My August Bookshelf is made up of my favorite books I read in the hospital last summer. This is dramatic, but the sensory pleasure of reading is one of my best things in life; granted, I have a very good sensory memory. With almost every memorable book I can remember where I was when reading, what kind of chair I was sitting in, if I was drinking something, the company, the light, my mood. So these books have especially emotional memories. I was a bit of a mess a good chunk of the summer! And frankly, I am just relieved that I don't have to read on a bed with a plastic-covered mattress. Anything is better than that. Brings back summer camp memories combined with what I imagine prison to be like. With every move, crinkle, crinkle, crinkle.
February | Lisa Moore | Beautiful, haunting novel of a woman who loses her husband in a shipwreck off the coast of Newfoundland. Short-listed for Booker Prize last year. Truthfully, I spent a lot of time contemplating the back of this woman's neck on the cover picture – I think I am supposed to find the back of her neck attractive but something is a little off. Is it her hair?
One Day | David Nicholls | I loved this. Perfect summer book. Smart, romantic, took me away. Coming soon as a movie!
Freedom | Jonathan Franzen | The last book I read before I had Jane. Big, messy American family story. The characters might as well be your neighbors. Read it. It will make you feel uncomfortable.
The Imperfectionists | Tom Rachman | Read this in a day. An American newspaper in Rome is on its last legs. Each chapter is narrated by a different character.
Paris to the Moon | Adam Gopnik | Essays from Gopnik's years as a family man living in Paris while working for The New Yorker. Pleasurable.
Zeitoun | Dave Eggers | If you haven't read this, seriously consider getting it from the library or even buying it. One man in the middle of Hurricane Katrina exposes deeply corrupt post-9/11 prejudices and politics. A fictional narrative, but a true story, told with simplicity and great power.
Dakota | Kathleen Norris | One of my touchstone spiritual writers. Words of deep comfort and wisdom. And I would add to this quote "hospital life": The deprivations of Plains life and monastic life tend to turn small gifts into treasures, and gratitude is one of the first flowers to spring forth when is rewarded and the desert blooms.
Carried Away: Stories | Alice Munro | And with this book, I finished the great "Read Alice Munro Project of 2010."
The Cookbook Collector | Allegra Goodman | Missy let me borrow her copy and then I had to buy my own because I loved this book so much. Loosely based on Sense & Sensibility, this novel follows two sisters in the Bay Area during 1990s techie boom. Lovely. Rare books are involved.
Lonesome Dove | Larry McMurtry | Molly let me borrow her copy as Telfer didn't want to send me my huge hardcover copy that weighs like eight pounds. And I don't think he could find it among the boxes. THE MOST PERFECT BOOK TO READ IN THE HOSPITAL. Seriously. It's huge and suddenly you realize "I am reading an 800-page book about cowboys and I actually CARE."
As for my 52 in 52, I am a little behind. Suddenly, all of this feels like homework which is a swift path to major procrastination. Except this doesn't MATTER. What am I going to do? Give myself an Incomplete? These are going to be short.
Week 26/52: Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea. Totally not my thing. A group of Mexican girls take a road trip to the US to find one girl's father and to bring back a few good men to their man-less village. I just don't respond to this type of writing – a jokey, satire-heavy type of narrative style. A Powell's Indiespensable selection.
Week 27/52: Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race & Inheritance by Barack Obama. A little too long but thoughtful and moving. And I must say: I enjoy having a President that is capable of deep reflection.
Week 28/52: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Also not my thing. A lot of the reviews liken the language to the rhythm of jazz. The story is fine, evocative of a certain time and place, but the language is not for me.
Week 29/52: The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. Also evocative of a certain time and place, 1980s India moving towards an independent Nepal. A young Indian girl and her Nepalese tutor fall into romance with unfortunate consequences. Thought-provoking.
Week 30/52: The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright. Wonderful children's book. The Melendy Children & their ISAAC (Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club).
Still reading Week 31 & 32!
Week 33/52: The Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett. Slim & lovely collection of loosely related happenings on the coast of Maine.