Some years it is hard to decide my favorite books of the year. This year, it wasn’t difficult at all.
The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer, my favorite non-fiction read of 2013, was not too different from other favorite books in the past. It was about following Christ, making my home a beautiful place, and serving my family and other people through my homemaking. I often enjoy these types of books and this is a classic. I read it along with an online book group and there was even a Pinterest board for photographs to go along with each chapter. It was inspiring and the perfect read for my summer vacation.
On the other hand, The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng was a complete departure from my usual reading habits. In fact, before this year, I had only read one or two books set in the Far East and had never been inclined to seek out more. If it had not been on the Man Booker shortlist, I probably never would have read it, but I am so, so glad that I did. My review from Goodreads captures my thoughts just after I finished:
From the first page “Memories I had locked away have begun to break free, like shards of ice fracturing off an arctic shelf. In sleep, these broken floes drift toward the morning light of remembrance.” to the last, “Before me lies a voyage of a million miles, and memory is the moonlight I will borrow to illuminate my way”, I was drawn into this amazing story of Yun Ling and Yuguri, the Garden of Evening Mists. As Yun Ling remembers the story of the garden and the gardener who created it, the reader is drawn into her life. Layer by layer, her past is uncovered until the whole is revealed in all of its intricate detail. The enigmatic layers of the novel mirror all of the subtle, detailed beauty of the garden, the woodblock prints, and other artwork described. I could almost see and hear and smell the garden and the world created in this book. I have not read such a satisfying, beautifully written novel in years. Highly recommended!
I intend to find a copy of Tan Twan Eng’s first book this coming year. If it is half as good as The Garden of Evening Mists, I will be satisfied.