Patterns in 2014 Reading

Serre_cactees_JdPSo much about the reading life delights me, but the interconnectedness, the synchronicity, of reading bedazzles me. Much could be written (perhaps later) about the thrill of recognition.

It happens when we watch movies and see an actor we know from a previous movie. As I ended the year listening to All the Light We Cannot See, a private knowledge bubbled inside me. The story begins at Le Jardin des Plantes—a botanical garden— in Paris. I practically own Le Jardin! No, but I know it, a primary location in my 2010 read, Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris. The thrill of recognition, indeed!

I love knowing what feeds folks’ reading lists. Sometimes a book is a random choice: a compelling cover, a familiar author, a recommendation. I love the patterns. Because every compelling book I read ends up adding more books to my TBR list. So here are some groupings of books read in 2014

Southern Literature  Always a meaning-to category, I finally made some progress.

Music  Romance on 3 Legs put me into a month-long Glenn Gould fixation

Adams, Eisenhowers, Nixons  two groups I put together

Poetry some gems in this pattern

World War II  the stories keep coming

Books that Stuck with Me Long After I Finished (not listed elsewhere)
• The Approaching Storm, by Nora Waln (Amazon has no image)

Science  My weakest area. I now know the term neuroplasticity! YES!

I am an Amazon Associate: buying a book through these links won’t cost you any extra money, but will add a few pennies to my Amazon account. Thanks!


What’s on My Nightstand


I must clarify that my nightstand is a bag of books, because I’m at my second son’s house helping out after the birth of Riley, his third son. And since babies trump books any day of any year, here is the handsome boy, our sixth grandson.

And here is a picture of my “nightstand.”


Yep. I think I brought 17 books with me. Some I’ve read, but need to copy parts into my commonplace book. Because a photo like the one above would drive me wild (I can’t see the titles, I’d be saying to my computer) here are a few on a tottering stack.

Let’s just work down this pile, shall we?

:: Frank Delaney’s Ireland ::   I had a hard time settling into this story in the print version. When I downloaded the audio book, I couldn’t leave the book.  Sometimes I read along, but mostly I used the book for a quick way to note sentences to copy later. If you love word origins, Delaney is your author. Beginning before Saint Patrick and going through the Easter Rising, the oral tradition of Ireland, intertwined with the narrative, make this a great read. I firmly believe that any Frank Delaney title must be heard. Delaney reads his own books, and with his background in broadcasting, his renditions far surpass any other “read by author” audio book.

 Then she polished [the battered boots] to a shine, and they stood inside the back door, ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.  p. 58

:: Shakespeare’s Comedy Of Errors ::  Making good on my promise to fill in the gaps in my Shakespeare. I haven’t started yet, but I’m going to take a tip from my sister-in-law: read his plays in one sitting.

:: Patrick Taylor’s An Irish Country Girl ::  I recently engaged the services of a new financial adviser; within two minutes of our appointment we were talking books, and he gave this book to me. Nice, huh?

:: Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables ::  This was December’s big read, but the book is not finished with me yet. I would like to go back and read some of the underlined parts again. And perhaps do a few more blog entries like this one.

:: Ronald Doah’s Fantastic Mr. Fox ::  I test drove this with my other set of boys. They loved it. I thought I’d try with these guys.

:: Larry McMurtry’s Roads : Driving America’s Great Highways ::    A travel book on driving the interstates was just enough quirky to capture my attention. This best reason to read this book is all the references to other travel books. The author states that he owns and has read three thousand travel books. And I will ever be grateful for McMurtry’s phrase, a skim-milk light.

:: Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way ::  Capitalizing on the momentum from Les Mis, I thought I’d tackle another huge French novel, the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past. This version is translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff, about whom–and about the translation work– I read in Russell Kirk’s memoir, The Sword Of Imagination. I’m finding it tough sledding, but I’m plowing through hopeful for some happy rewards.

:: Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog ::  Another title from my new stockbroker. Any thoughts from you who have read it?

:: Lawrence Anthony’s The Elephant Whisperer ::  My friend Rachel sent this to me when she figured out I was hip deep in books on Africa. It looks delightful, and if I learn enough about elephants I can reckon it as a science read!

:: Linda Burklin’s This Rich & Wondrous Earth ::  A memoir of Sakeji School, a British boarding school in Zambia. Burklin captures the tension of trying to fit into a new environment and stay out of trouble. I’m only a few pages into this, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far.

:: Anthony Trollope’s Lady Anna ::  I listened to this Librivox recording on the six hour car trip up here. And I’ve fallen asleep listening to it every night. The plot and themes remind me of the very first Trollope I read, An Old Man’s Love , wherein after a (fatherless) young woman gives consent to a suitor, a more attractive man comes courting. Does keeping your word apply to an engaged couple? 


