Writing about what I have been reading and encountering in the media.
|I have been listing my completed reading since my retirement in March 2015 so I could remember and refer back. I decided I would like to elaborate so blogging seems like the next logical step. Now the list has become really long, so today, December 28, 2017, I am putting this into the body of the blog and start again.
These are things I have read completely, not just halfway; March 2015 through the present, with a few additions.
1. Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting; Powers, Kevin, Little Brown, 2014.
Poetry by an Iraq War veteran, exploring his life. This is his second published work. Excellent read.
2. The Yellow Birds; Powers, Kevin; on Kindle, Little Brown 7 Co. 2012.
I read this novel after the poetry because I love Mr. Powers' writing. I was not disappointed.
3. An Atlas of the Difficult World; Rich, Adrienne, WW Norton & Co 1991
Very serious poetry, lovely, about the difficult world of the survivor.
4. (3/15) Faithful and Virtuous Night; Gluck, Louise, McMillan e-book 2014
Poetry. Explores aging from a first-person perspective. Outstanding!
5. (11/14) Defending Jacob, Landay, William, Random house e-book 2012
a novel about a family dealing with antisocial personality in its genes. Good, not outstanding.
6. (2014) The Paper Magician, Holmberg, Charlie N., e-book 2014
Fantasy Novel about a magician, who uses paper as his tool, and his apprentice. I really enjoyed this. He has a sequel I hope to read.
7.(4/1/15) Betwixt, e-magazine, Spring 2015, issue 7, "The Blueberry Knight" a short story by Jennifer Hykes. About a sister trying to regain her brother's normal form for him. Well done.
8. (4/1/15) Abyss & Apex, issue 54, second quarter, 2015, e-magazine, "The Truth about Unicorns" a short story by Jennifer Hykes About a child who wants a unicorn for her 5th birthday. Well written, whimsical.
9. (1/15) Who Will Say Kaddish for the Chinaman's Dog? Hykes, Jon: A story of love from various spiritual perspectives. A novel. Very interesting.
10. (4/2/15) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, Haddon, Mark, Kindle edition, Novel: First person perspective about an autistic teen coping with life. Wonderful read.
11. (4/4/15) Son, Lowry, Lois, Houghton Mifflin, 2012: A young adult novel, the sequel to The Giver. Excellent read. I am a great fan of Lois Lowry and have now read all four of that sequence.
12. (4/6/15) A Spot of Bother Haddon, Mark, Kindle edition, About a family with mental health problems coping with a crisis in a way that makes them grow. The writing style is excellent. The story, interesting enough to keep me reading, but just that and no more. I suspect this is the author's first novel. I like his Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night much better.
13: (4/11/15) Kinky, Duhamel, Denise, Orchises Press, Arlington VA, 1997. Poetry. This is a wonderful volume of poems about Barbie. Yes, the doll. It is funny, witty, and critical of the place the doll fills in society.
14. (4/12/15) The Thing with Feathers. Strycker, Noah, Riverhead Books, NY, NY 2014, A wonderful read about birds and humans, scientific, readable, very interesting.
15. (4/21/15) Border States Hoogestraat. Jane, BkMk Press, University of Missouri-Kansas City, MO 2014 Winner of the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry. The blurb on the back says this book has a sense of place. I found this to be so. Jane H., a teacher at Missouri State University, writes about North Dakota, Missouri, Kentucky, and reflects on immigration including places people came from. This is well written and I enjoyed reading it.
16. (5/9/15) Poetry,V: 206 N: 1 April 2015, Poetry Foundation, Ed. Don Share: This edition is focused on Hip Hop poetry both in presenting examples and criticism that is helpful in thinking about it. For me, the best part is the essay by Michael Robbins, "Equipment for Living," about the functions of poetry in culture. He jumps off with a quote from Kenneth Burke: "Poetry is produced...as a ritualistic way of arming us to confront perplexities and risks. It would protect us." I had not seen this idea previously and am very much enjoying pondering with Mr. Robbins.
17. (5/16/15) Fifth Generation Immigrant Busby, Lee. ELJ Publications LLC, New York. 2014. Poetry. This is Lee Busby's first book having previously published a chapbook, which I read last year. I am reading at least 5 books right now, but I have gone every time to his book first. His characters are local country people and he draws them with empathy, realistically, in all their confusion, questioning, and emerging wisdom. Included is a series of poems about Blackbird and his friend, Banner. For me, these are the most memorable. When I pick up the book I turn to the last of those first. The author teaches writing in Kansas City and provides leadership to the Riverpretty Foundation and the semi-annual Riverpretty Writers Retreat in Tecumseh, Missouri. He has another book, also from ELJ Publications, coming out soon. I will be excited to get it. I also hope to attend the Fall Retreat.
