Five Five-Star Books

I feel badly for the next book I pick up to read.  I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed the last five books…the next one’s bound to be a disappointment, don’t you think?  I think six great books in a row is pushing the odds. 

There it was, there it is, the place where during the best time of our lives friendship had its home and happiness its headquartersCrossing to Safety, the story of a life-long friendship between two couples, is full of phrases which reverberated in my bones.  It’s almost a Wendell Berry story in an academic setting.  It’s about four people who read and write and think and debate and spur each other on to excellence.  All her life she had been demanding people’s attention to things she admires and values.  She has both prompted and shushed, and pretty imperiously too.  [Thank you, Alfonso, for the reminder to read this book.]

  I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong HillsOut of Africa is a slow book, one that makes you pause, reflect, think.  Isak Dineson (Karen Blixen) writes with grace, clarity and beauty. Stories are told with the skill of a medieval minstrel.  Her descriptions of people, places, animals, events, weather, conflicts, heartaches…are superb.  It [rain] was like the coming back to the Sea, when you have been a long time away from it, like a lover’s embrace. // [In a drought] Everything became drier and harder, and it was as if force and gracefulness had withdrawn from the world.

One can’t imagine them reading poetry together, she thought, this being her main idea of a happy marriage.  Barbara Pym writes with the insight of Austen, the clerical flavor of Trollope, and the wit of McCall Smith. If you are looking for a light-hearted chuckle and a few horse laughs, Crampton Hodnet is for you. There is a marriage proposal as funny as any I’ve  read.  Oh, Miss Morrow–Janie, he burst out suddenly.  My name isn’t Janie.  Well, it’s something beginning with a J. he said impatiently.  Pure comfort reading.  Miss Morrow went into her bedroom.  She felt that she wanted a laugh, a good long laugh because life was so funny, so much funnier than any book. But as sane people don’t laugh out loud when they are alone in their bedrooms, she had to content herself with going about smiling as she changed her clothes and tidied her hair.  [Thanks, Laura, for the recommendation.]

Did you never hear how the life of man is divided?  Twenty years a-growing, twenty years in blossom, twenty years a-stooping, and twenty years declining. Life on Great Blasket Island, off the west coast of Ireland, was narrow, fierce and primitive.  Yet, life without distractions incubated gifted writers. Oxford University Press has published seven books by Blasket natives. (I’ve read two so far.) Maurice O’Sullivan’s memoir, Twenty Years A-Growing, offers a boys romp herding sheep, fishing the ocean, scrambling on cliffs, and salvaging shipwrecks.  The book is a taste of authentic Ireland, a sliver of joy to read.    Talk is true, but God is strong.  //  It is true, but wisdom comes after action.  //   As the old saying goes, ‘Bitter are the tears that fall but more bitter the tears that fall not.’

I had come to the conclusion that I must really be French, only no one had ever informed me of this fact. I loved the people, the food, the lay of the land, the civilized atmosphere, and the generous pace of life.  Julia Child’s My Life in France is full of zest and zing.  It is as satisfying as a seven-layer salad.  Foodies will frolic through the recipes.  Julia’s marriage to Paul Child is a refreshing splash of camaraderie.  Cross-cultural aficionados will delight in the Childs’ choice to make friends with the French instead of holding hands with the Americans in Paris.  Lifetime learners will lick their fingers at Julia’s example. Late bloomers will take courage from young Julia’s ignorance of cooking  This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!



7 thoughts on “Five Five-Star Books

  1. What a great selection!  I’ve also read Out of Africa, but the other ones (aside from Crampton Hodnet) are new to me.  I’ll be looking for them now!

  2. I enjoyed your reviews and will put the three of these I haven’t read on my ever growing list. I loved Out of Africa and My Life in France.  I am reading a horrible book right now so am really envious of your wonderful reading list. 

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