I closed out 2014 with 65 books read in one year; I'm not sure that's a record or anything -- so many of our customers are more well-read and read with more frequency -- but it's a number I'm pleased with. I'm also grateful that even during the store's busiest season, I managed to read about a book a week; not too shabby, if I do say so myself.
The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh. This Southern middle reader novel was touching and funny; 12-year-old GIgi (short for Galileo Galilei, of course) narrates The Truth About Twinkie Pie, and it's her voice readers will love. After Gigi and her sister Didi land a million dollars from a national cooking contest, they leave the trailer parks of South Carolina for a life off the coast of New York, where Gigi can graduate from high school -- something her older sister never did. It's rare to find a middle reader book with such a sense of place; Southerners old and young will sympathize with the sisters as they try to adjust to a new life away from Southern familiarities and customs. Author Kat Yeh has written a remarkably realistic -- while still extremely funny -- book about growing up and discovering who you are, and the relationship she creates between Gigi and her sister will keep young readers turning the pages until they discover the end. A fun bonus? Didi's Southern-inspired recipes are sprinkled throughout the book and will give middle readers a fun way to interact even when the final chapter has been read. (The Truth About Twinkie Pie releases January 27.)
The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion. I adored Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project, so I was excited to dive into the newly-released sequel last month. And although I don't think The Rosie Effect is quite as well done as its predecessor, I loved getting to see Simsion really explore the depths of his quirky main character, Don Tillman. In the new novel, Tillman -- with his characteristic science-guy demeanor -- must have his most difficult challenge yet: the challenge of becoming a parent. His personality lends itself to some cringe-inducing moments, and the preciseness of his character is the book's strongest characteristic. I found the book's descriptions and stories about Don's wife Rosie to be pretty weak and not entirely accurate with the character we were introduced to in the first novel, but overall, this is a fun sequel certainly worth reading.
Redeployment by Phil Klay. This book of short stories was the winner of the National Book Award in 2014, and it's easy to see why. The book is raw and devastating and real, but author Phil Klay also injects moments of dark humor into his stories, and the effect is an entirely readable collection of stories. Klay is a former U.S. Marine, so his stories feel achingly true-to-life, and as someone with little to no knowledge about America's recent conflicts with Iraq and Afghanistan, I found the book to be terribly important. I intended to read just a few stories to familiarize myself with the work, but I found myself needing to read the entire book; it just felt important. I'm tempted to say this book is one everyone needs to read, but since I know that's setting my expectations high, I'd at least tell you to read a couple of Klay's stories; his voice is impeccable. (Warning, if it needs to be said: This book is full of graphic language and war-time content, so keep that in mind when searching for the next book on your nightstand.)
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Okay, everyone, we've found the next Gone Girl. Paula Hawkins' new novel, The Girl on the Train, is fast-paced and smart; it's well-written and gasp-inducing. The book follows Rachel, a young 30-something who takes the same commuter train into London every day. As she stares out the window, she imagines the lives of the people she sees and uses the stories to escape the disappointments she faces in her own life. Then one day, she sees something that startles her to her core and changes everything. We've heard The Girl on the Train compared to Gone Girl and Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, and both comparisons are spot on. I read this novel in less than 24 hours; once you start, you may not be able to stop. The pacing is brilliant and the narrative is pretty close to perfection, I think. (The Girl on the Train releases January 13.)