1. The Happiness Project, Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
I’ve been waiting and waiting for this book to be published. I first heard about it when I kept getting snippets in the wonderful Google e-mail I receive every day about items of interest about happiness. I love happiness. I’m fascinated with happiness. I suppose you could say that just thinking about happiness makes me happy. So I couldn’t wait to read this book.
It was not a disappointment. I’ve been reading the author’s blog about the project on an almost daily basis, so the book felt, well, a little short. But that is okay. It was a good book. It gives readers lots of lovely ideas about how to be happier. Even if you just try one idea and it works for you, I’d say that would be worth the price of the book.
I resolve to use these ideas and try them myself. I’m going to read through the book one more time and this time I’ll write down a few notes.
2. No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan
The title says it all. Beavan decides to stop talking about living a greener life and do something. He challenges himself to try to put nothing in the trash can, to use no electricity, to drive nowhere, and to buy locally for a year. What he learns is surprising and useful.
3. Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
If they keep writing such long titles, someday we’ll be able to read the cover and we won’t need to even open the book. A little book of fascinating essays for the over-50 crowd who grew up on Guiness Book of World Records.
4. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Completely outside my comfort zone. (Seemingly) endless references to sex and (seemingly) endless profanity. Nevertheless, a brilliant depiction of a young man in 2009. I want to wash out the narrator’s mouth and put him (and most of the other characters in the book) in timeout while simultaneously thanking the author for showing me this world. Though I really never want to go there again.
So how do I rate this book? It's brilliant, I know. Just not the kind of brilliant that I like. Guy brilliant. Especially young-ish guy brilliant.
5. Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places by Bill Streever
I had to put on my Snuggie while I read this book; we may have global warming, but the places Streever visits in this book are darn cold. This book is just the right mix of travel narrative and armchair philosopher.
6. A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
Chapter One did not impress me. I set it aside for several days only to pick it back up after seeing it on fifty recommended reads lists of 2009. Okay, let me give it another chance.
Glad I did. The story is a thoughtful one. Parenting. Caring for others. Coming of age. Atonement. Loss. Carelessness. Lots to think about here.
I loved the story, but I loved, more than that even, how much Moore enjoyed word play. All her characters, even the most dour, can’t seem to help themselves, throwing a pun or a crazy story about words in their conversations. I must have read some paragraphs three or four times, loving the way Moore decorates her tale.
7. The Ten Golden Rules: Ancient Wisdom from the Greek Philosophers on Living the Good Life by M.A. Soupios and Panos Mourdoukoutas
For future reference, here are the ten golden rules:
1. Examine life.
2. Worry only about the things you can control.
3. Treasure friendship.
4. Experience true pleasure.
5. Master yourself.
6. Avoid excess.
7. Be a responsible human being.
8. Don’t be a prosperous fool.
9. Don’t do evil to other people.
10. Kindness toward others tends to be rewarded.
8. Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges
It’s end times for academics. Hedges bewails the plethora of in-your-face-ness in America: wrestling, tv, even government and universities. Thoughtful discourse is found tedious, he moans. “We are chained to the flickering shadows of celebrity culture….”
No one who spent an hour in our country could deny this. It’s obvious. Hedges spends two hundred pages visiting all the most worrisome spots in American culture, pleading his case that America is in trouble. Bread and circuses everywhere, but more: bread tainted with toxins and circuses of the depraved.
Yes, America is definitely the land of spectacle these days. But does that mean doom for the country?
Like most books of this sort, Empire is long on problems and short on solutions. A careful look at the stats that prop up Hedges’ treatise shows the author is prone to the very thing he is ranting against; Hedges’ book is filled with, well, illusion and spectacle.
9. Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
Munro’s new book of short stories is filled with human beings. Just when you think you’ve found a character above reproach, though, Munro says to look again, and you find the ice has melted in your hands. You get the sense that Munro is very, very good at seeing into the hearts of people and finding we all come up short. The title is a cruel twist on the stories inside; an objective observer of these lives doesn’t find much happiness at all here. But is that really the case? It’s something---a little glimmer of happiness, maybe, perhaps some small happiness that comes from making it through troubles---that keeps these people moving along through their difficult lives.
10. Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg It was suggested to me that I read this book. A friend of the author had read my blog and told me this book might be one I’d like. I’ve been wary of books offered up to me. Lately I’ve had nothing but disappointments.
Not this book. Not sure how the friend of the author knew this, but this book was an absolutely perfect match for me…a main character, Eve, who has been widowed and now abandoned by a second husband, leaving his family during a garage sale, no less. Left with two kids to raise. A shaky job. Odd and unstable friends. A cranky mother.
Doesn’t sound like we’re going to see a happily-ever-after ending here. But strangely we do, though not in ways we’d ever expect. The author has that wonderful ability to take life seriously while also laughing it off. A lovely read.
11. Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, An International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall and Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent
I’ve had this book on my wishlist for a long time but it was my daughter-in-law who finally got me to read this book. She suggested we go to a face-to-face book group and this book was the book to be discussed. She read it first and raved about it. I finally got to it this week and I agreed with her. Wonderful story. Can’t wait to talk about it on Monday night.
12. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
I know a lot about Henry VIII. I know quite a bit about his first wife, Katherine. I’d say I know an enormous amount about his second wife, Anne Boleyn. I’d even say I know tons about Thomas More. But what did I really know about Thomas Cromwell? Not much.
So, this book. All about Thomas Cromwell. And Henry. And Katherine. And Anne and More. Even though I generally knew the story, every page, every sentence felt new. An excellent book. I honestly cannot imagine anyone who would not be enthralled with this one.
13. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
Add this to your list of wonderful don’t-miss-them books. This is a collection of short stories that are loosely linked together and that all take place in Pakistan. Brilliant, all.
14. What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell
You know Malcolm Gladwell. He’s The Tipping Point author. He looks at events and tries to help us figure out why and when and how-to-do-it-again-better. What the Dog Saw is a collection of Gladwell’s articles. I wanted to hit the save button several times as I read this book. One article I had to reread was “Most Likely to Succeed.” It compares finding good teachers to finding a good NFL quarterback. Apparently good teachers are the most important thing in enhancing student performance: “…many reformers have come to the conclusion that nothing matters more than finding people with the potential to be good teachers.” It is also hard. It’s hard to find those good teachers. What does it take? How does one become a good teacher? A few qualities this article examines are regard for student perspective, the teacher’s ability to allow students flexibility in becoming engaged in the lesson; personalizing the material, making the material live for each student; and, most important, feedback, “direct, personal response by a teacher to a specific statement by a student.”
Just one of twenty or so little articles Gladwell wrote about issues you thought you knew about, you thought you understood…but that science tells you to reexamine.
15. The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Here they are, the twelve hows:
1. Expressing gratitude
2. Cultivating optimism
3. Avoiding overthinking and social comparison
4. Practicing acts of kindness
5. Nurturing social relationships
6. Developing strategies for coping
8. Increasing flow experiences
9. Savoring life’s joys
10. Committing to your goals
11. Practicing religion and spirituality
12. Taking care of your body
Happiness is my focus this year. I feel quite certain I will come back to this book and this list.
16. The BFG by Roald Dahl
Add this book immediately to your Must-Read list. What kid would not like this book? This book has everything…warm, lovable characters…wicked monsters…royalty…action…kindness…humor of the sophisticated type as well as humor of the loud body noises type….I’m adding this today to my list of best reads ever.
17. Calvin Coconut: Trouble Magnet by Graham Salisbury
Calvin is Henry Huggins. Calvin is Tom Sawyer. Calvin is the all-American boy we’ve come to know and love. In trouble most of the time, but somehow it’s not really his fault.
So we know this character, but do we? Calvin lives in Hawaii. His dad is a pop singer who hit it big and left the family for the mainland. One of Calvin’s new friends has just come to Hawaii and is having difficulty fitting in because he is white.
I like it. And it is my first official 2010-2011 Bluebonnet book. Nineteen more to go.
18. Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Make that eighteen more Bluebonnets to go. Home of the Brave is book two. Kek escapes from his warring homeland in Africa to live with family in icy cold Minnesota. Kek sees America with fresh eyes and bravely starts to make a new life here, quickly befriending a foster girl and a thin cow, hoping his mother has survived and will be reunited with him. Told in free verse (a device which serves well to reflect Kek’s real voice).
19. Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk by Robyn Okrant
If reality tv is all the rage in the television world, then attempting one-year challenges is all the rage in book world. Robyn Okrant set out to try to follow Oprah’s precepts, those presented on her show and in her magazine and online, for a year.
I heard about this last summer and have been waiting for the book ever since. I was not disappointed. Okrant is respectful of Oprah, and, though she finds many of Oprah’s pronouncements overly enthusiastic, she also discovers many wise tidbits of advice.
(Happiness side note: Okrant’s happiness level dropped abysmally as the year progressed, primarily from increased levels of stress in attempting to follow all of the Oprah manifestos.)
20. What Difference Do It Make? Stories of Hope and Healing by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent
Last week, I finished Same Kind of Different as Me, posted a review on my blog, and attended a book club meeting where we discussed the book. At the book club, we were told there was a sequel and there was some talk of trying to obtain the sequel and read it. We unanimously reveled in the book.
I was overjoyed then to see a publisher’s representative posted a comment on my blog about my review. She mentioned the new sequel and offered to send me a copy. I replied and, to my astonishment, I found a beautiful copy of the new book in my next day’s mail.
I will warn you that sequels often disappoint me. I’m not even one to read all the books in a series; I will often read the first book and then stop, not wanting to experience the disappointment of a follow-up book.
This book was not a disappointment. I picked it up at noon and leisurely read it and thought about it all afternoon. It answers some questions we pondered at our book group (included are some photos of Denver’s artwork and we learn more about Ron’s experiences with his father) but it also includes stories of people who were affected by the first book and felt called to take action.
I’m happy that I can recommend it to others. It’s the best kind of book about real Christianity, the kind that pops up in surprising places, that moves in waves of love.
21. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
We know what motivates us, right? Of course, there are the biological needs. They motivate us. But beyond that, what motivates us are rewards and punishments. School uses these. Our bosses use these. It’s everywhere. We all know that rewards and punishments are powerful motivators.
Or are they? New studies are looking into the little-known motivators, intrinsic motivation. Pink examines these---autonomy, mastery, and purpose---and looks into recent studies that show the surprising effects that rewards can have on undermining intrinsic motivation.
To remind myself, here are the seven deadly flaws of a carrot and stick approach:
“1. They can extinguish intrinsic motivation.
2. They can diminish performance.
3. They can crush creativity.
4. They can crowd out good behavior.
5. They can encourage cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior.
6. They can become addictive.
7. They can foster short-term thinking.”
Rewards work where intrinsic motivation is low. Also, a surprise reward after the work is accomplished does not undermine intrinsic motivation. Praise is much less corrosive than trophies. Informational feedback is useful and motivating.
Humans, scientists are discovering, have innate desires to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And scientists are moving away from the intrinsic/extrinsic dichotomy to categorizing behavior as either controlled or autonomous. Autonomous is always better. Links have been found between autonomy and well-being, better grades, increased understanding, persistence, productivity, and less burn-out. People need autonomy over four things: their task, their time, their technique, and their team. Autonomy will bring engagement which brings mastery.
22. Happiness in a Troubled World by Howard Cutler
Benefits of diversity: Groups of people are better at making decisions than even the best experts under the right circumstances. The conditions necessary for the crowd to be wise are diversity and decentralization of decision making power.
When living in more homogeneous communities, people feel happier and get more accomplished.
So how can we relate to others in a more inclusive way?
23. Tap Dancing on the Roof by Linda Sue Park
A new kind of poetry (to me). Sijo. It’s from Korea (like author Park’s family). Not rhymes or syllables, but stresses. Different. Each line of sijo has two halves, with three stresses in one and four in the other. Sijo is about relationships and small moments. In English, sijo is formed into three long lines or six short ones. The last line (or lines for six short ones) contains a twist or pun or wit.
Here’s my favorite:
For someone to read a poem
again, again, and then,
having lifted it from page
to brain---the easy part---
cradle it on the longer trek
from brain all the way to heart.”
24. Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love was a great read. In Twitter-format: Gilbert gets dumped and sets off around the world to feel better.
In the process, Gilbert met another love. Now, she must decide: Shall she dare to marry again?
And she spends nine months traveling around the world getting a second opinion. What is romantic love? What does it mean to marry? How can marriage be a happy experience?
25. Oso pardo, oso pardo, que ves ahi by Bill Martin
26. Book Fiesta! Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day by Pat Mora
Ordering this for my school library.
27. Red Sings from Treetops by Joyce Sidman
I like it. It’s pretty. The words are lovely. But, hey, did anyone ask the kids what they think?
28. Diego: Bigger Than Life by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
Are we supposed to admire Diego Rivera? Or is this a cautionary tale?
29. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
I’ve heard lots of happy buzz about this book. I liked it, but I didn’t love it and I wanted to love it. Fun puzzle of a plot that fits together perfectly. Characters that intrigued me. I don’t know why I didn’t love it. Probably just an off day.
30. Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff
Our main character is trying to forge ahead but it’s hard when your brother dies unexpectedly. She meets the new neighbor across the street who helps her with her situation by using an analogy to carrying an open umbrella long after the rain has stopped. The neighbor and our main character work together to close their umbrellas and to help others close theirs.
31. Easier than You Think by Richard Carlson
Lots of short ideas on how to be happier. Audiotape.
32. The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
This year’s Caldecott winner. Deserved.
33. Margaret Wise Brown: Author of Goodnight Moon by Carole Greene
Short bio for children about Margaret Wise Brown. She wrote a lot of kids’ books though she died at 42. (Her cause of death is a little unclear: “While she was in France, she became very ill. She had to have an operation. It went well. Each day, Margaret felt better. She wrote funny letters to her friends. But on the morning of November 13, 1952, something went wrong. Margaret blacked out. A minute later, she died.”
34. My Abuelita by Tony Johnston
Great story about a boy and his grandmother. The pictures are so strange that they are beautiful.
35. Dear Zoo: A Pop-Up Book by Rod Campbell
One of the 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read. Kids love popups.
36. Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill
Another 1001 CBYMR for the youngest of readers.
37. Avocado Baby by John Burningham
Yet another 1001 CBYMR. I knew the author, but I’d never heard of the book. I easily found a copy at the public library. The Hargraves were quite worried their new baby would not be strong, just like the rest of them. But the baby got hold of some avocadoes and, next thing you know, this little guy is taking care of bullies and fighting off robbers.
38. U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton
This is the Sue Grafton I remember loving way back at the middle letters of the alphabet. Kinsey is back working on an old mystery. I like how Grafton moves backward and forward in time.
39. All Stations! Distress! by Don Brown
Bluebonnet 2010-11. Titanic goes down. Nice text makes this book accessible for even early chapter book readers.
40. Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora
Wouldn’t this make a good introduction to thankfulness at writing workshop at school? Got to order it.
41. The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
I never dreamed that this book would blow me away. Hagar Shipley is ninety-ish and at the end of her life. The book tells both stories of her last days as well as stories Hagar remembers about her life. What a tough bird she is, hard on her older son, indifferent to her husband. This is a book that feels very, very true. I recommend it highly and I’m adding it to my list of best reads ever. One question that nags at me: Is Hagar a relative? Can I blame it on her (and my) Scotch blood?
42. Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler
The day will come one day when there will be no more new Anne Tyler and the world will be a sadder place for it. But for now, we have Noah’s Compass, Tyler’s latest. Noah’s Compass tells the story of Liam Pennywell, a man who has been asked to retire from teaching, divorced, widowed, somewhat estranged from his children, a man who goes through the motions and can’t figure out any other way to live.
43. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
There is hope in the world. This is the story of hope. William Kamkwamba tells the story of his life growing up in a tiny African country where most people struggle, now and then, with obtaining enough to eat. No electricity, no water, no amenities. Kamkwamba’s family hasn’t enough money during the famine to send him to school so he hangs out at the small library and there he learns how to use wind power to make electricity. Amazing story.
44. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Another 1001 Children’s Books read. Possibly a reread. Probably a reread, but the original read was back forty or so years ago.
I liked it. I liked all the details about life during that time. I loved the story about the boring Sunday that Pa felt compelled to top. I loved the stories about the wolves and the snow and neighbor visits and the food they ate.
And the size of this book is lovely for read-alouds. Bigger than a picture book.
Now I must decide if I wish to pass this on (mailing it would be pricey, I think) or catalog it for my school library.
45. Little Black Ant on Park Street by Janet Halfmann
Brilliant. What a fantastic book for children! A closeup view of the ant’s world, along with cool details about black ants. Must order a nice copy for my school library.
46. The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? By Padgett Powell
Is there any other way to write a review of this book? Do you enjoy reading question after question after question? Is part of you fascinated to read a book written entirely in questions? Are you already tiring of this technique?
47. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Every page is a mini-I-Spy, sending children in search of missing nursery rhyme characters. The finale is lovely with all the characters reunited in a picnic.
48. Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham
I could read this a hundred times. Gumpy sets out on an outing and keeps adding additional boaters to his adventure until the inevitable catastrophe occurs and the boat overturns. But it’s not really a catastrophe after all and everyone shakes off the water and promises to come for another outing soon.
49. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
The babies awake and mother is gone; will she return? Of course she will, for this is one of those quietly reassuring picture books that children and parents love.
50. The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift and Lynd Ward
The Little Red Lighthouse has always been Absolutely Necessary, responsible for saving many boats and many lives. But now there is the Great Gray Bridge to keep boats and people safe. How Necessary is the Little Red Lighthouse now?
51. The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter
Jemima is a silly goose of a duck. Where can she safely lay her eggs? And who will save her from the fox?
52. Kipper by Mick Inkpen
Kipper decides to rid himself of his smelly bed and toys and seek a new place to sleep. He tries the beds of other animals, but nothing satisfies and he finally returns home to the comfort of his old bed.
53. Maisy Goes to Preschool
Maisy goes through the routines of her day at preschool with confidence and joy.
54. Elmer by David McKee
Elmer is not an ordinary gray elephant; instead, he is covered with colorful patchwork skin and he is full of jokes and humor that makes all the other elephants laugh. One day, he decides he wants to be like everyone else and he rolls in some elephant colored berries until he blends in. It doesn’t take long for Elmer to tire of being like everyone else and return to his old funny self.
55. Lavender’s Blue: A Book of Nursery Rhymes compiled by Kathleen Lines
A book I remember from my childhood, filled with all the wonderful nursery rhymes I loved.
56. Little Toot by Hardie Gramatky
Little Toot is a silly tugboat who refuses to do anything more than play and toot. But one day, he discovers that it is only he who can help and he becomes a valued member of his community.
57. The Tale of Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter
I love this blurb from Amazon: “A frog fishing from his lily pad boat doesn't catch any fish, but one catches him.”
58. Utterly Me, Clarice Bean by Lauren Child
So happy I finally read this book. In this episode, Clarice’s best friend is off with her parents and Clarice is forced to work on a school project with the worst boy in the class. A mystery occurs and Clarice must use the detective skills she has learned from her favorite book to solve the mystery.
59. Keeping the Feast: One Couple’s Story of Love, Food, and Healing in Italy by Paula Butturini
I went into this book expecting it to be more of a moving-and-starting-over book, but it turned out to be more of a troubles-and-healing book. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it at first (a disconcertingly disappointing feeling in the pit of my stomach as I had committed to reading it for a blog group and had received an ARC free for that purpose) but my initial feelings soon changed and I found that I loved the story. Paula and John met later in life and fell in love and married, but then John got shot in the course of his job as a reporter and life for the couple changed dramatically. A very good read.
60. Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry
Anastasia and her parents have the kind of relationship I’ve always had with my best and smartest children at school, the back and forth of intellectual (for a ten year old) discourse that has such great appeal for me. Anastasia is having trouble with almost everything in her life, including her grandmother, a soon-to-be-new-brother, her teacher, and even her onerous name.
61. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
What’s a cricket doing in Times Square? Chester soon finds himself surrounded by friends, both animal (a mouse and a cat) and human (a boy and his parents who own the newsstand where Chester finds himself). Chester discovers he is an extraordinary musician and develops quite a following in New York, but he longs to return to the country where he feels he really belongs.
62. The Quangle Wangle’s Hat by Edward Lear
What a joyous jumble of words! The pictures in this version by Janet Stevens add so much to the text.
63. Into That Good Night by Ron Rozelle
I read this memoir again and loved it just as much. An admirable man, a father, a husband, a teacher, a superintendent.
64. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
How have I overlooked this fabulous book? Paddington is Amelia Bedelia…ET…Ramona…a naïve little teddy bear thrust into the scary big world. Fabulous.
65. Seven Pleasures by Willard Spiegel
I hate to write negative reviews. It doesn’t make me happy. Just for the record.
I always make a mental list of books I might want to buy when I go to the Texas Book Festival each year. This book was on my list. Then I heard the author speak and I reconsidered: No, a library choice, I decided.
I was right. The author is an erudite man, a professor, and this book reeks of his desire to share what he knows with others. I’m quite certain there are many who would love to read of his encounters with his seven pleasures, and perhaps, given the right mindset, I would have enjoyed these, but the truth is that I did not. I had to force myself to keep reading what came across to me as mostly autobiographic tidbits and slices from lectures.
Just so you know, the seven pleasures are reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming and writing. He got that much right.
66. The Girl With the Brown Crayon by Vivian Gussin Paley
Who knows why, but I wasn’t crazy about this book either. I thought I would love it, but it seemed to be a very personal account of a teacher’s last year, focusing especially on her encounter with one special student who led the class in a love for the books of Leo Lionni.
67. The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
I started out loving this book. It’s a cool mix of a great story (young prodigy is selected to win an award by the Smithsonian) with side panels containing fascinating extensions of the plot illustrated to match the skills of the prodigy. Very clever. Unique for a fiction book, perhaps.
But the book became work. It was hard to focus on the story with all those clever side panels leading you off in a hundred different directions.
Very mixed feelings about this book. Brilliant but difficult.
68. The Spare Room by Helen Garner
Helen prepares her spare room for her friend, Nicola. Nicola has advanced cancer and is coming to stay with Helen while she undergoes an unorthodox treatment.
I can’t say enough good things about this book. The relationship between Nicola, the gadabout, and Helen, the steady and loyal friend, is fascinating. The contrast between Bess, the young granddaughter and Nicola, dying friend, is fascinating. The author allows the story to tell itself, a simple story, yet full of complexity.
I felt every emotion reading this book…hope…despair…joy…mourning…
Very wise book. Thank you, LibraryThing, for this copy.
65. Fateless by Imre Kertesz
My online bookgroup read this book a few weeks back, but I couldn’t put my hands on a copy in time. Then I received the offer to join a bookring for it at BookCrossing.
The setting, a concentration camp during World War II, and the main character, a Jewish boy, have been done many times, but never quite this way. Our main character, George Koves, has a strangely detached point of view during the time he spent in the camp. Though he almost starves to death at times and is beaten and sees others put to death, Koves finds solace in the experience. His experiences are related philosophically, as if he is trying to get to the deepest truths.
71. Dino-Baseball by Lisa Wheeler
The illustrations captivated the kids at my school from the first moment the book arrived. “Oooh,” the kids squealed. “Dinosaurs! And baseball! Can I check it out?!”
72. Poetry Speaks: Who I Am edited by Elise Paschen
I love books. You know that. But do you know I especially love poetry? It’s my favorite. Good poetry, that is.
And this book is just full of poetry. Good poetry. Poems I’ve been scribbling down in my journals since I was a junior high girl. “One Art.” “Acquainted With the Night.” “Road Not Taken.” All those poems every young teen has sighed and cried over for generations. Along with lots and lots of new poems to sigh and cry over.
A fabulous collection.
And it comes with a CD. Fabulous.
