Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Book List

Over the past several weeks, I've been compiling this list. My lists are always heavy on the recently published, and this year is no exception. I've been looking at best of 2010 lists (most of the fiction comes from The New York Times top 100 books of 2010) and of course, I've been talking to people about what they've read.

So, here's the list. Obviously, I'll be reading more than these books, but I'd like to have read (or attempted and abandoned) these by Dec. 31, 2011.


In a way, my first book feels like cheating, since my book club has already decided to discuss it in 2 weeks. Guess I'd better get cracking!

1. The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason

2. Generosity by Richard Powers

This book got a glowing review in The Washington Post. It sounds like a novel that's both readable and ambitious (a book that deals with big themes--who are we if we can medicate away our persistent personality traits? a book that does different things with narrative). In fact, it sounds like Mason's book and this one are experimental. Hmm. I haven't always liked experimental writing, even though I wrote my M.A. thesis on James Joyce. But let me maintain an open mind.

3. The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

This book wound up on many a person's list. It sounds like an important contribution to Literature of the Vietnam War.

4. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Another addition that feels like a cheat, since I'm already partly done with it (although I didn't start it until Dec. 31). I thoroughly enjoyed The Corrections when I read it, so I looked forward to this one. And even with all the controversies that swirl around Franzen, I'm still open to his work. As I've been reading, there have been times when I had to set the book aside because the characters were so unlikable, and I could sense Franzen's disdain for them. How could he spend the amount of time with these characters that was necessary to write this book when he didn't even like the characters? Sheesh.

5. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

This book got raves from an NPR commentator, and it's linked short stories, a form which fascinates me.

6. Room by Emma Donaghue

When I first heard the premise of this book, I shuddered. But after hearing Donaghue on the Diane Rehm show, and after hearing the praises that so many people heaped on the book, I decided to add it to the list.


7. Just Kids by Patti Smith

I determined to read this book a year ago, when a Washington Post reviewer called it the best book about being an artist ever. Ever??!!! Well, sign me up!

8. Changing my Mind by Zadie Smith

I love the novels of Zadie Smith, so I'm interested to read her essays.

9. Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers

A technology book needs to be on the list, and this will be the one.

10. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

I love this title--and from what I've read of the reviews, the rest of the books should be a winner.

11. History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism by Judith Bennett

A book I didn't get to last year--it sounded important, and challenging, and I need more of that in my life.

12. A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith: Anglican Religious Practice in the Elite Households of Eighteenth-Century Virginia by Lauren Winner

I've liked Winner's other works, which read more like memoir than anything else. I'm interested to see how she handles academic writing. History, theology, and insight about the daily life of colonists--let me give it a whirl.

13. One Life by Scot McNight

I haven't read Scot McNight yet, so let me start with his latest. It's getting harder and harder for me to find new theologians whom I like to read. Let's see about this one.

14. Curating Worship by Mark Pierson

I've been seeing the idea of curating things (a website, a career, an online presence) used as metaphor. Let's see how it's done with worship. My pastor is also reading this book, and he raves about it. Can we actually accomplish some of the ideas in the book, ideas that aren't exactly familiar to Lutherans? We shall see.

15. The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons From Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder
by Erin Blakemore

I just heard about this book yesterday, and I like the premise, which is evident in the title.

My other reading goals? To keep buying and reading complete volumes of poetry (and to remember to add those to my record keeping). I'd like to do more to mention what I'm reading in this blog. Some weeks I'm good at that, but other weeks I'm not.

Will this be the year that I read more books via computer? I can read on a desktop screen more easily than some typefaces in books (I'm having real trouble with the Franzen book, for example--I've tried all sorts of combinations of reading glasses and contact lenses and still, there's some blurriness that doesn't exist when I turn my eyes to other books or the computer screen). I won't buy an iPad yet, since my brother-in-law tells me that this will be the year that Apple releases the next version, which will likely be the same price as the 2010 version and do more (a camera! but will it have a phone? then my hand held needs would be complete-ish--oh, heck, let it also do word processing too--and maybe do the vacuuming--now that would be a true help!).

Now it's back to the realities of life. First day at spin class, first day back at strength training. I've got to finish up an assessment document, and I just found out that one of our adjuncts won't be back with us when classes start next week--luckily, I have some people to contact. Back to meetings and coordinating and dealing with so many different personalities. Let me please remember the example of that TSA agent. Let me please treat people well in this week of many stresses.

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