Thursday, December 31, 2015

All the books I read in 2015

Books I finished during 2015, in the order in which I read them.

For a shorter list of my very favorites, go here.

The Secret of Santa Vittoria by Robert Crichton (Kindle).
Story of a small Italian village during WWII and how they hide their wine from the Germans throughout the war.  This was on a list of supposedly funny books.  I did not find it to be overly funny, although the situation in general could be construed as humorous.  But there was quite a bit of violence in it.  How could it be funny when it includes Nazis?

Love burning in the soul : the story of the Christian mystics, from Saint Paul to Thomas Merton, by James Harpur.  Nonfiction.

Bartleby the Scrivener: a Story of Wall Street, by Herman Melville.  (Kindle) Good writing, but utterly depressing and unsatisfying ending.

Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse.  (Kindle) Short stories about Bertie Wooster and Jeeves.  Quite amusing.

Reimagining Christianity : reconnect your spirit without disconnecting your mind  by Alan W. Jones.  Nonfiction.

Maisie Dobbs (novel) by Jacqueline Winspear

The Reformation: History in an Hour (Kindle) Nonfiction

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
About a woman who has a chimp for a sister.  Just like a chimp, it’s an unpredictable plot.
Paul Among the People: the Apostle reinterpreted and reimagined in his own time,  by Sarah Ruden.  Nonfiction.  The author re-examines the writings of Paul in light of non-Christian writings of (roughly) the same historical era, to shed light on the culture that Paul was commenting on/resisting against. Not an easy read, in my opinion.

Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening by Diana Butler Bass (Kindle) Nonfiction.

Real Good Church (Kindle) by Molly Baskette. Nonfiction

No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym

Discovering the Other (Kindle) by Cameron Harder – about church renewal.  Nonfiction

Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  Nonfiction

Our iceberg is melting : changing and succeeding under any conditions
by John P. Kotter. Nonfiction.  Starring penguins who must learn to change.

Leading Change, by John P. Kotter.  Nonfiction

Leading Change in the Congregation: Spiritual and Organizational Tools for Leaders
by Gilbert R. Rendle

Notre-Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo (bilingual version on Kindle).  Also The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, trans Walter Cobb.

The Bible's cutting room floor : the Holy Scriptures missing from your Bible  by Joel M. Hoffman.   Nonfiction.

My Losing Season, by Pat Conroy.  Nonfiction (memoir). For book club. 

Small victories : spotting improbable moments of grace, by Anne Lamott.  Nonfiction.

Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell.  Not much plot, but some tea drinking.  I enjoyed it.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark.   Excellent writing.  Topic not as compelling. 

I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov.  (Kindle) For book club.  Thought-provoking, but the writing style did not thrill me.

A Red Herring Without Mustard, by Alan C. Bradley (Flavia de Luce Mystery)

Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay. At first I was not thrilled with the switching back and forth of time frames, but the story grew on me.

Sheltering Rain, by Jojo Moyes.  A fine summer read.  The author was recommended on The Crislers blog, but a different book, which wasn’t available at the library.  My other choice was yet another holocaust novel, but I needed something less dooming.

Astro Turf, by M.G. Lord.  A sort of memoir/biography about the author’s father who worked at Jet Propulsion Lab and NASA in the early days.  Biographical sketches of women working in that industry and the author’s own thoughts about women’s rights in that arena.

March, by John Lewis.  A graphic novel about Congressman John Lewis during the Civil Rights era. Contributors: Andrew Aydin, author; Nate Powell, artist. 

American Pastoral, by Philip Roth.  I list this here, although I was not able to finish this book.  Narrator is a curmudgeon and then part-way through, narration gets fuzzy.  Too violent for me.  This was for Book Club.

The Misunderstood Jew, by Amy-Jill Levine.  (Kindle) Nonfiction

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by Catherynne M. Valente.  This is a book probably for tweens.  I think I loved this book more than my daughter did.

Wonderstruck: a novel in words and pictures by Brian Selznick.

Sarrasine, a short story. By Honore Balzac.  Nov 1830.  I read it in bilingual (interlineal) French and English.  (Kindle) Translation by Clara Bell 1831. Edited 2013 by Nik Marcel. 

Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson.  (Kindle) For book club.  Nonfiction

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd.

The Clocks, by Agatha Christie

Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett.  (Kindle) For book club. 

The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lippman.

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.  (Kindle)

1984 by George Orwell (Eric Blair) (Kindle) Very good, but just as upsetting and creepy as the first time I read it.  

Favorite Books of 2015

This year I finished reading 41 books. That doesn’t include the ones I started but, for whatever reason, didn’t finish.

The library and the church and the synagogue provided incentives this year. The library now has a winter and a summer reading challenge for adults! I had to read a lot of books for church. My husband started a book club at the synagogue.

Here are my favorites from this year. 

Notre-Dame de Paris, by Victor Hugo (bilingual version on Kindle).  Also The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, by Victor Hugo, trans Walter Cobb.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
It is rather inexplicable that at this point in my life I would love a book about an elderly person walking, but I really liked this book.  I found it to be a compelling story, with plenty of grief and loneliness, but also love and beauty.  There’s lots of tea drinking and letter writing, which in my view puts it in the ranks of a great English novel.  Harold seemed to me to end up being very like Jesus – caring for people in spite of them,  always listening, giving away the very last thing he has, sacrificing himself in order to give life to Queenie.

No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym
This is the opening line:
There are various ways of mending a broken heart, but perhaps going to a learned conference is one of the more unusual.
As is usual in a Barbara Pym novel, there is much acerbic wit, romantic confusion, and tea drinking here.  I love it!

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd

1984 by George Orwell
I am not sure whether to include this as a favorite book, but I list it here because I think it is an important book.  Our book club will discuss it in January.  This is my third or fourth time reading this book, and every time I have been appalled at the hopeless world the book creates.  With this reading I saw a number of parallels, if a bit imperfect ones, with current-day politics and with the internet.  Big Internet Brother is watching you, and don’t you forget it.  Hate Week is coming up soon, leading up to the parties’ conventions in July 2016.   Preparations for hate have already begun.  And remember, we have always been at war.

The two I list here are religiousy.  I did read some non-religious nonfiction this year, most notably Devil in the White City, which I wrote about briefly here and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander which I wrote about ponderously here.

Discovering the Other (Kindle version) by Cameron Harder – about church renewal.

Pastrix: The cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner and saint, by Nadia Bolz-Weber
One of my favorite quotes:
I find liturgical dance to be neither liturgical nor dance and is often performed by liberal, middle-aged women with lots of scarfy things going on.
But there is plenty of serious stuff: addiction, sobriety, theodicy, Wiccan worship, grace, forgiveness.  I’ll leave you with one last quote.
My former bishop Allan Bjornberg once said that the greatest spiritual practice isn’t yoga or praying the hours or living in intentional poverty, although these are all beautiful in their own way.  The greatest spiritual practice is just showing up.
Thanks for showing up here and reading my blog.  It is a great comfort and encouragement to me. 

Now it is your turn. Do you have a favorite book that you read during 2015?  Feel free to link to your own blog, if you wrote about books there.

(If for some bizarre reason you want to see the entire list of books I finished this year, here's the list.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Temper Tantrum

There should be a place where a person who usually doesn’t cuss can go and pour invectives out like rain, and the anger and cussiness can get sucked into a vacuum tube and sent to outer space, never to be seen again, except perhaps in a galaxy far, far away.  Some people think that place does exist, and it is called the internet, but nothing ever disappears on the internet.

Today I seem to need that place, but can’t bring myself to actually write or say the stream of angry words in my head.  So I went for a walk, and cried, and said all the pissy words to the sky, and refused to talk to the person who is irking me. Inside I feel rather Kylo Rennish.

I am very glad that Santa gave me a small bottle of Moscato (187 ml, so too big to take on a plane – do you think they designed them on purpose that way?), and very glad that I don’t have to travel again until mid-January, and very glad that we are back home and away from the place of absurdity that engendered my Kylo Rennishness, and very glad that my husband gave me Seasons 4 and 5 of Downton Abbey, which I have never seen before, and which I am now going to go watch, with a glass of Moscato.  I’m already feeling better, just thinking about seeing that castle and all those elegant costumes.

