Monday, December 31, 2018

Favorite books read in 2018

The feature of my reading habits this year seems to be re-reading.   Even though there are a thousand books on my “to read” list, re-reading is great.

The best fiction I read (for the first time) in 2018
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, text by Kate DiCamillo; illustrations by K.G. Campbell.  © 2013. 

A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote. © 1956. Actually three short memoirs. 

On The River (Bassville Stories Book 2) by Melissa Westemeier © 2018.

This is How it Always Is, by Laurie Frankel © 2017. 

A Hatful of Sky, by Terry Pratchett. © 2004. Young Adult novel. 

The best non-fiction I read (for the first time) in 2018
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson.  © 2014.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail, by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 16 April 1963.  This is a 13-page letter, not a book.

The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, by Masha Gessen. © 2017.

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
by Nelson Mandela.  © 1994. 

Books I re-read in 2018
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte © 1847 under the pen name Currer Bell.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

The President’s Hat, by Antoine Laurain.  © 2013

Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy.  1874.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling.  © 1997 (or 1998 in US). 

Joel (The Bible).  © 9th to 5th Century BCE.  Features many locusts.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling, published in the UK on 2 July 1998 and in the US on 2 June 1999.

Least favorite
Usually if a book falls in this category I am unlikely to finish it, so it never goes on my list of First Lines.  In this case, there were two that I finished, although I did not enjoy reading them.

Skipping Christmas: A Novel, by John Grisham. Quite annoying.   I have no reason for why I actually finished reading it.

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. © 2016.  I know, I know.   Everyone else in the world enjoyed this book.  I just couldn’t get into it.  It was exciting at the end, though.  I read it for book club.

First Lines: December 2018 edition

Below are the first lines of the three books I finished reading in December.  

I might have read more, but there was too much else to do, including the task of giving away nine boxes of theological and religious books from my father's shelves.  I am deeply grateful to the pastors and seminary library folks who agreed to take the books. This is a miracle from heaven and means that my Mom feels one tiny bit better about her move to assisted living, and also means that I did not have to lie to her about what happened to Dad's books. 

The trunk of my car was full of theology books.

Book 1
Not for the first time, an argument had broken out over breakfast at number four, Privet Drive.

Book 2
A tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard.
Enter a Shipmaster and a Boatswain

Book 3
Apart from life, a strong constitution, and an abiding connection to the Thembu royal house, the only thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlahla. In Xhosa, Rolihlahla literally means “pulling the branch of a tree,” but its colloquial meaning more accurately would be “troublemaker.”

The titles and authors revealed:

Book 1
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling.
Published in the UK on 2 July 1998 and in the US on 2 June 1999.  
Very much a young adult book.  I still love the notion of a loyal yet battered flying car.

Book 2
The Tempest, by William Shakespeare.  ~1610. 
(Read out loud with Younger Daughter.)  It seems shorter than other Shakespeare plays.  We finished reading it in one afternoon.  I am guessing that lots of special effects would be required to stage it.  Burning questions remain after reading it:  Is Prospero an entitled jagoff or a compassionate, forgiving nobleman?  Are Iris, Ceres, and Juno in the play only to raise the number of female characters to an acceptable level?  What is freedom and which of the characters is free? Is the portrayal of the character Caliban racist?  (I read it for book club for January.)

Book 3
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
by Nelson Mandela.  © 1994.  
This memoir takes us from Mandela’s early childhood, through his development into a freedom fighter, his many years in an oppressive prison, his freedom from prison, and up to his taking office in 1994 as president of South Africa, the first elected black president.   After so many years in an oppressive political situation and in a brutal prison, how is it that Mandela remained an optimist about humanity?  This is a relatively lengthy book, but I was captivated the whole time.  I recommend it.

The back seat of my car was full of theology books.
The pressure was high to get them out of the
 house and out of the car.

Friday, December 7, 2018

First lines: Oct-Nov 2018 edition

Rainstorm in 2013.  There is a fair amount
 of rain in most of the books I read.

These are the first lines of the books I finished reading in October and November.  I am cheating a bit here, because one of these is not actually a book, but it’s worthwhile reading, so I’m including it. 

Two of these are short books within a Book.  And three of them are Young Adult lit.

