Wednesday, January 13, 2010


In April of 1995, I got a job working 6 hours a day, 6 days a week and it really cut into my reading time. There was no way to sneak and read on the clock at my job. Believe me, I tried several times!

1. The Good Husband (novel) - Gail Godwin. One of the main characters is dying and her husband takes care of her. Another woman also becomes her caretaker and she and the husband develop feelings for one another but they're too well-bred to do anything about it until he's widowed.

2. Talk Before Sleep (novel) - Elizabeth Berg. Is someone dying in this novel? I have a vague memory.

3. The Prodigal Women (novel) - Nancy Hale. First published in the early 1940s. It's time for this novel and this author to be rediscovered.

4. Postcards (novel) - E. Annie Proulx. Loyal Blood accidentally kills his girlfriend and goes on the lam for about 40 years. He sends postcards from the west back home to his family in Vermont. They also write postcards for a variety of reasons.

5. A Tremor of Bliss: Contemporary Writers On The Saints (essays) - Paul Elie, editor. What the subtitle says. It's interesting to see which writers chose which saints and why.

6. Flying in Place (novel) - Susan Palwick. I don't remember this novel.

7. Violet Clay (novel) - Gail Godwin. The writing seemed a little stiff. This was an earlier novel of Godwin's and I don't think she had really hit her stride yet.

8. Friends For Life (novel) - Meg Wolitzer. Cute. Fun. I always like Wolitzer's writing.

9. Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? (novel) - Lorrie Moore. I really love Anagrams, but I couldn't warm up to this one. I kind of dislike the title as well.

10. The Nun's Story (novel) - Kathryn Hulme. This was a re-read from my high school days. What can I say? I love this book, although nowadays, Sister Luke seems a little too intense to be true.

11. Three Nuns (nonfiction) - Sarah Harris. Terrible writing style.

12. Holy Company: Christian Heroes and Heroines (essays) - Eliot Wright. Lively, informative and enjoyable. An assortment of Christian heroes and heroines, each one a chapter and arranged by the Beatitudes.

13. A Map of the World (novel) - Jane Hamilton. Alice is taking care of her friend's kids one day. She turns her back for a moment and the 2-year-old drowns in the pond. Her troubles are just beginning though, as she is accused of child abuse by a student she has seen at her part-time job as a school nurse. The book is divided into 3 sections. Alice narrates the first and last and her husband narrates the middle section, which feels a little jarring. Enjoyable in that bleak and depressing way.

14. A Right To Be Merry (memoir) - Sister Mary Francis, P.C.C. Life in a Poor Clares convent. Although it's a little too perky and positive, it was a relief after book after book about what's wrong with being a nun and why nuns were leaving convents in hordes during the 1960s and 70s.

15. The Book of Ruth (novel) - Jane Hamilton. Ruth is saddled with two of the most unsavory characters in recent modern fiction: Her mother, May, whose mean, toxic mouth proves to be her undoing and her husband, Ruby, who is very much on the scuzzy side of life. The way Ruth/Hamilton describes him, you wonder how Ruth could even inhabit a room with him, much less get pregnant by him twice. So dark and depressing but so well-written.

16. Duplicate Keys (novel) - Jane Smiley. A mystery/suspense novel; one of Smiley's earlier efforts. Nothing wrong it it -- just not my type of book.

17. The Screwtape Letters (novel) - C.S. Lewis. A series of letters from Screwtape, a master tempter-tactician to Wormwood, his incompetent apprentice. This is my very favorite of all of Lewis' writing.

18. The Virgin Suicides (novel) - Jeffrey Eugenides. I didn't like it. The narration seemed all wrong.

19. The Stone Diaries (novel) - Carol Shields. This strange and clever Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows Daisy from her childhood to her first brief and strange marriage, her widowhood, her second marriage to an older family friend, her second widowhood and her old age. The photos at the end of the novel are disconcerting. Who are these people?

