Saturday, December 31, 2011

Books and Best of 2011

Wolf: The Lives of Jack London - James L. Haley
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
Blindness - Jose Saramago
Shakespeare's Sonnets and Poems - Folger Shakespeare Library
Apologetics for the 21st Century - Dr. Louis Markos
Have A New Kid by Friday - Dr. Kevin Leman
Bread Givers - Anzia Yezierska

Cleopatra: A Life - Stacy Schiff
Room - Emma Donoghue
Restoring Beauty: The Good, The True and The Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis - Dr.Louis Markos
The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein
Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
Our Horses in Egypt - Rosalind Belben
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkein

The Testament - John Grisham
Moonwalking with Einstein - Joshua Foer
Crazy U - Andrew Ferguson
Decision Points - George Bush

I didn't keep track - I was moving

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich
Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl
The Churchills by Mary S. Lovell
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Night by Elie Weisel
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
What Was She Thinking [Notes on a Scandal] by Zoe Heller
Until Tuesday by Luis Montalvan
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
The Fellowship of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs
The Hours by Michael Cunningham

War and Peace (Book One) by Leo Tolstoy
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant
The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt
Blue Nights by Joan Didion
The Lost Hero and
The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkein


Anne of Green Gables
●Anne of Avonlea
●Anne of the Island
by Lucy Maud montgomery
The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
11-22-63 by Stephen King
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

That is 52 books in 2011. Respectable (considering the 3 months lost to an international move) and I don't think I could have fit another one in. Some were disappointments (but who cares about those). And then there were the great ones. The top five of 2011 ... and these will stick with me for a long time:

Blindness by Saramago
11-22-63 By King
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Clarke
The Night Circus by Morganstern
Catherine the Great by Massie

Except for Blindness, because it is just too disturbing, I would recommend these to anyone.

Goals for 2012 - and I know I always set goals that tend to be pie in the sky, but I am not the kind of person that is disappointed when I don't achieve them. I am proud to accomplish even a fraction of my reading goals. For example, I only read four of the classics that I had picked out for last year, but those were well worth it. And I finished Mrs. Dalloway! Which I never would have done without the goal to begin with. I am not the beat myself up kind of person ... just trying to get better and better.

But back to the goal ... its a big one. Are you ready?

One Shakespeare play per month. I know too little of the bard. Suggestions on where to begin?

Not Just Hiking - December 2011

Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Avonlea
Anne of the Island

by Lucy Maud montgomery
I read the first for book club and then just kept on reading. Like in my recent obsession with The Limberlost, I think I am drawn to the beauty and innocence of the writing and the characters. I am happy I have boys, but there are times I wish I had a daughter to share books like this with.

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
Called thrilling and deeply moving in a review that led me to this book. I found it neither. I found it plodding and boring. I finished it only because I had nothing else to read on the plane.

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
Leaps and bounds better than the other biography I read this year of a powerful woman leader. He even managed to make the Russian history compelling. I understand that there are many more sources for Catherine than for Cleopatra, but Massie made Catherine come alive while Schiff's portrait was two-dimensional.

11-22-63 by Stephen King
King scares me. Literally. I don't watch horror films and I don't read scary books. I prefer to sleep soundly in my bed while my active imagination and dreamworld is filled with pretty girls in Victorian gowns and magic and gardens. Seriously. I have never read King because he writes horror stories. But this was sitting there, un-checked out, on the library shelf. It called to me. I am so glad I answered the call. King can write. Page by page, I made my way through this novel alternately rushing through to keep the story going and going back and re-reading so as not to miss a thing. I loved this book! I'll put it second on my list of best books of 2011 (behind Saramago, but only by a hair). Should I read another? Which one won't give me nightmares?

Miracle on 34th Street
My all time Christmas favorite. When the boys question the validity of the mall Santa, I have always maintained that the MACY'S Santa is the real one, the others are just helpers.

Not sure how much I liked this season of t.v. by the end, but the eye-candy was entertaining while wrapping presents.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Just What I Needed

Many, many thanks to one of my favorite bloggers, Mrs. M-mv, for her post today. I needed a little whimsey in my life. The ides of not being "home" has started to weigh on me this year.

Mental multivitamin: Joyce Carol Oates... as a doll.

I laughed and smiled and then I purchased this ...

and this.

If I hadn't finished my shopping for the family, I would have purchased more. There are always birthdays!

Monday, December 5, 2011


I will wear shorts.

I will eat anything I want to.

I will stop taking my extra vitamin D.

I will laugh like a child.

I will hug my dad and tell him I love him.

I will find as many sprigs of mistletoe as I can and drag my husband under them.

I will not read a newspaper.

I will not worry that my kids are missing 5 days of school.

I will smile constantly.

I will cry tears of joy.

I will be thrilled.

I will be amazed.

I will be thankful that one man created a mouse that turned into an empire.

We are going to DisneyWorld!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Not Just Hiking - November 2011

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt
Finally. A book nominated for an award* that I thought was truly worth it. Original and offbeat. It is funny/strange in a modernized western noir sort of way. Yet it had a warmth and depth I haven't seen lately. It is WELL written. The characters were worth my time. Even the one-eyed horse was compelling. I picked it up and didn't put it down until it was finished and then I wanted to read more.
*shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

Blue Nights by Joan Didion
There are those readers who don't like Didion and those who do. I am in the "do" group. I have always enjoyed her fiction and her family and her life. I loved The Year of Magical Thinking and liked this book even more. "Yet there is no day in her life on which I do not see her." How I understand this line. Too well.
See NY Review of Books article.

The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
J wanted me to read these. This series is not as good as his Percy Jackson series, but I enjoyed the couple of days reading I spent on them. Not wasted.

The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
This book was as visual an enjoyment for me as it was anything else. There are no pictures except those that you create as you read it; and it was beautiful and transcendent. Although about the only thing they have in common is a focus on magic, I was often reminded of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, another of my favorites from earlier this year.

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkein
The second part of the The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was a much easier read for me, and I think it was because I was already invested in the story. Now I can't wait to begin and finish the third.

The Fellowship of The Ring
Really one of the few movies I have ever seen that can stand up to the scrutiny of and add to the reading of a book. I am very glad I took on the first part of Peter Jackson's trilogy after reading the first part of Tolkein's. I feel more prepared and I might even say excited to read on. (And I am glad I could fast forward through the scary parts - since I knew what would happen. I am a movie wimp. I just don't like ugly scenes.) I was brought to tears. BRAVO Mr. Jackson.

The Two Towers
While I loved the book this was based on, I did not enjoy this movie nearly as much as I did the first one in the (movie) trilogy. I have to admit that I watched this one on fast forward. While it was as well made as the first, I did not think it added as much to the reading of the book. I was troubled by the end of the movie which did not quite match the book.