73. The Way to Stillness: Powerful Tools for Those in Helping Professions by Anne Alexander Vincent and Gayle Alexander
My heart dropped when this book arrived. It had been a bad day. Rare for me, really, to be feeling this low. And I was quite worried that this book would turn out to be one of those books written by a stuck-in-the-sixties wannabe, with chants or mantras or other hocus-pocus feel-good fixes.
Nope. Sigh of relief. This is a book from a grounded person and the advice is old and wise. It immediately restored my spirits and changed my focus and brought me back into a happy place.
74. How Lincoln Learned to Read: Twelve Great Americans and the Educations That Made Them by Daniel Wolff
I read this book start to finish in one afternoon. Couldn’t stop reading. It’s all about twelve famous Americans’ educations, both formal and informal, and how they acquired what they needed to know to become the people they became. I won’t give away who the people are as that is part of the fun; each chapter is titled with a little-known nickname of the person so you aren’t always sure who the story is about until you get to the last page.
It gives one a lot of hope to see how little formal education most of these people obtained in light of the amazing successes they achieved.
A fun trip through American history.
75. Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
If I’d read this book as a child, I’d have returned it without reading it, denying the main character of this book is the real Mary Poppins. Mary, in this book, is a sharp nanny, and she’s skinny and self-absorbed. Not what I think of as Mary Poppins at all.
There’s no denying she’s the source of the movie and plays, but you could have fooled me.
76. Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Damien and Anthony are two brothers who find a bag of money. Lots of it. Millions, in fact. And it must be spent quickly as the British pound is soon to be replaced with the Euro and the bills will become worthless.
Add in the fact that the boys’ mother has recently died and that Damien is obsessed with saints and you have a fantastic story. Loved it.
77. Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler
I’ve read and loved Hessler’s previous two books about China, but this is by far my favorite.
Hessler really knows China by now and does he ever have stories to tell! Sad stories. Hilarious stories.
78. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
Last book in the series…or is it?
79. Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull
Sarah Turnbull impulsively decided to follow a man home to Paris, but the trip was supposed to be for a week, not a lifetime. Instead, Turnbull married the man and made Paris her home.
French things I learned from this book: Lots of French words; waiters and those working in stores can appear rude to the non-Frenchperson; making new friends is a slow process; homeless people are accepted as a part of life; work strikes are frequent.
80. On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town by Susan Herrmann Loomis
Another moving-and-starting-over book, this one set in a French town in Normandy. Loomis, her husband, and her young son buy a convent and convert it into a home.
French things I learned from this book: One must, at times, be quite stern with the French in order to make a point; amazing recipes; fresh food is everywhere; more French words.
81. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson
Lots of buzz about this book in the blogosphere and well deserved, I’d say.
Major Pettigrew is Atticus Finch in his small English village. His wife is dead and, though he speaks with his son, he despairs at times of their relationship. The village is on the verge of change and Pettigrew and his fellow villagers are wrestling with what changes are acceptable and which are not.
Pettigrew is an admirable character in oh-so-many ways, and that is one of the charms of the books. But it is also his ability to find wry humor in most situations that makes his an endearing character.
I loved this book and I’d love to hear what others think about it.
82. The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff
83. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
84. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s reflections on his time in Paris during the time after the first world war. He encounters and befriends Gertrude Stein and Sylvia Beach and Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Oddly, this book links rather well with Tender is the Night and Good Morning, Midnight, both of which were written during this time in France, and both of which I am also reading.
85. Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
An aging woman, down on her luck, meets a younger man in Paris and has high hopes for their relationship. Grim story of the woman’s years of drinking and meeting up with men.
86. Serve It Forth by M.F.K. Fisher
Brilliant essays loosely written on the theme of food.
87. Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong (Why We Love France But Not the French) by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow
Lots of useful info about France and the French. Key info for me: French rudeness; French history especially during WWII; education in France.
88. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou
Life can be very strange. Why would I pick up a graphic novel about the life of philosopher Bertrand Russell at the library convention? And, even odder, why would I choose to read it while I waited for a session to begin?
I like odd books. And I did like this one. But, warning: It is not for everyone. (Honestly, are there others who would enjoy reading this book? Not sure.)
89. Essential Guide to Spanish Reading for Children and Young Adults by America Reads Spanish
An excellent bibliography of books written in Spanish for children and young adults. To the library this book will go….
90. The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg
The truth is, I’ve skipped the last few Berg books. That’s the honest truth. But I liked this one, though not nearly as much as I liked her earlier books.
Listen to the gist of the book: A group of almost-sixty-year-olds goes to their high school reunion. What baby boomer would not like this book? I could not put it down and I cannot wait to tell some of my reading friends about it.
91. Asterix the Gaul by Goscinny
I saw this book a while back and could not see the charm in it. But now I’m in a I-Love-All-Things-French mode and this children’s book reentered my radar.
I found it clever and fresh. A little more sophisticated than a children’s tv show, but not far from the bang them over the head humor that some kids love.
92. T’choupi se perd au supermarche by Thierry Courtin
I read this book. In French. I did. Really.
Somebody needs to help me with this: Why did it take me ten years to be able to figure out anything in Spanish and here I am, a couple of months into French, and I can read children’s books?
93. Sundays With Ron Rozelle by, well, of course, Ron Rozelle
In a better world, Ron Rozelle would be writing for the Houston Chronicle each Sunday instead of his small town Brazosport Facts. I loved this little collection of his columns. He talks about newspapers and writing and friendship and family and, inexplicably, John Wayne. Loved this book.
94. Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt
Rosenblatt’s daughter died. She was young and seemingly healthy, but she died, leaving a husband and young children. Rosenblatt and his wife moved in with the husband and the grandkids and tried to put things aright, to make sense of what happened and to help the little family figure out what to do next.
A lovely read.
95. Otto Grows Down by Michael Sussman
Otto, in a fit of anger, wishes his sister had never been born and suddenly finds himself growing steadily younger. He almost immediately regrets his wish but feels incapable of reversing his reversal.
Clever and thoughtful. I cannot wait to share this with my students at school.
96. Poetry Speaks: Who I Am: Poems of Discovery, Inspiration, Independence, and Everything Else edited by Elise Paschen
I’ve read the whole series now…Poetry Speaks (for grownups)…Poetry Speaks (for kids)…and, now, this one, Poetry Speaks (for teens). Some of my favorites are here, including Langston Hughes’ “Dreams” and “I Loved My Friend” and Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”; I honestly cannot imagine a collection for teens without these poems. But lots of new surprises here and that is always welcome.
I’ll be passing this book on to a librarian friend at the junior high who will add this book to her collection and share it with teens at her school.
97. Poems to Read: A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology edited by Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz
Why did I wait so long to read this book? Zowie. Beautiful.
98. Winter’s End (Combat d’hiver) by Jean-Claude Mourlevat
A 1001 Children's Book. That's Winter's End. It's translated from the French. In view of my upcoming trip, I've decided to focus on reading those 1001 CBs that have French authors. And, though this book was set in a mysterious alternative universe following a dictatorial takeover, the book had a decidedly French feel, placing its trust in art to save the world. Very dark for a children's book, but with a hopeful ending. I worried the book would be first in a trilogy, but, no, it was complete in itself.
99. Paris Times Eight: Finding Myself in the City of Dreams by Deidre Kelly
That's Paris Times Eight. Kelly visits Paris, yes, eight times, and each trip changes her. Hope I will have my own Paris Times One experience this summer.
100. Crazy Love by Francis Chan
101. If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus by Philip Gulley
Both scathing, but both authored by pastors who love the church despite its weaknesses. I, too, love the church, but find it disappoints me....We could be so much more but for our complacency and off-putting piousness, the very things Jesus stared down in his Jewish faith.
102. Reality Hunger: A Manifesto by David Shields
What is fiction and what is nonfiction? The boundary line is no longer clear. Shields argues that modern novels are a form that does not satisfy a world increasingly alienated from reality, using bits and pieces of others' writings to make his point.
A book worth reading if just for the cleverness of its form.
103. Nicholas by Rene Goscinny
A 1001 Children's Book. Nicholas is a bad boy, a Dennis the Menace from France, in and out of (but mostly in) trouble. He attends a boarding school where most of the other boys are also bad boys. It makes for a story equally compelling for children and grownups.
104. The Last Supper by Rachel Cusk
This book arrived in the mail a few weeks ago from LibraryThing. It's a memoir of a time the author spent traveling around Italy with her husband and two young children. I like travel stories, usually, but this one was quite different from my typical travel story. Cusk seems removed from the story, aloof, distant. Her children are not named, for example, and do not feel like people but concepts. Cusk is vague about the reasons for her trip to Italy and even more unclear about what she took away from the experience. As a result, I felt disassociated from the story and the characters as well.
105. Weekend in Paris by Robyn Sisman
A young woman is thrilled to be chosen by her boss to accompany him to Paris for a business trip, but she is devastated to learn he has ulterior motives. (Wanna guess what these are? Yep, just what you thought.) She quits her job and decides to go to Paris anyway. Of course she meets a handsome Frenchman and of course there is heartbreak and of course she learns not to be so naive and of course she meets a nice person who offers her a better job and of course everything turns out okay in the end.
106. Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas
Sandra Dallas is one of those writers who appeals to both readers who read to escape and readers who read thoughtfully. Whiter Than Snow is the story of the families of a group of children caught in an avalanche. The reader knows from the very beginning that most of the children will die, but one of the hooks of the story is trying to figure out just which children will live. Like the other Sandra Dallas books I've read in the past, there is a nice sense of redemption by the final pages, with the characters all experiencing a new sense of connection and feelings of empathy that can arise out of a tragedy.
107. Get Lucky by Katherine Center
Sarah Harper has crashed and burned at her job and has run home to Houston and her sister to get back into the air. She and her sister have always been close and, when she discovers her sister has given up trying to have a baby, decides to serve as a surrogate mother for her. She ends up carrying twins, but the surrogate motherhood is really just a small part of the story. Sarah meets up with a former boyfriend who she cruelly dumped in high school and tries to reconnect with him and make amends...she works on her relationship with her sister...and she tries to figure out her place in the world. All of these plot lines come together to make a satisfying story.
I like Katherine Center. But then again I know Houston and that makes a book like this one, set in Houston, a better read.
108. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
All the ingredients from Rick Riordan's earlier Lightning Thief series are here in the Red Pyramid: gods (with a very small "g"), monsters, mythology, fights, danger, potential destruction of the universe. I cannot imagine a ten-year-old who would not love this book. Pretty safe to say that if you liked Lightning Thief, you'll like this one.
109. La Surprise De Handa (Handa's Surprise) by Eileen Browne (in French and English)
Handa puts fruit in her basket for her friend and sets off to meet her friend. On the way, Handa imagines what fruit her friend will prefer, all the while, unknown to her, animals are stealing the very fruits she contemplates. By the time she nears her friend's house, her basket is empty. Luckily a wayward goat runs into a tangerine tree, refilling Handa's basket. And, come to find out, tangerines are the very fruit that Handa's friend loves best.
Here's the surprise for me: I can read French! Mind you, I've been learning French for only, oh, maybe four months, but reading it is much, much easier than reading Spanish, which I've been learning for about fifteen years.
110. Poil de Carotte by Jules Renard
People who loathe children's books often do so because they find the stories in them, the characters in them, insipid. Here, then, is a book for those: Poil de Carotte. Poil de Carotte as well as the family of Poil de Carotte are the real thing, fussy, feuding, calling names, having favorites, being lazy, forcing others to do one's work, full of greed and cruelty and meanness. No sweet, sappy story here. And, astonishingly, first published in 1893. Refreshingly bleak, but not for those in search of the happy stories of yesteryear.
111. 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman
We all want to be happier, more creative, less stressed, and better parents, and we all want to be these things right now. Well, why not? Research about how to be a better person is out there, so why not write a book with the best quick ways to be better, ideas that can change a person in one minute or less? So went the thinking of Wiseman in creating this book.
My focus for the year is how to be happier, so I will share these tips here, in hopes of remembering them and practicing them in my own life. The power of positive thinking, for example, is a myth; instead, Wiseman proposes distraction. Also, writing about events is helpful in coming to terms with what happens. Keeping a list of things for which one is grateful led to greater happiness. Use money to buy experiences and not things; this leads to happiness. And, finally, "fake it till you feel it" is, apparently, quite valid.
112. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
I must have had twenty people tell me this book is their favorite book ever. One thousand four hundred pages seemed like a lot, so I decided to go abridged. Not sure one should ever try abridged and translated. (When Marius, in the last third of the story, finds a sign saying "Remove", for example, I was completely lost. Not "remove", I learned later, but "go away".)
What a story, nevertheless. The plot centers on a young man, Valjean, who steals a loaf of bread to feed his sister's family and is thrown in prison for this. Once released, Valjean is denied work, for he must present a passport tainted by his time in prison. A priest finds him in the streets and takes him in. Valjean steals the valuable objects from the church and runs away, but he is captured. When confronted by the priest, the priest denies Valjean stole the objects and even gives Valjean additional items, reminding Valjean of a (false) promise he made to the priest to turn his life around.
If this intrigues, then read the whole novel. It's a series of these sorts of reversals and twists of fortune and little acts of grace. Absolutely fascinating.
113. Anagrams by Lorrie Moore
Gerard and Benna. Benna loves Gerard. No, Benna and Gerard are friends. No, Benna and Gerard are neighbors.
Thus, this novel. The identities of Benna and Gerard ebb and flow through this novel, changing in each chapter, each subchapter. A daughter appears, but, no, she is an illusion. A friend appears, but, no, she, too, is imaginary. Or are they?
Nothing is clear in this novel of relationships and meaning. A good choice for a re-reading, I think, and discussion.
114. The Lunatic Express by Carl Hoffman
Here’s Hoffman’s idea: Travel around the world using the most dangerous forms of transportation. Sound like fun?
And he does it. He rides on dangerous places, goes on dangerous trains, travels on dangerous ferries, and takes dangerous buses. All the while, he ruminates on why he is not content to stay home with his wife and children.
He survives. Finally, it is time to go home.
“It was time to go home….Time was only worthwhile when your eyes were fresh, when it surprised you and amazed you and made you think about yourself in a new way. You couldn’t travel forever….In everyone, I suspect, lay a tension between the need for otherness and home. We all want security, we all want adventure, the familiar and the new always jockeying for control.”
115. The Lover by Marguerite Dumas
If you suspect that Dumas is French, then you have obviously been reading my blog for a while and know that I am currently obsessed with all things French. This book was recommended in Great French Books and, since I had it in my TBR (and it’s been there for a good year), I decided to give it a read.
Would you like it? Do you like to read stories about poor young women who give themselves to rich fellows? In real life, this apparently happened to Dumas. It’s quite sad, really. I’m starting to find that many (most?) French books are quite sad.
116. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Dick Driver is a psychiatrist with a crazy, though rich wife. They travel together around France and don’t seem to know what to do with themselves.
Driver meets a young actress who is taken with him, but it not until five years later, that the two take up with each other. Neither is in love, and Driver seems to have forgotten about his wife and children, so, once again, another sad story.
117. Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday Living by Robert Arbor
Arbor is a Frenchman now living in America who owns a restaurant. One of the pleasures of this book is that it contains many, many recipes. But that is certainly not the only pleasure.
And that’s what this book is all about: Pleasures. Simple pleasures. The pleasures that French people find in their every day lives. Preparing food. Eating. Spending time with their families. Spending time with their friends.
A lovely, lovely book. I want to see this way of life at work (and, hopefully, I will…in two weeks!) and I want to bring it back home with me to my town.
118. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Oh dear. I hate going against the flow of public opinion, but this book was just not my kind of read. I got through the first few chapters, thinking it was going to get better. It didn’t. Finally, I decided to jump to the end, to see what was going to happen. The ending intrigued me enough that I jumped to the middle and read a few chapters there. Back to the near end to see how the relationship played out. Then back toward the front to pick up where I’d initially stopped….Well, you see where this goes.
Not sure this counts as a read, given that I read the front, the end, the middle, the end, the middle, the front. But I feel I read enough to warn the wary: This is a hyped-book that did not (for me) live up to the hype. The writing (the translation?) felt like it was a color-by-the-numbers story.
119. Citizens by Simon Schama
I can see it is going to be one of those weeks. First, I barely get through Sarah’s Key, which everyone is raving about, and then I have to force myself to read (skim?) Citizens, an online group read.
And I just knew I was going to love this book. It’s about French history and I’m going to France in one week.
Come to find out, I’m just not that interested in knowing so much about the French Revolution. Call me shallow, but I was happy to go read the summary at World Book and be done with it.
120. French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook
It seems the secret is mostly water. And portion control. (And, some say, don’t forget that over half of all French women smoke. That could have something to do with it.)
It’s a mystery, but French women are, despite lots of butter and cheese and wine, not fat. I definitely think it’s something scientists should be looking at, but, in the meantime, I had lots of time to look through these recipes which were mixed in with lots of speculation about why French women don’t get fat.
121. Mystically Wired by Ken Wilson
God made us for prayer with Him. He wired our brains in such a way that we long for prayer with God.
So, why is it so hard for us?
Thus, this book. Wilson helps us through the hard parts, including just the very act of getting started and making prayer a habit. Wilson discusses ten practices designed to be ways to explore prayer in chapters throughout the book and very kindly helps us by providing an appendix in the back of the book with a short summary of each. His ideas are both simple and powerful. He suggests stillness. He suggests praying outdoors. He suggests praying the classic Jesus Prayer.
Some of his practices were very familiar to me, including making a praying place. I’ve read entire books on his ninth practice, taking a prayer walk, but Wilson is able to clearly condense his ideas into a short paragraph. I was most interested in trying the second practice on the list, holding loved ones in memory before love. Wilson suggests that this practice involves simply naming those you love and holding that person before God in love, not focusing on needs or faults. I also liked meditating on a very small portion of Scripture, practice four on the list.
I loved this book. I was able to read each practice and then do it, without any further instruction. Wilson’s ability to talk down nay-sayers of meditation using lots of Scripture is in itself a feat. Recommended.
122. God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours by Regina Brett
Brett has had a rough life. Dropped out of college. A young single mom. Discouraged from her life’s dreams. And, just when she finally found happiness with her husband, cancer.
All these tough times have made Brett tough and she is happy to share what she has learned here.
The chapter titles sound like she’s going to get preachy, but, perhaps because we know she’s been where we are, she never does. And each little essay is much, much better than the title, so don’t let that stop you from reading on.
123. How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton
If you have considered reading this book, you are probably aware of who Proust is, but I honestly knew little about him before reading this book. I’ve been on a French author reading kick for, oh, five months or so, and I’ve had this book in my TBR for quite some time, so this was a must-read for me.
The question is, then, How? And, importantly, Can He?
The answers read like a how-to-be-happier self-help guide, but this book is not of that genre; this book is actually a book of literary criticism, oddly. Reading Proust can change your life by teaching you to focus on slowing down, relishing, thinking, reading thoughtfully, and your senses.
That’s the How. Now for the Can He.
I say yes. Of course I do. I am a librarian, for goodness sake. Of course Proust can change your life. I’m of the opinion that all books can and do.
124. Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
It all started with lunch. Bard met a man and it soon became quite apparent that he was The One. And, happily, Paris, it seems, was The Place to Live. All turning out nicely for Bard, and she got a book out of the deal as well. A satisfying book at that.
125. 52 Loaves by William Alexander
Alexander tasted a fantastic piece of bread and that was it for him: he was off in pursuit of making the most excellent bread ever. To achieve this goal, he set out to bake a loaf of bread every week for a year.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, was able to stop Alexander from making that wonderful bread. He traveled around the world to bake in an old oven, to enroll in a bread baking class, and to a monastery where he become head baker.
Funny. And surprisingly helpful for those of us who love to bake bread.
126. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expery
I read this simultaneously in English and French. In France. A happy experience. Love this book.
127. This is Getting Old by Susan Moon
Moon is just a little bit farther down the road of life than I am, so it helps me a lot to see what’s ahead for me. It’s not a pretty world, the sixties. Falls, for example, are already a problem for me. I’ve already taken several spills in my fifties, all of them embarrassing but, so far, not life-altering. Moon has a whole chapter on falls which might seem tedious to a twenty-something, but is amazing insight to me at fifty-three. Moon also talks about her difficulties with depression and loneliness and caring for her elderly mother during her mother’s last days and all of these are lovely.
128. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
I read A Year in Provence while I was in Provence. Perfect mesh of book and environment for reading. Mind you, I read this book when it first came out, but this reread was not in any way tedious as rereads (for me) can be. Little stories of life in a new spot, centered on the changes in the seasons, were delightful.
129. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Why is it that even the best nonfiction books always have terrible titles? “Celebration of Discipline?” Who decided to call this wonderful book by such a banal name?
Foster explores the various approaches to Christian spiritual growth (Okay, face it, that little sentence makes this book sound as awful as the title….Why is so difficult to put words to experiences so close to our heart?) Let me just stop talking about the book and suggest that if you are interested in growing spiritually, you give this book a look-see. I found it very thoughtful yet practical.
130. Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich
Here I show my true colors: I cannot resist the latest Stephanie Plum book. Go ahead and call me crass, call me uncultured, but it's a fact: I live for the next Plum mystery. I loved sixteen just as I loved thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and I can't wait for seventeen.
131. In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction edited by Lee Gutkind
Not quite as good as last summer's Norton Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction, but In Fact was nevertheless a good read. In fact, In Fact has proven to be one of my favorite reads of the summer. How can you notlike well-written essays about the true world? Written creatively, of course.
132. The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
I decided to add this book to my iPad, quite spontaneously. I am happy I did. Manguel, a book lover, seemed to be sharing all his favorite thoughts about books with me, another book lover. I only wish I'd finished this book in time to discuss it with my online group.
133. The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
134. The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl
I've been a fan of Dahl ever since I first read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; reading these two short books confirmed my fandom. Funny in a sly way, almost as if Dahl hopes his rudeness toward adults will elude them.
135. What Do Smurfs Do All Day? by Peyo
I’d never have thought this book would be included in the 1001 Children’s Books list! Smurfs? Serious children’s literature?
I must say that I still wonder if I simply am reading an abridged version…or is the wonder of Smurfdom lost in translation?
136. Teo va al mercado by Violeta Denou
I was unable to find the actual Teo book listed on the 1001 list, but surely this is a representative sample. Lovely little story of a boy walking with his mom through the market, with each page enlarged upon in notes in the back.
137. Peace at Last by Jill Murphy
I’d believe the whole story more had the tale been told by Mrs. Bear. After all, Mr. Bear can find peace and quiet at work, right?
The story follows Mr. Bear seeking that all-elusive peace at his home. When he finally finds a quiet spot and he is able to sleep, he is abruptly awakened; it’s morning.
138. The Sea-Thing Child by Russell Hoban
The little sea-thing child is dropped off by the ocean on the shoreline and he is too afraid to try flying back or swimming back to whence he came. Luckily he meets a fiddler crab and an eel and an albatross and the conversations with his new friends help him find the courage to head home. A quietly clever story.
139. The Church Mice and the Ring by Graham Oakley
Where has this book been all my life? I’m adding it to my list of favorite reads ever. Very believable characters (okay, I can hear you snickering…yes, these are talking mice and dogs and cats, but, trust me, they are very believable.) A hilarious sense of doom confronts these characters, doom yet also salvation. Fun illustrations…clever story…oh, I don’t know why, but I just loved this story.
140. This is the Bear and the Scary Night by Sarah Hayes
Deservedly on the list for the 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up. Must obtain this for my library. Bear is lost and has a serious of adventures before finally returning to the one who loves him. Lovely story.
141. Humphrey’s Bedtime by Sally Hunter
Lottie knows she does not need to go to bed early; she is a big girl and she has lots of dolls and stuffed animals that need tending to. Tend she does, finally wearing down into what any parent will recognize as a small meltdown. Perfect depiction of children at bedtime. Brilliant.
