I used to keep careful track of the books I read–not because I’m so organized, but because I have ZERO reading retention abilities. I’ve gotten sloppy on this over the last year, so before I forget, I thought I’d share a few notes about some of the notable books I’ve read since January.
Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle
I’m adding this to my list of favorite books ever. I already loved Madeleine L’Engle (I sort of have this mental fantasy in which we would have been very dear friends had we ever met in real life, and she would have been the smart one, and I would have just nodded and smiled a lot). This particular book of hers is a memoir of her marriage, and it’s one of the loveliest things I’ve ever read on the subject. I don’t easily cry while reading, but this one had me in a puddle of tears. And thanks to this book, I’ve added several pages to my quote collection, including these gems:
Every fate is to be overcome by bearing it.
But we do have to know in the very depths of our being that the ultimate end of the story, no matter how many eons it takes, is going to be alright.
A love which depends solely on romance, on the combustion of two attracting chemistries, tends to fizzle out. The famous lovers usually end up dead.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
This book is proof that there are still page-turning stories to tell. It’s gothic and mysterious, in the same vein as The Woman In White and Jane Eyre (two of my other favorites). It has a good, old-fashioned surprise ending; I wish more contemporary novels were like this.
A Distant Grief by F. Kefa Sempangi
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
My favorite kind of book is one that makes you hungry to turn the pages without, in its urgency, sacrificing lovely, poetic writing. This book fit the bill perfectly. Similar in tone and genre to The Thirteenth Tale (above), it was impossible to put down.
Afternoons With Emily by Rose MacMurray
I am a sucker for historical fiction, especially the kind that features an actual historic figure. This book–which I randomly pulled off the shelf at the library, something I almost never do–is about a fictional woman and her friendship with the poet Emily Dickinson. If you love Dickinson, you will be captivated by this book. And the story behind the book is Dickinsonian, itself–the author, Rose MacMurray, wrote only this one novel, and she told her children about it just a few days before she died. Her family had it published posthumously.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
This is the story of a missionary family in the Congo in the 1950’s. I read it just after I got back from Africa, so I was reading it with especially raw emotions. Gorgeously written, with a spotless narrative rhythm, it was entertaining and squirm-in-your-seat uncomfortable all at once. This particular missionary family shamefully rejected the local culture, and they paid a high price. A friend wondered to me if this book was just a missionary-bashing novel, and I really don’t think it is. I think in demonstrating so obviously what grace isn’t, it actually demonstrates what grace is, if that makes any sense.
This one had some great quotes in it, too:
The way I see Africa, you don’t have to like it, but you sure have to admit it’s out there.
When I want to take God at His word exactly, I take a peep out the window at His Creation. Because that, darling, He makes fresh for us every day, without a lot of dubious middle managers.
I have long relied on the comforts of martyrdom.
Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler
The story of a 40-year-old mother who, literally, walks away from her life, I could never quite decide how I felt about this book. At times I was furious and frustrated with the main character; at other times I was sympathetically rooting for her. It wore me out emotionally, which is probably a sign of powerful writing.
My Antonia by Willa Cather
This is the only Cather book I ever read. It’s the story of an immigrant girl on the American frontier, told in the voice of her friend (and a delightful narrator), Jim Burden. I loved this book.
A Stranger’s House by Bret Lott
I love Bret Lott so much that he could spray-paint the alphabet on a cardboard box, and I’d show up to read it. This book is the story of a young woman dealing with infertility. The fact that Lott, a man, can write about such a uniquely feminine experience as infertility and maintain such an honest, authentic voice, is just more evidence of what a spectacular writer he is.
The Emancipator’s Wife by Barbara Hambly
This is what I’m reading right now, and it’s fascinating. Again, I love fiction about real historical characters, and this book tells the story of Mary Todd Lincoln and her marriage. While we generally don’t place the words "Abraham Lincoln" and "romance" in the same sentence, this is actually a very beautiful love story.
Now, I may be sorry I asked, because my "to be read" list is already knocking me out, but tell me–what was your favorite book you’ve read this year?