Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: a year in books

Passionate Nutrition: A Guide to Using Food as Medicine From A Nutritionist Who Healed Herself From the Inside Out
Jennifer Adler, 271 pg.
I admit to an ongoing fascination with nutrition.  This year's offering is more autobiographical than others.  I liked it, though I don't know that I'm completely convinced.

Smoking Poppy
Graham Joyce, 271 pg.
I discovered this author for the first time this year.  His writing is irreverent and unexpected.  This novel of a controlling father who with his evangelical son goes off on an international quest to save his daughter from opium gangsters is a beautiful exploration of fatherhood and parental love.

Doctor Thorne
Anthony Trollope, 319 pg.
Classic series Chronicles of Barsetshire set in a fictional ideal English countryside (later revived in Thirkell's series).  This was my favorite of the ones I read -- hidden identities, snobbish older aunts, true love and virtue rewarded.

Pomfret Towers
Angela Thirkell,  316 pg. 
A very pleasant re-read.  Thirkell's novels in the vein of Jane Austen and continuing the heritage of Trollope are witty and feather-light.  A weekend party complete with matrimonial maneuverings, boorish young men, and lady authors of scandalous books.  Also by Thirkell,  Northbridge Rectory, the English village home front during the first of WWII, a meringue of a book, and Growing Up, as the war drags on, the younger brothers and sisters assume the weight of adult realities but with wit and romance.

Backyard Winter Gardening: Vegetables Fresh and Simple, in Any Climate Without Artificial Heat or Electricity the Way It's Been Done for 2,000 Years
Caleb Warnock, 176 pg.
I don't want to face what this might mean, but I picked this up at the Oregon Master Gardener' mini college this past summer -- I actually skipped one of the classes I'd signed up for and bought this at the bookstore instead.  I don't know why I'd have any need to learn about growing veg in the Rockies.  I don 't want to face what that means.  Author from Heber, Utah, writes about heirloom varieties of winter hardy vegetables.  

Terry Pratchett, 368 pgs.
His books live on.  I listened to this on Overdrive from my local library while reworking a garden.  Its not vintage Discworld, more historical, less verbal pyrotechnics, less jokey, but it was an enjoyable listen.  And the Pratchett version of Dickens' London is like a fugue on Ankh-Morpork.  So while not the best of his books, I enjoyed my time with this.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Anthony Marra, 384 pg.
A book listened to is different from one read, more like dreaming, more woven into the activities done while listening.  An account of war in Chechnya: death, disappearances, attacks against civilians, desperation, prostitution, torture, betrayal.  But a book of such beauty, such undrownable witness to what is worth saving.  A book of such hope and perseverance that it fills me with courage.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Rachel Joyce, 320 pg.
I listened to this book with such a bursting heart of gratitude for the deft storytelling and the believable goodness of Harold Fry.  I laughed.  I cried.  Standing out in my garden with mud on my fingers and these words filling the air along with the scent of thyme and spicy cranesbill.  I don't want to say anything else about this except READ IT.  I want you to experience it all for yourself, coming to it as fresh and open as a book like this deserves.

And then, a glut of biographies about J.R.R. Tolkien.
These are all good and pretty self-explanatory:

Tolkien: A Biography - Michael White.  292 pg.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century - T.A. Shippey. 347 pg.

The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community - Diana Glyer. 293 pg.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Myth, Morality, and Religion - Richard Purtill. 154 pg.

Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship - Colin Duriez. 244 pg.

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams - Phillip Zaleski.  644 pg

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