Another year is over and it was chock full of good books — at least for me. How about you? What was your favorite book of 2013? Tell us about it in the comments. It doesn’t need to be published in 2013, just something you read in 2013. In the meantime, my fellow Beehivers and I share our favorite books of the year.
Bethany: “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell. I just want to hug the two teen characters in this young-adult book. It’s a book that starts with the humiliation of a new girl’s first day on the school bus but quickly lets readers relive that intoxicating first love, all set in 1986. The novel is written from the viewpoints of both chunky, poor, redhead misfit Eleanor, and Asian not-quite-as-much-of-a-misfit Park. Their adoration of each other just yanks at your heartstrings.
Anyway, it’s not all schmaltz. Hand in hand with this love story are some heavy themes about poverty and abuse and the damage it can do to a person. It’s a well-rounded read that will keep you thinking about it for days.
Joshua: “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. Yeah, so this book is more than 80 years old. It’s also strikingly (eerily) relevant, which is probably why it’s a classic. Boiled down, the book is a meditation on the meaning of happiness and contentment in the modern age (Huxley’s or ours or the one prophesied in the book). What are we giving up to chase happiness? What would we be willing to give up? And what is life like for the “outsiders,” those who battle the status quo. This was one of those books that I should have tackled years ago and never did, even though I carried a worn paperback copy with me through three or more moves.
Kathy: “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green. This young adult book topped a bunch of 2012 best book lists. I finally got around to reading it over the summer, and I was blown away. It’s deeply moving, genuine, witty and engrossing. The love story is grand. And you WILL cry. Maybe even ugly cry. Why? Because you can’t help but fall in love with Hazel and Augustus.
Donald: “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President” by Candice Millard. A first-rate history of an amazing time in America. President James Garfield’s personal story alone is remarkable: raised in abject poverty, once a canal worker, then worked himself up to elected public servant. Then throw in the tale of Charles Guiteau, the unbalanced and delusional man who shot Garfield during his first year in office (but didn’t kill him outright), add the ferocious machine politics of the time, and include a primer on the astonishing lack of medical knowledge in terms of surgery and infection at the time, and you have a riveting, tragic account of the untimely death of a remarkable man.
I’m still amazed at how much times have changed in terms of medicine. Garfield would have lived had his celebrity doctor — who pushed himself into the case — hadn’t been an old-school scoffer at the idea that germs are bad. In fact, Garfield died an agonizing death because of the massive infection that wracked his body in the months following the shooting. The doctor, with the unlikely name Doctor Bliss — that’s Dr. Doctor Bliss — stuck his unwashed hands in the wound, and eschewed the “new fad” of infection control becoming popular in the U.K. at the time.