Books Purchased: (or acquired)
Role Models by John Waters
It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken by Seth
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Christmas present)
The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore (Christmas present)
Tales of Belkin by Alexander Pushkin (Christmas present)
More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin
Travels With Alice by Calvin Trillin
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
Lynchpin by Seth Godin
Tribes by Seth Godin
Sway by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman
Fordlandia by Greg Grandin
Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise by Sam Irvin (Christmas present)
Claudine at School by Colette
Dragonwyck by Anya Seton
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Boy Book by E. Lockhart
The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart
The 10 p.m. Question by Katie de Goldi
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (re-read, audio)
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (re-read)
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
The 10 p.m. Question is a YA novel about a boy named Frankie Parsons. I loved it, but it’s been a while since I finished it, so rather than bumbling through a description of it that doesn’t do it justice, here’s a description from Booklist:
Twelve-year-old Frankie dreams of having his best friend Gigs’ worry-free disposition. But in his family, Frankie feels like he is the only one who “bothers doing the thinking” about everything from grocery lists to smoke-alarm batteries, and nothing seems to quiet his internal “rodent voice . . . the perpetual bearer of unpalatable facts,” once it gets rolling. Then irrepressible tomboy Sydney arrives at school and befriends Frankie almost against his will. Prompted by her brash charm, Frankie begins to follow Sydney’s “book of wacko etiquette and, for once, talk straight and tough” about family mysteries, beginning with the most obvious and avoided question: Why does Ma never leave the house? An award-winning best-seller in New Zealand, where it was published in 2008, De Goldi’s novel is an achingly poignant, wryly comic story of early adolescence that invites comparisons to works by authors as varied as Lynne Rae Perkins, Nick Hornby, and J. D. Salinger. Nearly every character, from Frankie’s cheerfully sardonic teacher to the trio of pillowy, cigar-smoking aunties who give him sanctuary, is a loving, talented, unforgettable eccentric whose dialogue, much like De Goldi’s richly phrased narration, combines heart-stopping tenderness with perfectly timed, deliciously zany humor. Readers from early teens through adults will be drawn to this beautifully nuanced, unsentimental view of family life, friendship, the heroic requirements of growing up, and the rewards of speaking the unspeakable out loud.
I listened to The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid this month, and this was the third time I’ve read it. I love Bill Bryson’s stories of growing up in the midwest in the 1950s; he brings the decade alive and reminds us of how magnificent things were back then. I’ve read this three times (and will re-read it more) because it transports me back to the joys of childhood and reminds me of the pleasures of simple things that we stop noticing or admiring once we grow up. And also because it makes me laugh a lot. Bill Bryson narrates the audio version himself, and he does it very well – the humor really shines. If you’ve never read this one, I highly recommend it. And if you’re so inclined – try the audiobook, it’s lovely.
I must have picked up and put down Brooklyn by Colm Toibin in bookstores about 6 times before I finally gave in and bought it. Everything about the appearance of the book called to me, and I finally gave in because I kept seeing great reviews of it as well. I enjoyed it very much, mostly because Colm Toibin’s writing is beautiful. It reminds me of being inside on a snowy day – it’s warm and intimate, and I was immediately pulled into the story and wanted to settle in for a while and wrap the words around me.
I’m not sure how I’d never read A Christmas Carol before, but I’m please to report that I remedied that in December. I read my snowflake covered Penguin Classics clothbound edition right before Christmas, and it was lovely. Now I need to decide what Dickens novel to read this year. (2008 – David Copperfield, 2009 – Great Expectations, 2010 – A Christmas Carol.) I think Oliver Twist might be in the lead, but I have a while to decide because I usually wait until the end of fall/beginning of winter to start it.
After reading The Heroine’s Bookshelf (review posted here), I wanted to immediately read (or re-read) all the books she discussed. I bought the copies of Claudine at School and Their Eyes Were Watching God that appear above in my Books Purchased stack. And since I was at home for Christmas, I grabbed my mom’s copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and promptly re-read it. I remember loving it back when I first read it in 2004 (which, coincidently, was also during a Christmas break at home, and using my Mom’s same copy), and I loved it even more the second time through. It’s heartwarming, cozy, and perfect. Reading it again has cemented it into my list of top 10 favorite books of all time.
In December I started reading the Ruby Oliver series, by E. Lockhart. I loved her book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and had been wanting to read more of her YA fiction. I read the first book in the series, The Boyfriend List, which I liked a lot. Ruby is a funny, down to earth girl struggling with life at an expensive private school, where she goes on scholarship. She struggles with all the normal teenage problems: friendships, parents, and boys. Her emotions feel very real, and her humor makes the series very fun to read. I’m making my way through the other books now (the series is four books, so far).