I know there’s a site called GoodReads where a person can make a much fancier version of a list like this. I have an account there. But sometimes I just want a map of where I’ve been, not a travel guide with stars, recommendations, and advice from helpful locals. So here’s my barebones record of what I’ve read and am reading. The goal: one fiction and one non-fiction each month.
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
*Just as lovely as I remembered from high school English class, but much sadder than I realized then. Previews for the Baz Luhrman movie look pretty accurate–I want to see it!
The Anger Solution (John H. Lee)
*A helpful follow-up to Dance of Anger (read last year). Gives simple to-dos that are achievable even in the moment–I’ve had a couple chances to practice already! Also suggests that much of what we experience as anger in the present is actually rage from unresolved issues in the past, and that rang true for me. Nice to know what to work on.
The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (Sheila Wray Gregoire)
*What more do I need to say? It lived up to its title. 😉 It’s a relief to know there are Christians who can present this topic in a way that’s frank, realistic, and biblical all at the same time. (If you’ve ever read a book on sex from a Christian perspective, you know that’s a rare combo!) This one is my new favorite.
Too Late the Phalarope (Alan Paton)
*I really wanted to like this book because I adored Cry The Beloved Country. Too Late the Phalarope was similarly complex, but I didn’t understand it. The main character’s motivation was never really explained beyond the remark that something was “twisted” in him; and his partner in crime, so to speak, had equally murky motives. (Was it self-preservation? leverage? actual desire?) Cry the Beloved Country is no upper, but I thought Too Late the Phalarope was an immense downer so if you want to read Paton, I recommend the former over the latter.
Shades of Earth (Beth Revis)
*If there were some way to type a happy scream that couldn’t be misinterpreted as a gag-of-death I’d type it here. But there’s not. So just imagine it, okay? SO! EXCITED! I was the first person from my library to check out this book, which is a privilege I enjoy very much. (When you put in the request for a book to be ordered, you’re the first to get it when it arrives.) After months of waiting for Revis to hurry up and conclude her trilogy already, I was pleased with the final installment–but I can’t say much because a.) it wouldn’t make much sense b.) it might give away something you should discover on your own.
Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro)
*I felt that the narrator was very dodgy and I wearied of her roundabout way of relating everything. (e.g. “But to explain what we were talking about that evening, I’ll have to go back a little bit. In fact, I’ll have to go back several weeks, to the earlier part of the summer.” Part Two, Chapter 16) She did that throughout the whole book! I kept wanting to yell at her, “Why don’t you just tell me the story in order? Or if that’s too hard, why don’t you just recap without a long preamble explaining that you’re going to recap?!” It got irritating. I knew the story was going to be sad, but I was disappointed that it wasn’t crushingly sad. All this buildup…then it ended. Kerplunk.
The Resolution for Women (Priscilla Shirer)
*I read this one on my own but I think it would be better to do as a women’s Bible study. I appreciate that her challenges, though tough, are actually doable in a real woman’s life. She does a good job of looking at the big picture, elucidating the importance of committing ourselves to the pursuit of excellence, even when it’s easier to just talk about and wish for.
The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate)
*Hey, children of the ’90s, remember Animorphs? The author is back with something more philosophical: the story of a gorilla in captivity. The story is really sad until it turns happy. I’m not 100% on board with the author’s agenda, but I’ll grant that the story was compelling. Read about the real Ivan here.
Torch (Cheryl Strayed)
*I enjoyed Strayed’s brash yet endearing persona “Sugar” in the book Dear Sugar, but this book was not quite like that. I’m not complaining about her writing, because her plot flowed well despite frequent transitions between the perspectives of three main characters, and her original metaphors communicated her ideas effectively. The book even ended on a sort of “up” note after chapters and chapters of grief. I think I’m just realizing I’d rather read books about ideas than books about made-up people. Truth, beauty, goodness, justice, etc.; I’m going to look for more of that in my fiction.
I Brake for Yard Sales (Lara Spencer)
*This was the most fun decorating book I’ve read since last year’s The Perfectly Imperfect Home. Both present a bright, young aesthetic nonetheless rooted in tradition and practicality. Love it! On a budget–even better!
Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
*Re-read with Lovey and it was every bit as good as I remembered!
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore (Robin Sloan)
*LOVED it! I haven’t devoured a book in a while, but I could not wait to keep reading this one. While I admit this is utterly subjective, it reminded of both The Man Who Was Thursday (G.K. Chesterton) and Ready Player One (Ernest Cline). It’s a zany adventure with some technology themes. Overall, just a really fun read! And definitely look up the recurring Latin phrase “festina lente.” I think I want that to be my new motto. (Not that it would be replacing an old motto…)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)
*I never read this when I was “coming of age” and I think that’s a good thing: I couldn’t have handled it then. Substance use and sex of all kinds pervade the storyline. Despite that, Charlie is such an endearing character that, overall, I liked the book. His frank and innocent voice brings balance to the wild narrative he recounts.
yellowrocket: poems (Todd Boss)
*Poetry can be archaic, stuffy, preachy, and pompous–among other things. This is not. Rooted in images of rural landscapes and family relationships, each of these poems takes you to a place you can recognize, if not from your own life, then from the life of someone you know. The way Boss plays with sound becomes predictable as you read through the book, but the playful nature of his style keeps the predictability from being annoying. I really enjoyed this collection, due in no small part, I’m sure, to the fact that when I picked the book I had no idea who Todd Boss was and no expectations of what I’d find in his work. My favorites: “Wood Burning,” “Inventory,” “As in a Sudden Downpour, When,” “The Wallpaper,” “My House is Small and Almost,” “My Joy Doubled” and “A Deer.”
speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)
*Somehow an adult author managed to convey the voice of a tormented teen without being trite: hallelujah! Your heart will ache for Melinda, yet at the same time you will see that under her fear and self-doubt stands a strong girl who knows what’s right. It’s a painful story, but admirably told.
Crooked River (Shelley Pearsall)
*At first I was a little annoyed at the heavy undertone of “men are pigs,” but the author’s notes at the back of the book explain that the characterizations came straight from historical documents. This story of an accused Objiwe’s unjust trial in an Ohio “court” focuses on the ethical dilemma of a young settler named Rebecca. Will she have the courage to take a stand against her whole community, and if she tries, does she have any hope of success? Well, it’s a kids’ book, so what do you think? I thought this was a great story and I usually hate historical fiction.
So Long, Insecurity (Beth Moore)
*I did this as a Bible study with one friend, and both of us loved it. Beth challenged us to recognize unhealthy patterns and set our thinking straight in light of biblical truth. We agreed we’d like to redo this study in a couple years, hoping our answers have changed in the meantime!
The Pomodoro Technique, Illustrated (Staffan Nöteberg)
*You’d have to adore organization and productivity to immediately love this book, but I think the stick figure diagrams could win over pretty much anyone. This adaptation of the Pomodoro Technique is intense–he uses circles, boxes, check marks, and other notations to indicate all sorts of things like how highly he’s prioritizing an activity, how many interruptions he suffers, and so on. I think I’d have to include “figure out Staffan’s symbolic language” as an item on my Activity Inventory for several days before I could get into a groove, but I could implement timed bursts of work right away. I intend to as soon as we move. Not now, because I’m not buying anything new, not even a little timer.
Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too (Beth Terry)
*I skimmed this, closely reading only certain parts of it. I picked it up at the library because just that morning I had unloaded a dishwasher half full of plastic containers and asked myself if there weren’t some better way. The one hint I got about that was: store leftovers in bowls with saucers on top. That’s what my family did growing up. I have some new things to think about, but nothing earth-shattering.
The Non-Toxic Avenger: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You (Deanna Duke)
*Another skimmed book. I was mostly curious about the alternatives she found to “toxic” household substances. Score one for me for already being makeup free and using coconut oil as a moisturizer!
The Soloist (Steve Lopez)
Dinner at the New Gene Cafe: How Genetic Engineering is Changing What We Eat, How We Live, and the Global Politics of Food (Bill Lambrecht)
Half-heartedly reading from time to time:
Contact (Carl Sagan)
Wild Garlic, Gooseberries…and Me (Denis Cotter)
Boundaries (Cloud & Townsend)~a re-read from last year