A Year in Books

I graduated from college a little over a year ago. Since then, I’ve been reading at a turtle’s pace… While the going is slow, the books are fabulous and I’ve decided to share my reading log. This is not an attempt at a collection of book reviews. Instead, I’m sharing some stories and quotes from my reading journey.

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
“Perhaps if I make myself write I shall find out what is wrong with me.”
This book is the reason I didn’t wake up in time for the Easter sunrise service last spring. After a late night baking excursion on Holy Saturday, I curled up on the couch to read a chapter—just one. At the end of the chapter, I was feeling concerned about the choices Dodie’s characters were making. With half the novel left, I figured they still had time to turn things around, so I kept going till 2am. To my deep disappointment, they never did.

Symphony for the City of the Dead, M.T. Anderson
“Gradually, like the emigration of an insidious, phantom population, Leningrad belonged more to the dead than to the living. The dead watched over streets and sat in snow-swamped buses. Whole apartment buildings were tenanted by them, where in broken rooms, dead families sat waiting at tables. Their dominion spread room by room, like lights going out in evening.”
This book is a heartbreaking account of soviet Russia, following the life of composer Dimitri Shostakovich—read at Kate’s recommendation.

I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai
After reading this book, my heart went out to all my refugee friends. Malala describes what it’s like to live in a war zone and what it’s like to stand up to the Taliban. Her story is inspiring! I highly recommend both the book and the documentary.

This Heavy Silence, Nicole Mazzarella
Professor Mazzarella taught all of my writing classes during my last semester at school. I loved her as a professor, so I decided to try her novel. It’s a powerful character study exploring the weight of bitterness.

Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
“A heart’s a heavy burden.”
My friends Jennie and Ryan introduced me to Miyazaki’s fabulous anime adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle. I adore the film, so I picked up the book at the library. While I enjoyed it, I still like the film best.

Scary Close, Donald Miller
“I don’t know if there’s a healthier way for two people to stay in love than to stop using each other to resolve their unfulfilled longings and, instead, start holding each other closely as they experience them.”

The Blood of the Lamb, Peter DeVries
When Dr. Lundin passed away suddenly in 2015, his students were invited to visit his office and collect his books. I was hoping for a copy of Dostoyevski’s Brothers K, but I couldn’t find one. Instead, I walked away with half a dozen other treasures—his name inscribed in pencil on each opening page. This was one of them. 

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”
This book broke my heart. I picked it up at the library on a Saturday afternoon and finished it that same day at midnight. Hosseini’s characters are frighteningly real.

Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
South Africa first peaked my interest during my freshman year at college when I read Antjie Krog’s Country of My Skull. Later, I was pulled in again by Cry, the Beloved Country. This fall, my roommate loaned me Trevor’s autobiography—a fascinating account of his experience growing up as an illegal bi-racial child during apartheid.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salmon Rushdie
“To give a thing a name, a label, a handle; to rescue it from anonymity, to pluck it out of the Place of Namelessness, in short to identify it—well, that’s a way of bringing the said thing into being.”
If I were a morning person, I would have read this book in an 8am fantasy class with Dr. Beitler. But I am not a morning person and—to my lasting regret—I didn’t take the class. My friend Kate did take the class and she referred me to this book. Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a story about stories—it’s delightfully meta!

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
“Love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion.”
This book was just as real and devastating as The Kite Runner.

Strong Poison, Dorothy Sayers
“My idea is that Miss Vane didn’t do it,” said Wimsey. “I dare say that’s an idea which has already occurred to you, but with the weight of my great mind behind it, no doubt it strikes the imagination more forcibly.”
This one was a re-read after discovering Hoopla—an app that connects to my local library so I can checkout books and audiobooks on my phone. 

Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
“Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.” 

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
“It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world’s greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.”
I picked this one up at the church library on a whim. It’s exquisitely written—reflective like Marilynne Robinson—but, fair warning, it took a sudden and unexpected sexual turn towards the end.

The Art of the Con, Anthony M. Amore
This is a product of my recent obsession with Neal Caffrey.

So there you have it—a complete list of the books I’ve read since graduating…

Image Credit: Pascal Campion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s