Reading year 2012, with a few annotations

by Laura A


Honestly, sometimes I’m surprised that I read anything at all last year. Moving was quite an adjustment.  But I’m sure that even with distractions, it was therapeutic to read 1) in English, so I could at least feel competent in my native language and culture, and 2) in Italian, so I could learn about the place I’d stepped into.  So without further ado, here’s the list:

No Remorse: The Rise and Fall of the Killer John Wallace, by Dot Moore

About the sometimes violent place and culture my family is from, but not so well-written that I’d recommend it.  Flannery O’Connor is so much better!

Shantung Compound, by Langdon Gilkey

Interesting study of an alternate society and of human nature in a WWII prison camp.  Though he’s not a main character in this book, Eric Liddell from Chariots of Fire is one of the inmates.

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, by Alex Ross

I really did learn a lot from this book, most especially why Germany was the cradle of 20th-Century modernism.  I enjoyed Ross’s way of describing the music.  Be prepared: It’s long!

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Oliver Sacks

Sarie likes Oliver Sacks a lot, but I enjoy him less.  His books are full of interesting phenomena, but I prefer more theory and connection between my anecdotes.  Or maybe it was just February.

The Meaning of Marriage: Finding Happiness in Your Most Profound Relationship, by Timothy Keller

When I first read this, I confess I was less encouraged than I’d hoped to be. But I held on, and kept going back to the passages I’d underlined, and now the same parts that hit my ears with a thud the first time around are really starting to sing. Which is no doubt because I’m in a better frame of mind, and that’s part of Keller’s point about marriage.

Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, by Charles Murray

I never want Murray to be right, but I remain fascinated by his willingness to ask hard questions.

The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade, by Susan Wise Bauer

Even though we’re not homeschooling anymore, I’ll probably keep reading this series as long as I can manage to get its weighty volumes to Italy.  I probably enjoy them more than Sarie ever did, anyway!

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Pevear and Volokonsky translation)

Wow, this book is so much more vivid than I remember it being in high school!

The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Good Italy, Bad Italy: Why Italy Must Conquer Its Demons to Face the Future, by Bill Emmott

When I Was a Child I Read Books, by Marilynne Robinson

The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis

Because I’m always reading Lewis.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

If you’re an introvert, and you didn’t read this when it came out last year, do so, because you might get along with yourself better.  If you’re married to an introvert or have one in your family, read it, because you might get along with them better.  It gives good reasons to let introverts be themselves and also good tips on when and why an introvert might want to act extroverted now and then.

Un Italiano in America, by Beppe Severgnini

Not the greatest book in the world, but still historic because it’s the first one I read all the way through in Italian.  Il barone Lamberto (see below) promises to be much better.

The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

The Sorrow of War, by Bao Ninh

If This is a Man/The Truce, by Primo Levi

These last three I read just so I’d be able to discuss them with Sarie, since they were assigned to her as part of the IB program she’s enrolled in.  All three were part of a unit called “Victims of War.” I liked Levi the best.  I even read some of my favorite passages in Italian. He’s from Torino and I know exactly where he lived, having visited an accountant’s office next door to his apartment.  My favorite chapter of If This is a Man is one in which, despite the horror of his surroundings, Levi spends the afternoon discussing the Odyssey with a friend.

Some books I hope to read this year: 

Bleak House, by Charles Dickens (deep into it already!)

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy (Pevear and Volokonsky translation)

Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, by George Steiner

The Remains of the Day, by Ishiguro Kazuo

Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer

C’era due volte il barone Lamberto, by Gianni Rodari

The Dark Side of Italy, Tobias Jones

Every Good Endeavor, by Timothy Keller

Most of these I’ve listed because I’ve already started them, but that’s sort of a cop-out explanation since I must have had some reason to start them. So: I’m reading them because I love the Russians, especially as translated by Pevear and Volokonsky; because I want to keep learning Italian or learning about Italy, or because someone in my family is reading them and I want to discuss what we both thought. In the case of the Keller book, I’m thinking about my own future work.

And in the case of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I want to read it because it’s not at all the sort of thing I usually read and maybe it will exorcise a few New York ghosts.  After all, part of the movie was filmed on our old street, with interior shots from the building next door to ours (the one where I think Flannery O’Connor lived).  That likely explains why everything looked so eerily familiar when I watched the trailer.

So, have you read and enjoyed any of the books I’ve listed?  Would you like to join me in reading any of them this year?  What would you put on a book list of your own?