 So what about you? Whatchareading?

Reading Year in Review


2012 was the year I rediscovered inter-library loans. I whittled books off my Wish List at Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap., thanks to Oregon libraries.  I also read more Kindle books this year than ever before. My bookshelves are patiently waiting for me to notice them. The lists are in order of my favorites. The ones I especially liked have an asterisk in front of them. You are welcome to ask questions or make comments or suggest titles for 2013.

Happy reading!



* Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas (2011)

Children’s Books

* Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, Sally Lloyd-Jones, (2012)
Two are Better Than One, Carol Ryrie Brink (1968)
The Giraffe That Walked to Paris, Nancy Milton (1992)
Baby Island, Carol Ryrie Brink (1937)
Trudel’s Siege, Louisa May Alcott (1848)
Fantastic Mr. Fox, Roald Dahl (1970)


Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1938)
Prayers: A Personal Selection, Michael York and Michael Hoppe (2010)


* Les Miserables, Victor Hugo (1862)
Jill the Reckless, P.G. Wodehouse (1920)
An Eye For An Eye, Anthony Trollope (1878)
Piccadilly Jim, P.G. Wodehouse (1917)
A Room with a View, E.M. Forster (1908)

Cultural Studies

Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell (2008)
Alone Together, Sherry Turkle (2011)
Distracted, Maggie Jackson (2008)
Blink, Malcolm Gladwell (2005)
What the Dog Saw, Malcolm Gladwell (2010)
The Secret Knowledge, David Mamet (2011)


* To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis (1997)


* City of Tranquil Light, Bo Caldwell (2010)
Olivia in India, O. Douglas (1912)
Buffalo Coat Buffalo Coat, Carol Ryrie Brink (1944)
The Distant Land of My Father, Bo Caldwell (2002)
A Christmas Memory, Truman Capote (1956)
Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons (1932)
Chasing Mona Lisa, Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey (2012)
Strangers in the Forest, Carol Ryrie Brink (1959)
Arrow of God, Chinua Achebe (1964)
The House at Tyneford, Natasha Solomons (2011)
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, Walter Mosley (2010)


For All the Tea in China, Sara Rose (2010)
Practicing History, Barbara Tuchman (1982)


* Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber (2011)
* A Homemade Life, Molly Wizenberg (2009)
* My Reading Life, Pat Conroy (2010)
The Invisible Child, Katherine Paterson (2001)
My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell (1956)
How Parking Enforcement Stole My Soul, Ben Friedrich (2012)
The Heart of a Soldier, Capt. Kate Blaise w/ Dana White (2005)
A Chain of Hands, Carol Ryrie Brink (1981)


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley (2009)
Shoofly Pie, Tim Downs (2003)
A Red Herring Without Mustard, Alan Bradley (2011)

Non Fiction

Simplify, Joshua Becker (2010)
The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller (2009)


Kitchen Sonnets, Ethel Romig Fuller (1931)
Skylines, Ethel Romig Fuller (1952)


* China Road, Rob Gifford (2007)
American Places, Wallace and Page Stegner (1993)
The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float, Farley Mowatt (1969)

My 2011 Reading List

I read 87 books in 2011. I’ve arranged the titles I’ve read this year into genres. Yes, Alexander McCall Smith is a genre unto himself! Each list is presented in the order of my preference, the top being the favorite. I found it very difficult to rank disparate books. How does one compare Elisabeth Elliot’s novel with Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts? The omega icon (Ω) indicates an audio book. K = Free Kindle K$ = Kindle at a price. I only read a few of these on my Kindle, but I’m especially interested in free Kindle books, and think you might be too.

Last year I began noting the date of publication, which helps me see trends in my reading. I find it interesting/curious that as much as I think I love the classics, the only classics I read this year were children’s books. Unless you count Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, which I read to get a feel for Hemingway’s taut and sparse writing style. If I didn’t care for it, it doesn’t count as a classic, right? Seeing this list makes me determined to read Dickens, Trollope, Chesterton and Shakespeare in 2012.

All in all it was a satisfactory year of reading. I look over the list and sigh many happy sighs. My 2011 book of the year is Unbroken. My children’s book of the year is Auntie Robbo, which you are obliged, if you have a Kindle, to read for free. Why I’ve never heard of this book before this year perplexes me. I found it on a fluke: curious about a reference to the author, I Googled her name. That’s one Google I will never regret.

The quotes interspersed are from this year’s reading.


