So you’re one of those last minute shoppers and the clock is ticking. Might I suggest an Amazon gift card, perfect for loading books on to Kindle devices? It’s an easy gift to find for the reader-writer in your family–or for yourself, should you be needing some reading material. The following is my short list of book picks for 2016, not necessarily published this year but read by me in the past twelve months.
The Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons. The story centers around the case of a missing girl–gone for over a decade–and the protagonist, Gibson Vaughn, who sets out to find her. What makes it more complicated is his connection to the girl. His father worked on her father’s campaigns, so Vaughn, like an older brother, watched her grow up. But a decade later his father is dead, the girl remains missing, and her father, estranged from Vaughn, is a powerful vice president running for president. The story unfolds against the backdrop of political intrigue, which especially made for interesting reading in an election year.
As an editor, it’s hard to put aside the internal editor and enjoy reading a novel, but this story allowed me to simply be a reader. Several nights I stayed up too late turning page after page to find out what happened next–another indication of a good book.
The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate. Tandi Jo Reese is on the run from an abusive ex-husband with two children in tow when she ends up in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a safe place from her childhood. She rents a cottage from an old woman living in a spacious Victorian home that’s falling apart on the same property. After the woman’s death, she’s able to stay on by agreeing to clean the house and comes to know her former landlady, Iola, by the boxes of letters to God she left behind. Through reading the letters, Tandi Jo’s life changes for the better.
I had this on my book shelf for a few years, but late spring it caught my eye, and I promptly devoured it. For me this was the right book at the right time. It spoke to me personally on another level, offering hope and healing through Tandi Jo’s and Iola’s stories. Wingate’s beautiful, lyrical writing was icing on the cake.
The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter by Craig Lancaster. The story goes back and forth in time chronicling the relationship of would-be champion boxer Hugo Hunter and sportswriter Mark Westerly who covered his career for two decades. The title drew me in, and the wonderful descriptive writing of Lancaster kept me reading. Despite the fact that I have zero interest in the sport of boxing, the story pulled me in, and that surprised me. While there were a few slow spots in the story, the ending was satisfying.
Write. 10 Days to Overcome Writer’s Block. Period. by Karen E. Peterson. I bought this book about ten years ago and only skimmed it back then. At the time I was three and a half years into writing a novel with little desire to write. Fast forward ten years later, faced with the same writing dilemma, same unfinished novel, and I took this off my shelf with the vow to give it a try. Peterson is both writer and psychologist, and she uses her knowledge in both worlds to give writers insight into what is stopping the writer from writing. Through exercises and techniques, I learned more about what was blocking me, and since finishing the book this past summer, I have also finished writing my novel!
While I managed to read a dozen books this year–not including my day job of editing books–these are the ones that made an impression on me. I have a more ambitious reading plan for next year, so stay tuned.