Halfway through 2016, I've read as many books as I read all last year. I've had plenty I wanted to escape from, and I ended my last Reading Update post with my plans to reread Pride and Prejudice, that ultimate escapist novel, both for its predictability and for the reassuring way it all works out in the end. I did read it, but first I made a rather more counterintuitive choice.
Book #56 of the year was The Passage, by Justin Cronin. Yep, it's post-apocalyptic. Yep, there are vampires (the condition is caused by a virus). Yep, I found it oddly mesmerizing.
Book #57 was Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. See above. All I hoped for, and more.
Book #58 was The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. This book is just plain wonderful. Bailey develops a mysterious and debilitating illness, and a friend gives her a plant, in which there's a snail. In the newly small world of her sickroom, Bailey focuses her attention on the snail, observing it closely and finding it a miracle.
Book #59 was Survival Lessons, by Alice Hoffman. This is what Hoffman learned from crises she faced in her life, particularly her breast cancer. It's inspiring, and full of ways you can choose to deal with what happens to you, rather than just folding under it.
Book #60 was Every Bitter Thing is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things, by Sara Hagerty. This is Hagerty's memoir of marriage, infertility, adoption, and other bitter things that turn sweet when she allows them to bring her closer to God.
Book #61 was Donald Miller's Searching for God Knows What. Miller's territory is a lot of what we've been talking about at my church - that God deals with us through our stories, not through bullet points of systematic theology. Miller really is a good writer, even though sometimes he gets on my nerves.
Book #62 was The Blue, by Lucy Clarke. I really enjoyed this book about sailing and murder.
Book #63 was a gift from my daughter, who knew I'd enjoyed all the other Lauren Winner books I'd read. This one was Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, Winner's memoir about the time after her divorce when God felt very far away. My daughter says this is Winner's best book so far. I prefer Wearing God, but I liked this one, too.
Book #64 was The Space Between Us, by Thrity Umrigar. This is a novel about a maid and her employer, both struggling with Dickensian life challenges in modern Bombay.
Book #65 was also about dreadful struggle, responded to poetically and bravely: in When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi, a doctor describes his own battle with, and death from, cancer.
Book #66 was Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life, by Gretchen Rubin. In this sequel to The Happiness Project, Rubin tries more ideas to boost happiness.
Book #67 was The Twelve, by Justin Cronin, the sequel to book #56. The third one is coming out any day. I'm not sure why I'm enjoying this series quite as much as I am.
Book #68 was The Last Boy and Girl in the World, by Siobhan Vivian, a YA title about friendship, loss, and a town being gradually destroyed by flooding.
Book #69 was Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery Book, by Louise Penny. This is the first Inspector Gamache book, and it looks as though I've found a new murder mystery series to add to the ones I already enjoy by P.D. James and Elizabeth George.
Book #70 was Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver, another YA title. We know from the first line of the book that Samantha dies, but she is given the opportunity to see the effects her choices have on others as she relives her last day again and again. Will she eventually get it right?
Book #71 was Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, by Jon Krakauer. I read a novel with my seventh graders this year about climbing Everest, and supplemented it with this real-life story. Warning: this is so vivid that you won't be able to breathe while reading it.
Book #72 was Thirteen Moons, by Charles Frazier. This is a historical novel about the removal of Native Americans to reservations in the west in the time immediately before and after the Civil War. It's about identity and loss. Lately everything I read seems to be about loss, one way or another. This is a brilliant book, just as good as his first book, Cold Mountain, which I read back in 2009 and reviewed in this post. The protagonist, Will Cooper, is a true American original, abandoned by his blood family and finding family wherever he can. He is self-taught, captivated by a woman who keeps disappearing, and larger than life. His story is unforgettable.
Book #73 was Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe, by Doreen Baingana. I thought until almost the end that I hadn't finished this book before, but I read it back in 2011.
Book #74 was The Passion of Artemisia, by Susan Vreeland, a historical novel about Artemisia Gentileschi, a Renaissance painter trying to survive as a woman in a world dominated by men. I loved reading about her friendship with Galileo.
Book #75 was another Gretchen Rubin book, her study of habits, Better than Before. I enjoy Rubin's voice (I also listen to her podcast, and she writes just the way she talks), and I found this book useful and interesting, just like her others.
I just started my summer vacation, and I have some epic reading plans for the season, so stay tuned!
This post is linked to the June 4th Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon.
2 hours ago