Staff Picks: Best and Worst of the Decade
Who needs NPR or NYT book lists when you have us? What are your best and worst picks for the past decade?
The Best of the Best
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
I couldn’t put this one down. It was the most genuinely frightening and suspenseful books I’ve ever read. I must have recommended it to everyone I know. Netflix did a pretty decent job adapting it to film, but the book contains so much more to love. When the story reaches its climax, it’s nothing you could have imagined, but everything you needed in a horror novel.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Strayed writes with such raw and visceral emotion about the sudden loss of her mother that it’s hard not to feel every word she writes as a punch to the gut. As she spirals out of control from grief her behavior can turn some readers off, as it seems selfish and dangerous, but I found it to be one of the most refreshingly honest portrayals of what it is like to lose the very foundation you stand on, become lost in the wild, and then walk yourself back from the depths of despair through sheer grit and determination.
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This story is built on beautiful scenery and stunning interweaving narratives. This is for lovers of World War II historical fiction.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
I recommend this book to everyone who wants a good laugh. Actually, lots of good laughs. But don’t read it if you don’t like profanity.
Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
This was one of my favorite books because of the way the women had to be strong enough to dive into the ocean for their food and livelihood while the men and older women had to take care of the children (then when they finished diving they took over the family). Also, this story showed how people try to help others even though they have little to give.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Two moving, individual stories converge into one poignant tale as the characters’ paths cross during World War II. The author has beautifully crafted two unique characters and perspectives that really set this book apart from others in the genre.
A Work in Progress by Connor Franta
An all-telling coming of age and how-to on growing up in a rural community, moving out, making a name for yourself, and returning back home.
The Worst. Seriously, Don’t Waste Your Time
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
This probably doesn’t need much explanation. It was so poorly written and predictable, that IF you finished it, it was more so you could say you completed a task. It was popular because of shock-value alone. When you find out that it started as Twilight fan-fiction, you think “Ohhh. Well, THAT makes sense.”
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This is a heavily plot-laden book with some good descriptions of the marsh lands, but the author fell victim to head jumping, lazy dialogue, flat characters, and questionable plot holes, all just to move the story forward. I found myself rolling my eyes every time Amanda Hamilton poetry showed up, seemingly out of the blue. The whole story just didn’t feel authentic (I could write a paper on the inconsistencies in dialect between the characters) and then to top it off, everything was hurriedly wrapped up with a trite and predictable “plot twist” in the last few pages.
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
Well-meaning content, but SO BORING! If you enjoy reading a 257 page English 101 level essay then go ahead and pick this one up!
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.
I thought this book was going to be entertaining and funny, but the plot line stretches the bounds of believability too far. The main character’s choices don’t make sense and I wasn’t interested in him enough as a character to stick with him through the increasingly cringeworthy chain of events.
Inspection by Josh Malerman
This was my least favorite book. I couldn’t even finish it. To me, it was repetitive and boring.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
I found the author unlikeable as both an author and person. Her writing voice is grating and she is unabashedly harsh and unhappy with everyone around her. All of this could potentially be overlooked if her advice had merit and substance, but in my opinion this book is trite and lacking as a whole.
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Once again, Albertalli takes the same narrative, changes the characters names and location of the story, then publishes it as a new book. If I wanted to know every plot point and be able to predict what was to come in every chapter I would turn on the Hallmark Channel.