December 30, 2011 | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Best of the bunch

'Beautiful Unbroken' was one of the best books this year. (Submitted image)

OK, so the year’s wound down and you’re ready to grab a hot cuppa and curl up somewhere. Or you’re heading to the beach and can’t stand to go empty handed. Whatever your destination, you can’t go wrong if you take these books with you. They were, in my opinion, the year’s best.

Now that the holidays are over and you can look back with a grin (or a growl), you can also safely read “It’s All Relative” by Wade Rouse. This funny, sad, makes-you-cry book is about holidays: those you spend alone, those you wish you’d spent alone and those you’d never in a million years be caught dead spending alone. I loved this book for its humor but the best part is that love — between parent and child, friends or partners — shines through every laugh.

Even though “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is over, this book can’t be dismissed: “The Last Deployment” by Bronson Lemer, a funny, wry and all-around great story of one gay man’s reluctant service in the North Dakota National Guard.

Lemer signed up for the education benefits and never thought he’d serve overseas — but overseas he went and not just once. While he was a soldier, he listened to his buddies as they teased and talked trash about gay men but Lemer never came out to fellow soldiers, friends or family until this book. Even though you can now be loud and proud in uniform, it’s definitely worth reading.

If a weekend in the country sounds good to you about now, first read “Sheepish” by Catherine Friend. Friend’s partner, Melissa, always wanted to be a farmer. Friend grew up in the city, but she compromised and hated it. But who can resist a sweet lamb?  Who doesn’t love baby animals? Who could foresee the backbreaking work and heartbreaking loss that comes from falling in love with a farmer and her flock? Not you, so if you love a good yarn, you’ll want this book ba-a-a-a-d.

And if you’re looking forward to some sun, sand and pampering this year, then you’ll want to take “Concierge Confidential” by Michael Fazio (with Michael Malice) along. This memoir is an intimate look at what goes on at those high-priced hotels and how the concierges will do anything to make their customers happy. I loved the gossipyness of this book, mostly because it packs peeks but lacks snark.

And finally, you simply will not find a more lush or gorgeous book than “Beautiful Unbroken” by Mary Jane Nealon. This is the true story of a nurse who spends her life running away from the one thing she always wanted to do. For her entire life, it hurt to dream the dream she had, until she finds the very patients who heal the healer. Read this book, for sure, but bring a tissue with you.

And there you are. A passel of pages you simply can’t miss, for your vacation, your evening alone, your weekend away or just because you love a good book.

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