142. Who Moved My Blackberry? by Lucy Kellaway
Whew. What a depressing book. Martin Jukes, corporate climber and buzzword sycophant, is our main character. He lies, cheats, schemes, and writes incessant e-mail in his bid to win power and fame and fortune at the top. In the process, he jeopardizes his children, his wife, his company, and himself. Written with a humorous tone, but, to me, it was painful to read.
143. The Lost Girls: Three Friends, Four Continents, One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer, Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressler
This could have been a disaster. The first chapter worried me. Three girls who are traveling around the world to find themselves. Egged on, no doubt, by the popular success of the Eat, Pray, Love tale.
(I love this kind of story, a traveling lost-souls kind of book, so please take that into consideration when you read this review.)
I quickly got drawn into the story. The girls are lost, yes, but not hopelessly so. And if they spent more time (much more time, to be honest) partying than I ever would, well, they are twenty-eight, for goodness sake.
I liked their choices of spots to visit. I enjoyed their adventures from a happy place here in my reading room. Yes, a nice book.
144. Unfinished Business: One Man’s Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do Things Right by Lee Kravitz
I’d add this to my happiness books. Kravitz unexpectedly loses his job and finds himself with time to contemplate what he has been doing wrong with his life and ways to make amends. He visits a beloved aunt with whom he has lost contact. He repays a debt from his college years. He brings members of his family back together. He thanks a wonderful teacher.
Good. I hope he also decides to spend more time with his children and less time at work. I was very surprised that this was not on his to-do list.
145. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Having just returned from France where all citizens, I think, are born with the ability to taste emotions in food, I must say that I loved this book. Loved it. You must read it. It’s fantastic.
Rose Edelstein discovers on her ninth birthday that she can sense emotions of those who prepare food in the food she eats. The cook. The field hand. The farmer. The factory worker. The waiter.
It is a difficult gift. She learns of her mother’s deep sadness. She finds she is unable to eat most food as she learns it is troubling to know the real emotions of most people.
There are lots of side stories, including a quirky brother and his brilliant friend and her mother’s path to escape sadness. It all made for a thoughtful read.
146. Stig of the Dump by Clive King
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. I’d never heard a whisper about this book here in the US and that is very sad to me. Barney discovers a caveman (caveboy?) named Stig living in the dump near his grandmother’s home and together the two have an entire book of fun adventures. Is Stig real or just a wonderful madeup friend? Who knows? And it doesn’t really matter; it just adds to the fun.
147. Dogger by Shirley Hughes
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. Dave mislays his old stuffed dog, but Dogger somehow finds his way back home. The story is lovely and the pictures are charming. I cannot imagine even a curmudgeon curmudgeonly enough to dislike this story.
148. Drac and the Gremlin by Allan Baillie
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. A girl and boy spend their day with the mildest of props and the wildest of imaginations in a fun world, fighting dragons, racing on jetbikes, flying on spacecraft. Wonderful!
149. The Great Escape from City Zoo by Tohby Riddle
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. Four animals run away from City Zoo and are able to hide, amazingly blending in quite well, for years of freedom. Another book I am desperate to obtain for my school library. Another book, sadly, that seems to be little known here in the US.
150. The Battle of Bubble and Squeak by Philippa Pearce
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. I was a picky reader as a child. I loved fantasy. I stayed away from realistic fiction. I remember being horribly disappointed with books that appeared to be about magical experiences and were, instead, simply cleverly titled realistic fiction.
Not sure what I would have made of this book as a child, then. As an adult, I like it a lot. Sid wants a pet but his mom says no. A friend has given him two small gerbils, and his mom says to take them back. Unexpectedly, Sid’s quiet stepdad says the gerbils should stay.
151. Las tres mellizas hacen las paces by Roser Capdevila
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. Some books just don’t work for me. I do not see the charm in this book. Three twins are fighting and a witch sends them to a contest where things are worked out. Perhaps I just need to learn more Spanish.
152. Good Night, Alfie Atkins by Gunilla Bergstrom
Alfie is a baby who doesn’t want to go to sleep, a baby who has great skills at keeping himself, and his dad, awake. From Sweden, but the story is quite universal.
153. Por el mar de Las Antilles anda un barco de papel by Nicolas Guillen
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. Poems and songs from an author from Cuba. Again, I had great trouble seeing the charm in these little poems. Perhaps it was so difficult for me to read the poems and songs in Spanish that I lost the joy in the writing.
154. The Book About Moomin, Mumble, and Little My by Tove Jansson
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. From page to page, the author hooks the child in by having the reader try to anticipate what will happen next. And what happens next is always delightfully unexpected.
This has to be one of the oddest books I’ve read. Maybe I am trying too hard to figure out what these creatures are instead of just enjoying them for what they do. I like it despite its oddness.
155. Up in the Tree by Margaret Atwood
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. You know Margaret Atwood the grownup writer? Well, meet Margaret Atwood, children’s author. It’s the same person, with a clever and quirky sense of humor, yet perfect for children, fun without being horrifying.
Loved this story. Two children enjoy their time in a tree.
156. Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. I just had no idea Santa could be quite the curmudgeon he is in this book. A bit of a nipper, too. Whiny.
Listed as a children’s book, but I can see this in junior high more than I can primary school.
157. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. Anna has to leave Germany with her family to flee the Nazis. First the family goes to Switzerland, then to Paris, and finally to England. Anna’s father has great difficulty finding work as a writer so the family must make many sacrifices, including learning new languages and having to do most of the household work themselves.
The most interesting part of this book came when I learned it was based on the author’s own life. It felt very true.
158. Crocodile Beat by Gail Jorgensen
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. Ah, an Australian Brown Bear sort of story. Great pictures. Great story. And I loved reading that the author wrote the story in her classroom with her students.
159. One Woolly Wombat by Rod Trinca and Kerry Argent
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. Brilliant number-animal book that never condescends to its (mostly) young audience. Wombats. Echidnas. Dingoes. Cockatoos. Clever pictures as well.
160. Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. Toby is only one and a half millimeters tall and he lives in a tree. The tree is the world. Or so he thinks.
Bad guys are destroying the tree. These bad guys are the same kind of bad guys we have in our world and they are obsessed with the same sort of things (making money, development) with the same byproducts (ruining the environment) that we have in our world.
Lots of action. Lots of adventure. Some Roald Dahl moments for me while reading this tale.
161. Come Hither by Walter de la Mare
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. Now this was a challenge. Some are English, yet not in English. Here’s a sample:
“Hay, nou the day dauis;
The jolie Cok crauis;
Nou shroudis the shauis,
Throu Natur anone….”
Some relate stories that are outside my experiences:
“When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry, ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.”
Some are in dialect:
“There were twa brethren in the north,
They went to the school thegither;
The one unto the other said,
‘Will you try a warsle afore?’
Some are familiar with additional verses, including BINGO. Did you know there was a verse about a miller who gets a cask of ale and calls it STINGO?
And then, of course, as I expected, many, many very familiar poems, like Blake’s The Tyger and Tennyson’s The Eagle and Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.” A whole section on war and lots of poems about death and killing and pain and lovers; all very surprising to find in a “children’s book.” (A question: Is this a children’s book? What makes it so?)
162. Dusty Wants to Help by Inger and Lasse Sandberg
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Dusty’s grandpa is asked to look after young Dusty, a gentle little boy who just wants to help. You’ve been there, Mom and Dad. You know what happens next. A lovely little story.
I would like to know what happened to the eighth little man….
“I want to help,” says Dusty,
swishing his hands in the egg mixture.
“No, no, no!” says Grandpa.
His voice is getting louder.
He wipes Dusty’s hands
and lifts him down to the floor.
163. Sleep Well, Little Bear by Quint Buchholz
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
This little story of a small bear headed to bed reads just like a poem. The pictures had a sleep inducing effect on me as well. Lulling me to sleep. With words and pictures.
In the evening, the little bear took off his apple trousers
and put on his star pajamas.
He had heard a long good-night story.
He had said a small prayer.
He had hummed along with a little sleep song.
He had gotten five kisses.
But he still needed a drink of water from the blue cup,
because suddenly he was very thirsty,
just like he was every night.
164. Bathwater’s Hot by Shirley Hughes
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Why isn’t Shirley Hughes on every shelf in every library in America? Her pictures are beautiful and her text is beautiful. Just perfect for kids and their parents and their preschool teachers who must read the same books over and over again.
Ginger’s kittens are very young,
But Buster’s getting old.
Some are nice to keep.
who is wide awake.
Shhh, he’s fast asleep!
165. Mister Magnolia by Quentin Blake
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
So many children’s books that I have not yet read….I want to read them all! Like this one, Mister Magnolia. Brilliant. Just brilliant. Who would not want to read this book over and over again? It’s so ridiculous. Such a silly, wonderful little book.
Mr Magnolia has only one boot.
He has an old trumpet
that goes rooty-toot---
And two lovely sisters
who play on the flute---
But Mr Magnolia has only one boot.
166. Are We There Yet? by Alison Lester
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Could there be a better introduction to Australia? Grace and her family travel all around Australia. The book is written like a journal, with diagrams and observations about all the places the family visited, with a lovely chorus line (young brother Billy) of “Are we there yet?”
Heading south on the Tanami Track, the sand
was so deep our car got stuck. Everyone felt
hot and grouchy, and Mum was worried we’d
be stranded in the desert. Luke found a tiny
Thorny Devil, standing fierce as a dragon,
and that cheered us up.
167. The Sea Monster by Chris Wormell
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Most of the time, the sea monster sits quietly in the rocks, but when a boy’s sailboat drifts out to sea and the boy swims out after the boat, the monster must take action. An old fisherman hears the cries of the boy’s dog and he rows out to help.
A surprising story. Quiet. Suspenseful. A satisfying ending.
Far out into the ocean the old fisherman rowed,
but he saw no sign of the boy. The waves grew
big and the sky grew dark and the old man
had almost given up hope, when suddenly
the little white dog began
168. The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jen Wojtowicz
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
I loved this story. Rink is a member of an odd little family that all have special talents. Rink’s talent is the most special of all; during the full moon, he grows flowers all over his body. His mom would simply clip off the flowers the next morning and Rink would head off to school. One day, a new girl comes to town, Angelina Quiz, a girl in a family who are in the ballroom dancing business. Angelina has one leg that is shorter than the other. The story of how Rink and Angelina become friends is absolutely delightful. A book about special needs that makes special needs seem not only not strange but fun.
The Bowagons were the only folks
who lived on Lonesome Mountain.
The townspeople argued as to whether it
was because they were such strange folk that
they lived there, or whether it was because they
lived there that they were such strange folk.
However, everyone agreed that the Bowagon
clan was a hotbed of strange and exotic talents.
Rink’s Uncle Dud liked to tame rattlesnakes,
and his brothers and cousins
were all shape-shifters.
169. The Bear Went Over the Mountain by John Prater
Baby Bear and Grandbear have so much fun together. Hide and seek. Ring-a-ring o’roses. Playing in the snow. Roll over. The Bear Went Over the Mountain is just one story in this wonderful collection, The Big Baby Bear Book. Perfect.
Oh where, oh where has my little bear gone?
Oh where, oh where can he be?
With his soft little paws, and big wet nose,
Oh where, oh where is he?
170. The Magic Pocket by Michio Mado
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
The Magic Pocket is a book of little poems for children, but I loved them, too. The illustrations are by the great Anno and the poems are just right for kids. I found it fascinating to see that in Japan even young children can read and contemplate haiku-like poems.
Inside the pocket
There’s one cookie.
Hit the pocket,
There are two!
Hit it again,
There are three.
The more I hit it,
The more there are!
I wish I had
A pocket like that!
I wish I had
A pocket like that!
171. The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Now this is a book that would stir them up. Little Mole discovers poo atop his head. Who did it? It’s not the horse. It’s not the rabbit. It’s not the goat. It’s not the cow. Little Mole resorts to going to poo experts, flies, and discovers the culprit….It’s the dog. One bad act deserves another and Little Mole has his revenge.
Here’s a taste (sorry):
Then Little Mole asked
a horse who was grazing
in the field, “Did you do
this on my head?”
“Me? No,” the horse
answered. “I do mine
like this.” (Bump! Thud-thud-thud!
