Monday, September 21, 2015

Best Books of the Year: As Put Forward by Book Editors

For the past several years I've been part of an association of book editors who are Christian, known as the Association of Christian Editors (ACE). You would think, being part of such an organization, that I could write a better opening sentence than that. But I can't. Deal with it.

Every year ACE puts on a retreat, rotating from Chicago to Colorado Springs to Nashville to Chicago again, based on where our membership tends to live, along with proximity to airports. This year's retreat was put on in Colorado Springs, where I live, which made it easy to attend. The retreat is always good and particularly so this year, with an emphasis on soul care and wellness, along with the typical commiseration and idea sharing about industry-specific concerns. A highlight of every retreat is Friday evening, when we circle up and share with one another our favorite book of the past year.

There are few rules regarding this time of sharing. The book may or may not be new. You may, although most don't, share a book you edited. You may, although most don't, share a book that someone else has already shared. You may not, although most do, exceed the allotted time for sharing, nor may you (though you likely will) mention more than one book. This year's list follows. I've removed editor's names to protect their privacy, but I'm thankful to the member who took the following (lightly revised) notes, and I'm thankful to each member for taking the time to share. (I believe the notes are themselves adapted from sales copy on the website of some online bookseller.)

So many books are written haphazardly or edited sloppily, and these unfortunate variables don't necessarily factor in to a book's success. Editors' work is in this way thankless - a book succeeds or fails largely irrespective of the quality of editing - but as we slouch our way to Bulwer-Litton, help save Western civilization by adding these books to your wish-list.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller (and Pulitzer Prize winner) about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Oct. 11th, 1943. A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun. A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called "a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel" in The New York Times.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
In this bestselling and “charming debut” (People) from one of Sweden’s most successful authors, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. (Honorable mention: Something Must Be Done about Prince Edward County by Kristen Green.)

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
The #1 New York Times bestselling story about American Olympic triumph in Nazi Germany.

Small Victories by Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott writes about faith, family, and community in essays that are both wise and irreverent. It’s an approach that has become her trademark. Now in Small Victories, Lamott offers a new message of hope that celebrates the triumph of light over the darkness in our lives.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world. This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

Vango: Between Earth and Sky by Timothee de Fombelle
In a world between wars, a young man on the cusp of taking priestly vows is suddenly made a fugitive. Fleeing the accusations of police who blame him for a murder, as well as more sinister forces with darker intentions, Vango attempts to trace the secrets of his shrouded past and prove his innocence before all is lost. (Also check out book two: A Prince Without a Kingdom.)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end. Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive.

Benediction by Kent Haruf
From the beloved and best-selling author of Plainsong and Eventide comes a story of life and death, and the ties that bind, once again set out on the High Plains in Holt, Colorado. Bracing, sad and deeply illuminating, Benediction captures the fullness of life by representing every stage of it, including its extinction, as well as the hopes and dreams that sustain us along the way. (Honorable mention: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.)

Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie
An enthralling literary debut that evokes one of the most momentous events in history, the birth of printing in medieval Germany.

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar
When the San José mine collapsed outside of Copiapó, Chile, in August 2010, it trapped thirty-three miners beneath thousands of feet of rock for a record-breaking sixty-nine days. After the disaster, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor Tobar received exclusive access to the miners and their tales.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
Two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize David McCullough tells the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly.

Out of My Life by V. Raymond Edman
Vignettes and spiritual takeaway by the fourth president of Wheaton College, published by Zondervan in 1960/61. (Honorable mention: Lila by Marilynne Robinson.)

The Road to Character by David Brooks
With the wisdom, humor, curiosity, and sharp insights that have brought millions of readers to his New York Times column and his previous bestsellers, David Brooks has consistently illuminated our daily lives in surprising and original ways. Now, in The Road to Character, he focuses on the deeper values that should inform our lives.

Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Rajendra Sisodia
Whole Foods Market cofounder John Mackey and professor and Conscious Capitalism, Inc. cofounder Raj Sisodia argue that both business and capitalism are inherently good, and they use some of today’s best-known and most successful companies to illustrate their point.

The Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson
From London’s inimitable mayor, Boris Johnson, the story of how Churchill’s eccentric genius shaped not only his world but our own. On the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death, Boris Johnson celebrates the singular brilliance of one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century.

The South and the Southerner by Ralph McGill
A wide-ranging blend of autobiography and history, The South and the Southerner is one prominent newspaperman's statement on his region, its heritage, its future, and his own place within it.

In other media, one editor couldn't recall a book that rose to the top this year. Instead she recommended the British spy series MI5 (ten seasons, all on Hulu and Netflix).

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