Thursday, January 01, 2009

Books Read--2008

Despite our crazy year, I still managed to get in a good bit of reading. You will notice, though, how many are audiobooks!

Girls Gone Mild, by Wendy Shalit
While her first book, A Return to Modesty, presented a case for modesty and how it benefits women, this book documents current trends away from and in reaction to an oversexualized view of women. Well-researched and engagingly presented.

The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (audio)
An intriguing story that I'd love to recommend, if it weren't for all the sex scenes. I can overlook a good bit, but it was too much.

Blessed Are the Cheesemakers, by Sarah-Kate Lynch (audio)
At A Hen's Pace review here.

Holiness for Housewives, by Hubert van Zeller
Some good thoughts, but not really outstanding.

A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck (audio)
A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck (audio)
These two children's books were among the best books I read all year! Clever and funny, sometimes poignant--a wonderful combination. Any adult would love them, and either would be be great to read during a unit study on the Depression.

Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry
At A Hen's Pace review here.

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, by Alexander McCall Smith (audio)
More in the wonderful The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

A Candle for St. Jude, by Rumer Godden
I really liked the characterization in this novel about an aging ballerina, her dance school, its students and her secretary.

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel (audio)
This is a fantasy adventure about a boy's experience growing up in India and emigrating to Canada. Enroute, his ship sinks and he survives on a lifeboat--with a Bengal tiger for company. (Or is that really what happened?) One of the most intriguing scenes is early in the book, when he investigates and compares Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Overall, I'm not sure what to think of this book, but I liked it!

Right Ho, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse (audio)
A re-listen of the book which includes my all-time favorite Wodehouse scene, when an enebriated Gussy Finknottle addresses the Market Snodsbury Grammar School at its annual prize-giving. This is perhaps the tightest of Wodehouse's longer Jeeves stories and my favorite! (You must listen to a good British reader perform it, and please don't settle for the video version, which leaves out so many good bits.)

Little Women (audio, Focus on the Family Radio Theater)
An excellent dramatized production.

Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Equivel (audio)
I re-listened to this because I enjoyed it years ago. It is an unusual novel, with a strong Latin American flavor, heightened by a device called magical realism. The subtitle describes its unusual structure: A novel in monthly installments with recipes, romances and home remedies. It's full of passion and some eroticism, but not terribly explicit--like a good tango.

Strong as Desire, by Laura Esquivel (audio)
It had its moments, but wasn't nearly as good as Like Water for Chocolate.

Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens (audio)
This was great! Would make a great read-aloud.

Usborne History of the Twentieth Century (read aloud to kids)
We really enjoyed this illustrated summary of the major events and trends of this era.

The Endless Steppe, by Esther Hautzig (read aloud to kids)
This was an engagingly well-written autobiographical narrative of a girl whose family is deported to Siberia by the Russians during World War 2. A great story of how rich "capitalists" managed to survive in the face of absolutely dire poverty.

Murder on a Bad Hair Day, by Anne George (audio)
I couldn't pass up the title, or the premise--two Southern sisters are the would-be detectives. They're twins but couldn't be more different. I liked the characterization and the Southern charm, but I won't be reading another in this series because it had too much swearing, especially for an audiobook. (Little ears about, plus you can't skim over it!)

My Man Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse (BBC Audio)
My new library had this new-to-me collection of Jeeves stories, and since I regularly wore out my last library's Wodehouse tapes, I snapped up this book-on-disc. Great fun!

Scream-Free Parenting, by Hal Runkel (audio)
At A Hen's Pace review here.

When Anger Hurts Your Kids: A Parent's Guide by McKay, Fanning, Paleg & Landis
At A Hen's Pace review here.

Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
This is a wonderful novel of historical fiction, set in Italy in the time of Cesare Borgia. It has intrigue, romance, art, sword-fighting, a virgin saint, a religious conversion, and a hidden true identity: What more could one want? I shall be looking for more Shellabarger.

No: Why Kids--Of All Ages--Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It, by David Walsh
At A Hen's Pace review here.

Do You Know What I Like About You?: Jump-Starting Virtues and Values in Your Children, by Cynthia Tobias
At A Hen's Pace review here.