Kylo Rennishness should be a word.  Yes, we saw the movie.  I thought it was okay.  I kept wondering if Daisy Ridley is related to Keira Knightley.   And wondering why there is always a platform without a railing, built over a chasm.  Haven’t they learned anything about architectural safety in that galaxy?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Songs of the Common Household

Here are some songs we are singing around here.

“There’s a hole in the ceiling, dear Liza, dear Liza”

This hole has been in our living room ceiling since
it started leaking, three weeks after we had the
ceiling repainted after the previous leak.  Sigh.

With what shall we cover it, dear Henry, dear Henry?
With poster board, dear Liza.
I finally got sick of looking at that hole, right before
Thanksgiving.  Even the poster board wasn't big enough.

"Deck the halls with boughs of paper chain, Fa la la la la, la la la la!"
Our one and only decoration, the Advent/Chanukah
paper chain, is up.

" ‘Tis the last leaf of autumn left lying alone"
One last leaf on our Kwanzan cherry tree.
It is long gone now, but it's so warm the grass is starting
to grow again.

"Oft in the Stilly Night"
(sorry, no photo)

Oft, in the stilly night,
My bladder's chain has bound me,
To rise and turn on the light
And head to the WC.

"Rudolph, the red-nosed water bottle"
My Weight Watchers leader made these - one for
every person.   So cute, and zero calories!

 "Joy to the World!  The pie is done!"
My son and I made a trifecta of pies for Christmas:
pumpkin, apple, and blueberry.

"We wish you a Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Three Domestic Scenes

Our first scene is at the Common Household breakfast table, a few weeks ago.

Common Household Husband, reading newspaper out loud:  “Vatican rabbis affirm faith.”

Me:  What?!  There are rabbis in the Vatican?!

Husband:  That’s what the headline says.
(He shows me this headline.  Oh, the importance of a comma.)

* * * * *

Our next household scene is few days later, at dinner. Reading the newspaper is usually a breakfast activity, but in this case the Common Household Husband was reading it after dinner. 

Husband:  Ah. They are going to change the person on the ten dollar bill.  Who will be the first woman on U.S. currency?*  Who would I pick?  Let’s see… Carol Burnett.  Or how about Golda Meir.  She would be good on the ten dollar bill.

Me:   Golda Meir wasn’t even a U.S. citizen.

Husband:  So?  Who says that it has to be a U.S. citizen? . . .  Okay, how about Martha Washington.  Or – this would be great!  The Pope!

Younger Daughter:  Dad, the Pope is not a woman.

Husband: But he wears a dress.  The slogan could be “Have a Pope in Your Pocket!”… Or how about if we put a famous dog on the ten dollar bill?

YD:  Women!  We’re talking about women on the currency!

Husband:   Lassie, a symbol of wholesome goodness.

YD, getting worked up: Rosa Parks! Amelia Earhart! Eleanor Roosevelt!

Husband:   Eleanor Roosevelt? What did she ever do?

YD, fuming:  She was the most active first lady ever!

Husband:   What did she do?

YD:  I forget, but she did a lot.   Or how about Ida B. Wells!

Me:  I think it should be Harriet Tubman.

YD:  Yeah, Harriet Tubman!  Or Sacagawea.

* I think it will not be the first woman on US currency.  Haven’t we already had Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea on dollar coins?  But it will likely be the first woman on paper currency.  In other words, worth more than a dollar.

* * * * *
Our final scene is at dinner this past Sunday night, upon my return home.

Husband:     Carolyn, tell us about the fish you ate while you were in Canada.

Me:    Well, the first night I had smoked halibut.  And then the next night I had fish tacos made with haddock.

YD:  What else did you do while you were there?

Son: There was a funeral!  She didn't go to Canada just for the halibut.

. . .

We were discussing the hazards of birds flying into airplanes.

Son: You know, when they are testing aircraft, they fire chickens at the aircraft from a cannon.

Me:  WHY would they fire chickens at an aircraft?!

Husband:  To prepare them for fowl weather.