Saturday, January 2, 2010

2009 in Review--the Reader's Report

As 2008 drew to a close, I created a list of books that I wanted to read in 2009. Before the year-end taking stock gives way to new lists and resolutions, I wanted to check in with this list (if you want to read more about my experience of reading these books, I tagged them with "2009 reading list" and you can clink on the link to your right and see all the entries in one place.

I'll paste the list below and I'll put my comments in under each book. Maybe I'll put my comments in a different color!

2009 Reading List

1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

I read this one--it failed to move me the way that it did in high school and college, and I found the ending downright disturbing: "We're not really suffering mental illness. It's a sign that we alone are sane. Let's ride back off into America and get in touch with our inner voices!"

2. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Great Book. Philip K. Dick continues to be amazing to my reading mind--one of my few high school reading passions that holds up over time.

3. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

Also amazing--history is cyclical, knowledge is precious, but not held in high esteem, monasteries are more important than we realize . . .why wouldn't I still love this book?

When I looked up A Canticle for Leibowitz on Amazon, I discovered #4. I'm always a sucker for a good tale about the apocalypse--what could be better than a book of short stories? I can dip in and out:

4. Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams

Great stories. I read most of the book, and I read it mostly at night when I couldn't sleep. Then I'd go back to sleep and conk right out, like a baby. What does that say about me?

There are 3 books by some of my favorite female authors that have come out recently:

5. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Fabulous book. Skillfully done. Geraldine Brooks hasn't disappointed me yet, and all her books are so different. I read her books and say, "Why should I bother to write fiction, when more talented people are doing such a good job?"

6. Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell

I wanted to like this book. I read 50 pages before I decided that the main character just drove me nuts.

7. A Mercy by Toni Morrison

My favorite Toni Morrison book thus far, and a mind-blowing experience for such a short book. No other author, fiction or non-fiction, has helped me really understand what life in the colonies was like.

This one is probably the best book I read all year.

I added a novel that I've always meant to read, but haven't:

8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (maybe my friend Elizabeth--who used to read this book several times a year--will read this at the same time as me and offer encouragement).

What was I thinking? The size was daunting. I didn't even try.

I wanted something to make me think about my brain in a different way:

9. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor

I never got around to this one.

And of course, no list would be complete without some theology:

10. Any book by Thomas Merton (I've never read a whole book of his before)

I read part of New Seeds of Contemplation. Very good stuff. I plan to finish reading it.

11. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Nope. Didn't get to this.

12. Tell it Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers by Eugene Peterson

I read this one, but don't remember much of it.

And some Sociology about Religion (plus, I love this generational stuff!):

13. After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of Religion

I'd still like to read this one.

And another book of essays by a modern master:

14. Citizenship Papers by Wendell Berry

I accidentally ordered 2 copies--and then, I didn't like the book. Heavy sigh.

And the last novel, which seems to wrap together many things: my love of theology, my love of poetry, my fascination with cloistered life of all kinds, my Victorian/Modern British Lit background . . .

15. Exiles by Ron Hansen

I read it and liked it, although it was different than I was expecting.

I also said that I would read one volume of poems a month, and most months I did so, although most months, I didn't write about what I was reading.

In the coming week, I'll post a 2010 list. I found it useful to have a list, even though I was less mindful of the list after August. I need a few days to think about my reading goals for 2010.

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