As the train drew out of town, Matthew looked out into the gathering darkness
of the late autumn evening. There were clusters of light here and there, and beyond
them the dark shape of the hills. That was what the world is like, he thought:
a dark place, with small clusters of light here and there, where there is
justice and concord between men. 
~ Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith                             

The World According to Bertie 2009 K$ review
Love Over Scotland 2006 K$ review
The Unbearable Lightness of Scones 2008 K$
The Charming Quirks of Others  2010 K$
La’s Orchestra Saves the World 2009 K$
The Double Comfort Safari Club 2010 K$


And when the fresh curling trout had been eaten, with a mound of scones and butter,
they lay late round the fire, swilling cocoa, arguing again about stags and cows,
telling stories, and looking back on yet another well-spent perfect day. ~ Ann Scott-Moncrieff

Children’s Fiction

Auntie Robbo Ann Scott-Moncrieff, 1941 K review
Moccasin Traill Elouise Jarvis McGraw, 1952
Tamar Mal Peet, 2007 K$ review
Hans Brinker Mary Mapes Dodge, 1865 K review
Escape from Warsaw Ian Serraillier, 1963
Tom Sawyer Abroad  Mark Twain, 1894 K review
A Wonder Book  Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1852 K review
Nothing to Fear Jackie French Koller, 1991
The Christmas Rat Avi, 2002
Tanglewood Tales Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1853 K
Onion John Joseph Krumgold, 1959
A Dog of Flanders Ouida de La Ramée, 1872 K review
Pinocchio Carlo Collodi, 1882 K
Tom Sawyer Detective Mark Twain, 1896 K
The Peterkin Papers Lucretia Peabody Hale, 1880 K review
The Little Lame Prince Dinah Mulock Craik, 1875 K review


I used to tell my children that learning was like building shelves for the mind,
some of which would come to bear much weight, some little,
but all useful for reasoning and classification. ~ Janie B. Cheaney

Children’s Non-Fiction

String, Straight-edge & Shadow Julie E. Diggins, 1965 review
Duel in the Wilderness Karin Clafford Farley, 1995 review
Meter Means Measure S. Carl Hirsch, 1973 review


Beauty is a key part to understanding God. ~ Brian Godowa


A Godward Life Book 2 John Piper, 1999 K$ review
One Thousand Gifts Ann Voskamp, 2011 K$
No Graven Image Elisabeth Elliot, 1966
Wind from the Stars George MacDonald, 1992
For Women Only Shaunti Feldhahn, 2004 K$
Passion and Purity Elisabeth Elliot, 1984
50 People Every Christian Should Know Warren Wiersbe, 1984 K$
The Wisdom of Tenderness Brennan Manning, 2002 K$
The Ragamuffin Gospel Brennan Manning, 1990 K$
Women of the New Testament Abraham Kuyper, 1934


On Thanksgiving Day, anyone who wants to wash dishes
is my friend for life.  ~ Rick Rodgers


Thanksgiving 101 Rick Rodgers, 2007 K$ review


Despite its seeming mundanity, the ritual of flying remains indelibly linked,
even in secular times, to the momentous themes of existence—and their
refractions in the stories of the world’s religions. We have heard about too
many ascensions, too many voices from heaven, too many airborne angels
and saints to ever be able to regard the business of flight from an entirely
pedestrian perspective, as we might, say, the act of traveling by train.
~ Alain de Botton

Cultural Studies

A Week at the Airport Alain de Botton, 2009 K$ review
The Crisis of Civilization Hilaire Belloc, 1937 review
How Proust Can Change Your Life Alain de Botton, 1997
From Cottage to Work Station Allan C. Carlson, 1993


An essay is more than just a report; an essay takes a position or makes a point.
It requires higher-level thinking. ~ Janice Campbell (not exact quote; cobbled from my notes)


Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer Tim Stark, 2008 K$ review
Small Wonder Barbara Kingsolver, 2002 K$ review


I love fiction, strangely enough, for how true it is.
If it can tell me something I maybe suspected, but
never framed quite that way, or never before had
sock me so divinely in the solar plexus, that was a
story worth the read.   ~ Barbara Kingsolver


Gilead Marilynne Robinson, 2004 Ω K$
Green Journey Jon Hassler, 1985 review
In the Company of Others Jan Karon, 2010 K$ review
Dear James Jon Hassler, 1993
Half Broke Horses Jeannette Walls, 2009 K$
The Marriage Bureau for Rich People Farahad Zama, 2009 K$
The Rector of Justin Louis Auchincloss, 1965
Up and Down in the Dales Gervase Phinn, 2004 K$
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand Helen Simonson, 2010 K$
Staggerford Jon Hassler, 1977 K$
Small Island Andrea Levy, 2005 K$
Shanghai Girls Lisa See, 2009 K$
Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout, 2008 K$
Amy Inspired Bethany Pierce, 2010 K$
News from Thrush Green Miss Read, 1970 K$
Miss Julia Strikes Back Ann B. Ross, 2008 Ω K$
No Dark Valley Jamie Langston Turner, 2004 review
The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway, 1926 K$


