So, I've read 27/50 books for the year, which is about what I expected, despite having decided on such a high goal for myself.
1. Carmilla – J.Sheridan Le Fanu
The vampire tale that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. A short gothic tale that’s pretty predictable. I didn’t find it to be creepy at all, but it was interesting to read a story that was one of the firsts in the vampire genre.
2. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed
This is the author’s account of hiking approximately 1000 miles of the PCT in an attempt to get right with her world after her mother’s death, the destruction of her marriage, and the dispersal of her family.Strayed writes candidly about her bad behavior, including promiscuity and drug use, as well as the difficulties of hiking and her stupid mistakes as a novice hiker.
I really enjoyed reading this book.Her account of the hike recalled a lot of memories of my hike on the AT and I sympathized with her pain.This book brought back all the feelings of camaraderie, pure misery from sores, blisters, and swollen feet, unspeakable desire for some ice cream, the fear of running out of water that most people in modern America don’t experience, and the disgustingness of not showering for a week.It made me want to both get back on the trail and never again strap on that pack.
Her other tales affected me emotionally as well: I got teary-eyed at the story of her mother’s death and genuinely feared for her when she talked of her drug use or dangerous incidents on the trail.
Some people who have read this book were put off by the death, sex, drugs, and misery, but I found her story to be either relatable (did the same stuff when I was hiking) or understandable (for example, I can understand why someone who is horribly depressed would descend into promiscuity and ruin a beautiful marriage). .
3. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute – Grace Paley
A collection of short stories, taking place in New York in the 1950s-1970s.
I didn’t love the whole book, mostly because of the author’s style. She writes jerkily and cursorily, and I sometimes found it difficult to follow the plots. Also, most of her characters were unlikeable, prickly and irritable.
Stories that I did like were: Faith in the Afternoon, which was funny for the excellent characterization of the old Jewish ladies, Distance, which was also funny and hinted at very deep and dark things in the characters’ lives, and A Conversation with my Father, which made me sad with its meta-story implications of tragedy and fate and the role of the author as creator.
4. Y: The Last Man: Volume 9: Motherland – Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, Groan Sudzuka, and Jose Marzan, Jr.
Good, like the others.
5. Y: The Last Man: Volume 10: Whys and Wherefores – Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan, Jr.
The last volume in the series, pretty melancholic, also good.
6. Alfred and Emily – Doris Lessing
A two-part investigation of/rumination on the author's parents and how World War I affected them. One part is a look at who the author's parents were and how they were changed by the war and their circumstances and surroundings afterward. The other part is an imagining of how her parents, and the world, would be different if the war had never happened. I'm not really doing it justice by my description, but I thought it was a great meditation on the lingering effects of war and on one's parents. Very good.
7. RN Leadership, edition 8.0 – Published by Assessment Technologies Institute
A review book for my Leadership and Management course. Very boring, poorly written, and of no use to anyone but Nursing students about to take the exam.
8. RN Medical-Surgical Nursing, Edition 8 – Published by Assessment Technologies Institute
A review book for my Medical-Surgical Nursing courses. See above.
9. Emily Climbs: The Second in the Series – L.M. Montgomery
The second book in the Emily of New Moon trilogy. For me, an exercise in nostalgia, bringing me back to my Anne of Green Gables days.
10. How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter - Sherwin B Nuland
A fabulous book, and one of the best I've read this year. The author, a doctor and medical professor, details and meditates on the most common ways people die in developed countries. The medical information, based on the fact that I knew most of what he was talking about, was presented simply enough for those who don't know a lot of biology or medicine, but the book was fascinating for his thoughts on death and how we, American, Westerners, deal approach it. Highly recommended!
11. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey – Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D
From my Goodreads review: I feel like the victim of a bait-and-switch. I thought this book was going to be full of amazing and riveting anatomy/physiology/medical information about the brain's plasticity and healing and instead I got to read some repetitive and frequently inane drivel that sounded like a combination self-help and conversion memoir. "How I wish you could lose your emotional baggage, just like I did, and shift back into your natural state of joy!" Uh-huh. Well, let's just say, after reading this book, I feel a lot less joyful.
