important underlying plot lines remained oddly unresolved at the end--even keeping in mind that there's a second book in Donati's Waverly Place series, Where the Light Enters. However, I just loved this story and Donati's storytelling too much to let it cloud my gleeful reading experience.
I loved digging into this 750-page historical fiction wonder.
For my full review, please see The Gilded Hour.
06 Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
I was going to be happy with a light, surface-level peek at therapy and at the ins and outs of a therapist's providing and receiving therapy. But Maybe You Should Talk to Someone quickly grows into a network of sometimes interconnected and consistently meaningful searches for purpose and peace that surprised me.
Gottlieb says therapy is about asking, "Who am I? What do I want? What's in my way?" She also says "Everyone needs to hear that other person's voice saying, 'I believe in you. I can see possibilities that you might not see quite yet. I imagine that something different can happen, in some form or another. ' In therapy we say, 'Let's edit your story.'"
I loved that, and this "editing of the story" is apparent in Gottlieb's own therapy experience and in her experiences with her patients.
There's beautiful exploration in Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed of dying, death, appreciating the beauty of the impermanence of our lives, planning for loved ones after our death, and living life fully.
For my full review, please see Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.