Commit to one thing: You must change your life.
But if you don’t have fun doing this thing, my friend,
then it will be the dumbest damned thing you have
ever done. You won’t know if you enjoy it until you do it.
 ~ Richard Watson


Hormone Harmony Alicia Stanton, 2009
The Philosopher’s Diet Richard Watson, 1985 K$


History lessons were my joy.  ~ P.D. James


Unbroken Laura Hillenbrand, 2010 K$ review
Truman David McCullough, 1992 K$
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris David McCullough, 2011 K$
Eisenhower Stephen E. Ambrose, 1983 review
1,001 Things Everyone Should Know About American History John Garraty, 1989


The years are getting so they flash past me like pickets in a fence.
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower on 61st birthday


West With the Night Beryl Markham, 1942 Ω
The Sword Of Imagination Russell Kirk, 1995 review
The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis Alan Jacobs, 2005 Ω K$
Time to Be in Earnest  P.D. James, 1999 K$ review
Blind Hope: An Unwanted Dog and the Woman She Rescued Laurie Sacher, 2010 K$
German Boy: A Refugee’s Story Wolfgang W.E. Samuel, 2000 K$ review
Heat Bill Buford, 2007 K$


It’s not the tragedies that kill us, it’s the messes. ~ Dorothy Parker


Original Sin P.D. James, 1995
The Singing Sands Josephine Tey, 1952
Break In Dick Francis, 2007 Ω K$
Old House of Fear Russell Kirk, 1961 K$ review
Dead Heat Dick and Felix Francis, 2007 Ω K$
Crossfire Dick and Felix Francis, 2010 Ω K$
Poirot Investigates Agatha Christie, 1924 Ω K$


To be proud of knowledge is to be  blind with light. ~ Benjamin Franklin


In a Word Margaret Ernst, 1939 review
Poor Richard’s Almanac Benjamin Franklin, 1747 K$ review


We were as happy as people can possibly be in a malarious country. ~ Jessie Currie
I like roads. I live to move. ~ Harry S. Truman


A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains Isabella Bird, 1873 K
Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers ed. Jane Robinson, 1994 K$ review
The Crofter and the Laird John McPhee, 1969 K$
Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure Matthew Algeo, 2009 K$ review
The Guynd: A Scottish Journal Belinda Rathbone, 2007 review
Two Towns in Provence M.F.K. Fisher, 1964 K$ review
Palladian Days: Finding a New Life in a Venetian Country House Sally Gable, 2006 Ω K$
Wonderlust Vicki Kiyper, 2007 review


Happy Reading!

Understanding the 1950s

I’m going to undertake a new direction in my reading.  I want to understand the post-war generation, the 1950s and Korean War.  I have several books on my shelf which have been waiting for my interest to align with their subject matter.


This is surely the most intimidating book of the bunch. The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953 is over one thousand pages of small print.  The Washington Post says it is “far and away the most authoritative and comprehensive one-volume military history of the war, and…rattling good narrative as well.”  I’m counting on the rattling; I’m depending on the rattling.  My knowledge of the Korean War is akin to my knowledge of The Great War (WWI) before I plunged into Passchendaele and environs three years ago: gauzy, thin, about the substance of cheesecloth.  My father-in-law’s older brother was killed in Korea.  I hate that I don’t know why.  Why we were in Korea in the first place.  Korea is also one of those places that captures my imagination.  

One of my lifetime reading goals is to read all the books that David McCullough has written. I have currently read four of ten titles. Thus reading his 1993 Pulitzer Prize winning Truman will help me achieve two goals. This book was not on my shelf, but used copies are selling for .13 + 3.99 shipping.  Ahem. I just realized that it is 1120 pages. If it is like any other McCullough book, the pages will turn quickly.

My friend told me about Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure; her short summary had me salivating. Harry and Bess Truman took a road trip after his presidency, the two of them in their Chrysler with no Secret Service.  They stopped at roadside cafés, filled up at gas stations, and were pulled over by a Pennsylvania state trooper…five months after he left the highest office in the country. I know so little about Harry Truman, but I know road trips.  A trip in the car with my husband is one of my favorite activities.  

Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 1890-1952 may not be the best biography to read on Ike, but it’s the one on my bookshelf.  Lately I have read more varied opinions of Eisenhower’s presidency that I am curious.  I have appreciated other books Ambrose authored, particularly Band of Brothers and D Day: June 6, 1944.  Ambrose holds Eisenhower in high esteem; he’s been accused of being too generous with him in this book.  We shall see!

