Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Stack of Books

     After a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago this summer, my daughter and I ate lunch at a nearby Belgian café. We sat at our small, marble-topped bistro table in the front window of the café eating tartines and watching the passersby. When my daughter got up to look in the bakery case for something to sweeten her tea, I found myself looking at the young man seated alone at the table across from me. He was reading a book with an interesting title and cover art. People who read books in public are magnetic to me. When he looked up, he caught me watching him and smiled. It was the kind of smile that made me feel free to ask him what he was reading. He was happy to show me his book so I asked him if it was good.

     “It’s beautiful,” he said. The look on his face and the sound in his voice confirmed it. We chatted about the author for a couple of minutes before I returned to my tea.

     Later that summer my daughter and I were sitting in the car engrossed in our Flavia de Luce mystery novels while my husband ran in to the grocers to buy orange juice. It was a warm afternoon with the windows rolled down. A man in a truck parked next to us. “What are you reading?” he asked through the open windows as he stepped out of his truck. He had just finished reading Harper Lee’s recently published sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird and we spent a moment discussing it.

     I revel in the situations where complete strangers find an instant affinity through books. I have read many books I might never have found but for the recommendation of others.

     Last January, I took up the challenge from my bookstore to read 30 books this year. I have never counted the books I read so I didn’t know if it would be a stretch for me. As it turns out, 25 or 30 books a year is a comfortable fit. The real challenge for me came in reading more contemporary, non-fiction and mystery novels than I usually do. Perhaps those of you who also love to read might enjoy a glance at my list:

Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (again)
Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle
The Famished Land; A Novel of the Irish Potato Famine by Elizabeth Byrd
Tales from a Troubled Land by Alan Paton
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making       of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (again)
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
A Good Year by Peter Mayle
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley
Lords and Ladies by Terry Prachett
A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
London by Edward Rutherford
Snobs by Julian Fellowes
Sleeping Coconuts by John and Bonnie Nystrom
The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad
The Color of Magic by Terry Prachet
I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
A Pebble in My Shoe by Katherine Hoeger Flotz
French Lessons by Peter Mayle
Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (again and again)

     Of the first-time books I read this year, I enjoyed these two the most:

Wolf Hall

Going Postal

     What was your favorite read in 2015?


  1. So much to read...so little time! and with this my reading list grows. Thank-you.
    Don't you love that we who love to read and write are NEVER, ever bored?!

    1. Except for those pages in War and Peace I had to skim because my eyes were beginning to droop. What, besides poetry, do you love to read Janet?

  2. LOVED Wolf Hall! Bought it the day it came out. Probably the only book I read that year. Hilary is a fabulous writer...and I loved seeing her write from a man's point of view!

    1. Fabulous and funny too; I love books that make me chuckle as much as the ones that make me ache with their poignancy.

  3. I must get the two Mayle books, haven't read him in years.

    I have to admit that as far as pure enjoyment I loved Jan Karon's latest, but the book that surprised me the most was David McCullough's 1776, so much that I never knew about the people involved and especially the British officers.

    1. Well, that's two more to add to the stack for 2016. Thank you for the recommendations.