Thursday, January 1, 2015

Books Read in 2014

No real rhyme or reason here, though some clear categories did arise. I start many more books than I finish. I need more time to finish books. I want to find more books worth finishing. Suggestions? Please. You can see from this list what I tend toward.


Frank Lloyd Wright kick
The kick started with a spontaneous purchase at a thrift store, and evolved into a passion of sorts. By the end of the year, I'd visited three of his houses and claimed his principles as resolutions for the new year. I'm in the middle of three other books about him right now.

Loving Frank, Nancy Horan
Taliesin Diary: A Year With Frank Lloyd Wright, Priscilla Henken
The Women, T. Coraghessan Boyle
Building Taliesin , Ron McCready


Thinking Material
Each in its own way.

Wave, Sonali Deraniyagala.
The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 swept away Deraniyagala's husband and two young sons in a matter of minutes. One moment they're in a hotel room; the next, flushed through the city in a torrent. In December I met with a friend who lives in Japan and had helped rebuild after the 2011 wave there. I asked if he worries, if life is especially precious. He said, You just can't think about it.

Living With A Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth About Everything, Barbara Ehrenreich.
Ehrenreich's premise always draws me in--investigating the poor in her Nickel and Dimed, and pinning down the unexplainable here. But her tone turns me off. Her smarts are attractive, but her personality, which cuts through, is not. I wish this weren't the case.

North of Hope, Shannon Huffman Polson
The Sojourn, Andrew Krivak
A Long Retreat, Andrew Krivak
Books I wouldn't have picked up if I hadn't been asked to moderate a panel with the writers on the topic of grief and writing, at the Festival of Faith and Writing, held here at Calvin College. Their insights soaked into my skin, as I wrote here.

The First Phone Call From Heaven, Mitch Albom
I tend to stereotype Albom as a feel-good writer--nothing wrong with that--but this book stuck with me for its exploration of how the simple act of believing can change your circumstances. The validity of the object of your faith does not necessarily matter. Hmmm.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice On Love and Life from Dear Sugar, Cheryl Strayed
I assume Strayed is building off her popularity with Wild, and I'm glad. Here she's compiled her writing from The Rumpus as the advice columnist Dear Sugar. Adult material, to be sure, but her insights come from deep understanding and personal experience and are worth hearing out.

The Liar's Wife, Mary Gordon
Bean Trees , Road Kingsolver
The Tortilla Curtain, T. Coraghessan Boyle
These writers paint character and place like few others--place, to me, meaning a vivid atmosphere of feeling and meaning.


Mindless Fluff I Enjoyed
That's not totally fair--these aren't Harlequin romances--but this category, to me, includes books I didn't have to think too hard to enjoy. Not quite candy, but not meat, either. There's a place for such things.

Tapestry of Fortunes, Elizabeth Berg
I See You Everywhere, Julia Glass
Austenland, Shannon Hale
Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time, Rachel Bertsche


Dave Eggers Medley
Dave Eggers wrote me a postcard, yes he did. Even without that, I'd be a fan. I stare at his sentences to try to find the magic, but each one is so simple; the power lies instead in the complete coming together, which is devastatingly masterful.

The Circle
What Is The What (second reading)
Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever?


Alexander McCall Smith (of course)
If he's got a new one, I'm there, except for that 44 Scotland Street series. It's like a new album by a favorite artist; maybe you don't like all the songs, but you're sure as heck going to buy and listen.

The Forever Girl
The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon
The Handsome Man's Deluxe Cafe


Random
Vacation, Deb Olin Unforth
I know a guy who has to finish any book he starts, and will complain to me about Moby Dick as if he had no choice but to suffer through. I don't do that. But sometimes I will finish books that barely keep me. This was one, but it was so strange I had to see where it went.

One More Thing, BJ Novak
He's funny. I respect his many talents as writer and actor.

Raven Girl, Audrey Niffenegger
I really like her, so I picked up this haunting modern fairytale, which became a ballet at the Royal Opera House.

He is not here

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