Today’s the end of 2019, it was a good reading year for me, I have had years where I haven’t read a single book, but this year was different. This may not impress you, but for me 20 books in a year is an amazing feat, I’m quite impressed with myself given my schedule and time constraints. My mother in law Maryann read 100 books in a year which is an incredible accomplishment and show of dedication, there’s no way that will ever happen for me unless they’re children’s picture books. I’m a slow reader however I did step it up this year and it was completely unintentional, it just happened. I thought I’d write a brief review of my year in books and maybe, just maybe this will become an annual tradition!
This year my adventure started in 1800’s California with a young Mexican girl who fell in love with an Indian boy, I wrote in depth about this book here, how the story impacted me with the injustices that were bestowed on American Indians and it’s lead me to start reading Bury My Heart at Wounded knee, however I had to put it down for December, December is supposed to be happy and cheerful and this book brings the stark realities of one of the darkest times in our history. I plan to pick it up again next month. We also went and saw the play in April, it’s the longest running play in the country at the Ramona Bowl
My California adventure continued to the Library Book which was about the Los Angeles Central Library fire in 1986, I had never heard of it, yet I’ve lived in Southern California my whole life, this book delved into the history of the library along with all of the directors who ran it from it’s inception in the late 1800’s to present day. The fire destroyed 700,000 books and its story of it’s aftermath fascinated me enough to search out some local historical landmarks and visit them, here’s a picture of my husband at The Lummis House in Arroyo Secco, Charles Lummis was the City Librarian in 1905 – lots of local history in this book and it’s all a short drive away the picture on the left was from a short visit on my lunch break to the central library, it was a treat. Well worth your read.
The Alchemist was a beautifully written novel about dreams, visions and and how they interconnect in the universe.
Earlier this year my father Bob White published a book about his life , as a matter of fact if you are wondering about my heritage, this is an excellent reference for you, you’ll understand why I call Bob White my Father and Mal Elgar my Dad, both very important men in my life. Read it here: Life In Session, The Story of Master Bob White
My next book had me thinking maybe I really should talk to someone, this book was an interesting read, not one of my favorites of the year, but it was part of my book club so I finished it..
After that, I read my 1st Stephen King Novel, there’s an HBO series coming out in January and boy does it looks good with Jason Bateman, can’t wait to see how it compares to the book.
Next I read Michelle Obama’s book that I couldn’t put down, I loved reading about her life and how intelligent and real she is, I also bought the Audible book so it was nice to hear her story in her own voice.
Where the Crawdad’s Sing brought me to the marshes of North Carolina and learned about the life of a girl in the 40’s, this was an enjoyable book about love, murder and secrets.
Next I moved on to my only disaster book of the year, I always love reading about the end of the world, this novel started in Sacramento where a magnitude 8+ earthquake occurred and basically wiped out all of California, only a few survived. I had heard of it on one of my survival podcasts, it was self published and I felt she wrote like a 4th grader (that may be a bit harsh, sorry) so I decided that I’d finish this book only and not read the rest in her series, the premise was right up my ally, however the execution could have been better..I also listened to her interview and she fit right in the the right winged survivalist mindset, the author has quite a following but she just didn’t work for me. The next book was The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, I didn’t like this book as much as I wanted to, it was a story of time travel and a lot of What If’s, the reviews were great, but I just didn’t care for it.
Norco 80′ was a book that I immediately picked up because it turns out I lived only 2 miles from the one of the most violent bank robberies in American history – how did I not know about this? I was only 9 years old and social media wasn’t even a thought, news was barely on in my house or was it that I was sheltered from stories like this? even if it was just down the street. My dad says he didn’t remember either and maybe we moved in afterwards, but the eruption of Mount St. Helen’s in May of 1980 left me with the memory of tons of ash on all of the car windows on Parkridge Street house in Norco. I guess I’ll never know. This book was riveting, well written and it brought me to so many locations that I knew very well during the 80’s and present day (Mt. Baldy Road and Lytle Creek).
The Goldfinch was my 2nd favorite book of the year, what a story, it was long, but well worth the read, there’ a movie out on it with Nichole Kidman, I’d say skip the movie (two thumbs down) and read the book, it’s a story of a young boy orphaned during a bombing at a museum in New York and in the mix of all the chaos “saves” a famed painting and kept it throughout the years, the story isn’t uplifting in the least bit, but it’s a page turner.