I’ll let you know how it goes.  So many times I make a commitment (even if only to myself) and suddenly – suddenly! – a latent fascination, be it Dostoevsky, Flannery, Spurgeon or Solzhenitsyn, tries to nudge into first place.

Ten Books I HAD to Have…Still Sitting on My Shelf

I saw this meme at Carrie’s blog Reading to Know.  She referenced Ronnica’s list. As I read I wanted to pull my hat down and my collar up and slink away.  Yep.  It wouldn’t be too much of a strain to come up with my own list.

I’m devoted to Paperbackswap.  Since books on my Too Be Read list are scrunched tightly on a shelf or stacked precariously by my bed or double-shelved in the guest room, I’m usually not in a hurry to get a book that I think I’d like to read.  I put it on my wish list and wait–from a month to more than a year–until a copy becomes available.

If I had to lay blame for this problem, while striving to keep my reputation unbesmirched, it would be on you readers who write such compelling reviews.  No mea culpa here; you are to blame!  Yeah!

What amazes me is how the searing heat of have to read it so quickly cools once the book is on my shelf.  Why does the acquisition thrill me more than ingestion?  But enough of philosophizing.  Here is my list of books I just HAD to have…still sitting (unread) on my shelf.

Liberal Fascism This undoubtedly made someone’s list of must-read books from 2008.  Tom Wolfe recommends it.  It’s been called the greatest book ever; it’s been called total bunk.  Which one is it?

•  The Gift of Thanks: The Roots and Rituals of Gratitude I came up with the idea to read this book all by myself.  Margaret Visser is a classicist who writes charming social histories.  I sort of went gaga over Much Depends Upon Dinner.  When she wrote about gratitude, I had to have it.

Only One Year is a book by Stalin’s daughter, who, for good reason, abandoned the surname Stalin and adopted her mother’s maiden Alliluyeva.  Russia interests me, as does World War II. There is great value in reading primary source documents.  One can read Hitler’s tripe (I did) and Churchill’s six volume set on WWII (I got through the first volume); but Stalin was too busy murdering millions to pen his memoirs.  So the daughter’s book is about as close as one can get to discovering the personal side of Stalin. She defected to the United States and lives today in Wisconsin.

The Christian Imagination is a book of essays on culture, art and faith.  People who own this book don’t swap it.  They must like it.  I got weary of waiting for it to become available by swap, broke down and bought it.  I have huge expectations from this book.  And because it is a collection of essays I could read small bits at a time.

•  The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong When our friend told me that birds sing in dialects, that a song will have variations between regions, even valleys! it shanghaied my imagination.  A robin’s song in the south can be recorded and compared to a robin’s song in the west and the variations noted.  The concept thrills me, but I haven’t made time to read the specifics.

• The Godly Home Richard Baxter is a Puritan pastor, a proven author in our home.  When I saw this updated and edited version (the Puritans do go on) it seemed needful to get it.

Leaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands The diaries of Queen Victoria written both before and after the death of Prince Albert.  Primary document, a chance to get to know the Queen better, and best of all, Scotland!

• The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor I am not (yet) a Flannery fan.  I have read nothing of hers.  I’ve heard boatloads of stuff about her, quotes from her, raves and non-raves of her fiction.  A friend recommended I start my O’Connor exploration with her letters.  There they are.  Waiting.

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court When I put this on my wish list at Paperbackswap, I think I was 982 in line.  I’m curious what I will find out about nine of the most powerful people in America.

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain I started this book by a neurologist and found it very engaging.  I’m not sure why the engagement was broken, but I do want to find out more about the connections between the music and the brain.  The story of the surgeon who was struck by lightning and consequently developed an insatiable thirst for classical music was simply amazing.

One obvious reason why the books are still waiting is that except for Baxter and the Queen, they are all close to 500 pages.  Writing this blog entry has piqued my curiosity…again.  But I have a book to finish before I can get involved in one of these.

If you had this stack by your bed, which one would you pick up first?

And, of course, if you have a list of boughten but languishing books, I’d love to read it.


Reading Recap, 2010 Version


Travel Memoirs

A Year in the World  Frances Mayes, 2006 // fascinating, well-written, a definite re-read in the future Review
Where Nights Are Longest  Colin Thubron, 1983 //  Thubron captivated me with his ten thousand mile car ride across Russia  Review
The Lost Heart of Asia  Colin Thubron 1994 // All I know about those nations ending in -stan (e.g. Uzbekistan) I learned from this book. Not an easy read, but rewarding. Review

Travel Essays

Locations Jan Morris, 1993 // Morris has been called the best living travel writer.  This is my first taste.  A collection of magazine articles on the familiar (Vermont, London, West Point, Texas, Chicago) and unfamiliar (to me!): Norfolk Island (now I want to visit it), Trieste, and  Oaxaca.  I want to read more Morris.
How to Travel with a Salmon Umberto Eco, 1994 // a few cogent commentaries; most of Eco’s satire fell flat. 
Places Hilaire Belloc, 1942 // I read the last essay, About Wine, and loved it.  Then I started at the beginning and trudged through this book, hoping for something else as sparkling.

