This week we are sharing some of our favorite books that we have read over the past year. My top three have something in common—they are all debuts! I have a soft spot for author’s first novels, and always go out of my way to read them. These are the stories the writers couldn’t let go of, the ones that inspired the author to take the leap into the wonderful, crazy-making world of novel writing. And I love nothing more than discovering a new voice. Besides, before I sold THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING, debuts were my lifeline—the proof that YES, new authors are discovered every day! Every debut that hit the bookstore shelves gave me hope. Here are three books I will be giving to friends this holiday.
KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST by J. Ryan Stradal.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the story of Eva Thorvald, a chef who creates the most coveted meals in the gourmet world. The novel first grabbed me as a daughter of a single father, then as a chef, and always as a writer. It’s such a surprising novel at every turn. Each chapter is a complete story, told from a different point of view, and written in a fresh style. I deeply admire J. Ryan’s skillful way of using humor throughout the novel in a way that holds both affection and a sharp edge. There are so many layers to this book. I’m looking forward to reading it again to study the craft of it.
THE BOOK OF SPECULATION by Erika Swyler
The Book of Speculation has: a lonely librarian, a stunningly crumbling house on the edge of a cliff, mysterious tarot cards, circus mermaids, a possible curse, an intriguing, antique book, hermit crabs…need I say more? I immediately fell in love with Simon the librarian and was gripped by the tension of the story. It’s a novel that takes you by the hand, tightens its grip and then starts running. Told through two stories, one in the past and one in the present, I was completely drawn into both. It’s one of those books that you live in, and hate to see end. And once you do finish, you are dying to talk to your friends about what happened. Seriously, just go read this book.
DIETLAND by Sarai Walker
Dietland is the story of Plum, a ghostwriter for a young women’s magazine whose main goal is to have weight-loss surgery, until she gets drawn into a feminist group of radicals who are bent on changing the world. This book made me break my rule of not writing book reviews on Goodreads. Every person should read this book. Not every woman, every person. It’s subversive, it’s brave, it makes you take a closer look at the world we live in and the way women are both portrayed and treated. Believe me, I am a proud feminist and as liberal as you can get, and this book still opened my eyes. Sarai Walker is my hero—as a feminist and as an amazing storyteller. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
Merry Christmas, Christmas people, and cheeriest of everything to all!