Kentucky Sunrise, by Fern Michaels (audio)
Having read my share of horse stories as a girl, I thought I'd enjoy an adult one. Too bad the author hadn't done much research on horse racing! Still, I enjoyed the characters and figuring out the back story, as this is the finale to a series. A relatively engaging time-passer, but nothing special.

Dead Heat, by Dick Francis and Felix Francis (audio)
I like a good thriller, especially when they tie in to horse racing, which is what all Dick Francis mysteries do. This recent father-son effort is as good as any of the originals.

The Life God Blesses, by Jim Cymbala
A short, but sweet read. Thought-provoking.

She Got Up Off the Couch, by Haven Kimmel (audio)
At A Hen's Pace review here.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O'Brien (read aloud to kids)
This book holds a special place in my heart which I can't quite explain. As a child I was so intrigued by the civilization of these intelligent rats and mice who have escaped from a lab (at the National Institute of Mental Health--I never caught that as a 4th grader!). You'd be surprised at the level of suspense that builds throughout the book, and at the larger questions about technology that the story raises. The Bantams 13 & 9 loved it, too. One of my all-time favorite children's books.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, OH, by Terry Ryan (audio)
At A Hen's Pace review here.

Twice Shy, by Dick Francis (audio)
Possibly the weakest Francis mystery I've read, but hilarious to hear the 1981 computer jargon that was so cutting edge at the time, and now sounds so prehistoric!

Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis (read aloud to kids)
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis (read aloud to kids)
I'm so glad I am re-reading these. I can't remember how old I was the last time I read the Chronicles--probably high school?--but this time around, as an adult (and possibly as an Anglican, like Lewis), I saw so many wonderful metaphors and allegories of the Christian life. In fact, I would so often choke up as they dawned on me, and then I had to explain to the boys...and I think they benefited, not just from the spiritual images, but in understanding how literature can function on multiple levels.

Juneteenth, by Ralph Ellison (audio)
This author's famous book is Invisible Man, a 1952 novel about a black man traveling through white America. This one was edited and published posthumously as a story about a white, racist Senator who is mortally wounded by an assassin and calls for a black minister to attend him in hospital. The story unfolds as a series of shared memories as we learn that Rev. Hickman raised the Senator from boyhood. Though how he went from junior preacher to racist Senator is not explained, the main appeal of this book is not plot so much as poetry, the eloquence of thought, and the beauty of the black religious attitude and dialect.

I don't think I'd have enjoyed this book nearly as much if I'd read it to myself, but the performance--for it was not just a reading--was marvelous. The black reader, Blair Underwood, brought the poetry and the dialect to life.

Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, by Anne Rice (audio)
I read Out of Egypt, the first book in this series on the life of Christ, last year and liked it fine, but this one, I thought, was much better. It portrayed Jesus as such a real human being, rooted in his time and place (the author's research added so much here), and experiencing the emotions and temptations common to man. The scene with the Devil and his temptations was wonderfully done, with a restraint you might not expect from the author of The Vampire Chronicles. Her autobiographical account of her conversion is on my shelf for 2009!

And my pick for "book of the year," because it was so powerful:

The Island of the World, by Michael O'Brien
At A Hen's Pace review here.

Tomorrow..."Movies Watched--2008"!

For more year-end book lists...see Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!


Islandsparrow said...

Wow - you did well reading all those books - especially considering all the changes last year!

I haven't read that Rumer Godden book - I enjoy her very much - An Episode of Sparrows is a favourite.

I really like The Life of Pi too.

And The Endless Steppe.

I'm going to look up your book of the year choice.

And looking forward to your movie review tomorrow!

MomCO3 said...

Jeanne, I always looks forward to your list. I'm going to place my holds at the library now! Thanks for your thoughtful reviews!
Happy New Year.

Sherry said...

Cool, you discovered Prince of Foxes, one of my favorites of all time.

hopeinbrazil said...

Jeanne, I've been out of touch since you helped me to tweak my new blog a year ago. We are now living in Sao Paulo (quite near the Fawcetts and we see them once in awhile). You read some great books in 2008!

Blessings, Hope

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

I love audiobooks. Yes, it allows me to "read" when I'm doing other things, but also it gives a written story a whole new dimension.

Carrie K. said...

I listened to the first volume of Christ the Lord on audio, and have been wondering if the second one was as good - will have to give it a try!