Saturday, January 07, 2006

Reading has always been such a necessary part of life for me that I've never thought of looking back at the previous year's book list or making a new one for the coming year. Other than the occasional "Read more classics", books haven't figured much in my New Year's resolutions. I like the idea of such a summing-up, but I'm afraid the urge to read at whim might prove too overwhelming. On the other hand, I usually respond well to lists, and I know one in particular that will provice much encouragement in the year to come. One of our Christmas gifts came with the Modern Library list of 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century (yes, another one of those!), of which the sender had read all but a few and Odious and I have read only a few. It was rather more impressive than the lists we'd been working through before. I've got a long way to go. Here are the ones I think I'll start with:

Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry
The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler
The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford
Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser
All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene
Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
The Maltese Falcon, Dashiel Hammett
Death Comes to the Archbishop, Willa Cather
Main Street, Sinclair Lewis
A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipaul
Scoop, Evelyn Waugh
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
The Magus, John Fowles
The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington

In addition to these, I've got to break my library habit of day-absorbing novels, and get to work on the stacks growing in my bedroom. We own way too many books that I haven't yet read, and they're taunting me.

As for the year in review, I'm afraid my book list is too long and too unimpressive to post verbatim, so maybe I'll just mention my favorites. Some of them have, of course, already been discussed here, but they're certainly worth a second recommendation.

The Professor's House, Willa Cather
A beautiful little book that captured me completely.

Treve, Albert Payson Terhune
I was thrilled to find this book by a favorite childhood author in the bargain rack of a secondhand bookstore; it's a predictable but entirely enjoyable dog story.

Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate Dicamillo
Haven't seen the movie; don't want to.

The Ice House, Minette Walters
The first by this author that I read, and the most clear in my mind. A creepy, thoroughly absorbing crime novel.

All Passion Spent, Vita Sackville-West
Whatever I was expecting from this book, it was not what I got, and I loved it.

How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill
Must add Cahill's other books to my 2006 list...

Beyond the Shadowlands, Wayne Martindale
A fine, intelligent look at C.S. Lewis's views on heaven and hell; very enlightening.

Young Wizards series and The Book of Night With Moon, Diane Duane
Dark Lord of Derkholm and The Year of the Griffin, Diana Wynne Jones
I was introduced to both these authors last year, which makes it a red-letter year. I'm astounded never to have read them before, and I can't recommend them highly enough to those who enjoy good-quality young-adult literature.

View from a Sketchbook, Marjolein Bastin
You've seen her artwork before, on cards or calendars--delicate watercolors of birds and flowers. This peek at her life is lovely too.

Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell
I received the BBC miniseries for Christmas, and can't wait to watch it.

Undaunted Courage, Stephen E. Ambrose
A must-read upon moving to Oregon. Possibly plagiarized, but interesting and readable.

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, Daniel Mark Epstein
An excellent biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay, which inspired me to read her beautiful poetry.

Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver
I don't know how many times my mother recommended this to me, and I should have read it sooner. It changed the way I think about the world and how it works.

How To Read A Book, Mortimer Adler
He's annoying, but smart. I may have to read this once a year.

Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence
After Women in Love, I read a lot of Lawrence before finding another book as good. This one is it.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin
The expert! She's seen it all, and tells it like it is. If you're pregnant or planning to be, read this book.

Inkheart, Cornelia Funke
I love books about books, and this is a good story, plain and simple.

A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L'Engle
I've already raved about this, but it is possibly my favorite L'Engle. To call it luminous sounds like a book blurb, but it's true.

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
I shuddered, and wanted to avert my eyes, but mostly because not much has changed. Scary.

Birthing From Within, Pam England
Get rid of What To Expect When You're Expecting--yes, just drop it right in the trashcan--and read this instead.

Od Magic, Patricia McKillip
Right on schedule, a new and lovely book by this disgustingly prolific writer.

Well-Schooled In Murder, Elizabeth George
I somehow managed to miss this Thomas Linley mystery until now, but it's one of the best.

No Name, Wilkie Collins
Gothic novels are so awesome...

Child of a Rainless Year, Jane Lindskold
Weird and magical.

Isabel's Daughter and The Baker's Apprentice, Judith Ryan Hendricks
More delightful books by the author of Bread Alone--yum.


Larissa said...

I loved the Magus. I know Odious hated it, but he's very silly and wrongheaded; it's fantastic! and watch out for all the naughty bits in Tropic of Cancer, most prevalent between the front cover and the back one.
and yes, Cahill's great. Read them all. I can't wait for his next one to come out.

Voracious Reader said...

I still can't bring myself to read Ambrose again. Which D.H. Lawrence books didn't impress you? Did you like The Jungle? I always enjoy Cahill. Have fun with the The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie--I loved it. There's a pretty good movie of it too. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser is really good but long. Please let me know what you think of Sister Carrie.

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