They were the best of books, they were the worst of books . . . welcome to my 2010 reading lowdown:
My Life in France, by Julia Child: As delightfully sassy and delicious as Julie Powell's Julie and Julia is crass and bitter.
Intellectuals, by Paul Johnson: My interest in Johnson was piqued when I found out my father-in-law once ate a potato casserole with him in London. The book in a nutshell: "With the decline of clerical power in the eighteenth century, a new kind of mentor emerged to fill the vacuum and capture the ear of society. The secular intellectual might be the deist, skeptic, or atheist. But he was just as ready as any pontiff or presbyter to tell mankind how to conduct its affairs." How did men like Tolstoy, Marx, Sartre, and others fare? Read and find out.
Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Days, by Donald Miller: Two of Miller's memoirs and both of them entertaining and thought-provoking reads for anyone who struggles with faith. A Million Miles illustrates life as story. How is yours going to read?
Secrets in the Dark, by Frederick Buechner: If you haven't yet discovered Buechner, you are in for a treat. Reading through these sermons I get the eerie feeling Buechner has been eavesdropping in my prayer closet. You'll want to buy, highlight, underline, and keep this one by the side of your bed, right next to your tissues and ChapStick.
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Vherghese: The best novel I read this year. Long, but unputdownable. A beautiful and redemptive story.
Page After Page, by Heather Sellars: A beginner's guide to writing, but one that offers some of the best writing advice I've ever read. She writes about anxiety and self-loathing and handling criticism. She writes about "composting," which is to let things sit and simmer awhile before you write about them. She writes about discipline and complaining and keeping the drama on the page. And she does it all with great dry humor. Lovely.
Out of My Bone, by Joy Davidman: The letters of Davidman, C.S. Lewis' wife. Her feisty writing is captivating and her pluck beyond admirable. A slower read, but rich, especially for anyone struggling with self-pity or addiction to victim status. You won't be the same after reading about how she handled incredibly difficult circumstances.
The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls: Walls' unbelievable memoir is all the things I love in a book: humorous, true, poignant, eye-opening, redemptive. She's a first-class storyteller and I am very sad that the night she came to our town to speak, a tornado scare kept me at home. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go read this book.
These are just some of last year's reads. If you want more, or to hear what's on 2011's reading list, come by my blog and see what's on-and off-my shelf.
I'd love to hear your book recommendations, too.