Please do stop by in the comments and tell me what you are reading these days.

Book 1
From Fairies and How to Avoid Them by Miss Perspicacia Tick:  The Nac Mac Feegle (also called Pictsies, the Wee Free Men, the Little Men, and “Person or Persons Unknown, Blieved to be Armed”)

The Nac Mac Feegle are the most dangerous of the fairy races, particularly when drunk.

Book 2
Once Upon A Time, Claude Was Born
But first, Roo was born.  Roosevelt Walsh-Adams.  They had decided to hyphenate because – and in spite – of all the usual reasons but mostly so their firstborn could have his grandfather’s name without sounding too presidential, which seemed to his parents like a lot of pressure for a six-pound, two-ounce, brand-new tiny human.

Book 3
Some things start before other things. It was a summer shower but didn’t appear to know it, and it was pouring rain as fast as a winter storm.

Book 4
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.  

Book 5
The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of King Uzziah of Judah and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

Book 6
The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi son of Gedaliah son of Amariah son of Hezekiah, in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah.
     I will utterly sweep away everything
    from the face of the earth, says the Lord.

Book 7
There were three of them, three girls.
They were standing side by side.
They were standing at attention.

Book 8
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely."

The titles and authors revealed:

Book 1
A Hatful of Sky, by Terry Pratchett. © 2004. 
A Young Adult book in the Discworld series.  The evil force in this book is intriguing.  The Wee Free Men are hilarious.  This is actually the second book in the series - it follows The Wee Free Men (below) - but I like this one a bit better.   I read it for book club.

Book 2
This is How it Always Is, by Laurie Frankel © 2017.  Engaging writing style.  Accurate portrayal of parenting decisions, no matter the child you are parenting.  I read it for book club.

Book 3
The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett © 2003.  
This is the first book in this Young Adult series, and the 30th book in the Discworld series. There are 41 books in the series, so perhaps we should call it the Discworld universe.

Book 4
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte © 1847 under the pen name Currer Bell.  
Reader, I love this book.  Every time I read it, I get something different out of it.  This time around, I recognized Jane as a feisty feminist.  I read it for book club.

Book 5
Amos, by Amos © ~750 BCE during the reign of King Jeroboam of Israel.  
Contains many locusts. Or are they a metaphor for armies?  You must decide for yourself, because it’s The Bible, and there are many layers of interpretations!  I read it for church school.  A few choice phrases:

“Take away from me the noise of your songs;

I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."  - Amos 5:23-24

“You have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood.” - Amos 6:12

Our pastor made the connection between the book of Amos and Book 8 on my list (see below).

Book 6
Zephaniah, by Tsfanya, son of Cushi.  © ~630 BCE  during the reign of Josiah, ruler of Judah.
Contemporary with Jeremiah.  The famous phrase (see Mozart’s Requieum) “Dies iræ, dies illa” comes from Zephaniah 1:15.  “That day will be a day of wrath.”  I read it for church school.  Zephaniah prophesies a full-on repeal of creation.  No mincing of words here.

Bonus obnoxious pedantic Biblical words lesson
Prophecy (noun). Pronounced "PROF-eh-seeeee" (rhymes with "see"). The plural is "prophecies" and is pronounced "PROF-eh-seeeez".   As in "The prophecies of my mother-in-law came true:  I became neither a good housekeeper nor a good cook."

Prophesy (verb).  Pronounced "PROF-eh-sye" (rhymes with "cry").  The verb "prophesies" is pronounced "PROF-ess-size".  As in "In his book, Zephaniah prophesies the reversal of creation."

Prophesize.   There is no prophesize.

Book 7
Raymie Nightingale, by Kate DiCamillo. © 2016.  Young Adult lit. A good read, and some antics with a shopping cart.

Book 8
Letter from a Birmingham Jail, by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 16 April 1963.  This is a 13-page letter, not a book. But still I include it because it is a vital American document that each of us should read.  After reading it, I found myself thinking about how we (as a society and as individuals) judge political demonstrations, marches, extremists, and outsiders.

You can easily get a copy online, for instance, here.

In the “Three Degrees of Separation” category of fun facts:
My father was very good friends with Dr. Kenneth L. Smith, a seminary professor who taught Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was a student at Crozer Seminary.