Finishing Up the Year with a . and a !

I managed to tuck two more books into the end of the year’s reading.  The year started with one of my favorites — A Tale for the Time Being — and ends with another favorite as well, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of PilgrammageSince there are so many things Japanese in my life, people often expect me to have read all of Haruki Murakami’s books. The truth is, I have had an ambivalence for Murakami. I think the last book I read by him, prior to Colorless, was the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I loved that book enough to keep it on my shelves, but something about the way Murakami’s stories can dip into the surreal prevented me from picking up another. I think I’ve expressed in blogs that I am often mystified by dream sequences in books,  and Murakami seems to relish writing about weird dreams.

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Time Reading Program: Memento Mori


Cover art by Tomi Ungerer.

I can’t believe this book has not been made into a film. I could visualize the introduction of the characters in the first few chapters as  a series of movie scenes. As one character meets another, we get a small vignette that illustrates each one’s personality, and then he/she bumps into the next character and a new vignette. Soon each characters eccentricity or uniqueness is revealed and the stage is set for the story to unfold. It’s a brilliant and cinematic opening.

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My First MOOC: On Laura Ingalls Wilder & Her Works

LIW A writer's lifeLike so many young girls over the past 80 years or so, I was completely enamored as a child with the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I always felt the books were extra-specially mine, as both the character and the author are my namesake and I was born and raised in Kansas. When people have asked me what I enjoyed so much about them, I have often said that I loved reading about how people lived and made things in the 19th century. I still do attribute my love of hand sewing, patchwork, pickling, and so forth to my reading of these books (though in reality, it is probably the influence of my mother, a crafting whiz) as well as my fascination with the prairie and the wide open skies of the west.

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Re-surfacing with An Officer & a Spy

an officer and a spyIn November I went to France for a couple of weeks to visit one of my dearest old friends. Before I left, I had just started reading Middlemarch and in a fit of ambition, decided to take it with me as my travel book. I think I read five pages on the plane and I didn’t read a word after that for the entire trip. On the way back in some airport or other, I picked up the book I should have taken with me to la belle France–An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris.

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In the Happy House, it never rains… or The Interestings

the interestingsI made most of my lifetime dear friends during the late 80s in Boulder, CO. Some of us were in college, some of us were out, some of us never went. But we all revolved around an old rental house that we called the Happy House. The front yard had a weird “sculpture” with an old bathtub and several baby dolls painted with cow spots and some re-purposed  metal air ducts that housed colored lights. Our kooky hoarding landlady lived in the back and minded not a whit what we got up to. We had a fantastic time–until the city made us take down the sculpture, our landlady was cited for excessive junk, and we all slowly dispersed into the world like milkweed in the breeze.

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Time Reading Program: Cross Creek


Cover art front and back by Jim Jonson. Jonson was a noted illustrator of mostly athletes in action. His work was published in Sports Illustrated, Time Life Books, Ski, and others.

It was difficult to decide which one, of my current 57 Time Reading Program Special Edition books, to start reading first. Somehow my finger landed on Cross Creek by Marjoire Kinnan Rawlings, and I gently pried the cover open about 30 degrees (the covers are so stiff that it is not possible to fully open the book without breaking them off) and peered in.

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americanahThis was my first round reading a book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and I loved Americanah for its humor, readability, and fearless commentary on race in America. It’s a very contemporary novel, set in the late 1990s to 2000s, as part way through, the election of Barack Obama to the American presidency is featured in dialogue. I realized as I read that most novels on my bookshelves are at least somewhat historical; its rare that I read a “right now” story. It will be interesting to visit this novel again in twenty years. Right now, this book is absolutely unflinching on the current affairs of race in America, a topic I often hear discussed as being “over” or no longer central in modern life. Still and as this book reminds us, race is alive, well, and pretty much defines how everyone interacts as Americans–if only we look from the right perspective.

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The Golem and the Jinni

the golem and the jinni

I acquired this book right after I finished Alif the Unseen, my first post on this blog. I wanted to jump in, but was a bit worried from the title that the book would have assertive religious or political agendas, or both. It doesn’t and am so glad I waited no longer.

This 800-page page turner is not fancy literary fiction, but one of those great, old-fashioned stories you can disappear into for a few days. I closed the book most impressed by its plotting. The story moved (in my mind) like a spiral. We returned to characters or back story as if moving around and up a strand of DNA,  until it all came together in the end. Each little piece of the story, each character, was important and placed in just the right spot to move it to resolution.

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Fever 1793

Fever 1793“I woke to the sound a mosquito whining in my left ear and my mother screeching in the right.” —Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson

I think I have mentioned on this blog that left to his own devices, my son’s reading list would consist only of science fiction with the occasional distopian novel thrown in here and there. Despite the stack of diverse books I have suggested (and purchased), he has read about a dozen sci-fi books gleaned from thrift stores this summer and nothing else. Time for  a mama to get strategic.

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