Cultural Studies

The Abolition of Britain Peter Hitchens, 1999 // you could call this book Twilight of British Culture.  Cultural analysis from a conservative viewpoint. Review
Twilight of American Culture Morris Berman, 2000 // spot on analysis of American culture from a liberal viewpoint; my biggest gripe is his love of the Enlightenment. Review
The Geography of Nowhere  James Howard Kunstler, 1993 // excellent, highly recommended, a book that replays thoughts in my mind Review
Wanderlust, A History of Walking  Rebecca Solnit, 2001  // pleasant read, many great quotes, and a phrase I want to steal for a blog title: The Mind at Three Miles an Hour
The Disappearance of Childhood  Neil Postman, 1994 // Postman delivers more perceptive writing on the changes industrialization and television have brought on children. Excellent thoughts on shame. Review


Out of Africa  Isak Dinesen, 1937 // Elisabeth Elliot quotes from this book a lot; she spurred me on to read it. A classic book that has velcroed itself to my conscious thoughts. Review
Shadows on the Grass Isak Dinesen, 1960 // great stuff on human relations, not as striking as Out of Africa
Zarafa, Michael Allin, 1994 // A charming book about the gift of a giraffe from the Grand Vizier of Egypt to the king of France.  I learned history, zoology, and geography from this little book. Review
The Flame Trees of Thika  Elspeth Huxley, 1959 // worthy memoir of a childhood in Africa Review
Facing the Congo  Jeffrey Taylor, 2001 // a thrilling story with a flat ending  Review
Hand on My Scalpel  David C. Thompson, 2001 // a surgeon’s stories of practicing medicine with limited facilities
Land of a Thousand Hills Rosamond Halsey Carr, 1999 // Life on a plantation in Rwanda


Safe Passage Ida Cook, 1950 // loved these opera-loving sisters who rescued many people from Hitler’s grasp Review
The Apprentice Jacues Pépin 2003 Ω // A delicious story of the great cook, complete with French accent.
If I Perish Esther Ahn Kim, 1977 // Christian persecution in Korea, told by a “failed martyr”. Review
My Life if France Julia Child, 2006 Ω // Perfect companion book to The Apprentice Review
Home Julie Andrews, 2008 Ω // Julie reads this book about her early years.  Her accent alone melts me.
Twenty Years A-Growing  Maurice O’Sullivan, 1933 // Musha, if it’s Ireland ye be loving, get this book! Review
The Glass Castle  Jeannette Walls, 2005 // Poignant story from a survivor of wacky/dsyfunctional parents
Facing East Frederica Mathewes-Green, 1997 // if you are interested in (big O) Orthodox Christianity, Frederica will guide you through the church calendar lived out in her family/parish. Review
Seasons of Grace  Donna Farley, 2002 // Like Facing East, not as engaging
A Fortunate Grandchild Miss Read, 1983 // I enjoy Miss Read’s fiction, but this book drug on. Boring.


Some Tame Gazelle Barbara Pym, 1950 Ω // This is Pym’s first published book.  I loved hearing the audio book and must get the print version.  I howled through parts of it, but I’m not sure its appeal is universal.  If you like to laugh at Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, you will love this book.
Crampton Hodnet Barbara Pym, 1940 (publ posthumously) // spinsters, Oxford…amusing tale from the author called the modern Jane Austen Review
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand Helen Simonson, 2010 //  poignant and perceptive, this novel that underscores how the mores of England have changed…but really? The only way a Christian-Muslim romance will work is if both parties aren’t practicing. 
The Morning Tide
Neil Gunn, 1930 // authentic Scottish fiction, warms and breaks the heart Review
The Lost Art of Gratitude  Alexander McCall Smith 2009 Ω// I prefer Mma Ramotswe to Isabelle Dalhousie, but McCall Smith makes me laugh and muse at the same time
The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday  Alexander McCall Smith 2008 Ω// see above
An Irish Country Village
Patrick Taylor, 2009 Ω // Not up to Herriot’s series, but fun listening
An Irish Country Christmas  Patrick Taylor, 2008 Ω // see above
An Irish Country Girl Patrick Taylor, 2010 Ω // Kinky (Mrs. Maureen Kincaid, the housekeeper) tells her story
The Fields of Bannockburn Donna Fletcher Crow, 1996// Ancient Scotland through 1980 eyes.  Too much cheese. Review


