BOOKS FOR 2014

* Just for fun, I'm starting a list of the books I'm reading this year. We'll see how long I manage to keep this up!? NF stands for non-fiction, F for fiction. (I read both genres routinely; usually have one of each on the go.) I'll have to update this as the days & months proceed... (& will likely move this onto a "Page" under the "Recommended" tab up top). * adding in at the top as the year goes along. ** on May 18/14: should've known -- cannot keep this up! Have read at least a dozen books since I've added any to the list below. Pace of life is just too fast, too many things on the go. It was a fun idea, though! :)

I ought to add that I choose books at the library pretty much by "fluke," usually, & don't read the reviews they are now linked to until I post them here. (If I read the review first, I might not read the book at all! As in the case of We Are Water, down below. Had I read the scathing review, I'd never have dived in.)

Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys (humour), by Dave Barry. Have owned this one for years now & returned to it yesterday in my spirit of existential despair (or whatever the heck that mood was). Barry is hilariously scathing about the shortcomings of the male of the species, & absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. I am so glad I own this book & can go back to it again & again!! I occasionally wonder what other men think about it. He's absolutely ruthless on the idiosyncrasies of his own gender!

What Was Lost (F), Catherine O'Flynn. I loved this book! But then, I was a huge fan of Harriet the Spy when I was a young girl. Lots of mystery, shots of humour, & insights about the emptiness of modern human existence. I really recommend this one!

This Is How You Lose Her (F purportedly), Junot Diaz. Mixed feelings about this book. I think the character's bottomless need to bed an infinite # of women (frequently leading to his own heartbreak, of course) just made me tired. Yet I did read the whole darn thing...

Strong in the Rain – Surviving Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (NF), Lucy Birmingham & David McNeill. This was a re-reading for me (being rather obsessed with all matters nuclear). 2 journalists who make their careers/homes in Tokyo report on the earthquake as they experienced it themselves - then go on to tell the stories of 6 individuals from Japan's east coast who were hugely affected by the quake, tsunami & nuclear disaster. Moving, disturbing, insight-ful.

We Are Water (F), Wally Lamb. Positive take on the book here. Negative (almost scathing) one here. (I think that reviewer must have gotten out of the wrong side of the bed that day, frankly. Glad I had not read the review before reading the book - which I personally did enjoy.)

The Solitude of Prime Numbers (F), Paolo Giordano. Somewhat heart-wrenching tale. Read the review!

The Son of a Certain Woman (F), Wayne Johnston. A boy born with a massive facial (& other) disfigurements & his very non-conformist mother's many challenges dealing with him in a city under the stranglehold of the Catholic Church in Newfoundland. Enjoyed it, not sure I understood all the underlying themes - but then, I seldom do!? Must say, the picture painted of the church figures is not a pretty one.

Nineteen Minutes (F), Jodi Picoult. Disturbing tale of a high school shooting & again, the complexities of people's lives, childhoods, the way they parent -- all in the face of this mixed-up modern world we inhabit. I always enjoy Ms. Picoult's novels!

The Interestings (F), Meg Wolitzer. Characters who first meet at a special art camp, as teen-agers, & how their lives move into the inevitable crises & events of adulthood. I quite enjoyed this story of people from different backgrounds & their lives in New York City. Lots of thorny complications - just like our real lives!

Still Foolin' 'Em - Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? (NF-memoir), Billy Crystal. Enjoyable, fun read!

Bel Canto (F), Ann Patchett. SUCH an enjoyable novel! Fascinating characters & amazing plot. Timely for me to read this, what with worrying about wars & planetary breakdown & such-like, & especially in light of my own contention that we could all get along if only we actually tried to do so. Great read!

A Tale for the Time Being (F), Ruth Ozeki. Man Booker Prize Finalist. Fascinating novel - not your average  novel, either. Read the reviews! I found it insightful, inspiring, intriguing. One insight about anger & broken hearts near the end set some tears loose, a welcome development in my world. You'll learn about Japanese culture, bullying, how a family's failure to communicate can break hearts (& lives). Insights about environmental destruction, Buddhism ... life! Good piece about the book in Common Ground magazine, here.

Never have your dog stuffed and other things I've learned (NF - memoir), Alan Alda. What an interesting life this honest & down-to-earth man (seemingly, anyway!) has led. Highly highly highly enjoyable!!

Big Brother (F), by Lionel Shriver, an author I have greatly enjoyed before. Pretty mixed feelings about this one, I have to say. But check it out; it might be right up your alley!

And The Mountains Echoed (F), by Khaled Hosseini is a great rollicking read. I particularly enjoyed the way one particular character illustrated so well how our excessive lifestyles in the West can seem more than a little absurd stacked up against the realities of so many human beings whose lives make ours look, well, excessive. Interesting characters, maybe a few too many characters? - but I enjoyed learning more about Afghan life & history.

