Welcome to the 2022 Reading List! I read 35 books last year! I hope to beat that this year. :) I am also happy to add that my voracious reading has inspired Nick to read more, as well! This pleases me! I’ve not beaten 35, but I’m at 31 on Dec 20, and I’m happy with that!
Fairy Tale, Stephen King. This is an excellent story! I mean, of course, it’s King, but really, it is quite good. It’s a new realm with little to tie it to the bigger King Universe. I hope he will revisit this world again in the future! This story is about a kid who gets involved with an old dying man who has been keeping a secret world SECRET for his whole life. Good stuff!
Nickel and Dimed, On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreich. This author is an investigative reporter with a long list of books about various subjects (that I need to read!). This book is about her experience doing bottom rung, minimum wage jobs in various cities in America and the undeniable truth that these jobs are not only mind numbingly horrible, but you cannot live on just ONE of them. A very good read and as we know from personal experience, VERY TRUE. Every rich American should read this.
Cruising Attitude, Heather Poole. Picked this up for light reading – and it certainly was! LOL This is a collection of anecdotal essays about being a flight attendant. This girl is pretty dumb and overall, she doesn’t really raise the perception of flight attendants. My fave sentence went something like this: …and the motel I was in was in view of a big white building in DC. The White House? I don’t know. Wow. So, yeah, a lightweight trying-too-hard to be a tell-all, this book is strictly a palate cleanser between better reads.
The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman. This was an excellent read! Set in SW Australia, it is a lovely story set at a lighthouse far from anything. Stedman’s descriptions of the SW Australia coast is exemplary. I did get pulled out of the story occasionally by the comments of a “blistering January” or a “chilly June”. It is really odd to think of the seasons as opposites! But the characters are pretty well written and the story, while sometimes slow, is compelling. I have the movie version of this book that I’ll watch once I’ve digested the book. I like to have space between reading a story and seeing it redone in visual form. If you run across this book, it is worth the read.
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls. I just read Half Broke Horses, and it was EXCELLENT. This is Walls’s memoir of growing up with two mentally ill parents. It’s not as chilling as The Sound of Gravel (see below), but still pretty damned harsh. Her mother was bipolar and a hoarder and her father was an alcoholic (and probably bipolar, too). They drug their children all over the place in their car and regularly did not feed them. The parents ended up homeless in NYC – and liked it that way. There was a movie done in 2017 with the same name that starred Naomi Watts, Woody Harrelson and Brie Larson as Jeannette. It was pretty good, but of course, the book is better. The movie portrayed her parents – particularly her father – very sympathetically, which I don’t think they really deserved. The book is well written with a strong voice.
Fifth Chinese Daughter, Wong. This book was actually written in 1945!! I have a 2002 edition, with an updated intro from 1989. The author died in 2006 and was known for her ceramics work. The story is written in third person, which is a Chinese tradition, but makes it read a little dry. But still an interesting look into turn of the century Chinese immigrants.
A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean. Yep, the movie was made from this. This is a short story collection with the title story being the first. Maclean has a very distinctive voice and a lovely, lyrical way of writing.
ALL these are from the memoirs section. I’m on a memoir tear!
Ruined By Reading, Lynn S Schwartz. This is a short tome, which is to its benefit. It is a memoir of a life of reading and musing on various authors. The book was published in 1996, pre-internet as we know it. Which is why this quote is prescient:
“If those of us who live by language become superfluous in years to come, it will not be because of the advance of technology, but the loss of coherent discourse.” – p.24, Ruined by Reading.
OH, YES. She is right on the money. She is of the Silent Generation (b. 1939), so many references are a bit dated, but she certainly has a handle on being well read and dealing with morons who are not. Good read!
MORE BEHIND CUT!
Half Broke Horses, Jeannette Walls. WOW, what a GREAT read! This book is a novelization of a real life person: the author’s grandmother. It is written first person and it is so very compelling. I highly recommend this book if you like memoirs. Now I shall endeavor to find Walls’ other memoir: The Glass Castle. This author reminds me A LOT of Mary Karr, one of my fave memoirists.
The Pursuit of Happyness, Chris Gardner. Yes, this was the Will Smith movie. The movie certainly put Gardner in the best possible light. The book, not so much. Turns out, he’s a bit of an asshole with a broken moral compass. I’ll finish the book, but I don’t like him much. I do applaud his honesty, however. Finished today. Meh.