A Godward Life Book Two John Piper, 1999 //  like a collection of blog posts; short essays on everything
The Crime of Living Cautiously Luci Shaw, 2005 // Shaw beckons us to take off our fear and dive into life’s adventures. Great thoughts on writing, friendship, art, grief.  Her poems season the prose.   
Psallite  Richard W. Patt, 1976 // Psallite is the command to sing! in Latin.  Devotions for singers in the choir.
Telling the Truth: Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale  Frederick Buechner, 1977 // didn’t meet my expectations
Whistling in the Dark  Frederick Buechner, 1988 //  some nuggets here and there

Non Fiction

Evening in the Palace of Reason James R. Gaines, 2005 // A dual study of Bach and Frederick the Great and the worldviews they represented.  This is my non-fiction book of the year. Review
How to Read Slowly James W. Sire, 1978 // I expect to read this book at least three more times. Excellent! Review
Fierce Conversations Susan Scott 2002 // Excellent assistance in learning how to deliver the message without the load.  If you find yourself equivocating and dodging honest talk, you need to read this book.
The Art of Romantic Living Susan Wales, 2003 // The book is twee, but I gleaned pages and pages of great quotes
Letters to An American Lady C.S. Lewis, 1967 // Never did I dream I would rate a C.S. Lewis book under The Art of Romantic Living, but it annoyed me.  There are gems from Lewis’ pen, but there are easier ways to read them. Review


Island of the World Michael D. O’Brien 2007 //  This story of Josip, a Croatian lad, is my book of the year. Simply astounding writing and story. Review
Hannah Coulter Wendell Berry 2004 // Perhaps the fourth time I’ve read/heard Hannah’s story.
Crossing in Safety  Wallace Stegner, 1987 // Literary lusciousness; lives of two academic couples Review
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston, 1937 Ω // Gritty, compelling, heartbreaking (mature themes)  The audio performance of this book was highly excellent.
Playing for Pizza  John Grisham, 2008 // loved the cultural bit of an NFL player adjusting to the Italian way of life; not so much the references to casual sex
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day Winifred Watson, 1938 Ω // a female counterpart to Wooster and Jeeves; wickedly funny in places, exposes the hollowness of a glamorous actress’ life, not a difficult task
Big Stone Gap Adriana Trigiani, 2001 // quick read, forgettable
The Diary Eileen Goudge, 2009 Ω //  When I tell folks about Elizabeth Goudge I always warn them not to confuse her with Eileen Goudge, who appears to write what we call bodice-rippers. Eileen is a distant relative of Elizabeth and I decided to do a comparison. The Diary is based on Goudge’s parents’ story.  It is not sanitized, but engagingly written.  The ending completely took me by surprise. While I hope to read several more of Elizabeth’s English fiction, I don’t plan on any more Eileen.
Big Cherry Holler Adriana Trigiani, 2002 // see above

Children’s Book

Rose in Bloom Louisa May Alcott, 1876 //  sequel to Eight Cousins, a classic contest between an exciting, naughty boy and a plodding, nice guy.  Who will get Rose?


A Certain Justice P.D. James, 1997 // Review
The Private Patient P.D. James, 2009 Ω // James understands human nature.  Great writer.
The Murder Room P.D. James, 2003 Ω // another Adam Dalgliesh mystery
The Footsteps at the Lock Ronald A. Knox, 1928 // wry, dry British humor comes out in this mystery. I liked it.


Words to God’s Music, Laurance Wieder, 2003 // He did what Isaac Watts did, but I wasn’t thrilled  Review
77 Love Sonnets Garrison Keillor, 2009 Ω // The author reads his sonnets.  So so.  Some were great, others not.

Local History

Home Below Hell’s Canyon  Grace Jordan, 1954 // modern pioneer raises a family in a remote, rugged ranch Review
Pan Bread ‘n Jerky Walter L. Scott, 1968 // rustic account of life in Eastern Oregon, a trudging book (hard to read because it is poorly written) Review
It Happened in Washington  James Crutchfield, 1995 // tasty bits of information.  Nez Perce = Pierced Noses; the Kaiser settled a border dispute between USA and Canada in 1872; Alki (state motto) means “By and by”

How this List Works:
Within categories I list them in order of liking, top to bottom.
If I especially liked this, and think you might also, I underlined it.
Ω means I listened to an audio version of this book.
Many books could fit in multiple categories: I picked one.

I love comments and recommendations.
If you see a title and your mind flies to another title,
as in, if she likes A, she should read B,
I would consider it a friendly gesture to tell me.