This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage (NF), by Ann Patchett. Fabulous & wildly varied collection of stories by this writer I'd never before encountered. Don't be put off by the title (I was, initially, being a divorced person) - Patchett's honesty about her life & limitations make clear she is merely very human & flawed just like the rest of us. She's a very fine writer, though!

Wild - From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (NF), by Cheryl Strayed. Amazing memoir of the author's 1100-mile solo hike through mountains, all the way from southern California to Washington state. Her honesty is mind-blowing & so incredibly welcome to this truth-lover. Another flukey occurrence for me, the timing of this book throwing itself into my path after just writing about being "buzzed" in Algonquin Park last summer. I can't hold a candle to Ms. Strayed!? But we sure both love this beautiful planet...

The Yellow Birds (F), by Kevin Powers. A soldier in Iraq tells about his harrowing tour there. Very much enjoyed this novel, although it wasn't easy to read. Very well-written. Have recorded some neat lines about grief, & this line: "It reminded me of talking, how what is said is never quite what was thought, and what is heard is never quite what was said. It wasn't much in the way of comfort, but everything has a little failure in it, and we still make do somehow." I just love the way that is put...

The Pure Gold Baby, (F) Margaret Drabble. Loved it. Always greatly enjoy Drabble. She seems to "get" it about everything, & everything is always there in any of her novels. Wish I had recorded some of the narrator's clever asides. Read it for yourself!

The Signature of All Things (F), Elizabeth Gilbert (2013). Thoroughly enjoyable story. O Magazine calls it "The novel of a lifetime." Its message about dignity was very timely for me. (I will never forget Gilbert's The Last American Man & what the man in question said about living in boxes.)

Wave. A memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala. Spare prose, punishingly honest. Her loss is so well described, so poignant & tragic, it will make you shed tears for the author's losses ... and your own.

Flight Behavior (F), Barbara Kingsolver (2012). Won many awards. Great novel about climate change; so well-written. Wonderful characters, compelling action. Monarch butterflies in starring role. Must-read!

Junky novel I'm too embarrassed to name - while away for a wedding. (The novel did have some fun moments.)

Trains and Lovers (F), Alexander McCall Smith. Maybe not quite as fun as the usual AMS books (I'm a big fan!!) -- but enjoyable to read.

Touchy Subjects (F), Emma Donoghue. Short stories; good writer, enjoyed them very much!

Tailings of Warren Peace (F), Stephen Law. Great read!

Currently re-reading: Sea Sick - The Global Ocean in Crisis, Alanna Mitchell. & also When Things Fall Apart - Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chödrön.

Married to a Bedouin (NF), Marguerite van Geldermalsen. Fascinating! A young woman from New Zealand visits Jordan & winds up falling in love & making a life there.

Friday Nights (F), Joanna Trollope. Fun read!

Novel to remain unnamed: Ugh! Not sure why I read it. Can't recommend it, don't want to hurt the writer's feelings (by saying who wrote this awful novel) or the feelings of the friend who lent it to me. Yech! Onto another...

Bury Your Dead (F), Louis Penny. Inspector Gamache story. Detective stories are not really my thing, but I enjoyed this. Every novel has some insights about human nature (or I wouldn't read them so obsessively!!). Fun reading about the "Anglos" in Quebec City. (I grew up Anglo in the province of Québec, though not in Quebec City.)

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls (NF), David Sedaris. Witty insightful essays; laugh-out-loud funny at times. Pretty funny guy!!

Seven Good Reasons Not to be Good (F), John Gould. Some really great lines! E.g. "Yeah, okay," he said, "so the planet's pretty much trashed. Pollution, terrorism, fundamentalism, bigotry, bird flu, blah blah blah." Next page: "And okay, even when things are good they aren't really good, are they? You know they'll go bad any minute, and they're already bad for almost everybody else." <pages 62-3> On the meaning of post-modernism  – a term I confess I've never understood: "It means everything's broken, everything's in pieces.... It means you have to do what you do without knowing why anymore." "Really?" "I don't know. Nobody knows what postmodern means, that's what it means." <page 274>      ...I love this!! :) :)

Blink (NF), by Malcolm Gladwell. Police forces everywhere need to read this book! Explains (among other things) how physiological changes in our bodies (e.g. heart rate) affect our ability to perceive stressful situations in a rational (or at least semi-rational) fashion. In light of all the killings of civilians in Toronto by police officers in recent years, for example, seems to me the police need to study up on this book & on de-escalation tactics!! (It is also for sure interesting for anyone who is a human being. Helps us understand better how we all think & make judgments, & the value of our "guts" or intuition/s.)