Past, Present, Future

It’s been a good year for reading, hasn’t it? Of course, most every year is a good reading year for this ravenous reader.  In perusing my Bookstack for 2008, I smile fondly in recollection of these, my favorite reads of the past 12 months…

Unexpected Delight: Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri:  I would never have read these fine short story collections were it not for the Short Story Challenge, my first ever bookish challenge, and one which gave me a much appreciated introduction to the short story form.

Even Better the Second Time Round: While I Was Gone and The Good Mother, by Sue Miller; Family Happiness, by Laurie Colwin:  I read each of these books years ago, and was prompted to revisit them at different times during the year.  They all stood the test of time amazingly well…if only I aged as nicely *smiles*

Best Books You Aren’t Reading:The Bright Forever and River to Heaven, by Lee Martin: These books are wonderfully written, atmospheric and gentle, with instantly sympathetic and identifiable characters.  I’ve not seen either of these novels mentioned much around the book blogging world, but Martin’s writing is the kind you savor and remember long after you’ve closed the cover.

Favorite Feel Good Reads: Hearts and Minds, by Rosy Thornton; Matrimony,by Joshua Henkin; and Kissing Games of the World, by Sandi Khan Shelton:  These are all novels to take on vacation with you, or to curl up with on a snowy weekend.  Wonderfully written, by turns funny and heartbreaking, and all with something to say about life and love.

Most Unusual Concept: March, by Geraldine Brooks: A marvelous story based on the (fictionalized) life of Frederic March, father of the Little Women made famous in Louisa May Alcott’s novel.  I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did (isn’t that a nice surprise?)

Best in Stack:  Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo.  To quote a fellow book blogger, this novel “left me speechless.”  I found myself stopping to re-read paragraph after paragraph, sometimes wiping away tears.  It’s a simple story, really, the life of an ordinary man in an ordinary town, but told with amazing grace, humor, and deep understanding of the complexity of human emotion.  Bravo.

Speaking of Russo, just today I finished another novel of his, one published in 1997 – Straight Man.  Once again, Russo takes a man who is questioning the meaning of his life, but this time the character is not quite as sanguine as Louis Lynch from Bridge of Sighs.   In fact, William Henry Devereaux, Jr., the chairman of the English department at a rather run-down college in an even more run-down Pennsylvania town, could be classified as a rabble rouser.  But his sardonic humor and dry wit keeps him from becoming didactic.  The book is alternately heartbreaking and hilarious.  As the New York Times  reviewer put it – “Straight Man is the funniest serious novel I have read.”

And now, onto the future…what book will I be reading to ring in the new year?

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I’ve been saving this one specially for my first book of 2009…it was a little gift I bought myself this Christmas.  So many lovely things have been written about it among book bloggers, that I couldn’t hold out any longer.  I’ve been on the library wait list for ages, but decided this one might be a book I should own.  I don’t purchase nearly the number of books I once did~my storage space is becoming more and more sparse (along with my book buying budget, I’m afraid!) and  I make use of the library far more often these days.  But there are books which receive so many good comments, most especially from my fellow book bloggers, whose opinion I trust implicitly, books which are innovative without being gimmicky, books that have a chance to stand up as good re-reads over the years…these are the books I want to give a permanent home on my shelves. 

 

It’s been such a joy reading all your bookish thoughts and recommendations during 2008.  I can’t wait to see what literary delights are in store for 2009!

My very best wishes for a new year filled with good health, good friends, good luck, and of course – good books!

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12 thoughts on “Past, Present, Future

  1. Happy new year!

    I was pleasantly surprised by Lahiri’s short stories as well. I’ve heard such good things about Miller and Russo that I will have to try them.

    I hope you enjoy the Guernsey boo, it would be one of my comfort reads of the year.

  2. Oh I loved Guernsey. I hope you like it. I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts on the books you read and look forward to seeing what you read this year. Have a great 2009!

  3. Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth are both on my night-stand. I’m not as solicitous to pick them up probably because they’re collections of short stories. I have liked The Namesake very, very much though. I should start reading these two books.

    I couldn’t hold on to Guernsey for very long. I set the book aside for my trip to Hong Kong for my sister’s wedding back in October. But I couldn’t resist and picked it up like a child who ate the whole pint of ice cream!

    Happy New Year and Happy reading!

  4. What a wonderful year, Becca! I admire the way you wrote your wrap-up post – a nice snapshot of the various categories that speak to you.

    *Guernsey* has been on my wish list, too; I agree with you about seeing lots of positive reviews on blogs whose opinions I trust.

    Happy New Year!

  5. Just love everyone’s best-of lists and these are great categories! I have already read Richard Russo’s Straight Man (the review was one of the most fun blog posts I ever wrote) and I would certainly like to read more of his work! I’ll be looking out for Lee Martin, too.

  6. Hi Becca, thanks for dropping by. I thought you sounded familiar, and remembered I heard about you on Tuesday’s blog. 🙂 Thanks for the sweet comment. I love your blog, too, it’s so substantial. I’ll be coming back often.

    I’ve been meaning to read The Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth just because I loved The Namesake so much. I hope you get the chance to read that, too.

    You piqued my interest on Bridge of Sighs. 🙂 Happy week!

  7. So THAT’s what March is about. For some reason, I took the title literally and thought it was about marching. Silly huh? Now I am much more interested 🙂

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