My number 1 book of the year was The Overstory, by Richard Powers. I found this book by researching Pulitzer Prize recipients and thought, ” I must read this book” I went to buy it and it turns out that it was already in my Kindle – My husband purchased it months back, started it and put it down. “The Overstory is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.” I grabbed this off of the Goodreads summary page because it best explains the feel of the book, it moved me and made me think more about trees and how they intertwine in our lives if you look and pay attention,they’re everywhere and without them we can’t survive. It brought me to research the 80’s and 90’s tree activists and made me feel incredibly guilty for being so sheltered in my own life by not dedicating myself to a greater cause – it’s never too late! I loved this book and it’s up there in my top 5 of all time. I’ve enclosed this interview with Richard Powers, he reads from his book and offers insight to his motivation for writing such a masterpiece. I’m looking forward to reading more of this author.
My next book was an easy read that was also turned into a movie staring Cate Blanchett, I loved the book much more, the story was drastically changed in the movie, but it brought me to Seattle, LA, and the Antarctic, it’s narrated by a young girl in search of her mother and trying to solve the clues as to where she’s gone.
Next I read Little Fires Everywhere, this was another easy read, I chose this book because I wanted to explore books on adoption and I found it on a website that recommended it, it wasn’t what I was thinking at all, but was a pleasant read about secrets , deceit and people who stick their noses where they don’t belong, a series on Hulu with Reese Witherspoon begins in March 2020, here’s the preview for that:
The Night Tiger was a story about Chinese superstition and folklore in Malaysia, I both read and listened to this book while driving, it was another book in Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club, I liked it.
Olive Kitterage was part of my virtual book club and I wasn’t sure I’d like it but I did, based in a small town in New England the story explores aging, time and the small town people who connect with Olive Kitterage in one way or another. After reading this book, I did a search on line to see if there was a movie, and HBO did a 4 part series with Frances McDormand, they did a good job depicting the story. There’s a continuation to this book which I have yet to read named: Olive Again – I hope to add this to 2020 reading list.
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was a pleasant surprise, based in East Midlands in England in the 70’s during the hottest heatwave on record, a neighborhood has it’s secrets from years past and everyone’s in on it, it explores how nasty and closed minded people are and how when you do something bad, hopefully it’ll catch up to you, it’s narrated by a 10 year old, with flashbacks of her neighbors throughout the story.
The Call of The Wild is a classic, when we went to see Star Wars last week we saw a preview of the upcoming movie with Harrison Ford. I thought, “how come I haven’t read this book?” it’s one of the classics, I bought it for my sons and my grandson, I’m not sure if any of them read it, but I figured now is as good a time as any other. I loved it. My husband said to me “who knew you’d love a book that was written for boys narrated by a dog”.. if you have a chance before the movie comes out, but you should read the book, it’s short, but full of adventure!
My last book opened me to the world of Greek Mythology, Circe is about an immortal goddess who has been banished to live her years on a deserted island. I listened to this book on Audible and the narrator, Perdita Weeks is a true story teller, her voice is mesmerizing and the story equally so. This is PBS News Hour – Now Read This December 2019 book choice. The story has many characters and can sometimes be hard to follow but in the end you won’t be disappointed. Have a listen to this exert.
I’m no book reviewer, in fact sometimes I struggle explaining the easiest of things, so this post isn’t about book reviews but more so about where I’ve been this year which is stuck between the pages of these 20 books, I love the fact that I can go anywhere to any new dimension or reality and settle in like it’s home.
- Ramona – Helen Hunt Jackson
- The Library Book – Susan Orlean
- The Alchemist – Pablo Coelho
- Life in Session – The story of Master Bob White
- Maybe You Should Talk To someone – Lori Gottlieb
- The Outsider – Stephen King
- Becoming – Michelle Obama
- Where the Crawdad’s Sing – Delia Owens
- The Day after Disaster – Sara Hathaway
- The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells – Andrea Sean Greer
- Norco 80 – Peter Houlahan
- The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
- The Overstory – Richard Powers
- Where’d you Go Bernadette – Maria Semple
- Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
- The Night Tiger – Yangsze Choo
- Olive Kitterage – Elizabeth Strout
- The Trouble With Goats and Sheep – Joanna Cannon
- Call of the Wild – Jack London
- Circe – Madeline Miller
I look forward to what 2020 will bring in books and look forward to sharing them at the end of the year. Sometimes I don’t finish what I’ve started, sometimes I’ll start a book and it doesn’t move me, so I’ll put it down, this is OK to do. Find one you love immerse yourself and be in the moment. Thanks for reading.
Happy New Year!