Reading as much as I do, it’s easy to forget some of the less impressionable books. These books have staying power and are ones that I’ve recommended to other bibliophiles.
Crossing to Safety – Wallace Stegner
Once in a while, I find a book that is a real treasure, and Crossing to Safety is one of those books.
It is not a page turner of a book – instead you want to savor every page. Stegner’s immense talent for the written word is evident with every passage and his descriptiveness creates a beautiful sense of place in every scene. The characters become very well known and loved – even with their foibles and flaws. This story of enduring friendships is touching and moving; it lifts your heart and sometimes breaks it. The tenderness and loveliness with which he handles the story evokes such emotional empathy with the characters. It’s beautiful in a way that stays with you long after you close the book. I didn’t want the story to end.
Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
I may not read another book in 2015 that I I like as well as Station Eleven I’m not generally drawn to apocalyptic stories, but this one had so many compelling story elements that provided depth and relate-ability. A world-wide epidemic virus has killed all but about 5% of the population. All aspects of modern civilization have collapsed, yet the Travelling Symphony roams the county performing Shakespeare in the small communities that have pulled together and others try to memorialize the everyday conveniences of a bygone civilization. The telling of interwoven lives before and after the collapse, as well as prophetic science fiction written by one of the characters, made for very interesting reading.
A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
This is my favorite book of 2014 (and I read or listened to 49 others). It grabbed me from the beginning. I listened to the audio version, but also had to get the print version to re-experience parts of it. A Tale for the Time Being moves back and forth between a bullied Japanese teenager harboring thoughts of suicide and a women in on an island in British Columbia, Canada who a finds the girl’s journals washed up on the beach. A Buddhist nun grandmother, a kamikaze pilot and time warps between all the characters, creates many layers and facets to the story. Very smart writing and thought provoking. Having just written this, I think I’ll have to go back and re-read at least parts of this book. The audio version is read by the author, so it was very good to get her interpretation of the characters.
Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America – John Waters
Good girls like me should not be reading this kind of book…..but I’m glad I did. I had never really heard of John Waters and probably would have taken a pass on the book had I known more about his film career – the making of “transgressive cult films.” But when I heard about Car Sick:John Waters Hitchhikes Across America from an NPR story, I loved the idea of a travelogue of a hitchhike across America. However the first two thirds of the book are his fictitious good version and fictitious bad version of the journey — both filled with increasingly imaginative and phantasmagorical stories of the best possible things that could happen to a hitchhiking, famous gay man and the absolute worst things that could happen to him. I blushed in parts, I cringed in others and I laughed out loud a lot. The telling of the real hitchhiking experience was full of warmth and common decency (on Water’s part and on the part those that carried him across the country). To be sure, my Mom would never have approved of this book, but in the end, I do.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Henry Fry: A Novel – Rachel Joyce
England,walking,serendipity,self-refection and forgiveness — some of my favorite subjects. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Henry Fry was a marvelous story, poignant, at times funny and always colorful. Retiree Henry Fry picks through his mail finding a letter from Queenie Hennessey, a co-worker from his past, who is dying in hospice many miles north from his village on the English Channel. But in trying to mail back a quick reply, he inadvertently sets off, wearing yachting shoes and carrying nothing for the trip, to deliver the letter in person. In his 600 mile journey, he encounters a lot of people and obstacles, but it becomes more and more clear that he walks to reconcile the regrets and losses of his life.