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PUBLISHED: 12:10 PM on Wednesday, January 4, 2006
Grab a read from the best of 2005

Tis the season, you know.

Tis the season for tinsel embedded into the carpet, flakes of wrapping paper everywhere and piles of gift certificates with endless possibilities.

Tis also the season for "Best Of" columns. I read more than 260 books this year (true!) and without further ado, here are my personal picks for 2005.

Fiction

"A Brief Lunacy" by Cynthia Thayer - An edge-of-your seat novel about an elderly couple who are terrorized by a young drifter. Don't read this book when you're alone in the house. It will scare the heck out of you.

"Oh My Stars" by Lorna Landvik - A young handicapped girl finds love in a Midwestern town during the Depression. Save your holiday gift certificates, because this book comes out in paperback in February.

"So You Call Yourself a Man" by Carl Weber - This is a brand-new novel about three friends who are keeping secrets from their wives and one another. There is an explosive plot twist in this book that surprised me so much I almost dropped the book. I've been telling everyone to pick it up ever since.

"Fledgling" by Octavia Butler - An intricate book about an injured girl who is actually a genetically-modified African American vampire. What I loved most about this brilliantly-written book is that the plot is so believable. A great novel to bite into for the winter months.

"Freshwater Road" by Denise Nicholas - A novel about an African American girl who travels to Mississippi during the summer of 1964 to work for One Man, One Vote. This book has a semi-autobiographical feel to it, and for good reason: the author's memories of the Civil Rights Movement helped form the story.

Non-Fiction

"Hero Mama" by Karen Spear Zacharias - When she was still in grade-school, Zacharias' father was killed in Vietnam. In the years afterward, the author learned who the hero really was. You'll want to hug a veteran when you're done with this book ... then you'll want to hug his or her spouse.

"Eyeing the Flash" by Peter Fenton - When Fenton was a teenager, he was taken under the wing of a con man and was taught the carny trade. Before long, the pupil became smarter than the teacher. Read this book before heading to the fair or carnival this year.

"The Color of Love" by Gene Cheek - Back in the late 50's, in the Jim Crow South, Cheek's mother fell in love with a man who loved her and cherished her. She happened to be white. He happened to be black. This King-Solomon-like book is about forgiveness, love, and family. I read it last summer and I'm still talking about it.

"Are Men Necessary?" by Maureen Dowd - The answer is "yes, but". Dowd is an equal-opportunity basher, which means that nobody escapes scrutiny. This sassy, funny book will give you lots to think about and I recommend it for men as well as women.

"If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name" by Heather Lende - A surprisingly charming little book about community and knowing your neighbors. Reading this is like visiting Mayberry on paper.

There you are. Ten books that are perfect uses for that pile of gift certificates you got for the holidays. And here's looking for a 2006 that will be all booked-up before you know it.


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