Thursday, December 4, 2014

Great Mystery Reads: A Look Back at My Favorites

Now that 2014 is drawing to a close, I like to look back at my reading log for the year to see if I still agree with the ratings I assigned to each title.

I use a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being outstanding (and this is from my personal point of view, having nothing at all to do with what critics or reviewers might say), and 5 being not so great, but at least I finished it. I usually stop reading any book that is heading for a rating of less than five. After all, life is too short to read anything that doesn’t leave you informed, enriched, or entertained.

Therefore, based on my highly biased ratings, I offer the following suggestions for your winter reading or gift giving selections in the categories of fiction, mystery and non-fiction.

To escape from a cold, bleak winter you could travel to the lush jungle of Papua-New Guinea in the pages of the novel Euphoria by Lily King. Inspired by the life and work of Margaret Mead, Lily King presents an enthralling tale of three anthropologists and their relationships to each other and to the people they study.
For a story closer to home, geographically and emotionally, you might enjoy Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen. I like this author’s engaging style and her stories about people dealing with the everyday problems of family, career, love and grief.

Leaping into the fantasy genre, I very much enjoyed The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman. This is the third volume of a trilogy so, once again, it would be best to begin with The Magicians and The Magician King before reading this third offering. This set of three would also be a great gift for adults who wish Hogwarts had been their school.

Author Jill Paton Walsh was given the blessing of the estate of Dorothy Sayers to continue the story of amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey and mystery writer Harriet Vane. Her most recent contribution is The Late Scholar, which takes the couple back to Oxford to resolve a financial dilemma and, eventually, to investigate suspicious death. This volume, along with The Attenbury Emeralds (published in 2011) would make an excellent gift for fans of Peter and Harriet and the other lively characters first imagined by Dorothy Sayers in the 1920s.

Another highly-rated mystery is the latest volume in C Alan Bradley’s adventures of Flavia De Luce, the precocious 11-year old living in 1950s England. Flavia consistently finds herself in the middle of the mayhem that comes to her seemingly sleepy village.
The Dead in their Vaulted Arches is the most recent title in this six-volume series, but I would suggest starting at the beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and continuing from there.
A few nonfiction titles also won high ratings:
Countdown: our last, best hope for a future on earth? by Alan Weisman;
Six Amendments: how and why we should change the Constitution by John Paul Stevens;
Amsterdam by Russell Shorto
The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O Wilson

Don't forget to check out the 2015 selections for the Mystery Book Club. You can find them at all three library locations or online. New members are always welcome! 

Happy winter reading and happy holidays.

Maryellen @ Warrenton

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