By MARK GRAY
When I hear people say they don’t have time to attend movies or plays, or read books, I can only scoff. We make time for the things we value. A little less time in loafing in front of the TV opens up a wedge of time for other entertainment or cultural pursuits.
Of the 43 books I read last year, the following readily come to mind; “A Bartender’s Tale” (Ivan Doig), the heartening story of a girl growing up with a single dad in a Montana saloonЙ”Benediction” (Kent Haruf),” the touching fiction of a dying man’s last months on the Colorado High PlainsЙ “The Burgess Boys” (Elizabeth Strout), a best-selling novel about two brothers, their divergent paths and the family’s quandary when a nephew is charged with an assault on a mosqueЙ. “The Art of Fielding” (Chad Harbach), a fictional account of college baseball and friendshipЙ “The Maid’s Version” (Daniel Woodrell), a gem of a story about small-town secrets and a disastrous fire.
I also enjoyed mystery/thrillers “Sharp Objects” (Gillian Flynn), “The Snowman” (Jo Nesbo), and anything by Scottish mystery writer Denise Mina.
The most memorable non-fiction books were “Late Edition” (Bob Greene) detailing the glory days of newspaper journalism and its difficult futureЙ “Detroit” (Charlie LeDuff), a expletive-laden journey through a once-great industrial cityЙand “All the Shah’s Men” (Stephen Kinser), an analysis of how the U.S. created it’s current problems in Iran.
I’ll throw in my favorite movies too: “The Spectacular Now”, “The Way Way Back”, “Blue Jasmine”, “Philomena”, and “Captain Phillips”.
And I’ll thank my wife for two music CDs Р “Southeastern (Jason Isbell), and “This Ones for You” (tribute to Guy Clark).
By DAWN BRANDVOLD-GRAY
At the end of every year, my husband wants to rehash the books we’ve read. I usually outpace him by 10-15 books and with few exceptions, have an unnatural attachment to the books I read. This makes for a daunting exercise. But in order to satisfy his desire for an accounting I will try and choose my favorites.
I’m a fan of John Steinbeck, so a friend recommended “Whose Names are Unknown” by Sanora Babb. Written at the same time as “The Grapes of Wrath” and every bit as heart-wrenching.
Like my husband, I also enjoyed “The Burgess Boys” and “Benediction”. Both were wonderfully written, with beautiful character development.Khaled Hosseini (“The Kite Runner”, “A Thousand Splendid Suns”) released a new book in 2013, “And the Mountains Roared.” This author keeps getting better and better. His novels bring Afghanistan to life and resonate universally.
If you are looking for a great read aloud to your kids, look no further than “The Wizard of Oz” by L Frank Baum. Don’t ask me why I hadn’t read the Oz book before, but after reading it for a book club, I wanted to time travel back to the days that I read aloud with my two children.
For a lighter read, but still with some depth, I enjoyed “A Light Between Oceans” by ML Stedman and “Me Before You” by JoJo Moyes.
Finally, two non-fiction offerings that will stay with me for a long while Р “Detroit” by Charlie LeDuff and “Five Days at Memorial” by Sheri Fink.
If you want a complete list of what I read this year, let me know. More importantly, what books captured your imagination in 2013? My favorite question is always, “so what are you reading right now?”