January 19, 2012

My Top 5 Best Books List for 2011

 As I glanced back at my Shelfari bookshelf on this blog, it was fun to remember those books that really made an impact on me or enticed me to stay up way too late, reading away.  The books I’ve chosen as my favorites weren’t necessarily best-sellers or candidates for a college literature course, but each of them kept my attention and drew me into their stories.

1.       Unbroken by  L. Hillebrand.  You will never forget this book. Ever. You may find it difficult to believe everything you read in it, but it really is a true story about war and man's will to survive.  The story revolves around the life of Louis Zamperini, Olympic caliber runner before World War II intervenes.  He "joins up" and becomes an airman, eventually stationed in the islands of the Pacific.  Sometimes I had to put the book down to regroup and digest the superhuman feats accomplished by our servicemen, especially Louie and his cohorts. The atrocities imposed by the Japanese captors on our prisoners of war was just past inhumane.  This is the story of an American survivor, Louis Zamperini, one who could not be broken.  This is not a military strategy book - this is Louie's story. Unforgettable. 
2.       The series by Linda Castillo – Sworn to Silence, Pray for Silence, Breaking Silence.  These are murder mysteries that I didn’t want to put down.  An ex-Amish woman who has been shunned by her community, becomes a cop in Holmes County, Ohio, the center of Amish country.  How does it work when a horrific crime takes place there and she has to work with the Amish there who really like to take care of their own problems?    Some graphic descriptions of the crimes, but also a good look into the Amish community a short distance from my home in Ohio.  Thoroughly enjoyable.  I was often surprised by the plot twists.

3.       The Book Thief by M Zusak.   It took me a few chapters to get into this book, set in Nazi Germany, but then…wow.  Such interesting, beautiful writing.  When the Nazis insist on collecting books and burning them in order to keep the people ignorant, how does the book thief survive?  How do any of the people survive?   They have their ways.

4.       Sarah’s Key by T. daRosnay .  I guarantee you will be hooked by the  first chapter.  Another book set in Nazi Germany.  The Nazis are coming and taking away the Jewish families.  One boy hides and is locked in the cupboard. His sister swears she will come back for him when she gets away.  But can she get away?   Fast forward a generation.  What are the implications of that boy in the cupboard?  Someone decides to investigate and it leads to a family revelation.

5. A tough choice with a few other contenders, but I'm going with All Other Nights by Dara Horn, the story of a Jewish soldier in the Civil War who becomes a spy.  As a spy, he's ordered to kill one of his own relatives and then he is ordered to marry someone who is thought to be a spy for the Confederacy...and he does.  History, romance, mystery, suspense...oh, yes, it has it all.
Yesterday, I picked up the new Stephen King novel, 11/22/63.  I'm on page 50 and am finding it so interesting.  I am not normally a reader of anything Stephen King, but I can so relate to the era in which this story will take place.  The main character teaches high school English - ah, that fits. So far, he has a little time travel going on, and I think I know where it will lead, but so far he is only in 1958.  I know the title of the book is the date of the Kennedy assassination.  I was in high school at the time and heard the announcement of the shooting on the school intercom. We all watched Oswald and Ruby shot on tv, Johnson sworn in as president, the funeral procession.  But, the premise of this book has to do with stopping all that from happening.  What if Kennedy had NOT been killed?  Oh, Stephen, where are you leading me?  Maybe this book will make my top 5 for next year...

Don't forget my Tony Dungy book giveaway - drawing on Sunday, January 22! 

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