20. Mariette In Ecstasy (novel) - Mariette's a nun. She's having visions. Is she a saint or high-strung or just out-and-out faking? No one really knows what to make of it all. The other nuns are awed and a little jealous.

21. Dancer With Bruised Knees (novel) - Lynne McFall. I don't remember this novel.

22. Ladder of Years (novel) - Anne Tyler. Delia just walks away from her home one day and makes a new life for herself away from Baltimore and her doctor husband and their children. She is annoyed that when they write the missing person's description, they can't even get her basic stats right.

23. The Basketball Diaries (memoir) - Jim Carroll. Muddled and boring.

24. Splendora (novel) - Edward Swift. I don't remember this novel.

25. Kristin Lavransdatter (trilogy of novels) - Sigrid Undset. Wow! The story of Kristin's life is unforgettable and unputdownable. Undset does medieval so perfectly. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature and deservedly so. Standing ovation!

26. The Information (novel) - Martin Amis. I don't remember this novel. My first husband was a big Martin Amis fan. I read it because he read it and because I thought it would make me seem edgy and intelligent, but all I got was LitAmnesia. Sniff.

27. Madame Bovary (novel) - Gustave Flaubert. How did Flaubert manage it? He wrote a novel about a 19th century airhead that readers find themselves sympathizing with. The key is his no-nonsense now-flowery writing style. It packs a bigger punch than if he'd written in the overblown, sentimental style that Emma Bovary herself was so fond of reading.

28. The Republic of Love (novel) - Carol Shields. Damn. LitAmnesia strikes again.

29. I, Asimov: A Memoir (memoir) - Issac Asimov. Entertaining and very readable memoir by the prolific writer.

30. One Writer's Beginnings (memoir) - Eudora Welty. Wonderful depiction of Welty's family and her childhood in Jackson, Mississippi. It seems to flag a little at the end when she's in college, then working.

31. The Liar's Club (memoir) - Mary Karr. I should remember this book! Oh well, I can fix it by reading her trilogy of memoirs The Liar's Club, Cherry and Lit all in one fell swoop.

32. Bogart: In Search of My Father (memoir) - Stephen Humphrey Bogart. Sad and thoughtful. He was just a small boy when his father died.

33. Sights Unseen (novel) - Kaye Gibbons. LitAmnesia. I don't know why Gibbons' novels don't stick with me.

34. Diary of A Fat Housewife (memoir) - Rosemary Green. Former beauty queen struggles with her weight. Each diary entry begins with that day's number on the scale. She has a huge eating disorder. By the end of the book, she's made some good progress, but she's stalled at 208 and still struggling, so I liked that she wasn't all wrapped up neatly in a size 4 at the end.

35. Three Women At The Water's Edge (novel) - Nancy Thayer. I'll never forget the beginning in which a woman is told by one of her husband's patients that she looks like Mrs. Santa Claus because she's plump and her gray hair is permed. That comment acts as a catalyst -- she goes on an extreme diet, ditches the perm, dyes her hair, leaves her husband and moves to Vancouver! The rest of the novel has nice domestic details about this character and her two daughters.

36. Travels With Lizbeth (memoir) - Lars Eighner. Eighner, a homeless guy with a dog is living on the streets of Austin, Texas. He has several chances to be housed again, but the condition is always that he must part with Lizbeth, which he refuses to do. This book stuck in my mind. I'd read it again. Anytime. Highly recommended.

37. Last House (memoir) - M.F.K. Fisher

38. Among Friends (memoir) - M.F.K. Fisher

39. Stay Me, Oh Comfort Me (memoir) - M.F.K. Fisher. I started out actually wanting to read Fisher's How To Cook A Wolf, but couldn't find it so I read these three memoirs instead. Her writing is gorgeous; I feel like I could just melt into her prose.

40. The Van (novel) - Roddy Doyle. I read this book in 1993 and loved it so much I was ready for a re-read in 1994.

Fiction: 28
Nonfiction: 14

Books by male authors: 13
Books by female authors: 29

Re-Reads: 2

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