Dec 16, 2015

With upwards of one million books published each year in the U.S., it can be difficult even for bibliophiles to know the good reads.  So this year, we asked our erudite colleagues at 

Northwest Public Radio for their suggestions. Check out their top 10 (in no particular order):

Orphan Train  by Christina Baker Kline

“This novel moves between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota. Vivian Daly was a young Irish immigrant who lost her family in a fire (or so she thought). As an orphan, she was sent on the “Orphan Train” which ran regularly from the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest (1854-1929) carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates were determined by pure luck. While this read had some harsh and difficult situations, it becomes a tale of resilience, second chances and unexpected friendships.”  --Sue Sheppard, Membership Coordinator

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

“This piece of narrative non-fiction reads like a classic novel, with memorable characters and profound philosophical meditations.  It is not just the best book I read in 2015:  it’s one of the best books I have ever read, period.  Riveting from cover to cover.”  --Marie Glynn, Operations Manager

The Lost Children of Wilder by Nina Bernstein

“A New York Times reporter’s sweeping expose of the New York state foster care system told through the story of one family at the center of a 30-year lawsuit – a teenage girl and the baby she was forced to give up while in care.”  --Rowan Moore Gerety, Reporter

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

“A spunky twenty-something dilettante thrills to the wild energies of a historic moment when her unpretentious, scholarly father is named American ambassador to Germany. How do Martha Dodd’s controversial adventures look to us now? Larson had me at "Once, at the dawn of a very dark time, an American father and daughter found themselves suddenly transported...." – Gigi Yellen, Classical Music Host

Bless Me, Ultima  by Rudolfo Anaya

“When picking up this book, I went on a magical journey with six-year-old Antonio Márez who explores his religious and spiritual life.  Anaya's simple writing makes it manageable and easy to get through. This read will make you reevaluate your own spirituality which is a refreshing way to start off the new year.”   --Angela Nguyen, Assistant Producer     

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck

“Two brothers in a mule-drawn wagon retrace the eponymous path that opened the American Northwest to settlement, and in that journey discover a lot about the pioneers who made the original trek, much about themselves and the people of the West today and a great deal about mules. Tough to put down.”  --John Paxson, News Director

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

“Many people were upset to see an Atticus Finch who harbors racial bias—a fault he did not seem to have in To Kill a Mockingbird. As a Southerner who was in elementary school during forced integration, I found that this particular aspect of Atticus’ character to deepen the complexity, and reality, of race relations in the Deep South post-slavery and pre-civil rights, a complexity that exists today in a new form. Go Set a Watchman is well written (although not as accomplished as Lee’s latter-written prequel) and compelling, yet I recommend it more for the apparent dichotomy in Atticus’ views highlighted in Lee’s two books. And I recommend re-reading Mockingbird along with Watchman to get the full impact.”  --Sandi Billings, Major Gifts Officer

The Uranium People  by Leona Libby

“Libby was a physicist and one of only a few women scientists on the top-secret Manhattan Project during WWII. She describes what her time at Hanford was like, and her work on the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor. Called the B Reactor, it’s now part of the brand new Manhattan Project National Historic Park formed in late 2015.”  --Anna King, Reporter

That Hideous Strength  by C.S. Lewis

“Fifteen years ago I  read Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. This year I read them again, but, for the first time along with the final installment of Lewis’ trilogy: That Hideous Strength. Each book explores a different planet, but each planet represents a version of humanity, which is the core story for all three books. Lewis blends ideas of good, evil, humans, aliens and the planets together into one delicious Sci-Fi smoothie that makes for excellent brain food.”  --Hannah Whisenant, Traffic Coordinator

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Letham

“Written more than a decade ago, this eerily current novel touches on the issues of racial tension and urban gentrification in Brooklyn in the seventies and the following two decades. Told through eyes of an awkward, misfit teen, his best friend (the son of a soul-legend in decline), and their shared secret (a device that confers super powers), this often tender portrayal of heroic but ultimately tragic figures, also pulls no punches. Against the backdrop of emerging urban forms of creative expression and music genres, the plot seldom follows an expected path, but plays out to an thoroughly engaging conclusion.”  --Cricket Cordova, Corporate Support Manager 

The selections mentioned in this article, and books on your personal Best of 2015 list, can be found at the independent bookstores that support Northwest Public Radio, including:

Inklings, Yakima

Riverwalk Books, Chelan

A Book for All Seasons, Leavenworth

Brick Road Books, Ellensburg

Adventure’s Underground, Richland

BookPeople of Moscow

Brused Books, Pullman