(I’ve tried all sorts of creative names for these book roundups, but have concluded that perhaps simple is best.)
My Ideal Bookshelf, Jane Mount & Thessaly LaForce
This gorgeous book was a Christmas gift from my librarian mother-in-law. I loved peeking at the colorful, quirky stacks of books beloved by writers, artists, filmmakers and others. Some of the accompanying interviews only mentioned one or two books – I’d love to know why every person chose every book. Some classic-heavy shelves were a bit intimidating, but most were refreshingly eclectic (though there was a LOT of David Foster Wallace). And of course my to-read list grew much longer as I read.
The Taste of Salt, Martha Southgate
Josie Henderson is a rarity in her field: a black, female senior-level marine biologist. Despite her professional success, she can’t forget her family back in Cleveland, especially when her alcoholic brother shows up on her doorstep. Josie’s voice is the center, but her father, brother and husband (though not her mother) each get a chance to tell their stories. A troubling, poignant story of family secrets, love and loss, told in clear, deceptively simple (yet thought-provoking) prose.
Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society, Amy Hill Hearth
I’d seen Kathleen’s review of this title, but forgot about it till I picked it up at the Booksmith one day. Narrator Dora’s voice – Southern, smart and sassy – hooked me right away. I picked it up, started scanning, and fell in love. Dora tells the story of her friend Jackie Hart, who moved from Boston to Naples, Florida, in 1962. Jackie starts the titular literary society, which draws in Dora (recently divorced), a young Negro maid, and the only gay man in Collier County, among other misfits. The friendships they form change all their lives. Such a thoughtful story and a great cast of characters.
I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections, Nora Ephron
Ephron is a sharp, witty essayist, though I love her screenwriting the best. She evokes the glamour and rush of New York so perfectly – her essays about it always make me want to hop a train there. And in light of her death last summer, the ending lists of “What I Won’t Miss” and “What I Will Miss” were particularly moving.
C.S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet, Alister McGrath
An English pastor friend used to tease me: “What is it with you Americans and C.S. Lewis?” We do tend to lionize him, I admit. But this biography, written by an English theologian, mixes praise with clear-eyed questions about Lewis’ theology and fiction (particularly the Chronicles of Narnia). I learned a lot about Lewis’ early life and his years at Oxford, including his political troubles with colleagues. The two chapters on Narnia veer from biography into literary criticism, but they were so fascinating that I didn’t mind. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 1).
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
I read this book back in ninth grade, but hadn’t reread it since then (though I love the trilogy – both the books and the films). After seeing the first Hobbit movie, I picked it up again. It’s better than I remembered – whimsical and adventurous, with a large cast of interesting characters and the sense that you’re only glimpsing a large and complex world. I love the flashes of humor, and I love watching Bilbo discover his own courage and resourcefulness. So much fun.
What are you reading lately?