by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
It’s that time of year when the lists of the best books of the year come out, most of them before December 1st. I suppose they are published so early so that you can use them as guides for buying Christmas gifts. As a person who orders books for four libraries all year long, I love to compare these lists to the choices I’ve made, as well as to each other; in the end, there’s not much consensus on what’s really the best. It is fun to see which books end up on multiple lists, though – there must be something great about them!
Educated by Tara Westover. Amazon named it the best book of 2018. Most places don’t choose just one top book, but the memoir also ended up on the New York Times, Time Magazine, Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Publishers Weekly, Reader’s Digest, Library Journal, and NPR lists of the best books of the year, often on their top ten. I think I’m going to have to read this one with the adult book club once it isn’t being checked out constantly. It has been one of our library system’s most popular books this year.
In her memoir, Westover tells the story of growing up in a survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho. She was so isolated that she didn’t get an education, but she taught herself enough math and grammar to be admitted to college, which was a path out of her dysfunctional family. She eventually earned a PhD from Cambridge University, completely changing her life.
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border is another memoir that is appearing on multiple best-of lists. Author Francisco Cantú is the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, the son of a park ranger in the American Southwest, and himself a former Border Patrol agent. He found the Border Patrol work dehumanizing and left it, but when an immigrant friend disappeared after traveling to Mexico to visit family, he found himself needing to find out more about what happened. Reviewers describe the writing as no-nonsense but beautiful. The subject of the book is certainly very timely.
There There by Tommy Orange is making the cut for many end-of-the-year lists. This novel is about urban Native Americans attending the Big Oakland Powwow in Oakland, California. Orange reveals the reasons each character is attending: to reconnect with family after getting sober, to honor a loved one’s memory, to watch a relative perform, and to perform for the first time after learning the dance on YouTube. Reviews of the book include words like “masterful,” “groundbreaking,” and “devastating.” Orange is a professor and an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma; this is his first novel.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup is a nonfiction book that’s appearing on many of the year-end lists. Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou originally broke the story of the fraud that was being committed by the company Theranos. He and the newspaper were threatened with lawsuits but they continued to investigate what turned out to be the biggest corporate fraud since Enron: founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was lying to investors and the FDA, raising billions of dollars of investment capital for a technology that didn’t work. Carreyrou tells the whole story in this book.
These books are available at the Litchfield Library, along with many others you may see on gift guides and best-of-2018 lists.