A friend of mine, another (now Returned) Peace Corps Volunteer, who’s brain is WAY wrinklier than mine, read 133 books in 2009. One hundred thirty-three. After applauding her, wondering how she could possibly have accomplished this, and drooling over her list, I endeavored to create my own. In 2010 I aimed for 50 books and barely read over half that. I blame my love for movies, my new love for podcasts, and my need to knit things. But still among many other big plans for the year, I’m making another commitment to bound pages. I’d like to read a modest 30 books this year, tackling some of the biggies I’ve put off for their size (re: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace). So here’s the list. Titles in bold I’ve finished. Titles I’ve underlined are those I’m currently reading; titles in plain text are still in queue. You’ll find some favorite quotes and recommendations. And *’s indicates just how quickly I hope you will read this particular book.
Books of 2011:
-A Separate Peace by John Knowles
-Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix by JK Rowling
-The Pushcart Prize XXXIII: Best of the Small Presses (2009 Edition) ed. Bill Henderson
Books of 2010:
1. The Bell by Iris Murdoch**
You know a book is good when weeks later you are missing the characters.
2. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris*
3. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
“So if you wonder why Americans are so obese, consider the fact that waitresses both express their humanity and earn their tips through the covert distribution of fats.”
4. Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans ed. Dave Eggers, Kevin Shay, Lee Epstein, John Warner, and Suzanne Kleid
5. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
“He would have to learn for himself the real background that held you as smell does: the gold of the rice-fields under a flat late sun: the fisher’s fragile cranes hovering over the fields like mosquitoes: the cups of tea on an old abbot’s platform, with his bed and his commercial calendars, his buckets and broken cups and the junk of a lifetime washed up around his chair: the mollusc hats of the girls repairing the road where a mine had burst: the gold and the young green and the bright dresses of the south, and in the north the deep browns and the black clothes and the circle of enemy mountains and the drone of planes.”
6. Delights & Shadows by Ted Kooser***
The first book of poetry that had me glued to it from cover to cover, deeply sighing at the end of almost every piece.
7. West With the Night by Beryl Markham***
This autobiography is sadly her only written work, but I suppose if you’ve gotten Hemingway to say he’s “ashamed at [himself] as a writer” because of your words, you can put up your pen and get back to flying across early 1900′s Africa, training race horses in Kenya or whatever else it is you do.
8. Three Cups of Teas by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin*
9. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman***
10. The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich**
That’s it. I’m moving to Wyoming.
11. Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön
12. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
13. The Twits by Roald Dahl
Yes, I know this is one of the shortest books of all time, but I’m counting it in my fifty for its significance as one of the only Roald Dahl books I’ve never, until now, read.
14. Into the Wild by John Krakauer
I learned a lot of words reading this book, like “inimical” and “ungulate, so if like me you really liked the movie a lot and you’re studying for the GRE, I would recommend reading this.
15. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
16. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
17. The Lie by Chad Kultgen
18. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott***
“I actually kept this one horrible plant alive for months, this huge potted thing. I don’t even know what it was, but it was about three feet tall, before its decline, and green in a sort of fake jolly way. I watered it, I cut off it’s dead leaves, and how did it repay me? By becoming Howard Hughes in his last days.”
19. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert**
“You can let yourself off the hook anytime you want, Liz.”
20. The Cat Who Went To Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth
21. I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
“Despite the orgy of damning evidence, I still think of Oregon Trail as a great leveler. If, for example, you were a twelve year old girl from Westchester with frizzy hair, a bite plate, and no control over your own life, suddenly you could drown whomever you pleased.” And there you have all that ever needs to be said about that ’90′s favorite.
22. Universe X, Vol. 2 created by Alex Ross, Jim Kruegen and team
23. Talk Talk by T.C. Boyle
24. A Family Heart by Robb Forman Dew
25. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
26. The Village of Waiting by George Packer **
27. Watership Down by Richard Adams
28. Timbuktu by Paul Auster