Only books I read (about 50) are considered for this list. And, it goes without saying, there are many books out there that are fantastic reads, that I didn’t read. Some I wish I had read. Some I rejected for good reason or not.
The following good reads are listed in no particular order. I found these books interesting, thoughtful, well-written and enjoyable.
1. Some Luck by Jane Smiley
2. Early Warning by Jane Smiley
3. Golden Age by Jane Smiley
Smiley’s three novels trace the Langdon family over 100 years from their beginnings on an Iowa farm to the fate of scattered descendents throughout the United States. Every day life and epic issues coexist, not always peacefully, in this family saga.
4. The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck.
The nonfiction account of following the old Oregon Trail while driving a mule team and traveling in a wagon is intensely interesting, travel, history, adventure and fun.
5. Great Kitchens of the Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal.
A fun and imaginative novel following Eva Thorvald from her Minnesota roots to her fame as a unique chef. Each chapter features a single dish and a new events in her life, sometimes narrated by a family member or friend.
6. Walking With Abel: Journeys With the Nomads of the African Savannah by Anna Badkhen.
A mesmerizing and keenly observed journey with the nomadic herders of the African grasslands. This is nonfiction at its best taking to the reader to an unlikely place and life so different than one’s own.
7. The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks.
King David’s life in Second Iron Age Israel comes alive as never before in the hands of the skillful (favorite) novelist.
8. Nora Webster by Colm Toibin
This memorable novel takes the reader inside a woman’s grief. He writes with extraordinary insight and compassion.
9. Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson by S.C. Gwynne.
History more exciting than a novel. Written with care and clarity.
10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.
This novel set in the future is a National Book Award Finalist. Exciting, revealing and hopeful, it is beautifully written.
Honorable Mention: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Another memorable novel, just finished. I couldn’t quite kick any of the others off the list, but Me Before You is very good. Review upcoming. And, there is a sequel, After You.