What I’m Reading

Book stackI always have at least two books going, one I’m listening to, and one I’m actually reading. I’ve been trying to keep Amazon Dot Com in business ever since it opened shop, and so I buy more books than I should. (Such good deals!) All this creates a certain amount of anxiety about getting on to the next book so I can justify my spending. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a bit like me, and may also share with me another malady–losing track of what you’ve read. I began keeping a list in 2008 and felt a certain amount of satisfaction as I watched the list grow, and a certain amount of anxiety–there’s that “A-Word” again–that once I set the bar, I’d need to keep surpassing it in subsequent years. I can already see I’m going to fall short in 2009!

Here are my lists for 2008 and 2009, in case you’re interested. If you see something that looks good, feel free to ask me about it. By the way, my favorites for 2009 are Olive Kitteridge, The Help, The Poet, Shanghai Girls, and The Girl Who Played with Fire . My favorites for 2011 were Dreams of Joy, State of Wonder, Half Broke Horses, and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.

 

Books I’ve Read in 2013

  • The Orchardist, by Amanda Copland
  • And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini (excellent novel)
  • Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel (novel about Thomas More)
  • When Women were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice, by Terry Tempest Williams (memoir)
  • Show and Tell in a Nutshell, by Jessica Bell (writing helps)
  • The Bat, by Jo Nesbo (mystery)
  • Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris (humorous personal essays)
  • Solutions for Writers, by Sol Stein (writing helps)
  • The Boys of My Youth, by Jo Ann Beard (memoir–good!)
  • The God Who Weeps, by Teryl and Fiona Givens (theology, non-fiction)
  • The Redbreast, by Jo Nesbo (crime fiction)
  • Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg (non-fiction)
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem, by Joan Didion (non-fiction)
  • Mother Wove the Morning, by Carol Lynn Pearson (drama)

Books I’ve Read in 2012

  • The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes–Grade: B. The title turned out to be ironic, at least for me, because it’s one of those books that you finish and say, “huh?” I went back and read the last chapter to see if it made more sense. It was still a puzzler, so I went online and checked out a few forum discussions relating to the book and discovered that I’m not alone. The ending made some people plain angry. I know the book won the Man Booker prize and all that. It’s just that the author creates a narrator who goes into excruciating detail about minutia throughout the book and then throws in a one-paragraph head-scratching zinger to bring it to the grand finale. Yep, there’s no sense of an ending in this book. I gave it a B because the writing is lovely throughout, and the author makes some wise observations about time and memory and the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.
  • Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James (novel)–Grade: B-. I soooo looked forward to this book. P.D. James AND Jane Austen…how could you lose? But you do. You Austen lovers will soon realize that you’re not going to get any further character development in this book. In fact, there’s little sense of the characters. They’re just cardboard figures for the most part who happen to be named Elizabeth and Darcy. And that plucky, witty, hiking-miles-to-Netherfield-Lizzy we all admired in Pride & Prejudice is nowhere in this book. She tires after riding in the coach to London. She needs naps. She worries about her children. Her relationship to Darcy has no spark, and much of what they say to each other is a rehash of what they said in Pride & Prejudice. This is a police procedural, plain and simple, and not a very good one at that. When will we get a good sequel to Pride & Prejudice?
  • In the Woods, by Tana French
  • The Likeness, by Tana French–another fascinating mystery by the author, the only one with a female protagonist
  • Annie’s Ghosts, by Steve Luxenberg
  • Wild, by Cheryl Strayed–an excellent memoir about the author’s solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself after her mother’s death sends her on a tailspin
  • Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, by Anna Quindlen (personal essays about the perks of aging–an inspiring take on a life stage we typically face with dread
  • American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, by David E Campbell–a thought-provoking study of the history, influence, and perceptions of religions in American culture
  • The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford–a novel set in Seattle about an adolescent couple–one Chinese, one Japanese–who are separated by the World War II internment of Japanese Americans.
  • 1491, by Charles C. Mann–an overview and appraisal of the contributions of the pre-Columbian cultures that inhabited North America
  • Wallflower at the Orgy, by Nora Ephron, a collection of Nora’s previously published essays
  • The Beginner’s Goodbye, by Anne Tyler, fiction
  • the Book of Mormon Girl, by Joanna Brooks, nonfiction
  • I Remember Nothing, by Nora Ephron, essays about aging
  • The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith, by Matthew Bowman
  • 11-22-63, by Stephen King, novel
  • The Expats, by Chris Pavone, novel
  • Broken Harbor, by Tana French, mystery
  • Raw Edges, by Phyllis Barber, memoir
  • The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, non-fiction
  • A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver, poetry
  • Help Thanks Wow, by Anne LaMott
  • Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, fiction (terrible ending. The book is overrated!)
  • Quiet, by Susan Cain, nonfiction

