According to Goodreads, I read 36 books this year (not including the picture books I read to my babies at work). That's more than usual, and I'm kind of surprised. I've become a pretty slow reader. I tend to only read for a few minutes at lunchbreak and at bedtime, or when I'm stuck in the car waiting for my daughter to come out of rehearsals. The second half of this year, a lot of my bedtime reading has gone away in favor of watching The Daily Show or election news coverage. Also, I read a couple of my own unpublished projects this year to decide what to work on next. That took some time.
My new addiction to audiobooks has definitely made a difference in my reading output. It has also helped my sanity during my long commute to and from work. I don't love every audiobook I get, but most of them are fantastic. Listening to audiobooks is also a way for me to get through more bestsellers, because I don't tend to purchase those as often as indie books or books I can get autographed.
So here we go: My favorite book of the year. This was a hard choice to make because I read a lot of great books this year. Still, I have to go with Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. It's an historical fiction told from four different points of view. Even though you know from the beginning of the book that it will end tragically, you still grow to love, laugh with, and sometimes despise these characters. They are very real, and Ruta has done another amazing job. She's sooooooooo talented. And look! I got a signed copy!
Okay, so that means Salt to the Sea can't be my answer for any other categories, even if it fits.
My favorite big publisher book I read this year: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. This story swaps the pov between two twin siblings, a boy and girl. What's tricky is that the boy's story is from when they were 11, and the girl's story is from when they were 16. It's a complicated puzzle that had me riveted and emotionally wrecked. Such brilliant writing. I feel that English/Writing teachers need to use this book in their classrooms to study how it all comes together in such a genius way. Incredible.
My favorite indie pubbed book of the year. (In my opinion indie pubbed means self-published or published with a small press). The winner here is Trail of Secrets by Laura Wolfe. Yes, this book is with my publisher Fire and Ice YA Books, but that isn't what makes me partial to it. Although, I will confess that I wouldn't have probably discovered this book if it wasn't with my publisher. I haven't read a horse book since Black Beauty in elementary school. This is a great YA mystery that is more about competitive teen girls than horses, though. I thought it was fun and kept me guessing like a good mystery should. I look forward to more books by this author.
Favorite book series I read this year. This is a toughie. I read three series this year. Libba Bray's Diviners Novels, Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles, and Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking. I also read the final book of the Raven Boys series by Maggie Steifvader. All of these books were AMAZING!!!!!! I listened to all of them on audiobook too. This is an incredibly difficult decision to make, so I'm going to judge on the quality of the writing as well as the acting of the narrators. To that end, I'm choosing the Patrick Ness books. You must read these (or better yet, listen to them).
Favorite book by a local (Nashville or SCBWI Midsouth) author (besides Ruta Sepetys). This was tough too because Sharon Cameron had a new book out (The Forgetting), and I love everything she writes. Helene Dunbar's book What Remains and Jeff Zentner's book Serpent King both broke my heart. Still, I have to give this one to Brooks Benjamin for his fun middle grade novel My Seventh Grade Life in Tights. I just adored this story about a middle school boy who wants to be a dancer instead of a football player.
The book that surprised me the most this year. It might sound self-serving, but I swear it's not. The book that I expected not to like at all and wound up enjoying immensely was Tomato Slices. Yes, this is the anthology of tomato themed stories, poems, and recipes which features my fairy tale "The Tomato Quest". It was a couple years between submitting and the book coming out, and I didn't know what to expect from it. The book's release was nearly silent, and nobody knows the book exists. I was paid in advance for my work in Tomato Slices, so it doesn't affect anything but my pride if people pick it up. That said, the stories are sweet, sentimental, fun, and in some cases adorable. The recipes look delicious, although I haven't tried any yet. If you know anyone into gardening, cooking, charming stories, or tomatoes, this would make a great gift.
What's next up for me? I'm currently reading Girl on the Brink by Christina Hoag, Fire and Ice YA Books. It's great so far. Chilling. I still need to read the other stories in Fantastic Creatures, the brand new anthology featuring my horror story "Mother's Night Out". It's FREE on Kindle, BTW. Then I need to read a book to review for Multicultural Children's Book Day. I'm leaning toward a book called Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest for that.
What books have you enjoyed this year? What books are on your to-read list? Feel free to comment below. Also, scroll through to read some other blog posts or visit the rest of my site to see if anything I've written might be a good fit for you.
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.