18. (5/18/15) The Most of It Ruefle, Mary. Wave Books, NY 2008. This book is described as prose, but it reads more like prose poetry. The entire book presents brief, never more than 3 pages, quirky descriptions of particular moments. The last section is something like a dialogue between someone named Mary and "the anchorite." I liked this section especially. I would recommend the book to anyone and gave my copy to my best friend. I bought the book from Mary Ruefle in person at the April 2015 Riverpretty Writers Retreat at Dawt Mill in Tecumseh, Missouri. It was a huge privilege to have her there supporting and critiquing and being the fine poet that she is. Having read this book, I have ordered another of hers.
19. (5/25/15) Nine Horses Collins, Billy Random House 2002. Poetry. After learning that someone had shot an autographed first edition of this book, I retrieved my copy from the shelf and re-read it. This is the book that inspired my poem "A Famous Poet Reads at Hammonds Field." I wonder if It might be the best of the five Billy Collins books that I have read. I'll have to get the others down and re-read them and find out. This book seems to be out of the mind of a man at peace with himself and the world when he is writing. It is not confessional or written to heal something. It is meditative in tone and looks closely at quiet observations in a rather lyrical way. Which leads me to wonder why someone would have shot all those holes in it. Is it an act of performance art? Or, could it be the act of a very disturbed mind? I don't think I have ever heard of such a thing before. Book burnings tend to be very political and carefully explained. Book shootings? Very odd. Perhaps if you read it you will figure it out.
20. (06/06/15) Paper Doll Fetus Hoffman, Cynthia Marie. Persea Books Inc., New York, NY, 2014. Poetry
After reading this fascinating book about anomalies in childbirth, I went to the author's website where I read about her background and approach to writing. She has an MFA and has taught writing. I found it interesting that she works for an engineering firm. This is her second book. I will be acquiring the first ASAP. She states she does a lot of research. That is obvious in this book. I am very interested in her muses. Original documents written since the 12th century CE about many odd events related to childbirth have informed and inspired most of these poems. The language she uses is precise, yet includes sounds and images of great beauty, as well as some slightly unsettling images.
I selected this book, as I often do, by picking it randomly from the shelf in the bookstore, flipping it open, and reading the first poem I see. In this case, it was the title poem, which has stuck with me through reading the rest of the book. Others who have written about the book pick different examples. This would be easy to do. I think if the book had fallen open to a different page, that poem would have stuck with me equally well. The work is divided into 4 sections. After reading the first section, I wrote the best poem I've written in some time and it was clear to me Ms. Hoffman's imagination and excellent writing had awakened something in my mind that had been at rest. All in all, I found this book to be an excellent read and highly recommend it to anyone interested in poems about the history of the practice of medicine, and/or women's experiences with reproduction.
21. (7/3/15) Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015.This is the final work of Kent Haruf as he has passed on. I had not heard of Kent Haruf but was browsing in Barnes & Noble and read on the back of the book that Ursula Le Guin recommended the book, I figured it would be worth reading. It turned out to be a good choice.
In this novel, the author presents two main characters, both widowed, who have lived in the same neighborhood for most of their adult lives. It opens with Addie Moore visiting Louis Waters, whom she hardly knows, though she knew his wife, with an interesting proposition to cope with the loneliness of old age and widowhood. The book tells the story of the results of the choice they both make in very simple language. Along the way, their adult children enter a 6-year-old grandson, and some interactions with neighbors.
This book reminds me of The Bridges of Madison County, the first novel in a trilogy by Robert James Waller, published in 1992. Like Our Souls at Night, Mr. Waller’s story is a compelling, down to earth romance, and, as I recall, has a similar style. I was also reminded of a clinical book I read some years ago, Stories That Heal: Reparenting Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families Using Hypnotic Stories in Psychotherapy by Lee Wallas, W.W. Norton & Co. 1991. Wallas presents a clinical approach of using stories during a period of deep relaxation in the therapy room to help clients heal from trauma. Wallas makes use of the suggestibility common in people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder originating from child abuse as a strength, or ally, in the healing process. With this approach, therapist prompts client into relaxation using a focusing protocol, and when the client is fully relaxed, the therapist uses guided imagery, the same one each time, followed by a new short story. Each story is a brief description of appropriate parenting starting with pregnancy and moving through childhood. Wallas’s writing style in the healing stories is very similar to Kent Haruf’s style, and so, Our Souls at Night has a mildly suggestive quality, presenting pictures of true intimacy between two 70+year olds. As such, it is excellent bedtime reading. The images are compelling enough that I awakened this morning with my first thoughts focusing on the book. When that happens, I think I have found something truly worth reading.