Books I’ve Read in 2011

  • The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides (novel)
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson (novel)
  • Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls (Bio-Novel)
  • Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James (novel)
  • Truth and Beauty, by Ann Patchett (memoir)
  • My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas, by Tracy Seeley (memoir)
  • Between Panic and Desire, by Dinty Moore (memoir)
  • Returning to My Mother’s House, by Gail Straub (memoir)
  • Faithful Place, by Tana French (mystery)
  • The Writer’s Coach, by Jack Hart (good writing resource!)
  • The Greater Journey, by David McCullough (non-fiction)
  • The Solace of Leaving Early, by Haven Kimmel (fiction)
  • State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett (fiction)
  • Dreams of Joy, by Lisa See (fiction)
  • Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen (one more time)
  • The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak (novel)
  • She Got Up Off the Couch, by Haven Kimmel (memoir)
  • Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand (non-fiction)
  • A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel (memoir)
  • Refuge, by Terry Tempest Williams (memoir)
  • Life Work, by Donald Hall (memoir)
  • Freakonomics, by Dubner and Levitt (non-fiction)
  • Committed, by Liz Gilbert (memoir/non-fiction)
  • An Object of Beauty, by Steve Martin (fiction)
  • The Journal Keeper, by Phyllis Theroux (memoir)
  • The Elements of Story, by Francis Flaherty (non-fiction)
  • The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall (novel)
  • New York Singles Halloween Dance, by Elna Baker (memoir)

Books I’ve Read in 2010

  • Night, by Elie Wiesel
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy
  • The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed
  • The Evening and the Morming, by Virginia Sorenson (novel)
  • The Keepers of the House, by Shirley Grau (fiction, Pulitzer Prize winner)
  • The Heidi Chronicles, by Wendy Wasserstein (play)
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Steig Larsson. (fiction–his last in the trilogy…sigh)
  • The Journey Takers, by Leslie Albrecht Huber (family history. Brings nacestors to life with realistic scenes.)
  • The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean (fiction)
  • The Ohio Frontier, by R. Douglas Hurt (non-fiction)
  • Never Let Me Go, by Kazu0 Ishiguro (fiction)
  • The Human Stain, by Philip Roth (fiction)
  • Making a Literary Life, by Carolyn See (non-fiction)
  • Power in the Blood, by Linda Tate (family history)
  • Rosie’s Daughters, by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnet (non-fiction)
  • Memoir, by Ben Yagoda (non-fiction)
  • The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins (fiction)
  • Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro (short stories)
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde (fiction)

My 2009 List

  • Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, by Zadie Smith
  • What the Dog Saw, by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Writing Tools, by Roy Peter Clark
  • The Red Leather Diary, by Lily Koppel (memoir)
  • Mentors, Muses & Monsters, edited by Elizabeth Benedict
  • How Fiction Works, by James Wood
  • The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
  • Don’t Call Me Mother, by Linda Joy Myers (memoir)
  • Unreliable Truth, by Maureen Murdock
  • The Fifth Child, by Doris Lessing (fiction)
  • The Poet, by Michael Connelly (fiction)
  • My Life in France, by Julia Child (memoir)
  • The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Steig Larsson (fiction)
  • On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan (fiction)
  • Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout (fiction)
  • Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo (fiction)
  • Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See (fiction)
  • Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl (memoir)
  • All Things Wise and Wonderful, by James Herriot (fiction/memoir)
  • People of the Book, by Geraldine Brookes (Fiction)
  • A Mercy, by Tony Morrison (fiction)
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows (fiction)
  • A Letter to My Daughter, by Maya Angelou (non-fiction)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larsson (fiction)
  • Escape, by Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer (memoir)
  • An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, by Elizabeth McCracken (memoir)
  • When Character was King, by Peggy Noonan (biography of Ronald Reagan)
  • The Widow’s War, by Sally Gunning (historical novel)
  • All the Living, by C.E. Morgan (fiction)
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (fiction)
  • Handle with Care, by Jodi Piccoult
  • Hooked, by Les Edgerton (A good book that discusses writing fiction that grabs readers at page one)
  • The Great Wagon Road, by Parket Rouse, Jr. (background for the family history I’m writing)
  • Hallelujah, by Maya Angelou (memoir–essays about food and life)
  • A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick (fiction)

My 2008 List

  • The Glass House, by Jeanette Walls (memoir)
  • Shakespeare: The World as Stage, by Bill Bryson (non-fiction)
  • Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (non-fiction)
  • The Gathering, by Anne Enright (fiction)
  • The Middle Place, by Kelly Corrigan (memoir)
  • The Tender Bar, by J.R. Moehringer (memoir)
  • Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen (memoir)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neal Hurston (fiction)
  • A Broom of One’s Own, by Nancy Leacock (memoir)
  • Peony in Love, by Lisa See (fiction)
  • House on Mango Street, by Susan Cisneros (memoir)
  • His Excellency: George Washington, by Joseph Ellis (non-fiction)
  • As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner (fiction)
  • Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett (fiction)
  • Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (memoir)
  • The Prince of Frogtown, by Rick Bragg (memoir)
  • How I Got Cultured, by Phyllis Barber (memoir)
  • Benjamin Franklin, by Walter Isaacson (non-fiction)
  • A Mormon Mother, by Annie Tanner (memoir)
  • Ancestors: A Family History, by William Maxwell (non-fiction)
  • The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan (non-fiction)
  • The King’s English, by Betsy Burton (non-fiction)
  • Talk to the Hand, by Lynne Truss (non-fiction)
  • March, by Geraldine Brooks (fiction)
  • Making Peace, by Eugene England (non-fiction)
  • Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri (short story)
  • Our Story Begins, by Tobias Wolff (short story)
  • The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (fiction)
  • Three Junes, by Julia Glass (fiction)
  • Restless, by William Boyd (fiction)
  • Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell (non-fiction)
  • Home, by Marilynne Robinson

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