- I have not included cover art for all books because I don't have time. I may finish this task or I may not. No personal slights intended!
- Included are lists of books I reviewed, books I read for pleasure, and books I read in order to grow as a person. There's something for everyone.
- Happy reading!
Books I reviewed or wrote about:
An American Radical by Susan Rosenberg
West of Here by Jonathan Evison
Fathermucker by Greg Olear
The Gods of Greenwich by Norb Vonnegut
Books I read for entertainment:
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (Highly recommended! This is a brilliant suspense novel, and precisely the sort of masterwork that would never get published now because it takes 50 or so pages to get going, but when it does, watch out! Thank you to my favorite book catalog, Bas Bleu, for the spot-on recommendation.)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (I adored this book, although I resisted reading it for a long time because it was such a commercial hit. Now I understand why everyone loved it. This novel--about WWII-era Guernsey and London and the Nazi occupation of the Channel islands--should be a film) by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (I read YA because I write YA. This particular novel is very good, even better than its predecessor, Shiver. I really enjoyed the werewolf novel, Shiver, and found it intelligent and well crafted, except for the very, very end...but that's what happens when a sequel is planned, I suppose.)
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater (Final book in the changing-into-wolves trilogy; I think the series should have ended with Linger. My verdict is, unfortunately, negative. I really hate the multiple narrators thing, and in this case, I didn't like the characters who got the focus; they were the unlikeable characters. When different narrative voices are used in a novel--by any author--they always end up sounding alike to me. That trick is getting tiresome, and I wish the trend would die.)
Mockingjay (last Hunger Games book) by Suzanne Collins (Why does the final book in a series that started out so strong always feel like a waste of time and money? I loved The Hunger Games. I seriously loved it. The second novel, Catching Fire, felt much weaker. Mockingjay was weaker still. From now on, I will not read the third book in a trilogy…no more three part series, please, commercial publishers! The Hunger Games was awesome, but I think the story was simply pushed too far, and it read as though the author was rushed to pump out the next two books, or maybe her heart wasn't in it anymore.)
My mother lent me Tina Fey’s Bossypants (read it on the Kindle). I live next to Fey’s parents and see her several times a year. She seems nice, but I always feel like a loser when the driver in the Escalade pulls up. Fey wrote a book that will give readers some laughs (and provides great behind-the-scenes gossip about the Palin thing), but I am glad I didn't pay for this considering the gaping wage discrepancy between Fey and myself. That's just my way of evening the playing field...I am kidding. I still hold out hope that she will play me someday in the movie version (if one is ever made) of my memoir...I get, "You are just like Tina Fey as the teacher in Mean Girls!" all the time when I am teaching.
The Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert (Utterly lovely novel from a great small press. I was enchanted by this book about an eccentric family. I don't recall specifics because I read it months ago, but I really enjoyed the novel. The title is from left field; it's a sweet, quiet, literary story--just what I like.)
Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. (A fine novel that is engaging, haunting, and leaves you thinking. There is a strong, young female protagonist, and interesting details about American poor in the Ozarks. I have been recommending this book as supplemental reading for all the AP English students I tutor because it has many relevant themes and something interesting to say about human nature and resilience.)
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett. It took me a while to get to this novel by Patchett (I greatly admire her memoir, Truth & Beauty), possibly because it's about unwed mothers, strict Catholicism, giving babies away, etc. (Disclosure: I am an adoptee and found many parallels between my own birth and this novel.) I found the main character unsympathetic and inscrutable, but nevertheless, I loved the story. It disturbed me in some ways, but I am impressed by Patchett's ability to imagine a world she probably doesn't know at all.
Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. I was so looking forward to this book (all the dirt about the Clintons, Obama, McCain and Palin), but I found it a bit of a let-down. It's impressive from a reportage standpoint, but all I really learned is that the presidential candidates apparently cuss like sailors...and that Palin is as doltish as I already thought she was.
Books I read for my own personal edification:
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. (Absolutely brilliant graphic novel about a family and young woman enduring the Iranian revolution. You'll learn so much about this horror, and, ironically, you'll laugh and love the cartoons. For all ages.)
How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and 20 Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell (This is a great book about one of my favorite topics--Montaigne's essays--and one I will surely re-read. Includes fascinating biographical information about Montaigne; this book is so well crafted. What I learned most of all is that life for Montaigne hundreds of years ago was not all that different--from a human perspective, from an emotional and intellectual standpoint--as it is now.)
Note: I also read The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven by Kevin Malarkey and Alex Malarkey (I found it relentlessly evangelical and freaky. It sort of feels like one of those chain letters. Now, as a huge fan of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and other classic works of mysticism, I am always interested in books about the life of the spirit and "proof" of God and angels, but I am definitely not a Bible thumper, as one would probably have to be in order to connect with or love this book).
Main book I taught this year:
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (Needless to say, I recommend this interesting nonfiction biography of the amazing and saint-like Dr. Paul Farmer; it's about poverty and public health in Haiti--and in Russia and Peru. It's also about how much we can accomplish if we actually have purpose in our lives, and it's about the truth of life: work never ends, and there is always more we can do to be of use to humanity.)
Books I read to be on same page as my daughter
Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine (lovely middle grade novel--based on the author's own childhood experiences--about the 1970s Communist revolution in China under Chairman Mao. This one made my pre-teen think...and I found the writing crystal clear and perfect.)
The Code: The 5 Secrets of Teen Success by Mawi Asgedom (This book--half memoir, half self-help guide--is hugely inspiring, a keeper for life. Motivational speaker and Harvard grad Mawi Asgedom is the best role model a kid could probably ever have. Do your own kids a favor: give them this book. It's basically a Mawi lecture in book form, but for those of us who don't have Mawi speaking at our schools, get the book!