22. Into the River, Dawes, Ted, Polis Books, Kindle Edition. 2016. This is a young adult book suitable for mid-teens, probably more interesting to boys as the main character is a boy at a boys school. This is a look at the challenges of coming of age as an indigenous Australian in the context of the dominant English culture.
23. Hillbilly Elegy, a Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis, Vance, J. D., Harper Collins Kindle Ed. 2016. I selected this after hearing an interview with the author on radio. It is interesting and well written. Description is vivid. However, I did not come away with much improvement in my understanding of the issues he addresses.
24. Bonhoeffer Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich, Metaxas, Eric, Thoman Nelson Books, Nashville, Tennessee, Kindle Edition, 2010. This is a wonderful book full of wisdom and courage, pain, and a lot of history. It took a long time for me to finish reading it because the history of the Third Reich is so troubling I would put the book down for a while before picking it up again. It is not good bedtime reading, but it is gripping and valuable.
25. The men Who United the States; America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible. Winchester, Simon, Harper Audio CD, unabridged, 09/16/14. I very much enjoyed reading about these people who significantly impacted the development of the USA, but few received notoriety. It is organized around issues of earth, wind, fire, and water and focuses on development in transportation and communication that gradually led to the emergence of the USA. Mr. Winchester, as narrator of his own writing, creates a wonderful listening experience. I am sure that reading it would be equally interesting. I happen to love audiobooks.
24. Faith and Politics: How the "Moral Values" Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together. Danforth, Senator John, Listen and Learn Audio with Permission from Viking Penguin 2006. This is refreshing in that Father Danforth applies his background in theology to his observations as a politician ending with a career as US Senator. His ideas are well stated, calm and wise. This is a very good read.
25. Our Revolution, Sanders, Bernie, A Macmillan Audiobook from Thomas Dunne Books, a division of St. Martins Press, 2016. This is long and full of well documented, clear descriptions of the main issues that face America today with Senator Sanders' ideas about how to make them happen: Very valuable content.
26. The Boy Who Made Dragonfly, A Zuni Myth, Hillerman, Tony, Illustrated by Janet Grado, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM, 1972. This is a 500-year-old tale created to teach core values of the Zuni including kindness, humility, mutual care, and personal commitment. The cover blurb says it is written for people 10 years old and older. I loved it.
27. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, Elisabeth Tovil Bailey, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2010' This is WONDERFUL Book! It is a personal memoir but also a nature study focused on snails. It would be appropriate to read to young children who are curious about nature or to yourself, your friends, the person who repairs your car.... It is well written, engaging, and it has short chapters making it great bedtime reading. Also, there is very little that is upsetting or worrisome. It is positive and just a great read!
28. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens. Most people say, when I mention I just read this book, "I read that in high school: Well, I didn't. Finally, I got around to it. I am astonished at the gore described concerning the French Revolution. However, I found it compelling and artful and interesting. I don't think it is a good choice for teens before their senior year due to the gore.
29 The Glass Magician Holmvueg, Charlie M. This is the sequel to the Paper Magician. I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed The Paper Magician. I think this is a young adult book. It is fantasy with engaging characters: Not great literature, but a very pleasant read.
30. The Master Magician, Holmvueg, Charlie M. The third in the series, this brings our hero and heroine back in conflict with the evil magician while Ceony, our heroine works to get ready to pass her final test to become a Master Magician. Light reading, pleasant, fantasy novel.
31. The Underground Railroad, Whitehead. Colson. Kindle Audible Edition. This is an Oprah's Book Club selection. The writing is interesting, characters well developed, and it has kept my interest from beginning to end. I don't like that the author has portrayed the underground railroad as a rail system underground. I don't like that the Tuskegee experiment of the 1930's is stuck into the 1830's. There is an enormous amount of violence, so I hope they don't make it into a movie. It is interesting but disquieting.
34. Bartleby the Scrivener. Melvill, Herman. Kindle Audible Books. This is as odd a tale as you can find. The narrator, a barrister, hires a scrivener. As he relates to the scrivener and his decisions, he examines his values. It is a novella and is worth the hour or two it takes to read it. I highly recommend it!
35. My Own Words, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with Mary Hartnett, Wendy W. Williams, and portions read by Linda Lavin, an Audioworks edition. This is a collection of interviews, essays, and speeches given by Justice Ginsburg over the years. I "read" it by listening to a CD of the book, which I would say is the best way to read it, as a lot of it is in her voice. She discusses the role of the supreme court, the collegial relationships on the court and how the judges interact, and she even talks about her love for opera. It is a really interesting read. I highly recommend it!
