Sunday, January 6, 2013

Worth the time

Responding to a suggestion that I note some of the 65 books I read last year, I looked through my list and chose a few to tell others about.  Quite a few of the nonfiction books were on the craft or art of writing or history and art of quilting so I won't mention those.

A fascinating  bit of unknown history: Jack Weatherford's The Secret History of the Mongol Queens.  Genghis Khan's daughter and granddaughters ran his empire while he was enlarging it and after his death as well.  The most powerful one was only 16 when she began her administration.

I read poetry most nights in bed, mostly anthologies, sometimes just a single poet. I enjoyed Charles Wright and Tess Gallagher this year, and read two of Garrison Keeler's collection of American poetry. The latter are accessible poems, no heavy delving for meaning, but they are not light or frivolous.

About half of what I read is fiction: here are some I enjoyed. I read half a dozen novellas by American women, of them I read before. I was glad to read Kate Chopin's The Enlightenment,
a portrait of the infantilization of upper class women in the last 1800s. Edna's rebellion was psychologically still adolescent -- we've come a long way, Baby!  Thank heavens.

Long fascinated by the name Haldor Laxness (early Nobel winner from Denmark), I read Iceland's Bell and enjoyed the historical view of Denmark's enslavement of their Iceland colony, the mores, and one woman's odd life story.

I've read a lot of Mario Vargas LLosa's work (he's Peruvian and I think a Nobelist too). I discovered his saga The War at the End of the World, about a cult's uptopian settlement in the far west of Brazil and the determined destruction of it by the government.

I finally finished a book by Orhan Palmuk (A Turkish Nobelist), The White Castle.  His style is a little mind numbing but the story was worth persevering.  I've given up on two previous attempts. This was a out a Italian captured by the Turks and made as slave.  His owner is fascinated with the science the Italian knows.  It's about an exchange of personality and even place in society.

A (mere) Pulitzer winner, Steven Millhauser's Martin Dresser, was a facinatingly different American novel, about economic development of NYC at the end of turn of the 19th-20th century.

Two novels by Louise Erdrich whose work I've been reading for years: A Plague of Doves and The Antelope Wife, both mix modern Native American live and myth, magic realism and her personal cast of characters (likened to Faulkner's denisons of Yaknapatalpha Country)

As one will see, I like to read about things that are outside my own realm of experience, or I could say I like to widen my world through books whether fiction, nonfiction or poetry.  I read newspapers and magazine and get many views of the world in which I lived.  These are not escapist books except in that they take me to times and places I could not experience otherwise.

1 comment:


June, Great -- you posted some of your books from 2012. I am going to try a few, hopefully I can find Enlightenment as that would be my first choice from your review. Perhaps the book about NYC during the early 19th century would be next. Thanks for the list and reviews -- will maybe get more from your list as I read through 2013. thanks -- barbara