Saturday, January 7, 2017

Intriguing Reading from 2016

In 2016 I joined two book clubs and continue to use my public library card monthly to read whatever my heart desires. As a result I’ve read too many good books to share one by one, so I composed this list in hopes of inviting readers to read these titles.

The Last Painting of Sarah DeVos by Dominic Smith
“She wonders sometimes if she isn’t painting an allegory of her daughter’s transit      between the living and the dead, a girl trudging forever through the snow.”

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
“…eyes that looked like slush in the streets…Like the Great Wall of China, most threats were already inside.”

 Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
“Nature, she knew, abhorred a vacuum, and these people, faced with an information vacuum, had filled it with their fears.”

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien
“We don't know others. They are an enigma. We can't know them, especially those we are most intimate with, because habit blurs us and hope blinds us with truth.” 

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Pulitzer Prize 2016)
“I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds.” Talking to Viet Thanh Nguyen

Commonwealth by Ann Pachett
“Our stories are us: to give them away is dangerous but, like those guns, stories don’t have to destroy.”

The Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig
“Life can tickle you in the ribs surprisingly, when it’s not digging its thumbs into them.”

Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
“Inspiring stories must have two elements: Tension and triumph; Triumph over adversity.”

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (National Book Award)  interview for National Book Award
“Cora… crawled toward the handcar, left leg in agony. The slave catcher didn’t make a sound...With her arm on the handcar she began to pump, throwing all of herself into movement. Into northness. Each time she brought her arms down on the lever, she drove a pickax into the rock, swung a sledge on to a railroad spike.”

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien (intriguing)

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien (intriguing, riveting)

“The oak tree driven apart by lighting…On the opposite side, young branches in leaf extended in all directions, a freak of nature, dead on one side and living on the other, a reason to hope.”

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
“All wars are fought twice.  The first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.”

LaRose by Louise Erdrich
“Sorrow eats time. Be patient. Time eats sorrow.” 

Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
“Creativity is a path for the brave, yes, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it’s important to recognize the distinction. Bravery means doing something scary. Fearlessness means not even understanding what the word scary means.”

The Nest by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney
“Right now, it felt like there was nowhere for his thoughts to alight that wasn't rife with land mines of regret or anger or guilt.”

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan (memoir)
“…but what child can see the woman inside her mom, what with all that motherness blocking out everything else.”

Less is More, More or Less by Nathan Brown (poetry)
“Local Star--
He’s still as good as he ever was.
That’s why he’s still where he is.”

Still Life in Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
“It's a funny thing, hope. It's not like love, or fear, or hate. It's a feeling you don't really know you had until it's gone.” 

The Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig (memorable and my favorite read this year)
“Oh, S&H, S&H…little green stamps, little green stamps! Sperry & Hutchinson does wonders for my purchasin’. My book is full at last, I better spend ‘em fast.”

Walking Nature Home (A Life’s Journey) by Susan Tweit (memoir)
“Ravens pair up for life, but every year they court each other anew, a lovely practice that humans might do well to adapt.”

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
“It is important that you know. I want you to set it down ‘Mikhal was in love with David.’ Nobody ever writes that about a woman. It’s always the man whose love is thought worthy of recording.”

Scout, Atticus and Boo by Mary McDonagh Murphy
Scott Turow says, "I was enthralled by it...It's true that there aren't many human beings in the world like Atticus Finch--perhaps none--but that doesn't mean that it's not worth striving to be like him."  .

Thoughts on Reading

My only regret is that I have not read a single book by the 2016 Neustadt Award Winning writer, Dubravka Ugresic

If you are looking for a reading challenge this year consider the Read Harder  Book Challenge at this website:  Reading Challenge 2017

As we grow up and encounter new peoples and situations it might behoove us to know that research now indicates that 
Literary fiction improves empathy , as opposed to popular fiction which does not surprise us or push us to think.  

I'm happy to reply to readers thoughts or impressions with any of these titles or considerations.  


  1. Thanks for telling me about your list. I really enjoyed it, and liked the way you described the books. sr

  2. Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad is brilliant! I can only imagine how he developed his work from concept to completion. Powerful!

  3. I agree with you on that. He had me believing that we really did have an underground railroad, even when I knew it was figurative not literal. Great writer for sure.