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LARSON: Read any good books lately?

Going over my book list for the past year always provides a bit of entertainment, especially when I see titles I don’t even remember.

But then I revisit the books I really loved like “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. It wasn’t one I would have chosen on my own, but was a selection for my book club. It was well worth reading and discussing, as was “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese, another great read for which I thank my book club.

Last year I had the pleasure of not only reading “When the Heart Cries,” a novel about the Amish community, but also the honor of meeting the author, Cindy Woodsmall, when I moderated a panel discussion sponsored by the Gwinnett library at the Norcross Cultural Center.

“Hamlet’s Blackberry” by William Powers tops my non-fiction list for 2013. While the term “social media” seems to be a modern day concept, Powers cites seven phases of social media through history, all the way back to Plato, who over 2000 years ago questioned the effects of this newfangled “text messaging” as people transitioned from the oral to the written word.

I read a few first novels by local authors including “Written on a Rock” by Martha Phillips, who cleverly wove in the history of the Georgia Guidestones in Elberton with an actual murder committed four decades ago and “Hardscrabble Road,” by George Weinstein, who presents a delightful coming of age story set during the Great Depression.

To balance the new writings, I took advantage of the Gutenberg Project, an online collection of classic books, including many that are out of print. I revisited several books from my grade school days. “Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch” written in 1901 by Alice Hegen Rice, was much more depressing than I’d remembered while “The Peterkin Papers” written in 1886 by Lucretia P. Hale seemed even sillier. In rereading “Out on a Limb” a memoir by Louise Baker, who’d lost her right leg at age eight, I had a better appreciation for her wry sense of humor than I did as a child.

I think it’s always a richer experience to read books along with someone else, which is why I really appreciate everything my husband and I read together last year. Sorry to say, I did not join him as he plowed through “Anna Karenina,” “War and Peace,” Farewell to Arms” and “Omoo,” although I enjoyed his telling me about them. But we enjoyed discussing “Unvanquished” by William Faulkner, “In the Garden of the Beast” by Erik Larson (sorry to say no relation) and “Unbroken,” the story of WWII prisoner Louis Zamperini written by Laura Hillenbrand.

I look forward to seeing what books come off the press in 2014 but am even more interested in any recommendations you, my fellow readers, might post in the comment section. Those are always the best.

Susan Larson is a writer and reader from Lilburn. Email her at susanlarson79@gmail.com.