Reading Through the Years…

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Beginning in January 1992, I began to make a list of every book I read. At the time, it seemed like it would help me to give recommendations to others (especially when I couldn’t remember what I’d read five books ago). Nineteen years into “the list,” it has proven to be that and so much more. Not only do I pull out my lists when trying to recall something, but the list has become a diary of sorts.  I can see what interested me, what author caught my attention.  For example, in 1993, I read three novels by Willa Cather.  If you’ve never read, Death Comes for the Archbishop – add it to your list for 2011.

I can also look at the number of books read in a given year and know exactly why the number was high or low. Take 1995.  My son was born in December 1994. So, in 1995 I can see that The English Patient took me three months to read!  I must have been reading pages in the middle of the night while feeding him. Admittedly, I don’t recall much of it. Of course, that was also the year I read Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott. 

What’s interesting is that every year after Bob was born, the number goes up. In 1995, I read only 14 books. But, it climbs steadily as he gets on his feet (literally) and by the time, he goes to school – I’m reading 50 books per year. I can see when Harry Potter arrives on the scene and the books people were talking about. What’s really interesting is when I begin graduate school. The number skyrockets! In 2004, I read over 100 books – nearly all of them assigned in one of my classes at Simmons. There are a few I remember reading on the subway – turning pages as fast as I could.

Which brings us to the 2010 list. I read 56 books this year. I finished one last night, and unless I read one today, that’s the total. I just looked over the list, and came up with my ten favorites of the year.  I’m not separating novels for children and adults – this is what stands out.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha Sandweiss

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Small Island by Andrea Levy

The Cradle by Patrick Somerville

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Annexed by Sharon Dogar

I hope 2011 brings you good books and safe travels. Happy New Year!

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Annexed by Sharon Dogar

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I could not bring myself to title this post “Holiday Giving,” but I will continue that theme over the Thanksgiving Weekend.  Because Sharon Dogar’s novel, Annexed, is about the Holocaust, it’s definitely not a light holiday read.  That being said, I can think of no better book to be reading during Thanksgiving.  I’m haunted by it, but among other things, it is forcing me to slow down and think about what we are capable of doing to one another in the name of race and religion.

Annexed is told from the viewpoint of Peter van Pels, the boy whose family was with the Franks in the famous Amsterdam annex. Because I’m listening to this in my car, I feel like Peter is talking to me and while it’s incredibly heartbreaking, it’s also feels very intimate – like this voice is coming to me from another place. At one point, I had the experience of feeling like I couldn’t listen anymore, and then (this really happened), the next line was Peter saying: “are you going to turn away from me? ” I felt my eyes welling up in the car as I promised not only to keep listening, but to make myself think more deeply about the enormity of those events.  It hurt, but in a way that felt right – if that makes any sense.

Annexed is a book for mature teens and adults. Peter is a teenage boy and he wonders and dreams about all kinds of things. He feels real, as of course, he was.