Like many favorite books of mine, The History of Love is very hard to categorize. It is a kind of history and it's also (kind of) about love, but it's also about family and God and writing itself, and a whole lot more. Plus it is so beautifully written, you will want to read it very very slowly, in order to savor it--and then maybe you'll want to read the whole thing all over again, which is exactly what I did.
Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott (Riverhead, $25.95)
I love Anne Lamott so much it's hard for me to express. And for a long time I thought I loved her nonfiction books even more than her fiction, but reading Imperfect Birds has caused me to question that idea. It's such a deeply thoughtful, sad, funny, joyful novel, full of perfectly-imperfect characters who--in spite of all their flaws--are so lovable I wish they lived in Mt. Airy and shopped at the bookstore (which, if they actually did live in Mt. Airy, they certainly would, because they all love to read), just so I could meet them.
A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff (Scribner, $26.00)
This is one of those rare, rare novels that's intelligent and deep and full of wonderful characters and compulsively readable, all at the same time. When I was reading it I carried it with me everywhere and dipped into it every time I had a spare second, because I couldn't wait to see what would happen to the characters next.
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby (Riverhead, $25.95)
I am a huge Nick Hornby fan; High Fidelity and About a Boy are two of my all-time favorite books, and now I think I need to add Juliet, Naked to that list as well. Hornby's characters are older now, in their late 30s and early 40s, and dealing with regrets and disappointments, but they are still brilliantly quirky, funny, and lovable, and Hornby's writing is still tough and realistic and, in the end, redemptive.
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore (Knopf, $25.95)
I was so very happy when this book--Lorrie Moore's first in a number of years--came out, and I read it almost immediately. First thing to love: her sentences are so gorgeous, I often found myself rereading and pondering them. Second thing to love: her plot and characters are equally compelling and memorable. In a nutshell, this book follows Tassie, a Midwestern farmer's daughter, through her first years at college and her job as a nanny. But it's about so much more than that: connection and loneliness, the power and limitations of knowledge, the meaning of family. And for a book in which some tragic things happen, it's often weirdly, remarkably funny.