Wednesday, January 10, 2007

1999 - Best Books of the Year

How Good Do We Have to Be?: A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness, Harold S. Kushner
A Rabbinic meditation on the story of the Garden of Eden. Do we have to be perfect to be lovable? 181 pages.

the beginning of spring, Penelope Fitzgerald
Mysterious, romantic tale of an English family in Russia at the turn of the century. Writing of extreme lucidity and grace, remarkable characterization and beautifully plotted. One of the best books of the decade. 187 pages.

the gate of angels, Penelope Fitzgerald
The other best book of the decade. Beautiful, beautiful book. Limpid, lucid prose. Singingly true movements of personality and plot. As true as any old folk tale, or life itself, uniquely satisfying even in the midst of mysterious inconclusiveness. Set in 1920’s Oxford. After several re-readings and reading every other book I can find by her, this is the one I return to. I love this book. 167 pages.

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, Karen Cushman
The YA story of a teenage girl who reluctantly moves out west with her widowed mother and brother and sisters. Writing has wit and conflicts and resolutions believable. Also Catherine Called Birdy by this author, about a smart stubborn girl in the Middle Ages. 195 pages.

The Towers of Trebizond, Rose Macaulay
A novel of religious belief and doubt, yearning for divine love, reluctant to give up human love to gain it. Humorous, poetic and sad. Beautiful writing. 277 pages.

Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, Steve Solomon
A finely detailed, no-nonsense how-to gardening book with a refreshingly frank world-view of responsibility, stewardship and hope. Now if I could just do it. 356 pages.

L.D.S. Hymnbook.
I wish I had learned more of the words earlier in my life. What a treasure trove of encouragement and insight.

Doom’s Day, Connie Willis
Novel. A history student at the Oxford of the future travels back into the 1300’s, ends up in the midst of the Black Plague by fate or misfortune. Meanwhile her home-time is plunged into a flu epidemic. Brought to my realization the horror of the plague. Good, thought-provoking science fiction. 456 pages.

Four-Season Harvest, Eliot Coleman
Another helpful gardening book full of ways to harvest fresh, organic foods all year around and how to adjust your diet to take into consideration the natural rhythms of the year. Someday I’ll live this way. 234 pages.

When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair: 50 Ways to Feel Thin, Gorgeous, and Happy (When you Feel Anything But), Geneen Roth
Is there a way to handle the food-thing without self-punishment? Roth thinks so. Other books by same author: Feeding the Hungry Heart and Appetites. 223 pages.

East Anglia: Essex, Suffolk & Norfolk, Peter Sager, translated from the German by David Henry Wilson
A Pallas guidebook. Truly remarkable. “Thorough and thoroughly readable” says a quote from the back cover. I have been haunting the bookstores to try to find news of his forthcoming book on Cambridgeshire ever since. A living history. 580 pages.

A Discovery of Strangers, Rudy Wiebe
Novel based on true events. Small group of British officers and Canadian voyageurs searching for the Polar Sea survive the winter only with the help of a band of Yellowknife people, including a young woman the officers name Greenstockings. A meditation on desire, jealousy, violence and survival. Poetically, powerfully written. 336 pages.

Swamp Angel, Ethel Wilson
A woman leaves a demoralizing 2nd marriage in Vancouver to cook in a fishing lodge in the interior of British Columbia. The decorum and decency of this book captured for me much of what I loved about Victoria, B.C. 224 pages.

A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry, ed. Czeslaw Milosz
A collection of poems with a mystic sensibility. 320 pages.

Poet’s Choice: Poems for Everyday Life, ed. Robert Hass
Of course. 210 pages.

Forest Gardening: Cultivating an Edible Landscape, Robert Hart
An English classic of backyard permaculture and agroforesty. I like the character that comes through his writing and find his ideas appealing. 256 pages.

The Ends of the Earth : From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran to Cambodia, a Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy, Robert Kaplan
Gritty travel-writing with an environmental focus. Mostly sad and frightening but then there is the story of Kerala, India—from which hope shines even long after reading the book. 476 pages.

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