Tuesday, December 31, 2013


One of the best parts about vacation is the ample time we all get to read, and I'm grateful that we can all curl up with a book. The only problem is that we don't have enough furry, purry kitties to join us in turning the pages. We're down to one old bookish cat. She usually keeps Max company, but I'm grateful for any time she graces me with her presence.

Here is just a sampling of some of the books I've enjoyed reading recently. You'll notice that all of them are for adults and a goodly half are nonfiction, but fear not, I've not gone to the other side. There's been plenty of kidlit fare on my menu, from your recommendations. Books by Sharon Creech, Kate diCamillo, Richard Peck and many others.

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson. There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel’s, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus. I left one back there myself, back in Possett. I kicked it under the kudzu and left it to the roaches. This is a family crime drama and I enjoyed how skillfully Jackson wove present and past, Southern and Northern sensibilities, the teenage viewpoint with the adult. I picked up a couple of her other books, but they didn't draw me in as much as Gods did, though A Grown Up Kind of Pretty was another that pulled me in. Usually, I'm very good at figuring out what happens, but in both these books, I didn't see the end coming until it was revealed. What a pleasure that is!  

Her stories reminded me a little bit of Flannery O'Connor, and I had to go re-read my collection of stories, and always I see how well she captures the (fallen) human condition. She says of her stories: All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal. A couple of years ago I'd read her letters, and I was glad to find her Spiritual Writings, a collection of essays, letters, and stories. But I think I should like to have my own copy along with Mystery and Manners. I love her sharp wit and humor. Consider this quote: Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I'm always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it's very shocking to the system. It is a darn good thing my birthday is coming up :)

Six years ago and an abundance of kitties!
A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean. In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. This book made me remember the times I went fishing in Eastern WA and Northern ID with my former undergraduate advisor and his graduate student, the quiet time spent outdoors. Maclean writes so vividly, I can picture everything, and remember how much I love Montana. We watched the movie and it was superb. This book also reminded me that sometimes, no matter your efforts, you cannot save the people you love.

The Odd Thomas books by Dean Koontz and his latest, Innocence. He is another gifted storyteller. Despite the extensive narration, I was still pulled in by his characters and surprised by the plot twists I didn't see coming.

Martyrs of the English Reformation by Malcolm Brennan. Using primary sources, this book gives a clear picture of what it means to live and die for your faith. I can only hope and pray that this kind of persecution will not occur in the US. It already does in other parts of the world.

The visions of St. Catherine Emmerich. I am blown away by the details. Now, when I read the Gospels, I have even more vivid images in my mind. I realize how much description I've cut from my book because it slows down the pace, but perhaps I am wrong. I hope my beta readers will flag me where more is needed.

Six years ago, and I still miss my lovey kitty
Finding the Heart of Nonfiction by Georgia Heard. I am always trying to improve the craft and as a nonfiction writer, loved this book, both for my own writing and teaching.

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass taught me so many techniques to ramp up my fiction, I've been re-reading his Writing 21st Century Fiction as I prepare for a final run-through of my historical in the New Year.

Advice for Successful Families by Fr. Alain Delagneau has been hugely instructive and inspirational in raising a traditional Catholic family. It is clearly and concisely written, a must for marriage and family preparation.

Happy New Year, my friends. May you be blessed with good health, good fortune and good books. Do share the books you've loved, so that I can put them on my reading list.


Faith E. Hough said...

Hooray for books to add to my to-read list! I rarely delve into adult fiction without a recommendation from someone I trust, and you certainly qualify. :) My reading has actually slowed the past few weeks, but I'm eager to jump back in once the new year starts.

Gary Ludlam said...

I am a huge fan of Koontz and the Odd Thomas books. Just read the most recent. Last one comes out in 2014! I love all the allusions, subtle and not so subtle, to Catholicism.

Mirka Breen said...

How cozy you look with the cats.

"I didn't see the end coming until it was revealed."

Now that is intriguing. I find even the best written kid-lit almost always suffers from the predictable ending, possibly because the expectation that everything must be all right at the end. I'm also intrigued by the notion of capturing *both* adult and teen sensibility in one book. In this case, The Gods in Alabama.

A River Runs Through It is one I love, too.

Vijaya said...

Faith, I am also very picky with adult books, and most of the fare is NF, but it is always such a treasure to find good adult fiction.

Gary, I only discovered Koontz a couple of years ago, so he's another gem. I also enjoy the Catholic references.

Mirka, perhaps I watch too many movies or read too many books, but I end up guessing plot twists and turns. I think you'll like Gods. Did River make you yearn to go fly fishing?

Marcia said...

What cozy pictures, especially the one of you. I agree that good adult fiction is hard to find and such a gift when you do.

Bish Denham said...

Cat on the lap... always a nice addition while reading. :)