Thump!---five big, fat
horse droppings thundered
down, just missing
172. 暴走機関車 by Benedict Blathwayt
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
The only copy of this book that I could find was a copy in Japanese. No English except the copyright info. So, this book was a bit of a challenge. I couldn’t even do as I usually do and type the text into Google Translator to be able to read it in English. I had to strictly go by the pictures. Fortunately, the pictures clearly told the story. Wonderful story. And my first read in Japanese.
173. Le gâteau de Mireille l'Abeille by Antoon Krings
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
French I can do. No English in this book, but I could pop enough French words and phrase into Google Translator to make sense of the story. A bee decides to make a cake. She has a lot of trouble, however, as she doesn’t have all the ingredients she needs. Of course, the ingredients are quite bee-ish, which just adds to the fun of the story.
174. Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Ways to Make the World a Nicer Place by Danny Wallace
Not being one to fully know (or, perhaps, fully appreciate) English humor, I could never quite decide if Wallace was serious or joking. Help me out here, British folk. Perhaps some serious ideas and some not so?
Give an apple to your teacher.
Leave some fresh
fruit and vegetables
outside a student
house. They will
probably try and turn
it into beer, but at
least you tried.
Resist the urge to kill.
175. The Bibliophile’s Devotional: 365 Days of Literary Classics by Hallie Ephron
A very opinionated collection of suggestions for reading. Many of these choices would be acceptable to most critics, but many are of the seasonal variety, here today and gone tomorrow. I found a couple of new suggestions that I added to my wishlist, so all was not lost.
176. Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo
When Michael’s dad loses his job, Michael and his parents decide to travel around the world by boat. Michael and his dog accidentally wash overboard and the two make their way to a deserted island. Or is it? No, Michael soon discovers the island has another inhabitant, the not-very-social Kensuke. Slowly, very slowly, Michael and Kensuke become friends and Kensuke teaches Michael many skills important for survival.
177. Making Rounds With Oscar by David Dosa
Oscar is a cat, but he is not an ordinary cat. No, as Dosa, a doctor at an old folks home where Oscar lives, soon learns, Oscar has an amazing skill: Oscar somehow senses when a person’s time is up and he goes to sit with the dying person during his last days and hours on earth.
178. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
My sister raved about this book. My niece raved about this book. I now see why.
Sam decides he is tired of living with his big family in a tiny New York City apartment and he ups and leaves for a family farm in the wild. Amazingly, he is able to find food and water and shelter for himself and to keep himself alive for months and months, even during the snowiest days of winter. And, even more amazingly, his parents are fine with this.
Very good book.
179. Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World by Seth Stevenson
Seth and his girlfriend, Rebecca, decide to circumnavigate the world. But, with one restriction: All travel must be on the ground, with no travelling by airplane. Though the first part of the journey, a trip across the Atlantic on a commercial barge, was horribly slow and boring, the pace picks up once the two begin to move on dry land. Stevenson has a lively sense of humor and the story seems to get better and better as he and his girlfriend move around the world.
180. Corri, Pallina! By Altan
A little ball has a series of little adventures. My first book in Italian. I can read anything now!
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
181. The Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. I don’t want to give away the plot, so I’ll just tell you that Griffin’s mother and baby sister are gone and he is sad. Griffin has to start school for the first time after being homeschooled, and it is quite an adjustment for Griffin. Luckily, Griffin meets Layla and they become fast friends.
182. The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly by Luis Sepulveda
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. A group of cats encounter a seagull who has run into an oil slick. The gull is gravely ill and begs the cats to promise to care for the last egg she has laid and to teach the baby gull to fly. The cats promise. It is more difficult to teach a bird to fly than the cats realized, but they try to remain true to their promise.
183. Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French by Stephen Clarke
I saw this in the train station in Avignon, but I did not buy it, choosing to save my money in case of an emergency on the way home. I regretted my decision and decided to seek this book out when I got home. I happily discovered it in the library. It’s pretty much what I’d anticipated. Lots of French bashing, but all given in a benevolent spirit.
184. A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. When I picked up my copy of this book from the library, I was initially very disappointed to find that it was a collection of short stories. Then I started the book. Mercy. It was fantastic. Literally and metaphorically. Wonderfully written fantasies. There is one story about a man who saves the North Wind, who then rewards the man with a gift of a necklace of raindrops. Another is the tale of an old woman who accidentally baked a bit of sky in her pie. Yet another tells of three men who work in a train station where no trains ever stop. Fantastic.
“You may think it odd that there were three men to look after one tiny station, but the people who ran the railway knew that if you left two men together in a lonely place they would quarrel, but if you left three men, two of them could always grumble to each other about the third, and then they would be quite happy.”
185. The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes.
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. One day, an Iron Giant arrives on earth. He eats barbed wire and tractors and plows, causing problems for the farmers. Finally, the farmers devise a trap for the Iron Giant and they successfully capture him. Then an even more terrible creature arrives from space and the Iron Giant must come to the rescue.
“The peoples of the world got together. If they fed it, how could they ever satisfy it? It would never be full, and every new day it would be as hungry as ever. How can you feed a beast the size of Australia? Australia is a vast land, all the countries of Europe will fit easily into Australia. The monster’s stomach alone must be the size of Germany. No, they would not feed it.”
186. Tashi by Anna & Barbara Fienberg & Kim Gamble
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. Jack announces to his parents that he has a new friend named Tashi. His parents probe the boy to find out about the friend, but, to the boy’s dismay, the dad always asks the wrong questions. Jack tells incredible tales about Tashi. A fun story written with intermittent pictures to lead an early chapter book reader through the story. I liked this book.
Jack and Tashi sat at the kitchen table, drinking their juice.
“Would you like to play in the garden now?” asked Mum.
“Oh, yes!” said Tashi. “I like gardens.”
“We could look for a dragon to kill,” Jack said hopefully to Tashi.
“Are there any dragons left in the garden?” asked Dad.
“You always say the wrong thing!” said Jack.
187. The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. At Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, there are many witches, but no one is as terrible at witchcraft than Mildred. She goofs up every spell she attempts. Poor Mildred is always in trouble.
…the girls marched up in single file to receive their kittens. Mildred was the last of all, and when she reached the table Miss Cackle pulled out of the basket not a sleek black kitten like all the others but a little tabby with white paws and the sort of fur that looked as if it had been out all night in a gale.
“We ran out of black ones,” explained Miss Cackle with a pleasant grin.
Miss Hardbroom smiled too, but nastily.
188. The Cat or, How I Lost Eternity by Jutta Richter
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. This is a children’s book? If a kid could read this book and get what the author was trying to say, then that kid is a wiser soul than I am. Here’s the plot, as best I can figure it: A girl walks to school each day and sees a cat. The cat talks to her. The cat is quite the philosopher. She tells the girl what she knows about the world. The cat makes the girl late for school and that causes the girl problems. There is also a mailman who is trying to find a wife and the Pug, a boy who lives in the apartment below the girl.
I have no idea what this book is really about. If anyone knows, then please send a cat over my way to share it with me.
“Eternity felt very big and very slow, especially when I couldn’t share it with the cat. The only thing that helped was the chain saw that Waldemar Buck used to carve up the afternoon. It wailed over the rooftops, and I imagined that with each wail a little piece of eternity fell from heaven.”
189. The Adventures of Momotaro, the Peach Boy
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. An old woman comes upon a big peach which she takes home to her husband. Inside, they are surprised to find, is a little boy. He grows into a very strong man who must go to fight the demons on Demons Island.
On Demons Isle, the demons
were sunbathing on the beach,
When one of them said: “Blow me down!
I think I see a peach!”
190. El Perro del Cerro y la Rana de la Sebana by Ana Maria Machado
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. A little story of the frog of the savannah (una rana de la sabana) and the dog of the hill (un perro del cerro). The frog and the dog have a contest to see who is the bravest. The story is told with rhyme.
“Dijo el perro del cerro:
---Hare mazapan con los dientes
del caiman! Que tal?
Y la rana de la sabana:
---Ah, pues. Le arrancare la piel
A la culebra cascabel.”
191. Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. Little blue and little yellow are friends who love to play together. One day, they hug and---oh no---they both turn green. Their parents don’t recognize them. The two cry until they became their proper colors again.
192. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Mafaru had two beautiful daughters, but one was nice and one was not. The king wanted to find a wife and the two daughters are both sent to meet the king.
That night, when everyone was asleep, Manyara stole quietly out of the village. She had never been in the forest at night before, and she was frightened, but her greed to be the first to appear before the king drove her on. In her hurry, she almost stumbled over a small boy who suddenly appeared, standing in the path.
“Please, said the boy. “I am hungry. Will you give me something to eat?”
“I have brought only enough for myself,” Manyara replied.
“But, please!” said the boy. “I am so very hungry.”
“Out of my way, boy! Tomorrow I will become your queen. How dare you stand in my path!”
193. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. The doorbell rings. Sophie and her mummy go to the door to find a tiger, a hungry tiger, wants to come in and share their tea with them. They let the tiger in.
Sophie’s mummy said, “Would you like a sandwich?”
But the tiger didn’t take just one sandwich.
He took all the sandwiches on the plate
and swallowed them in one big mouthful.
And he still looked hungry
so Sophie passed him the buns.
194. Tickle, Tickle by Helen Oxenbury
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. This review, I caution you, will be longer than the entire book. In fact, by the time you read up to this point in the review, you have already read more words than are to be found in this book. It’s a short book. Seventeen words in total. But I can imagine that one family might read this book, with its little seventeen words, ten times, fifty times, maybe even a hundred times. You just know little bambinos would love this book that much.
“Squelch, squelch, in the mud,
splish, splash, scrub-a-dub….”
195. A Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. A common theme I see in books for young children is parents who do not listen to their children. That’s the theme of this book. The little boy tells his mom that he sees a lion in the meadow, but his mother dismisses him. The pictures show the mother carrying on with her daily chores while the boy continues to move closer and closer to the lion. Eventually, the mother seeks to counter by telling the boy a tale of her own, but that has unexpected results.
The little boy said,
“Mother, there is a big, yellow lion in the meadow.”
The mother said,
“Nonsense, little boy.”
196. Come Away from the Water, Shirley by John Burningham
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. A mom, a dad, and their daughter, Shirley, go to the beach. On one side of the page, the mom and dad sit in their beach chairs, talking about the various dangers of the beach. On the other side, a silent Shirley, apparently unbeknownst to them, goes off on a pirate ship and finds treasure.
(Picture of mom and dad sitting in beach chairs on the left)
“Why don’t you go and play
with those children?”
(Picture of Shirley rowing a boat out to a large sailboat is on the right)
197. Mr. Fox by Gavin Bishop
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. A cumulative story of a sly fox who uses his bag to acquire bigger and bigger items of food.
One day Mr. Fox found a fat juicy bumblebee so he popped it in his bag.
Then he walked and he walked until he came to the house of…
a little white woman.
“Excuse me, could you possibly look after my bag while I go to Squintum’s house?”
“It would be a pleasure,” said the little white woman.
“Thank you kindly,” said Mr. Fox, “and I would be grateful if you were not to look inside my bag.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that,” said the little white woman.” But…
198. The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipont
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
The Bad Baby goes for a ride with the Elephant. The Elephant uses his long trunk to take ice cream from the ice cream man and meat pies from the butcher and buns from the baker and gingersnaps from the snackshop man and chocolate cookies from the grocer and lollipops from the lady from the candy store and apples from the fruit and vegetable man. The ice cream man and the baker and the butcher and the snackshop man and the grocer and the lady from the candy store and the fruit and vegetable man all chase the Elephant.
Soon they met an ice cream man.
And the Elephant said to the Bad Baby, “Would you like an ice cream?”
And the Bad Baby said yes.
So the Elephant stretched out his trunk and took an ice cream for himself and an ice cream for the Bad Baby.
And they went rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta, all down the road, with the ice cream man running after.
199. John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat by Jenny Wagner
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Rose is an old widow who lives with her dog, John Brown. They were happy together. Then a cat would appear outside the house. Every night John Brown shooed the cat away but the next night the cat would return.
But that night, when Rose was safe in bed,
John Brown went outside.
