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Senior Spectrum Newspaper
January 2018
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Senior Spectrum Publications

Eclectic Observer
by Janet Ross
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Ten Years of Great Reads 

Janet Ross
Janet Ross
books

Even though I've read more than 1100 books during the past ten years, in my estimation only 31 rate as truly exceptional. Recommending a great read is risky; what I have loved you may find a waste of time. With that in mind, only books available from the Washoe County Library System are on this list. More than a few are available in formats different from the hardcover version, sometimes in Large Print, as an electronic download, or an audio CD.

Beginning with 2008, Rick Bragg's Prince of Frogtown, the story of his search for his Alabama father, was both sweet, sad and silly. Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly, is a crime novel featuring the continuing characters of attorney Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch in a book I'd describe as Los Angeles noir. Tony Horwitz took quite a trip in his Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World in his adventure that includes “history, myth and misadventure”.

Two more crime novels were praiseworthy in 2009: David Hewson added to his series about Roman detective Nic Costa in Garden of Evil and Val McDermid's Darker Domain was a chilling police procedural set in Scotland. Best book for me that year, though, was Robert Sapolsky's The Primate's Memoir about his study of Baboon behavior in East Africa.

2010 was a good year for great reads. Alan Alda's autobiography, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and Other Things I've Learned, vied for first place with Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void about space travel by Mary Roach (if you like informative nonfiction laced with laugh-out-loud humor, check out all of Roach's titles). Aimee Bender wrote a charming novel about family secrets, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Elizabeth George, an American who writes British crime novels, added another Lynley and Haver to her series with Body of Death.

With an unusual title, Started Early, Took My Dog, Kate Atkinson provided a wild novel set in Leeds, Great Britain, for 2011. A pair of nonfiction books rounded out the year. David Farley produced An Irreverent Curiosity: in Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oldest Town; the title almost says it all. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Locks by Rebecca Skloot, tells the true story of an unwitting tissue donor (the descendant of slaves) and questions the medical ethics involved as Locks' cell line continues in medical research to this day.

2012 brought another Dublin murder squad book, The Faithful Place, in the series by Tana French. Rachel Joyce wrote one of my all-time favorite novels with her The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Harold walks from one end to England to the other ... and that's all I'll say about this charming, heartwarming book, saving its charming story for you to enjoy.

 

Wally Lamb produced another of his insightful, humorous novels in 2013. She's Come Undone cleverly deals with messed-up families. Will Schwalbe provides a true-to-life look at a different family, his own with his terminally ill Mother, in his End of Your Life Book Club. Canadian Louise Penny adds another Inspector Armand Gamache/Three Pines mystery set in Quebec titled How the Light Gets In.

Nicci French, not to be confused with Tana French, added to her Frieda Klein series in 2014 with Waiting for Wednesday. Klein is a psychotherapist who becomes involved in a serial murder investigation with lots of frightening moments. One of the funniest books I have ever read is by Swedish author, Jonas Jonasson. The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden is a novel with a wild set of characters and an even wilder plot. If you're familiar with Frances Mayes, you know her books about living in Tuscany. Under Magnolia: a Southern Memoir takes the reader back to her coming of age in America's deep South.

2015 brought Rinker Buck's real life adventure, The Oregon Trail: a New American Journey. Join Buck in his covered wagon for a trip worth taking. Rachel Joyce produced the companion book for her Harold Fry novel with The Love Song of Miss Queenie; another bittersweet novel. I was fascinated with Sy Montgomery's Soul of an Octopus: a Surprising Exploration into the Wonders of Consciousness. My admiration for the intelligence of the Octopus is now boundless. If you care about immigrants and what they endure to enter this country, John Vaillant's novel, Jaguar's Children, is the chilling story of being trapped and abandoned in a water truck on the way to the United States.

Humorist Dave Barry brightened 2016 with his loving (but, oh so funny) tribute to his Florida home in Best.State.Ever. Bill Bryson didn't disappoint with another of his humorous travel tales in The Road to Little Dribbling. (Almost everything from Bryson is worth a read.) Vaseem Khan produced a charming mystery featuring Inspector Chopra as he looks for the Koh-i-Noor diamond in Mumbai, India. The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown is great fun.

There are still books to read in 2017 as I write this, but three I want to recommend include native American Sherman Alexie's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: a Memoir. Michelle Kuo recounts her time with a special young man in Reading with Patrick: a Teacher, a Student, and a Life-changing Friendship. Finally, a novel that crosses a huge cultural divide, set in Saudi Arabia, Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris can expand one's horizons.

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May you never be without a good book to read and enjoy.