By Sally Gracie
In case you haven’t heard, the word “selfie” — a self-portrait taken with a digital camera or smart phone and posted in the social media — was chosen by Oxford Dictionaries as “Word of the Year” for 2013.
Soon after selfie was announced, the British newspaper The Guardian ran this headline: “Forget selfies, we want to see your shelfies.” And thousands followed the paper’s lead, sharing photos of their bookshelves on Twitter and Facebook.
I suggest that the Methow Valley is more a shelfie than a selfie kind of place.
To an email I sent requesting best of 2013 books, Kathy Ehrenberg responded, “I’m too behind in my reading (as in years behind) to proffer ‘books published this year.’” Patty Yates wrote, “I read a zillion books this year but can only tell you the last title read … and it didn’t come out in 2013.”
Both women, however, told me about some of the best books they read in 2013. Jenn Tate expressed the common sentiment of my correspondents: “I’m sure I have [read good books published in 2013], but no clue what books were published this year. … I just don’t keep track of that very well.”
Beginning with 2013, when I write this annual column, I plan to open it to readers’ favorites no matter the publication year. Today’s non-fiction bests are a mix — some newly published, some older.
Not a surprise to know that Jane Pappidas (recently cast as Aunt March in Little Women) is an “avid reader of biography,” especially, “but not exclusively” about the theater. “I enjoyed the new Fosse by Sam Wassan, and the old Act One [1959, 1989], Moss Hart’s delicious description of the opening scenes of his life-long love affair with Broadway. … Both books are well-written and an interesting contrast to each other.”
Bill Bryson’s new book, One Summer: America 1927, is a “real treat,” according to Bill Hottell. “The year is dominated by Charles Lindberg … Babe Ruth … the 1927 New York Yankees … and the most anticipated boxing match of the decade [Tunney vs. Dempsey]. There is much more in the book than sports, like humorous accounts of the apparent president Calvin Coolidge and the future [president] Herbert Hoover. Bryson’s book is a delightful romp through one long summer in the Roaring Twenties.”
Kathleen Hirschstein says she rarely reads non-fiction, “but for some reason, my fingers pulled off Terry [Dixon’s] shelf this great new memoir by Terry Lenzer,” The Investigator: Fifty Years of Uncovering the Truth. Kathleen respects the author’s “thorough and meticulous research methods” during his career and his evidence gathering. She respects his “bravery to seek the truth … in spite of life-endangering threats made by the wealthy and powerful that he investigated.” Terry Dixon also recommends this memoir.
Kathy Ehrenberg recommends two books about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina: Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death in New Orleans (2009) by Dan Baum and Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm (2013) by Sheri Fink. The first, Kathy says, is “a riveting read … a brilliant nine-voiced biography. I simply couldn’t put it down.” The two books “were invaluable in understanding the myriad tragedies of Katrina … [Fink’s] is the most important and compelling book I read this year.”
Please send your shelfies and picks for favorite fiction to firstname.lastname@example.org.