Archive for December, 2013

Best of 2013

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed, but 2014 is nipping at our heels. And, though we’re suffering through another round of “best-of-the-year” lists, we thought one more wouldn’t hurt (or, at least not much).

Each year we make a list of the books TFPL owns which are featured in three different “Best” authorities:, Publisher’s Weekly, and the New York Times. From these three, we feel we get a great overview of books that mattered to both reviewers and readers. Of course, there’s always a little bit of overlap, but it’s also fun to see which books seem to have been chosen out of the blue. Check one of our lists to see if your favorite made it this year:

The following books showed up on all three lists, which means they are worth a read. See if you agree.



Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

MaddAddam: A Novel by Margaret Atwood

Schroder: A Novel by Amity Gaige

The Signature of All Things: A Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel by Anthony Marra

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders



Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel

A House in the Sky: A Memoir by Amanda Lindhout

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer


B is for Bagpipes

Let’s take a jaunt across the pond and visit the land of the Scots.(Or, rather, let’s save our money and take a look at books that are set in Scotland.) It’s a country possibly most famous for its invisible creature (Loch Ness), its interesting clothing (kilts), and its inedible foods (haggis). Look beyond the superficial and you’ll find its natural beauty and history even more fascinating. So, if you’re interested in seeing Scotland in a different light, try one of the following series.


Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series combines historical fiction, fantasy, and romance. It’s the story of Claire Randall, a 2oth Century woman who suddenly finds herself transported back to 18th Century Scotland and a dashing Scottish warrior named Jamie Fraser.

Book 1: Outlander  (Series List)


M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth solves mysteries in the small Highland village of Lochdubh. Though he loves his job, he is often at odds with his superior and must find ways to work around the system.

Book 1: Death of a Gossip (Series List)


Alexander McCall Smith has two series that give readers the flavor of Scotland. In the Sunday Philosophy Club series, Isabel Dalhousie  edits a small philosophy journal and wades through the conundrums of her own life (as well as those of others). The 44 Scotland Street series tells the stories of a number of tenants living at the address, including a precocious 5-year old, his mother, and their eccentric neighbors.

Book 1: The Sunday Philosophy Club (Series List)

Book 1: 44 Scotland Street (Series List)


Dorothy Dunnett was a master of dense, historical fiction. Her Lymond Chronicles follows the adventures of Frances Crawford of Lymond, a son of Scotland whose antics, which take him across Europe, make him dangerous as well as beloved.

Book 1: The Game of Kings (Series List)


Ian Rankin writes contemporary hard-boiled crime fiction. His Inspector Rebus series centers on John Rebus and the gritty side of corruption and organized crime in Edinburgh.

Book 1: Knots and Crosses (Series List)


Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series is a blend of paranormal and time-travel romance. Though the books can stand-alone, they do feature recurring characters who bridge the fae and human worlds.

Book 1: Beyond the Highland Mist (Series List)


Take Ten: Bah Humbug

Sick of the sappy sentimentality of the holiday season? Do you like your Christmas fruitcake a little on the nuttier side? If you answered yes, then you’re definitely someone who may appreciate one of the following books; they might raise your spirits, but in a snarky way – sort of like spiking the egg nog. Try one before the craziness has you dressing up in ugly Christmas sweaters, minus the irony.


A Christmas Blizzard – Garrison Keillor

  • A short comic novel about a Hawaii-bound holiday traveler who ends up stranded in his North Dakota hometown during a blizzard.

 A Christmas Story – Jean Shepherd

  • Its affectionate, wacky, and wryly realistic portrayal of an American family’s typical Christmas joys and travails in small-town Depression-era Indiana. (Description from the TFPL Catalog.)

The Christmas Pig – Kinky Friedman

  • In an unconventional holiday tale set in a kingdom two hundred years in the past, ten-year-old Benjamin, a mute autistic savant, is commissioned to paint a nativity scene for midnight mass and meets a talented pig who helps him to find his voice.

Holidays on Ice – David Sedaris

  • An anthology of humorous Christmas tales and essays features excerpts from the author’s “Barrel Fever” and “Naked,” as well as “The Santaland Diaries,” “Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family,” and a new tale of holiday mayhem.

I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas – Lewis Black

  • The popular comedian presents rants and anecdotes on the Christmas season, including shopping for presents, large holiday dinners, and visiting relatives.

Politically Correct Holiday Stories – James Garner

  • Garner joyfully frees our popular holiday fables from sexism, ageism, religious imperialism, and every other sorry vestige of our flawed, low-consciousness past. (Description from the TFPL Catalog.)

The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter, the Christmas Miracle Dog – Dave Berry

  • Delighted to be playing the part of a shepherd in the local Christmas pageant at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Doug Barnes is suddenly confronted by a host of problems, including the misbehavior of his fellow shepherds and the illness of the family dog.

Skipping Christmas – John Grisham

  • Luther and Nora Krank have decided to set sail on a Caribbean cruise on December 25th and skip Christmas. They are about to discover that their decision brings enormous consequences–and isn’t half as easy as they imagined.

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror – Christopher Moore

  • A humorous tale of what happens when a none-too-clever angel overhears a little boy, who, having witnessed Santa taking a shovel to the head, prays for Santa to return from the dead.

You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas – Augusten Burroughs

  • In this caustically funny, nostalgic, poignant, and moving collection Augusten Burroughs recounts Christmases past and present–as only he could. With gimlet-eyed wit and illuminated prose, he shows how the holidays bring out the worst in us and sometimes, just sometimes, the very, very best.


Annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus, unless otherwise noted.