How is it I read almost exclusively (other than the Bible)
from the twentieth and twenty-first century?
Must fix that. Widgets

If You Were Me Today

You wake up to the alarm, hit the snooze button and drift back into lala-land.

As you rise to the surface of consciousness your heart twitters: today is “High Holy Day”!  It is the first day of the annual Book Fair at the local university, the only opportunity for thrift books in your region. You close your eyes and smile, picturing the long tables covered with books.  You review the best snatches from previous years, and rejoice at the precious ones. 

Your son lets you borrow his car because yours is getting repaired.  You assure your husband that this year you will be reasonable.  Selective.  Discriminating.  You stop before you say Self-Controlled.

You go to work at the pharmacy where you are training for a new job because your life is in transition from home school mom to working woman.  But they know the significance of this day and you have leave to go to lunch at 10:45.

You arrive at the gymnasium where the sale opens, at a $5 premium, for the first hour.  To your dismay, you see Pastor Steele smack at the front of the line.  Pastor Steele has a doctorate, loves history, is a Calvinist–any good book you’d hope to snag will be grabbed by him first.  You also believe in providence, and wonder which books are predestined to go home with you.  You recall with relief the conversation where he insisted he didn’t read fiction.   

All chitchat ceases when the door opens.  Your $5 bill is ready, your Office Depot paper box is in hand and you scope, zoom, do a little skip-trot-jog step while trying to maintain an outward picture of dispassionate serenity.  You promise yourself you won’t stalk Pastor Steele trying to see what his box holds. 

The first table is passed up by all ten of the book sharks.  An opportunity! You plant yourself, tilt your head to read titles, throwing “worthy” books in your box as quickly as you can.  There’s always time to weed later, but if you don’t get it in your box, one of those sharks will snap it up.  You sneak a sidewards glance at the bookstore owner who is starting to fill his second box.  That’s okay: he has a family to feed. 

You start the second combing, letting your fingers flutter over the spines.  You are rewarded with a few titles which previously escaped you.

For twenty minutes you work quickly and intently.  Then you straighten, rub your back, take a breath and start working the room methodically. Satisfied with your catch, you pony up to the checkout table and pay your bill.

You return to work, mentally writing a blog entry whenever the internet hesitates.  You authorized a $9,055.00 payment to a vendor whose invoice is $90.55.  After canceling your overpayment, you go home to take an inventory and let your friends, folks fascinated by the banal detritus of your life, see the results.

Travel Books

Of Men and Mountains, William O. Douglas
Facing the Congo, A Modern-Day Journey into the Heart of Darkness, Jeffrey Tayler
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Eric Newby (preface by Evelyn Waugh)
Skeletons On the Zahara, A True Story of Survival, Dean King
In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson
A Passage to India, E. M. Forster
1.000 Places to See Before You Die, Patricia Schultz (x 2!)

Art and Music

A World of Art, Henry M. Sayre
Stomping the Blues, Albert Murray
Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Founding Brothers, Joseph J. Ellis
Galileo’s Daughter, Dava Sobel (hardback, gift condition)
Tank versus Tank, Kenneth Macksey
Band of Brothers, Stephen E. Ambrose
German Boy, A Child in War, Wolfgang Samuel, Forw Stephen Ambrose
The Gathering of Zion, The Story of the Mormon Trail, W. Stegner
Desert Diary, Louise Van Dyke

Social History

How the Other Half Lives, Jacob A. Riis (a 1929 hardback)
Home, Witold Rybczynski
Rats, Robert Sullivan
Library, An Unquiet History, Matthew Battles


New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant
Olives, The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit, Mort Rosenblum
Quilts are Forever, A Patchwork of Insp. Stories, Kathy Lamancusa
Spirit of the Kitchen, Jane Alexander
Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much, Anne Wilson Schaef
I Married You, Walter Trobisch


The Oxford History of Western Philosophy, ed. Anthony Kenny
The Courage to Teach, Parker J. Palmer
A Critic’s Notebook, Irving Howe


One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Man in the Iron Mask, Alexandre Dumas
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
3 By Flannery O’Connor
The Old Order, Stories of the South, Katherine Anne Porter
The Moviegoer, Walker Percy
The Bean Tree, Barbara Kingsolver
The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy

Children’s Books

Rascal, Sterling North
Redwall, Brian Jacques
Mossflower, Brian Jacques
Winterdance, The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod, G. Paulsen
Heidi, Johanna Spyri, illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith!!
The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Multiplication Book, Jerry Pallotta
Book, George Ella Lyon, Peter Catalanotto
I Spy Gold Challenger, A Book of Picture Riddles
Holes, Louis Sachar
A Year Down Yonder, Richard Peck

You take a deep breath and smile. You stop gloating and start looking for a place to shelve the books.