Some Girls, My Life In A Harem, Jillian Lauren. This was a pretty good read. It’s an interesting insight into the corrupt lives of Middle Eastern families for the first 3/4, then the author gets real about her own life. I liked it best when it was strictly about the harem, frankly. Still, worth a read.
Falling Leaves, Adeline Yen Mah. This memoir is rather dry, but still readable. This woman is the 5th daughter of a Chinese family. Her mother died and her father remarried a truly evil woman who ostracized her and her siblings. It’s kind of a schadenfreude read: you are very happy that shit didn’t happen to YOU.
On My Knees, Periel Aschenbrand. This one is an easy read – very conversational. It’s got plenty of family humor from a Jewish point of view. I will be done with it in a day or two.
Fear, Bob Woodward. Yes, THAT Bob Woodward. Nick picked this one, but I’ll read it, it’s about T****.
V Day gift! A beautiful coffee table book: The French Laundry Cookbook! It is huge and weighs over 5#! It’s more about photos and stories than recipes, but it is really well done! It’s old, from 1999, so the recipes are rather vintage, which is interesting!
Gift and Ollies hurl:
20th Century Ghosts, Joe Hill. Short story collection, a gift from Nick. Good collection of Hill’s early writing. Some are better than others, but overall a good read.
Doc, Mary D Russell. Historical Fiction about Doc Holliday. I have started this book and I like it so far. Russell is doing a good job portraying Holliday and Earp. I learned several things about Holliday in the first few pages! Great read! I sent this one along to a friend who loves reading historical fiction as I do!
The Winter Sister, Megan Collins. Family drama, first book for this author. This was a pretty good read. There is a little bit of repetition of a couple of phrases, but overall, the story is a good one. This is a good first novel. I hope the author doesn’t fall into writing the same story over and over again. In the book club section, the last question is ‘what is your next book’ and she says that it’s a similar tale, which is disappointing. Don’t know that I’ll seek this author out, but I might read the next one if I come across it.
Manhattan Mayhem, Short story collection edited by Mary Higgins Clark. Each story takes place (or represents) a locale in Manhattan. I am enjoying the stories! All are mystery type stories since that is the theme of the collection.
A Country Road, A Tree, Jo Baker. WWII historical fiction set in Paris.
Goodwill hurl, Jan 27 2022!
Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd. Yeah, it was an Oprah book and there’s a movie. I’d heard of this book but never read it, but wish I had read it sooner. It’s about South Carolina in the 60s, which means it’s about racism. It’s from the POV of a young white teen who runs away with her black nanny and ends up at an apiary (bee farm) run by black women near Tiburon, SC. It is very well written and the author has a deft hand writing about racism in the 60s, voting rights in particular. HIGHLY recommend this book, since America is headed back to pre-60s racist governance by voter suppression and gerrymandering.
The Interior, Lisa See. NOT a Chinese historical fiction, more of a mystery. Just started this one Dec 20, so it won’t be finished this year.
To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf. I’ve never read any Woolf, thought I’d give it a try. And as I suspected, it is a typical English novel for the time. Very flowery language, lots of repetition, too much expository chatter. It does have a certain lyricism to it, but overall, it’s rather boring in that English of the early 20th century way. I’ll finish, but only because it’s great for putting me to sleep at night. LOL
The Sound of Gravel, Ruth Wariner. Started this one and I am fascinated. It is about Wariner’s life in a cult that spun off of the Mormons. She and her family lived on a compound in Mexico a few hours outside Juarez, Mexico. She is 39th of her father’s 42 children – the cult is, of course, centered around polygamy. The author did get out of the cult. WOW, what a compelling tale! Granted, it is horrifying most of the time, but it’s a trainwreck you can’t stop looking at. This woman grew up w/out electricity, running water, enough food or any healthcare at all. She watched her eldest sister be committed (she was extremely mentally ill), and two other siblings die. One died of electrocution right in front of her and her mother died in that incident as well. HORRIBLE. The things that woman was put through are absolutely unbelievable. Please to be googling “lebaron cult mexico” to read more about it. They had the Mexican cartel kill 9 of them in 2019. There is also a lot of info at Ruth Wariner’s site. Cults are never a good thing. They typically depend on the subjugation of women and deification of men. This book is very clear about that. I really can’t understand how she came out of that a whole human, but she did. She’s got a graduate degree and is quite eloquent. AMAZING.
Paper Son, S.J. Rozen.
