Books 2011

My reading for 2011 took a serious dip this year once the move to Italy became a sure thing, but here’s the list:

I read so many more of the books on this list during last winter than this spring, summer or fall that just looking at it reminds me of cold and lamplight.  And this year reading even the early books required a certain amount of discipline.  Scanning the list, I can tell that I gave myself a higher than usual number of easy books just to keep the habit going.

My favorite book that wasn’t a re-read (i.e., C.S. Lewis) was The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr.  Among other things, it takes one on a very readable tour of  the biochemistry of memory.  And it encourages sitting still and, you guessed it, reading.  If you were thinking of reading this book and wanted a recommendation, you have mine.  His blog is interesting, too.

Oh, and I really enjoyed Borges. Thinking of his stories reminds me of the orange seats on the one train in NYC, because I read them while making the rounds to all the doctors before we moved. Funny how books pick up associations with the places where you read them.  Maybe the association was especially strong because both the stories and my location when I read them were maze-like.

And Italian Neighbors was good preparatory fun for moving to Italy.  While Anglo-atheist Tim Parks has a perspective on Italy that may not match that of his Italian Catholic neighbors, he describes some of their peculiarities with a freshness and humor that is helpful to anyone moving in from the outside.

During the past two weeks in Georgia, I’ve been able to start reading again.  I have three books going that I started before the end of the year, but in typical Christmas vacation fashion I also picked up a quick read at my parents and finished it off at midnight last night.  It was a book about a famous trial that took place in the time (the 1940s) and place (the Chattahoochie Valley in Georgia and Alabama) where my parents grew up.  The protagonist embodied many of the contradictions of the South during Jim Crow and Prohibition.  The book was not my typical reading, nor was it that well-written, but it fit my mood.  After three months in urban Italy, it was fun to experience a bit of reverse culture shock.

My goals for 2012?  Finish what I’ve started (a modest goal, don’t you think?). Read along more often with Sarie’s Western Lit class. Maybe tackle the medieval volume of Susan Wise Bauer’s history series. Toss in some modern fiction now and then.  Keep reading and rereading spiritual classics. And no doubt I’ll need to learn to read in Italian.

Will it all get done?  I don’t know, but it’s fun to make goals and then see how they change as the year wears on.

What are your favorite reads from last year and reading goals for 2012?


6 thoughts on “Books 2011

  1. My favorite book was Island of the World by Michael O’Brien. I re-read Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry and loved it all over again. Curious to know what you thought of To Pause at the Threshold. I just read it. I haven’t finalized my list for 2012. Right now I’m working on NT Wright’s massive volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God. Also got some lighter reading going on – one of Alexander McCall Smith’s books, La’s Orchestra Saves the World.

    Hope you have had wonderful family time in Georgia.

  2. Oh, I love reading book lists! And apparently, they can reveal a partial picture of our year and our lives. . . My reading goal for the next year is to keep track because I cannot remember what I’ve read! I know I read some books I loved, but sitting here, I can’t think what they are. Aaron will be happy that you listed Borges! I shall direct him here. 🙂 I do want to read The Shallows for sure, mostly on your recommendation.

    It’s fun to see your list, Laura!

  3. I learned to read Spanish with Borges, using one of those English-on-one-page, Spanish-on-the-other editions. I’d read the story in English, then in Spanish, then in English…

    Not sure I have reading goals for 2012, other than to continue stretching my reading beyond my comfort zone. I find that life is more interesting if I pepper it with books about subjects I know little about. As I grow older I read less and less fiction — why read about invented angst that you’ve known the real thing? — and more and more non-fiction.

  4. Thanks for your comments, because I really like talking about books! (Which she then goes on to illustrate at ridiculous length for a comment box.)

    Beth, I looked up Island of the World and it looks like just the kind of thing I’d want on my to read list. I’ve also wanted to read one of Wendell Berry’s fiction books for a good while now. As attention-challenged as I am right now, I’m not sure when I’d read them, but we’ll see!

    About Esther de Waal, I’m sorry, but I can hardly remember it. I think I wanted it for a particular sort of spiritual help during a hard month, but perhaps I just needed to slog some more and wasn’t ready to pause at the threshold. Or perhaps the book wasn’t “tight” enough to hit the spot I was looking for. It had good parts, but at the time I remember thinking that it wandered too much. But who knows, if I re-read it when my concentration was better, I might see it totally differently.

    Susan, I started my reading lists for much the same reason Bob did: So I could hold myself somewhat accountable. And as you might imagine, he’s more methodical about it than I am. Keeping a list works about right for me, because I still read what I want, but it just keeps me thinking that I ought to choose wisely, because there’s not time to read *everything* I want. I didn’t do so well as I would have liked this year, but some years are like that.

    And you’re right that the lists do show a partial picture of your life, so they’re valuable for that, too.

    I’m afraid Aaron won’t see much of a Borges review here, unfortunately. There were too many different types of stories to think of a pithy way to describe what they have in common. I’m only left with a feeling about them that I can’t describe well. Or maybe I’m just too lazy! I’ll have to think about which ones really stuck in my memory, and why.

    Julia, I think reading side by side is a great way to improve language skills. Bob did that with Luigi Pirandello, and perhaps I should, too. Good idea for Italian this year!

    Sometimes I read your book reviews, and they’re frequently intriguing. And Switch was one book I read this year by your direct recommendation. But I have actually started reading *more* fiction again lately, after many years of reading non-fiction almost exclusively. Hard to say why. I certainly know what you mean about the angst, but sometimes there’s a catharsis, a depth of feeling, or simply poetic language, to fiction that isn’t exactly practical, but I find it so beautiful that I don’t care, and maybe *that* helps. It depends on what you read, of course.

  5. Yes, do read Island and of course, Wendell Berry. I sat planted in my beach chair on the SC shore for hours in May while I read Island.

    That’s quite interesting what you said about de Waal’s book. I was intrigued by the title and the possibilities of the book, but after reading it, I felt a bit let down. As you said, it wasn’t “tight”. I finished and thought, “Well, she needed a good editor!” Interesting thoughts, some inspiring words, but just a bit too fuzzy. I am actually re-reading it right now, marking sections I like and hoping to appreciate it more, but I think it will remain in the category of “good title – doesn’t live up to expectations.”

    I’ve added The Shallows to the 2012 list. Thanks for that recommendation.

    Hope all is well with you and yours!

  6. The Shallows was a favorite of mine this year too, Laura, and Andrew is reading it now. I’m trying to get all my family to read it as I think it is that important. I read way too little fiction last year and I am trying to remedy that this year. Per your question on my blog: The two main Islamic holidays, one which comes at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, and one which come after the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, are determined by the lunar calendar and thus change every year. The last holiday was the first part of November, so no, not near Christmas this year, but the visiting customs are pretty much the same for both the Christian and Islamic holidays.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.