I finished this on an exercise bike while at the gym.
12) The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Time travel has always been one of those cool ideas that always falls apart upon closer inspection. If I wanted to go back and tweak something in my past because hindsight allows me to see the nuance that I couldn't recognize back then, there's a distinct possibility that doing so would result in vast changes that wouldn't be clear to me until I had even more hindsight later on. Time traveling needs rules of some sort, and by the time that dawns on a person, the fantasy ceases to be fun.
Said rules are firmly established in Audry Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, a story about a time traveler named Henry who meets his wife when she's six years old and he's in his forties. Meanwhile, Claire meets him for the first time when he's 28 and she's 20. One thing that's always a guarantee when it comes to time traveling is that it'll make a person's brain hurt. Initially, that's the case here, but Niffenegger establishes a solid underlying structure and sticks with it throughout the novel. Despite getting lost in the love story of Henry and Claire, I also found myself fascinated with how Niffenegger wrote the book. I imagined a large cork board with Claire's life as a straight line and Henry's as a series of post-it notes strewn about various spots on it. The method of how the author approached the conundrum of keeping everything organized is almost as fascinating as the story itself.
Thankfully the story stands on its own pretty well, even if it's a bit melodramatic and few of the supporting characters are likable. This is a story that very well could have lost its identity ("Is it a sci-fi book? Is it a romance?"), but manages very well as a tale of two characters, each given equal time and perspective thanks to both Henry and Claire narrating the story.
As pop fiction goes, this book hits the sweet spot of being completely engrossing while never insulting the intelligence of the reader.