12. Solitaire: The Compelling Story of a Young Woman Growing Up in America and Her Triumph Over Anorexia – Aimee Liu
Not really that compelling, actually. Poorly written and pretty boring. You don't get much of a feeling for her struggle and the difficult and insidious nature of the disease. Instead, it reads like the the vapid diary of the inanities of teenager's thoughts.
13. Throw Like a Girl – Jean Thompson
A collection of short stories, occasionally quite good. All narrated by and about women.
14. From a Whisper to a Scream – Charles de Lint
The second of de Lint's books that I've read, and I really enjoyed it, Genuinely creepy at times, despite being a little bit too young-adultish for me. I really wish I'd read his books when I was a teenager, because I would've just reveled in them. Which doesn't mean I won't be reading more of his books in the future, of course.
15. Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler
Another author I wish I'd discovered much sooner. I read one her books when I was about 14 and, although I really liked it, I didn't follow up with any of her other books, and I really should have. This is a dystopian story narrated by a young girl. It tells of an America destroyed by ruination of the environment, laissez-faire government, and extremely disparate wealth. It was written in the 80s, I think, but eerily prescient.
16. Wild Seed – Octavia Butler
A story of two immortal beings, African spirits who travel to America, one "female" and nurturing and the other "male" and destructive. Another very good book.
17. The Optimist’s Daughter – Eudora Welty
A Pulitzer-prize winner about a woman attending her father's funeral. Some very funny descriptions of relatives and Welty says a lot without spelling it out for you.
18. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants – Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell's latest, which I enjoyed as much as his previous ones, which is to say, quite a bit. I really feel like I think about new things and think differently about old things when reading his books, and I always walk away feeling like I learned something and am ready to learn more.
19. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – Tom Stoppard
A fairly confusing play to read, and I think I missed most of the humor and depth. I would probably have benefited from seeing a performance before reading it.
20. The Bridge of San Luis Rey – Thornton Wilder
A Pulitzer-prize winner, about five people who die when a bridge fails. It's kind of a collection of character studies, and difficult to describe differently than that.
21. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures – Anne Fadiman
This was one of the best books that I read this year, and absolutely fascinating. It tells the tale of a Hmong girl, Lia Lee, living in California in the 80s, with epilepsy. Her parents are refugees from Laos, formerly farmers, and utterly different from Californians. As a person entering the nursing field, it was amazing to read about how the cultural differences affected this child's medical care, and to learn about the Hmong community, about which I had known almost nothing. I learned new things, thought about some things in a way I never had before, and was frequently overcome with emotion reading this book. Highly recommended.
22. Penny Century: A Love and Rockets Book - Jaime Hernandez
A graphic novel, involving so many different stories and themes and characters that I don't even know if I can describe it. Great panels of wrestling. There, that's a description.
23. Blizzard of One - Mark Strand
A Pulitzer-prize winning book of poetry by a former poet laureate of the U.S. Some were beautiful and haunting; most left me cold (no pun intended). i recommend this poet, but can't say that I loved even a majority of the poems in this collection.
24. Almost Invisible - Mark Strand
A more recent poetry collection, I hated almost all the prose-poems in this book. They felt terribly pretensious and ridiculous, and it was probably good for Strand's career that this was a later collection rather than one of his first.
25. RN Community Health Nursing Review - Assessment Technologies Institute, LLC
See above similar volumes. Terrible.
26. PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives - Frank Warren
I used to think that Post Secret was really fascinating and compelling, but after reading this whole book, most of the secrets just seemed repetetive or run-of-the-mill. I was kind of bored by the end.
27. About Alice - Calvin Trillin
A beautiful little tribute by the author to his deceased wife, Alice. 78 pages, and I think I had a lump in my throat for nearly all of them. It was lovely to see how much this man loved his wife, and how she was his best friend and the person on whom he most depended
. Also very funny, while bringing me to tears. Highly recommended.