Thursday, January 11, 2007

2000 - Best Books of the Year

The Poetics of Space: the classic look at how we experience intimate places, Gaston Bachelard, translated from the French by Maria Jolas
As evocative as Le Grand Meaulnes (a beautiful French novel by Alain Fourier) but more cerebral. A book of philosophy about what makes a home, it sets the mind dreaming. 241 pages.

Water: A Natural History, Alice Outwater
How water and our views and use of it have shaped America. 212 pages.

Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, William Bryant Logan
A collection of meditative, rhapsodic essays about . . . dirt. Better than you would ever imagine. 202 pages.

Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, Michael Pollan
Meditation, gardening autobiography, social history and, in the end, a call to accept the responsibility of active stewardship over our piece of earth. 258 pages.

Gardening and Beyond, Florence Bellis
An old hippy, raising primroses on the Oregon Coast, writes about “soil families,” gives gardening advice, & recounts the history of horticulture. A delight. 178 pages.

Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl, translated from the German by Ilse Lasch
Reread during pregnancy for courage to bring another soul into this world. Frankl’s strength survives his experience in the Nazi concentration camps. 196 pages.

The Rings of Saturn, W.B. Sebald, translated from the German by Michael Hulse
Dreamy, strange and haunting. A German who has moved to England takes a walking tour of East Anglia. If only I could write so well. 296 pages.

Designing with Plants, Piet Oudolf with Noel Kingsbury
A Dutch plantsman writes about the grasses and meadow flowers that make up his garden. Mystical, almost melancholy garden pictures, but also dramatic and deeply comforting. His ideas of gardening remind me of the ideas in Christopher Alexander’s Timeless Way of Building. 160 pages.

The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingslover
Her best book yet. A family of Baptist missionaries goes to Africa—their dissolution in the face of a reality they could not have imagined. 546 pages.

Wild Life, Mollie Gloss
Her best book yet. Set on the Washington side of the Columbia River. A frontier woman-writer raising four boys alone, the search for a lost girl, and a discovery (or is it a hallucination?). 255 pages.

The Spellcoats, Diana Wynne Jones
Best book in the Dalemark Quartet. Quasi-historically based fantasy for young adults. 249 pages.

This Same Sky: a collection of Poems from around the World, ed. Naomi Shihab Nye
Real poetry collected for children. 212 pages.

Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, Lisa Delpit
Anglo-American education system, African-American students. Insightful and intelligently written. 206 pages.

The War Against Parents: What We Can Do for America’s Beleaguered Moms and Dads, Cornel West and Sylvia Ann Hewlett
Thought-provoking call to arms for a new Parents’ Bill of Rights—why it’s harder to raise a family today than in the 1950’s. Insightfully marks out the problems in business, government and culture, but I can’t always agree with solutions. 302 pages.

Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?, Jean Fritz
Children’s book. Nicely-detailed, breezy recounting of the making of America. Fritz has written several of these short chapter-books making American history enjoyably accessible for school-aged children. My girls love all her books that they have read and I love them, too. Nothing is made up in these historical sketches. Fritz knows enough history to make history interesting. 47 pages.

The Art of the Impossible: Politics as Morality in Practice, Vaclav Havel, translated from the Czech by Paul Wilson
A playwright and dissident who spent 4½ years as a political prisoner, later president of Czechoslovakia and then of the Czech Republic. I think he is a good man. I am certain he is an intelligent one. 273 pages.

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