So here's what I've been unable to put down the last few weeks.
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. This best-seller recounts the history of the Black Migration out of the South (1920's - 1960's). Wilkerson was the first black woman to win a Pulitzer for journalism and this is her first book. She's a stunning writer. Her book details the life of three individuals - two men and one women - who left. Reading of their oppression under Jim Crow laws left me aghast. I knew some. But not this much. And I am ashamed it happened in our country. The fear, the atrocities, the lack of courage and compassion. It's a must-read. Top of my list for the year.
ps - Wilkerson's book also moved me to pick up Langston Hugh's Collected Poems at the library, just to peruse. Oh my, I am smitten.
Mitten Strings For God by Katrina Kenison. This was my first read of the year. It is referenced in nearly every mothering book I've read, so I was dying to know - who is Katrina Kenison? Well, she writes great stuff. Authentic? Can't say I was always convinced. But I did a fair amount of underlining. There are definitely some beautiful thoughts here about motherhood and Kenison has influenced how I parent in a positive way.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova. All I can say is wow. If you know someone with Alzheimer's, this novel may strike a little too close to home. But Genova's story of a female Harvard professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's in her forties, is tragic, life-changing, and inspiring - all in one read. Genova has her PhD in neuroscience and helps readers understand the progression of the disease from both a patient and caretaker's perspective. I realized both are grueling places to be. I'm looking forward to picking up Genova's newest book, Left Neglected.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Ah... loved, loved, loved this one. Ann Lamott is funny - I mean sidesplittingly funny. I did find her a little affronting at first (like - wow - did she just say that?) but once I got to know her, I realized she is a voice to be trusted when it comes to writing advice. Every writer ought to read Anne. She is phenomenal.
Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle. Just looking at the covers of these two books calms me. L'Engle's words are smooth, peaceful, life-giving. You can't go wrong with any of her Crosswicks journals. Two-Part Invention is about L'Engle's marriage to the actor, Hugh Franklin. Their commitment to each other over a lifetime, especially during Hugh's final days, is tender, beautiful, and selfless. This one made me love my husband more.
A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle. Here you'll find more of L'Engle's prose about making space for the quiet, for finding yourself, and using nature and people as places of renewal. She wrote this in her forties, after getting through the "tired thirties" and I'm thinking she wrote it for mums like me - in the thick of tired. L'Engle is a Christian writer and self-made philosopher. She is charmingly frank, honest about everything, and illuminating - always.
The Maytrees by Annie Dillard. My opinion? Best novel of the year. Every word is essential, poetic, metaphored. Through the telling of this unpredictable love story between Lou and Toby Maytree, Dillard teaches us about human nature, the human landscape, and unlikely journeys of the soul. I think it is Dillard's most intriguing work. She never says much about herself - it's hard to find a good bio on her. But she has said, "The way to know about a writer is to read the texts." I believe The Maytrees is a look right into her soul.
Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I read these at the beginning of the year as well. It was so nice to jump into something easy - to fly pages and find myself sneaking into the bathroom to steal a chapter. My grandmother said, some things you do because "your IQ demands it." And that's how I felt about Collins' books. I had to know what the buzz was all about. And I wasn't disappointed. Thanks to my good friend Brodi, whose YA novel was recently picked up by HarperCollins, I've been more aware of this genre. I haven't read Mockingjay yet, but it's on the list.
Mormon Women: Portraits and Conversations by James Kimball and Kent Miles. I reviewed this one for Meridian but can't find it archived there since they revamped their site. I will tell you though, that these interviews with diverse Mormon women around the world are riveting. These women tell their own life stories in first person. They talk about their unique life path and how God has been a part of it. I read this before being involved with the Mormon Women Project. The concept is very similar and both are inspiring. This book changed my life. Ennobling, empowering, and for every woman - even if you are not LDS.
Dance with Them edited by Kathryn Soper. I reviewed this book for Mother's Day last year on Meridian. It's a compilation of essays and poetry written by thirty women at Segullah. These are women who write from experience and from the heart. Their honesty will help any mom negotiate the challenge of mothering school-age children. Mothering is like an intricate dance - unique as our individual children, and just as we're getting our footing, the rhythm shifts. But I love the metaphor of the book: It's not a tug-of-war. It's a dance.
What about you? Tell me your favorite reads from 2010.
And while we're on the subject, the link in the nav bar titled "The Books" is a place for you to find old book reviews, book lists I've posted, and whatever I've currently got my nose in.
I hope you can visit your favorite "sequestered nook" this weekend.