February 2023
Having to undergo major surgery can leave you with a lot of time to read but, speaking from experience, there are definitely some downsides. A relaxed vacation lying on the beach soaking up the sun and the latest bestseller is probably a better option, but sometimes you just don't have a choice. 

My absence from the Northshire encompassed the last days of 2022, so I will have to offer a slightly late opinion of the best books of the past year. I had two favorites, neither of which, at least to my knowledge, appeared on lists submitted by more celebrated critics but, at a time when the Motion Picture Academy's best picture nominees includes Top Gun: Maverick, I make no apologies.

I don't evaluate Geraldine Brooks' novels on a like/don't like scale. They are measured in degrees of admiration. My favorite book by Ms. Brooks had been Year of Wonders, her first novel. It was bumped in 2022 by the publication of Horse, a centuries-spanning, enthralling story of Lexington, often regarded as the greatest racehorse in American history.

I will remember Emily St. John Mandel's Sea of Tranquility as both my co-favorite novel of 2022 and as an example of how it is a mistake to arbitrarily dismiss books that you have consigned to a genre that you don't particularly like. I have done that with sci-fi, which I find too fanciful, time travel, which I find too confusing, and children, whose participation, I feel, should be kept to a minimum, with the possible exception of To Kill a Mockingbird. Those three disdained elements are all integral parts of Sea of Tranquility. I have never read anything quite like it and that, I suspect, is my own fault.

I have been away from the wonderland of books at the Northshire for over two months, but my colleagues (read friends) made sure I was well-stocked with reading material to pass my recovery time. The tally included Ms. Mandel's engrossing dystopian novel, Station Eleven, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson, a convincing claim that the film version of Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's was much more than an enchanting actress in a black dress and a catchy song and The Wintering Place by Kevin McCarthy, a tough and icy survival tale set in the Dakota territory after the Civil War. The Angel Makers by Patti McCracken, a horrifying and true account of a ring of women who expedited their status as widows in Eastern Europe at the beginning of the previous century, will be released in March. Isabel Allende's emotionally potent new novel, The Wind Knows My Name, will be published in June.

Hopefully, I will be released from home confinement in early February.
Alden Graves, master bookseller
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The stunning, standalone prequel to the New York Times bestselling The Priory of the Orange Tree.

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