• By Lara Luck
  • Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Books We Like

This month I want to write about some of the books I enjoyed most in 2016. As I started to pick out a few of my favorites I started to notice a theme. Most of these books tend to be a bit dark and depressing. I’m not going to apologize for this because despite their dire nature they are great books, and most have satisfying endings. So, some of these titles are hidden gems and a few became bestsellers, but all of them deserve a place on your reading list this year.

Let’s start with a book that is hard to categorize. Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger can be considered a suspense thriller, a ghost story, or horror, but really it’s a bit of all of these put together with a touch of family drama and romance for good measure. Finley sees ghosts… a lot of ghosts. Sometimes they are trying to tell her something, but mostly they are just trying, especially for a twenty-year old out to lead a normal life. So, Finley goes to the one person she knows can help, her grandmother, a renowned psychic and private investigator consultant, who lives in The Hollows, New York, a place with its own dark secrets. When a young girl goes missing, it’s not her grandmother who receives clues from the other side, but Finley herself. Ink and Bone is a book of twists and turns taking you down some dark and twisting paths to an end no one sees coming. I like to think of it as a blend between The Lovely Bones and The Shining.

My next recommendation is one of two nonfiction picks in my list. If you are anything like me sometime you find nonfiction much more horrifying than the scariest fiction ever written. Patient H.M., by Luke Dittrich is this kind of book.

The practice of lobotomies today holds a fairly negative meaning, but decades ago it became a fairly common practice used to “cure” patients of all kinds of illnesses from depression to seizures. Neurologists spent years exploring and refining this practice, and not just on animal test subjects. Patient H.M.,is about one such patient, known only as H. M. who underwent a lobotomy to cure his seizures and wound up with profound amnesia. This tragedy resulted in him being one of the leading test subjects in neuroscience for the remainder of his life and beyond.

Isolated and hidden, H.M was highly studied by dozens of scientists to the point that even his remains were fought over. Luke Dittrich, whose grandfather performed that surgery, weaves together a powerful story of brain surgery, medical practices, and scientific research gone astray and the priceless benefits that came from this tragedy.

The Fireman by Joe Hill was probably my favorite read this year, and the least dark, if you can call the end of the world less dark.

A highly contagious plague has swept across America, one which causes its victims to sicken rapidly and eventually spontaneously combust. There is no cure and no escape. Infected people are quarantined and shunned or killed outright. Harper, a nurse who has selflessly tended to the infected, finds out she is pregnant and then finds out she is infected herself. Now, she wants to live, at least long enough to give her child a chance to be born. Her only hope, an isolated community of others who are infected including the infected man who protects them, the Fireman. Does he really have a way to control the fire and avoid the inferno within, and can he save Harper and her baby? Another book that will keep you guessing until the end.

Blood at the Root by Patrick Phillips, my second non-fiction selection, is an incredibly well written and compelling book about a shocking, ugly subject - the racial cleansing of Forsyth County, GA that took place at the start of the 20th century.. This was one of those books I had to read in one sitting. I picked it up initially because it was about Forsyth County, although Georgia not North Carolina. Phillips’ writing is so good, but the subject matter is so horrible, I feel bad telling everyone what a great book this is, but it is.

Some final recommendations for the year Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys and two upcoming 2017 books, Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King and Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. The first two are historical fiction based on real events or people, and the last is about the true crime case that gave “birth” to the FBI as we know it today. All of these are fantastic books worth reading when you get a chance.

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