Books I Read in 2013

  1. Sense and Sensibility, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh GrantAusten, Jane.  Pride and Prejudice.  Shameful.  I started out an English major in college and never read any Jane Austen.  But I got on a kick, watching Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet in Sense and Sensibility, then Anne Hathaway in Becoming Jane.  I thought it was time I went to the source.  And had a marvelous time.  It’s amazing how so much story can be written about so little.
  2. Austen, Jane.  Persuasion.  I was still on my “redeeming my old English major” kick.  I love the contortions these folks put themselves through to be polite and proper.  The torment!  I liked this one almost as much as Pride and Prejudice.
  3. Brach, Tara.  Radical Acceptance—Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha.  Wonderful guide to using meditation and lovingkindness in dealing with our feelings of unworthiness.  I recommend it to anyone struggling with fear, cravings and desire, or depression.  So, basically, everyone.
  4. Forney, Ellen.  Marbles—Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me.  A funny, clever, and true bipolar memoir in graphic novel form.  Very entertaining.
  5. Tana FrenchFrench, Tana.  In the Woods.  A little girl is found murdered in a small Irish town.  The lead detective grew up in that town.  In fact, he and his two best friends went missing in the woods when they were twelve.  Only he was found, with someone else’s blood in his shoes and no memory of anything that happened.  This is a wonderful thriller, as we never know if protagonist Rob Ryan is at all trustworthy as a narrator.
  6. Gabaldon, Diana.  Outlander.  There are so many things wrong with this book, I hardly know where to start.  Inconsistent characters, gratuitous sadism and torture, unbelievable action, disregard of basic human nature, floundering plot, and a heroine with the moral fortitude of a postage stamp.  Mind you, this series (Ugh.  Yes.  This is the first in a series) has an enormous fan following.  I’ve read gushing reviews, seen whole boards devoted to each character on Pinterest, and know my local library can’t keep the books in stock.  I suspect it’s because Gabaldon uses the Hurt/Comfort trope—creating a romantic situation by making one of the couple sick or injured while the other offers aid and nurturing.  But, I can’t abide writers who trot out a trope to make up for bad storytelling.  The only good thing I can say about Outlander is that I got all the way through it.  Score one for the Fried Brain!
  7. Richard Armitage, North and SouthGaskill, Elizabeth.  North and South.  At the time and place this novel was published (1830’s Britain), it was considered radical, controversial and was banned in some parts of England.  At that time, labor unions were in place, but no interaction happened between labor and “the masters.”  By the end of the story, the heroine’s influence opens new lines of communication and respect between these two classes.  I loved the language of the time and the Jane Austin-like twisty relationship between Margaret, who came from the South, and the Northern mill owner, John Thornton.  And I must admit, I came to this book through my love of the movie The Hobbit.  Actor Richard Armitage played both Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit and John Thornton in the BBC production of North & South.  What started out as fan-stalking brought me to this gem of a book.
  8. King, Stephen.  The Wind Through the Keyhole.  A late addition to The Gunslinger series.  And even though I’d throw myself in front of a car for Steve, this one didn’t do much for me.  It’s been years since I read any of the Dark Tower books, so it took a minute to reacquaint myself with the characters.  And just when I felt comfortable with them all again, the book turns out to be a story within a story within a story.  And unfortunately, none of them were very engaging.
  9. Mankell, Henning.  Faceless Killers.  After watching the BBC series Wallander, I had to see what the books had to offer.  Mankell is a Swedish national treasure, his mysteries translated into every known language on the globe, and I can see the appeal.  Wallander is a poor schlub tackling all the normal drudgery of daily life while trying to do his job, which happens to be homicide investigation.  But the detail sometimes gets to be too much, like when Kurt’s on the toilet and notices he needs to change his underwear.  TMI.  Maybe the text looses a little by being translated from the Swedish (there’s a similar stiltedness as with the Stieg Larsson books), but the story held my interest all the way to the end.  That, in itself, labels it a winner.
  10. Siegel, Daniel J.  Mindsight—The New Science of Personal Transformation.  Very interesting presentation of leading-edge neuroscience showing how mindfulness, empathy and personal relationships can heal the brain.  Lots of interesting case studies with therapeutic techniques used.  The way the author wrote like he invented mindfulness made me laugh.  He did find new ways to use it, though.
  11. Morning Glory, Christopher ReeveSpencer, LaVyrle.  Morning Glory.  This is one of my favorite movies in the public library’s DVD section.  It’s a sweet romance, but the best part is Christopher Reeve’s subtle, underplayed performance.  After watching it again this summer, I borrowed the book from my friend to see if the movie missed anything good.  Not really.  The book is still a sweet romance, though.
  12. Stewart, Mary.  A Walk in Wolf Wood.  This is a sweet Young Adult novel by an author I’ve loved since grade school.  Two kids on a picnic see a man weeping and follow him into the forest.  They’re suddenly transported back in time to become embroiled in the man’s sorrow, which includes magic, shape-shifting, villainy, and acts of courage.  A simple, lovely story.
  13. Ueland, Brenda.  If You Want to Write—A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit.  I first read this book decades ago, and the author’s incredible wisdom was lost on me then.  She tells writers and artists to stop trying to sell their work and simply create from their truth and joy.  A how-to guide for the soul, written in 1938.

The Books I Couldn’t Finish

  1. Myss, Caroline.  Archetypes.  I love mythology and the use of archetypal images and have studied archetypes from a spiritual perspective.  I dig Tarot.  I also liked Myss’ books on medical intuition.  So, I looked forward to her look at “new” archetypes in the modern world.    What a disappointment!  The book is mostly a self-help guide with little depth and less research.  Don’t waste your time.
  2. Austen, Jane.  Mansfield Park.  Okay, maybe I ODed on Austen.  This was my third book in a row.  But I just got tired of everyone treating the heroine, Fanny, like a piece of crap.   Good God, the girl is brow-beaten at every turn.  And, like the proper English maiden of the time, she takes it—even thinks she deserves it because she is “low-born.”  Pffttt.  Maybe after a break reading other stuff, I can come back to appreciate this one better.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stevebetz
    Dec 30, 2013 @ 11:55:22

    I really liked “Into The Woods” in that it kept me off-balance for most of the story. I’ve enjoyed her follow-on novels as well.

    I enjoyed “Wind Through The Keyhole” but I imagine it was because I got the audiobook, which was read by King himself. That made it seem like we were hanging out in the car together and he was telling me a story (within a story).


  2. Littlesundog
    Dec 30, 2013 @ 21:45:59

    I struggled through “Archetypes too”. I kept thinking it would appeal at some point but it did not. I’m going to see if I can find, “Morning Glory”. FD and I are both Christopher Reeves fans. One of our favorite movies is “Somewhere In Time”.


  3. Michelle at The Green Study
    Jan 01, 2014 @ 10:20:52

    I read the Tara Brach and Brian Siegel books. I got fried on the “self-actualization” genre and quickly retreated into some old favorites: Vonnegut and Flannery O’Connor. I can be a little dark in my reading tastes.


  4. TamrahJo
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 09:09:29

    Have to agree with your take on Outlander – although I’m always intrigued by tales set to the tune of time travel – I, too, couldn’t understand it’s wide appeal and popularity – –


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