36. Washington, a life, Ron Chernow, read by Edward Herrmann, Penguin Audio, abridged. This was as interesting as Mr. Chernow's biography of Hamilton. In addition to providing a careful look at the Revolutionary War and the skirmishes before and after, as well as the development of the Presidency, Mr. Chernow discusses Washington's struggle with "the peculiar institution" and his agricultural activities. I wish it hadn't been abridged. The entire book is available in paperback from Penguin.
37. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, Kindle audible. Another excellent read! I just love Dickens' humor. It is no wonder his books remain part of our literature as his writing is so extraordinary. I hated when it ended as, so far, I haven't found another of his books in audio form. I have so many audiobooks piled up that I haven't read that it will be a while before I read on paper.
38. 1984, George Orwell, Kindle Audible edition. Having never read this before, it seemed a good time to read it. I found it interesting, but bleak. There is little more I want to say about it.
39.To The Last Man, a Novel of the First World War. Jeff Shaara, Kindle Audible edition, Ballentine Books, 1984. (The name of the reader is not listed in the Kindle catalog.) This is so very interesting I hated to be interrupted in reading, but sometimes, I had to put it down because the content is so intense. As most of us know, WWI was horrible with trench warfare, both the US and Germans using mustard gas, and the introduction of the machine gun, airplanes, and tanks, and because, throughout most of the war, it was a stalemate. The US was in it only in the last year and the war was so violent that the US alone lost as many men in that one year as were lost in the entire Viet Nam conflict. Jeff Shaara writes this as a historical novel, but all characters are real people. As a teen, I read a book, title and author no longer remembered, that was contemporaneous to the war. It really impressed me. This was my maternal grandparent's generation, so I have this awareness of the people that make the content more real for me. Even so, the descriptions are so vivid I found myself reading from the place inside me from which I listened to trauma memories when doing therapy. I was engaged with my mind, but feelings needed to be set aside so I could read the book. There were times it was so desperately sad and gruesome that with all my protections in place, I was still brought to tears. I selected this book because I have read very little about WWI. Of course, this was because I knew it to be so gruesome. While I was working, it was just too much pain to face while facing pain all day. Retirement is good this way. All in all, this is carefully researched, brought to life through vivid dialogue, paced so you are not in the trenches constantly, detailed, vivid, and an extraordinary read.
40. A Song Flung up to Heaven. Maya Angelou, Bantam, 2003. Kindle Audible edition, read by the author. This is a memoir of Ms. Angelou's life leading up to her writing "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." It describes the people who influenced her as a creative person and the important relationships in her life. It also recounts her experiences of the deaths of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., people she knew personally. I enjoyed it but wish it included a little more detail about each relationship.
41. The Sympathizer. Viet Thanh Nguyen, Grove Press, 2015. Kindle Audible edition read by the author. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. This is a long novel written in a first-person view about a young man who experiences the Viet Nam war as a Vietnamese person, a soldier, and a spy. Very well written, rich in detail and in historical information, I enjoyed it more than I ever would have predicted. I highly recommend this book. It deserves the Pulitzer Prize that it won. I also think listening to the author read it very much enhanced the experience.
42. Truman, David McCullough, Simon & Shuster, NY, 1992, Encore edition, abridged, read by the author, 2002. It was good to read about Missouri's native son and to learn I could truly respect him. David McCullough presents him as an eminently reasonable, responsible, down to earth, wise, and fallible human, truly a "citizen leader." I am glad I listened rather than reading because I got to listen to Truman speak. All in all, an excellent read.
43. A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis, HarperCollins, 1994. (75 pp.) Grieving the loss of his wife, the author wrote of his immediate experiences in notebooks which he later used as a basis for this book. He describes the emotional, intellectual and spiritual experiences of a normal grief process well and with energy and compassion. He shares the challenges to his Christian faith and some insight into how he resolved them. Excellent work.
44. Beneath a Scarlet Sky, Mark Sullivan, Lake Union Publishing, Kindle Audible Edition. 5/1/2017.
This is a biography that has sections that are fictional due to lack of evidence for those sections. The author spent a lot of time with the Italian resistance fighter about whom it is written. This is a wonderful read about an intelligent, resourceful, and athletic teen dealing with the Nazi occupation of Italy. It includes action scenes that would please those in need of action, romance, suspense, and it presents the pain and courage of Italian citizens coping with the occupation. Very well written, this is a page-turner that I highly recommend.
45> Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet, Charlie N. Holmberg, 47North Publishers, Kindle audible edition, 6/28/2016. If you have been reading my list, you know that I enjoy this author. All of these books are light reading. In this book, the type of magic is cooking. As usual the "magician" gets into scrapes and has to figure out how to solve the main problem she faces. Very enjoyable read.