These are the books brought over from the stacks of last year:
Almighty, D Zak. I have begun this one Jan 22. It is horribly dry despite its trying to be historical FICTION. It’s more like just historical. It is about the Manhattan Project and a recent attempt to sabotage one of the labs in Oak Ridge TN in 2012. Lots of valid information here, it’s just presented in a boring way. The author is a reporter and this book reads like a newspaper article. But I shall continue with it, because of the amount of info about WWII and beyond. It is mid-March and I’m still reading this book. While dry and uneven, the information within is totally worth the slog. Very eye opening and every American should read this book – especially those in E TN and CO.
Jasmine, Bharati Mukherjee.
The Queen’s Lover, Vanora Bennett. Historical Fiction about the Tudors and French/English royalty in the 15th-16th centuries. This book is only about 2 steps from a bodice ripper. Sigh. Might not make it through. This book is still just started, back in the To Read pile. :-/
The Distance Between Us, Reyna Grande.
The Good Demon, Jimmy Cajoleas.
The Bridesmaid, Beverly Lewis. This is an Amish bodice ripper. I’ll TRY. LOL
Added from xmess and from the purge of the library:
Pleasure Thresholds, Patricia Tallman. This is a memoir of her career and Babylon 5 days. Could use some better editing, but it’s conversational and pretty gossipy, which I love. A fun read!
Alternative War, an essay collection with one of Jim Wright’s essays.
Always Looking Up, Michael J Fox. I have had this for ages and it got shelved before I read it.
Handsome: Stories of an Awkward Girl Boy Human, Holly Lorka. Lorka is a stand-up comedian and this book is a collection of essays that have a stand-up tone. Often funny and some VERY well written phrases. This is an awesome book. I identify very much with Lorka’s awkwardness and feelings of things being “off”. I do not have gender dysphoria, but I might have LIFE dysphoria. I’ll write about it sometime. Highly recommend this book.
Dances With Wolves, Michael Blake. Yup, what the movie is based on. First thing: it is dedicated to Exene Cervenka. HOW STRANGE! [I since found out that Blake was friends with Exene and wrote part of this book at her house.] The movie seems to be very faithful to the book, other than Dunbar (main character) being naked A LOT in the first chapters! The book is a good read and very close to the movie. I had questions about a couple of things, which were answered in the post of the book, which had a Q&A!
1. Why does the book feature Comanche and the movie feature Sioux (Lakota)? This is because there are so few Comanche left – esp actors – that Costner (director) decided to go with the better known and represented Sioux.
2. Why is the ending different between book and movie? Blake says that Costner thought his ending made more sense and was better closure. Blake agrees with the movie ending. I think the movie ending is better as well. The author died a few years ago.
Billy Sommers, S King. Of course it’s great! It’s character driven, as is obvious from the name. This story is somewhere between King’s crime writings and his other character driven stories such as the Bill Hodges trilogy (Mr Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch). The story does NOT go where you think it will. Not in the least. Great read!
Strange Weather, J Hill. Novella collection, first edition SIGNED! Loved this collection of four novellas. My favourite was Aloft, a story of the fantastic and the mundane. It’s interesting to note that Hill likes to write long hand. I wonder who has to transcribe all that? LOL
Still Just a Geek, Wil Wheaton. This is an annotated update to Wheaton’s memoir Just a Geek 2004 (I was checking the date and found that I have a SIGNED COPY!!!). I’m still reading this one (May 14), and I’m enjoying the annotations. Lots of context. My only *small* complaint is that the typesetting is too small in the footnotes (it’s about 6-7pt type) – and ALL the content is in the footnotes. WE ARE OLD, WIL! Fix this in the next print run, please. I have to take out my contacts or wear readers to read this book!
Random addition: ‘Salem’s Lot, S King. Nick picked this up and I decided to read it. It’s been FOREVER. There are passages in this book that are truly lyrical and clearly show the genius that is Steve King. A few times, I’ve had to stop and read aloud to Nick because the passage was so damned amazing. I don’t care if King was high while writing this book, it is very VERY good and I’m glad I’m re-reading it. Really great read. If you’ve not read it in a minute, do it.
Books I will acquire, they are from Obama’s reading list (still around, but mostly dropped for 2023):
Land of Big Numbers, Te-Ping Chen
Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden Keefe
Things We Lost to the Water, Eric Nguyen
Intimacies, Katie Kitamura