The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.
Author George R.R. Martin, whose novels led to the popular “Game of Thrones” TV series, once said, “People who don’t read books live one life, but people who read books live 1,000 lives.”
In the past 12 months, I have “lived” numerous lives. I toured with the Rolling Stones (“The Sun, the Moon, and the Rolling Stones” by Rich Cohen), mingled with English blue-collar thuggery (“Brighton Rock” by Graham Greene), held hands with wireless communication inventor Marconi and celebrated murderer Harley Crippen (“Thunderstruck” by the always readable Erik Larson), and traveled the intricate path behind one of America’s most popular films (“Psycho,” co-written by actress Janet Leigh).
I have lived in Ireland (“The Likeness” by Tana French), Italy (“Darkness” and “The Bastards of Pizzofalcone” by Maurizio deGiovanni), and Scotland (“The Dead Hour” by Denise Mina).
I sympathized with the mother of a killer (“A Mother’s Reckoning” by Sue Klebold) and hung around with a music outlaw (“Waylon” by the singer’s son, Terry Jennings).
Yes, reading is a pleasure, although two of last year’s best-sellers (“American Heiress” retelling the Patty Hearst kidnapping written by CNN legal expert Jeffery Toobin, and the number one-charted “The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware) were somewhat disappointing. Toobin constantly repeated himself and “Cabin,” though often compared to “Gone Girl,” was not nearly as suspenseful.
But along the way I was also surprised by new authors, including the best-selling Emma Cline, whose “The Girls” offered a fictional view of Charlie Manson’s disciples.
I enjoyed several spy novels (“The Spy That Came in From the Cold” by John Le Carre, “City of Secrets” by Steward O’Nan, and “Havana Bay” by Martin Cruz Smith). I went back in time with 1940s and 1950s mystery authors Rex Stout and John Dickson Carr, although my two favorite mysteries were “Death in the Air,” an often overlooked Agatha Christie puzzler, and the more recent “Heartstopper” by Joy Fielding.
And that leaves enough space to mention my four favorite novels that I read in the past year.
Elizabeth Strout, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Olive Kitteridge” and “The Burgess Boys,” featured the tender relationship between a mother and daughter in her most recent novel, “My Name is Lucy Barton.”
Ivan Doig passed away shortly after finishing “Last Bus to Wisdom,” a witty and enlightening modern take on a Huck Finn running-from-home adventure.
Allen Eskens wrote “The Life We Bury”, the tale of a college student intrigued by the life of a convicted murderer who only has a few months to live.
And the best novel I read was Bill Clegg’s “Did You Ever Have a Family,” riveting back and forth memories of men and women residing in a small town where a horrific fire occurs.
Lives expired in that fire. But lives expand when we take the time to read.