He drew a line around the house
and told the midnight cat to stay away.
“We don’t need you, cat,” he said.
“We are all right, Rose and I.”
200. The Loon’s Necklace by Elizabeth Cleaver
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
An old woman tricks a blind man. The blind man feels he is useless to his family. His friend, Loon, knows his sadness and comes to help.
“O Loon I am old and blind. My family are starving and I can’t feed them. I do not ask to be young, but I would not be so helpless if I could see. I would give my most precious possession to see again.”
201. Not Now, Bernard by David McKee
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Bernard tries to warn his parents, but no one listens to him.
“Hello, Mum,” said Bernard.
“Not now, Bernard,” said his mother.
202. Quien ha visto las tijeras? By Fernando Krahn
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Scissors go on a rampage, cutting the reins off horses, slicing off the bottom of a man’s newspaper, whacking the heads off flowers.
Y las tiejeras voleron a una ventana
de donde salia un curioso sonido.
No les gusto el sonido
y lo cortaron de golpe.
203. Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep by Eleanor Farjeon
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU. Elsie Piddock is the most amazing skipper ever. Elsie can do the Strong Skip. Elsie can do the Long Skip. Elsie can do the Skip All Together. Elsie is so good she gets tutored by the fairies. And these skipping skills can come in handy when a bad guy comes to town….A modern tall tale.
“In the Sly Skip not a fairy could catch her, or know where she would skip to next; so artful was she, that she could skip through the lattice of a skeleton leaf, and never break it.”
204. The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
A cat named Mowzer lived in the fishing village of Mousehole with an old fisherman. One day a terrible Great Storm-Cat bottled up the harbor, a harbor open to the sea with just the smallest of mousehole shaped openings. It is up to the cat and the old fisherman to save the village from starvation.
Her (Mowzer’s) eldest son kept the inn on the quayside. It was noisy and smoky and his man had once spilled beer on Mowzer’s head as he was drawing a pint.
So she did not go there very often.
205. The Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Everything you always wanted to know about princesses. Written quite cleverly for the child and the grownup as well. Clever illustrations as well.
“One famous oversight occurred when Sleeping Beauty’s parents forgot to send an invitation to a distant cousin who worked as a fairy. She was so offended by the blunder that she cast a spell on the princess. (You know the one.) The result: about a century of sleep.”
206. The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama
I'd like to see a complete review of this book. Snippets of a review? That doesn't cut it. There's no doubt in my mind that I have positive things to say about it. I loved the way the author put me inside life in India today. Little conversations between people in India. Little trips to weddings. Little visits with people seeking a husband or a wife. I loved that.
But there are, also, for me, the negative things I must say about it. Most of the negative things can be summed up in one sentence: I think this book needed an editor. Here's the last paragraph of the first chapter, for example: "The business took off slowly, as expected. A few people became members and Mr. Ali advertised on their behalf. He forwarded the replies to his members but also kept their details, and as the weeks passed, his files steadily grew."
Do we need any of this? Whatever happened to show, not tell? Did Zama get an involved editor? Or were the publishers satisfied to throw together a pretty cover, a few comparisons to No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency on the back, and the rough text?
I liked this book. Parts of it were exceptional. I just wish it had been edited into a much stronger book.
Here's a bit from parts I liked:
'"I don't need a full fruit. How much for half?" asked Mr. Ali.
The man replied, "Eight rupees. Fresh, sir."
Mr. Ali said, "Five rupees."
"You are joking, sir. Just cut today on the slopes of Simhachalam. Came straight from the sacred town," said the vendor....
The temple town of Simhachalam is home to a famous Hindu temple and Mr. Ali wondered if the man would have tried quite the same sales pitch if he had known that his customer was a Muslim.'
207. Michka by Marie Colmont
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
A little teddy bear is sad that his owner treats her toys so badly and he decides to run away.
A lovely little story.
208. Alvin and the Unruly Elves by Ulf Lofgren
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Santa recruits Alvin to help him out with his elves who are running wild at the North Pole. Clever.
209. The Power of Half by Kevin and Hannah Salwen
Now I must decide: Shall I review this book by looking at it as Half Full or Half Empty?
That's easy for me. I'm a Half Full kind of gal.
Half Full it is then.
You probably already know the story. Fourteen-year-old Hannah Salwen saw a homeless man and a shiny Mercedes and had an idea which she shared with her family. If her family would sell their enormous house, they could give half the money from the house to the poor and would make the world a better place. The family decided to do what Hannah had suggested and the money was given to villagers in Ghana. The book elaborates on this story, related by Hannah's dad, including interjections by Hannah herself. A lovely tale of sacrifice and thoughtfulness and caring.
My Half Empty self is screaming. Sorry. Just a minute.
Okay, I'm being forced by my Half Empty self to mention that the book falls into my personal genre, Books-That-Make-Better-Magazine-Articles-Than-They-Do-Books. Do you get the picture? It runs on, we'll say. Also, I'm being asked to share the fact that the Salwen house was a two million dollar house. We're not talking about a 3-2-2 in the suburbs. Is it really sacrifice to move down to a 3,000 square foot house?
This book was obtained from the public library.
210. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming
Commander Caractacus Pott invents things. He doesn’t make much of a living for himself or for his family until he invents whistling candies. With the money he earns from selling this idea, his family has enough to buy a car. As you might imagine, this family is not exactly a Ford Fairlane family; they are thrilled to locate a broken down old car which they can restore. The car they find is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and it is so happy to have been pulled out of the junk heap that it takes its new family on adventures in the air and sea.
211. Lotta’s Bike by Astrid Lindgren
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Lotta is disappointed that she did not get a bike for her birthday. When she sees her neighbor has an old bike stored away in the garage, Lotta concocts a scheme to steal the bike and ride it.
212. Orlando the Marmalade Cat Keeps a Dog by Kathleen Hale
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Orlando and Grace feel their kitten need a pet, so they put an ad in the paper for a dog. They end up with a boisterous poodle.
213. Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton
Author Shapton uses the format of an auction catalog to tell the tale of a four year relationship, now dissolved, between a man and a woman.
214. The Pocket Therapist by Therese Borchard
Here's a new idea: Let's choose someone to write a self-help book who knows what she is talking about. Someone who is not a researcher. Someone who is not a psychiatrist. Someone who is not even a therapist.
How about picking someone who is crazy?!
Yes, the author of The Pocket Therapist, Therese J. Borchard, claims she wrote this book by drawing on notes she took from "more than twelve years (i.e., six hundred hours) of therapy" as well as "get-ahold-of-yourself tips...learned in the psych ward."
There you go.
What kind of ideas does this book offer? Borchard provides 144 ideas for sanity, most as simple as breathing. In fact, the very first idea is breathing.
I liked this book, but, to really assess its efficacy, perhaps we need a crazy reader as well. Any takers?
215. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
I finally finished it. Over seven hundred pages. And I finished it.
It was fantastic. Plots and schemes. Duels. Men thrown in prisons. Gambling. Sword play. Admirable women and treacherous women. Friendships among men. Loyalty. Struggles for power.
My favorite read of the year. Not sure anything else could even come close.
To be honest, that really surprises me. I never dreamed I would love The Three Musketeers like I do.
Ever read something you'd expected to hate but found yourself loving?
216. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
"What's with this book?" the checker at Target asked me, as he scanned Mockingjay and then bagged it for me. "Everybody's buying this book!"
I'd held off for six days. But I could not wait any longer. Within an hour, I'd bought it and had settled down nicely into chapter one.
I finished it nine days later. Yes, I could have dashed through it that night, but who really wants to finish that last, final book in the series?
So what do I think? Bottom line, thumbs up or thumbs down?
(I don't like spoilers, so I promise to give away none of the plot for the three of you out there who haven't yet read the book.)
Here goes. It's a safe bet I like the series or what I am I doing buying book three, right? So I like the series. And I thought book three was about as good as one and two.
But I want to say more than I like the series or that book three is about as good as one and two. This is what I want to say: The series made me think about our world and violence and tv and human nature. I'm glad it did. I'm hoping that all the kazillion kids reading this book are also thinking about our world and violence and tv and human nature. I'm pretty sure they are.
Because I'm a school librarian, I feel compelled to add that I honestly would not be crazy about my eight-year-old reading this series. It's violent. Read it first, mom.
217. The Tattooed Map by Barbara Hodgson
A man and woman travel to Morocco. The woman keeps a diary. She begins to see that a map is appearing on her hand. She disappears. The man tries to find her.
Much cooler than I’m describing here, with lots of maps and bus ticket stubs and drawings and side notes.
218. Cheap Cabernet by Cathie Beck
I hated this book. I can’t remember when I’ve actually finished a book that I’ve liked so little.
It’s not the writing. It’s not bad.
It’s not the story. It’s not bad.
It’s quite simple. No editing. Where was the editor who should have pulled this book together and made it a strong read? Instead, the editor found a clever cover and threw it all together into what passes for a book.
This was published by Hyperion. Shame on you, Hyperion. I expected more of you.
219. The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault
I actually read these while I was in France, but I reread a couple of them this week while my online group was discussing them. The online discussion reminded me how dark these stories were, full of violence and terror and unpredictability. The things we face in life, in other words. The things we seek out in books.
220. The Story of the Treasure Seekers by Edith Nesbit
As a child, I loved books with magic. I was often disappointed to discover that books with wonderful magical titles and wonderful magical covers had nothing magical in them.
This book sounded like it would be magical. It was not, but I liked it anyway.
A family of children hope to restore their family’s lost fortune. They engage in a series of attempts to recover their family fortune including digging for treasure and writing a book, all of which are doomed to failure and yet ultimately result in restoring the family fortune.
I liked this book very much. The children have tremendous fun together. It almost tempts one to have an enormous family in the hopes of finding the companionship seen in this family.
221. The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
The first Nancy Drew and my first Nancy Drew.
Although it took many, many pages to warm up to Nancy, it finally began to happen. I was at first taken aback by her amazing kindness and hospitality; you do not meet many Nancy Drews in 2010 America and she seemed unrealistic and one-dimensional.
After I made comments of this sort on my blog, all the Nancy Drew fans ganged up on me and urged me to reexamine my thoughts about Nancy with gentler, pre-2010 eyes. So I did. Who wants to risk being beaten up by a horde of Nancy Drew aficionados?
So I will revise my initial impressions of Nancy as a goody-two-shoes to that of a genuinely nice person who has learned to always be kind and helpful to the young and the poor and the elderly. Such a person could exist. Right?
One can only hope.
222. Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett
Johnny Maxwell is shocked to find that the aliens in his computer game are talking back to him. They are conceding defeat. What can he do? What must he do?
Though this book has apparently been updated (in 2004) from the original story (published in 1992), it probably needs to be updated again. Lots of computer talk and popular lingo that has changed dramatically in the past few years and would leave a modern child feeling a bit clueless.
223. Skellig by David Almond
I’ve saved my favorite review for last.
I loved this book. I don’t want to write one word more,
except to say that if you like YA fiction,
I think you will find this book compelling.
224. Just Annoying by Andy Griffiths
Andy (Is it coincidence that this book's main character has the same name as the author?) bugs people. His dad. His mom. His sister. Friends. Neighbors. Just about everybody, actually.
I could see this book would be very, very popular among the children at my school. Especially among those who like to annoy others. I suppose I must acquire a copy of it for my school library.
225. Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Nurse Matilda is the recommendations of wise parents who see the antics and misbehaviors of the Brown children. And so she arrives and sets about putting the children in order. Nurse Matilda is a little bit Mary Poppins, a little bit Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. But horribly ugly. And not very nice. She knows, nevertheless, how to get children to do the right thing.
226. Stuart Little by E. B. White
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
My sons have always told me to read Stuart Little. But for some reason I always seem to set their recommendations aside. Once again, I am sorry that I did so.
Stuart Little is my new favorite book. I loved the chapter where Stuart goes to substitute in a school. Absolutely brilliant dialogue.
227. Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Alias Madame Doubtfire is a very contemporary story of a dad and mom, now divorced, who do not get along and pull their children into their conflicts. It takes Dad becoming, quite secretly, the children’s amazing nanny, for the two parents to discover that each has strengths the other is missing and that each has insight into the weaknesses of each which could help them become better people.
228. The 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
A man and woman and his Dalmatian dog and her Dalmatian dog all marry. The dogs have a family. By and by, the family is visited by the evil Cruella de Vil who schemes to make coats out of the puppies.
229. Something’s Fishy, Hazel Green by Odo Hirsch
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Something’s fishy at the fishmonger’s shop. Two enormous lobsters, procured for a picky client, have gone missing, with a note left as the only evidence. But what does the note mean? Who has taken the lobsters? And why? A mystery for Hazel Green and her friends to solve.
230. The Stone Book by Alan Garner
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Not really sure I understood this book, but I’ll give it my best shot. A young girl asks her father for a book. He leads her to a passage in a mountain so small that only children can venture in. Inside she finds a drawing of a bull, a stone mason’s mark, a handprint, and many footprints. The experience seems to have satisfied some need in both the child and, earlier in his life, in her father.
231. Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Seven dragon balls. Magic wishes. An actual dragon. A pig. The good guys have been imprisoned and the dragon balls have been stolen. Action. Adventure. Manga-ish.
232. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Haroun’s father, Rashid, is an amazing storyteller. But one day his stories disappear. Haroun, with the help of a crazy bus driver and a water genie, go on a quest to restore stories to the world.
233. The Spice Necklace by Ann Vanderhoof
I like travelogues. I like books about cooking. The Spice Necklace is a two-fer, about both travel and cooking.
It’s part two of the story of a couple who sold most of what they owned and live on a boat (see part one, Vanderhoof’s first book, An Embarrassment of Mangoes, for more information). Now the couple is sailing around the Caribbean, visiting beautiful places, and sampling (and attempting) Caribbean cooking.
234. Nothing by Janne Teller
Could this be the bleakest YA ever? It would get my vote.
Here is the story: Pierre decides that nothing matters, walks out of his classroom, climbs up into a tree, and refuses to come down. The others in his classroom feel compelled to try to convince Pierre that some things do matter. Using increasingly bizarre and horrific methods, Pierre’s classmates attempt to demonstrate that things matter.
While I respect what this author was doing with this book, it is most definitely not my cuppa tea.
235. Breaking Night by Liz Murray
Liz was born to a mother and father whose lives were ruled by their addictions to alcohol and drugs. From an early age, Liz did not receive enough to eat, skipped school, had no supervision, and, eventually, drifted into homelessness. Yet, somehow, Liz managed to beat all these obstacles, complete high school, and win a scholarship to Harvard. A fascinating story.
236. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Bod, a human boy, is sent to the graveyard to live in an attempt to elude those who would kill him. All of his companions, including his adopted parents, are dead. Bod is educated and kept safe for many years until, one day, his would-be killers return.
I’m not a scary-book-person and this will never be on my list of favorites as a result. But, if you are such a creature, The Graveyard Book just might be on your top ten list.
237. Amazon Adventure by Willard Price
A 1001 CBYMRBYGU.
Two boys, Roger and Hal, travel with their father down the Amazon in search of creatures for zoos. They fight cannibalistic Indians, piranhas, crocodiles, and even an angry anteater. This is an adventure book filled with excitement and drama and scares. There are any number of not-so-politically-correct moments and, as a parent, Roger got on my last nerve, but I loved reading this book.
238. The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith
A 1001 Books You Must Read
Mr. Pooter keeps a diary in which he recalls all the events of his days. He seeks to attain social status, but, time and again, finds humiliation instead.
The copyright date on this book is 1892, but the story feels as fresh as yesterday. Funny. A little sad. And, most of all, insightful.
239. The Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman
Do you know Maira Kalman?
I like her writing.
This week I only finished one book, but it was a good one. And the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman.
I often check out books from the library, read them, and return them. Even when I buy books, I usually give them away.
I buy Maira Kalman books and keep them. I read them and then I read them again.
She writes children's picture books as well as grownup books. Honestly, her books for grownups are really just grownup picture books.
A new genre, maybe.
I hope this is okay, but I can't really show you how wonderful Maira Kalman is without showing you a few pages from her books.
Do you see what I mean?
I saw Maira Kalman at the Texas Book Festival. I would have been very sad if I had not gotten to hear her speak. She was not as I'd imagined. I'd expected a morose person. No. She actually laughed a lot. And told funny stories.
She seemed quite wise.
"Reality was never part of our household," she said.
240. Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
I don't think we who have not been in military combat have much notion of what a war is like. Private Peaceful is a very powerful story. We in America seem to have the belief that Vietnam was a uniquely horrific war experience, that other wars were somehow "purer" wars. I don't think a person could read this book and continue to think so.
I grew up in the sixties, a time of hope and optimism about the world. I had expected that by this century people would have developed ways to solve conflict without resorting to sending young people to kill other young people.
I wonder if the stories of war, however brilliantly written, are not always much less horrific than actual combat....
And for anyone who enjoyed Private Peaceful and wants to read more, I suggest The Things They Carried.
241. Carry a Poem
How often do you go out to your mailbox and find a package has arrived from Kathmandu, Nepal?!
That happened to me this week. Inside the package was the delightful sliver of a book, Carry a Poem. Thousands of free copies of this book were given away in Edinburgh, Scotland during the Carry a Book Project, to “get you reading poetry.” I received it in a bookring through BookCrossing. The book consists of about twenty stories of people and the poems they love. Many of my favorites are here: “Warning” (perhaps better recognized by its opening line: “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple”), an e. e. cummings (“i carry your heart with me”), and even the poem I’d considered adding to the card file accompanying the book, “Sunlight in the Garden”.
I decided to go with a beloved poem, “Orange”. I include it here:
The Orange by Wendy Cope
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange —
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled and shared it with Robert and Dave —
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.
The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.
I plan to do a Carry a Poem Project of my own at school in the spring.
242. Hector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord
I participated this week in the first ever Literary Blog Hop. I visited many blogs.
At almost every blog, bloggers took on the task of defining the word «literary».
Most bloggers were in agreement ; I saw lots of «thoughtful» and many «beautifully written».
Some bloggers felt literary must be, by definition, difficult.
I say no and Hector and the Search for Happiness is a good example.
Hector is a delightfully simple read, but it is nevertheless quite literary. Thoughtful. Wildly clever. Certainly beautifully written.
I must say that I obtained great happiness from reading this book. Definitely simple, however, if that puts you off it.
243. Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes
Old Gringo was agony for me to read. Carlos Fuentes came to Houston a few weeks back and I drove in to see him. He was pretty much as I'd expected. An achingly handsome eighty-year-old man who writes poetic novels. And who sees life as experienced mainly through his manly body parts. This may work for his male readers. This may work for the parts of Old Gringo told from the point of view of his male characters like Pancho Villa and one of Villa's generals and even Ambrose Bierce. But it did not work for me when it came to reading the parts of the story told from the point of view of Harriet Winslow, a starting-to-age American school marm who takes up with Bierce and the Villa general. Agony to read.
I'd planned to read Old Gringo, the book I'd bought at the reading, and then watch the video. I fought my way to the end of the novel, loathing every page. And then went hopefully to the video. When I took the DVD from its envelope, I discovered the DVD had been snapped in half. (Could it be that the video was as horrifying as the novel and the previous viewer lost it?)
244. The 1000 Journals Project
The 1000 Journals Project was a Best Of selection from the 1000 Journals Project, a project where 1000 empty journals were sent out in the world to be filled with clever observations and smart drawings and photographs. I can only hope this was not a true Best Of; in a word, I was underwhelmed. Reading through this book reminds of an interview I once read with a bartender. The bartender admitted he'd gone into his work in hopes to hearing (and stealing) the Great American Novel from his patrons and found instead he heard the same old banal stories every night, told with all the vulgarity and limited vocabulary you might expect from drunks who frequent bars.
245. The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton
I was offered a copy of The Tapestry of Love from the author. The author had sent me her previous novel last year and I found it to be a small but competent romance. I hesitated from requesting this book, but decided the French rural setting would compensate for the requisite romantic plot. And here I have sad news: It did not. The first eighty pages were absolutely nothing but the French rural setting and it just was not enough. The romance was tossed in during the last few chapters. I just did not care about the woman who came to France to make tapestries or her sister who pops in and then disappears or the man who lives next door and romances both the tapestry woman and her sister or even the old French farm couple down the road. I didn't even care about the rural French setting.
246. The Good Master by Kate Seredy
247. The Story of Tracy Beaker
The two children's books from the 1001 Children's Books You Must Read list were, happily, time better spent. The Good Master is the story of a boy who lives with his family on a farm in Hungary. His city cousin comes to stay with the family to recuperate from illness and the boy and his cousin have a number of adventures, including a kidnapping by gypsies. The copyright date of 1935 brings a feeling of authenticity to the story of a boy who genuinely plans to spend his life growing food and has no real need to learn to read or write and his cousin who grows to love the country and persuades her father to abandon his life in the city and return to his roots in the country. And The Story of Tracy Beaker was absolutely delightful. A book of diary entries written by a young girl in foster care. Could have been sad (and was, at times) but was also hilarious and true.
248. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe would work for you, I say tentatively, whether you like science fiction or not. It was about time travel. Sort of. And father-son relationships. Well, relationships in general, maybe. Anyway, I liked it, even if I didn't understand one word about the time travel parts. It did not really matter. My favorite science fiction book in a long, long time (although, I feel compelled to add, also my only science fiction book in a long, long time).
249. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
And, finally, my favorite read of the week, the month, maybe the year...Let the Great World Spin. I wish I was a deeper reader and a better writer, a person who could share with you all the wonderful thoughts you can take away from this book and all the brilliant ways the author used the metaphor of the wirewalker, stepping out over the slums and magnificent high rises of 1974 New York City, stepping out over the sad group of mothers who lost sons in Vietnam and the streetwalkers, stepping out over the noble priest and the hippie artists. I wish I could. All I can do is sigh and say again and again how much I liked it and how you should read it.
250. A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial by Steve Hendricks
There are many things in this world that confuse me. Bad guys, for example. Are there people who are irredemably bad? And, if so, what should be done with them? Are there people that are so bad that we must hurt them? That we must hurt them in ways that are unspeakable?
I do not know. I am glad that I am not the President of the United States. I just don't think that I would allow cruelty. And, perhaps, cruelty is necessary.
Cruelty was deemed necessary to the main character in this book. He is a terrorist. An acknowledged terrorist. He believes in bombing innocent people. The Powers That Be decided that he should be punished. Cruelly. But not by the Official Powers That Be. Instead, he was kidnapped and taken off to Egypt where he could be cruelly tortured by others.
251. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
A reread. I dragged this out as long as I could...maybe a whole year. I don't really need to tell you much about this one; you know the characters and you know the plot. And I liked it, though I must, to be completely honest, note that Scarlett wore on me at times ("I can't think about that now....I will think about that tomorrow...." She said this about a thousand times). Not sure if I'd call it a classic, but it is a mighty good read.
252. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
This was a fascinating book. It could have been a short story; Henrietta Lacks led a narrow life, marrying, having a few children, and then quickly getting and dying of cancer.
But something else happened. Her cancer cells were the first human cells to replicate rapidly and they were shipped here and there for study, for research, becoming one of the most studied cells in the world. Her family received nothing for these cells; in fact, most of her descendants don't even have health insurance! And her family, like Henrietta, was very poorly educated, leaving them bewildered about the nature of the cells themselves and Henrietta's role in history.
Very intriguing story.
253. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
This is a story I've never heard before. It's not a small story. It's the story of the migration of an enormous throng of people from the Deep South to the North during the twentieth century in the United States.
How is it that I have heard nothing of this before now? Not in school or college or in my leisure reading, reading which is often historical.
I loved this book. Well researched. Detailed. Personal.
254. Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell
I was intrigued with this book from the time I heard Gail Caldwell speak last fall at the Texas Book Festival. Caldwell wrote the book to commemorate her deep friendship with a fellow author and to understand her feelings about her friend's sudden death from cancer.
255. Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff