2015 reading list

I don’t know that it was a goal or just that my daughter grew a little older and a bit more independent, but 2015 marked the first time in a long time that I rededicated myself to reading books.

I love a good novel, but I also have found myself wanting to gain knowledge and delving into the biographical side of reading of late, so the following list reflects that a bit.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share the 25 books I read this year, including my favorite five.

Top 5 in no particular order

Glittering Images – Susan Howatch

This book really spoke to me and in the process was a fun, quick read. The main character is a professor at a Church of England school in the early 20th century. He gets caught up in some espionage involving a love triangle involving a Bishop, his wife and a caretaker, eventually solving not only that mystery, but also the mystery of his own life. The book uses a psychologist in the form of a monk to help the main character – Dr. Charles Ashworth – and the reader take some time of introspection into how they present themselves to the world.

This is the first of a six-part series, so I have a ways to go yet.

Here is a passage I liked:

“I couldn’t cope with my marriage,” I said. “I couldn’t cope with my family, I couldn’t cope with myself. Of course I shied away from coping with anyone else, especially a child who would be dependent on me. But now I can cope, Father. It won’t be easy. It’ll often be very hard, but the truth is I don’t feel unfit and unworthy here. I believe that this is the family life God has called me to undertake – perhaps to prepare me for a call to serve Him in some other field – and that through this great ordeal He’s made me fit and worthy for this very special purpose.”

Dr. Charles Ashworth talking to Father Darrow about his desire to get remarried and have children.

Glittering Images – Susan Howatch, Page 423

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt – Edmund Morris

The only Roosevelt I remember learning about in school was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and while he certainly had a major impact on history his older cousin lived the more interesting life.

This book won the Pulitzer Prize and it is worth a read. It rolls along like a novel, which if you know anything about Teddy’s life you know he lived a life straight out of the story books. An unbelievable man.

Here is one of the passages I underlined that I liked:

“Here we have a group of beings who are not able to protect themselves; who are groping toward civilization out of the darkness of heredity and ingrained barbarism, and to whom, theoretically, we are supposed to be holding out a helping hand. They are utterly unable to protect themselves. They are credulous and easily duped by a bad agent, and they are susceptible of remarkable improvement when the agent is a good man, thoroughly efficient and thoroughly practical. To the Indians the workings of the spoils system at the agencies is a curse and an outrage … it must mean that the painful road leading upward from savagery is rendered infinitely more difficult and infinitely more stony for the poor feet trying to tread it.”

Theodore Roosevelt after witnessing Republican Party leaders demand payments from Indian Reservation workers to keep their jobs, virtual blackmail by other government employees.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt – Page 466-467.

Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson

This was a powerful book to read in 2015. With all the talk of refugees in our world and whether we should let them onto our shores, reading about our horrific treatment of the Japanese-Americans during World War II reminded me that we have a lot to make up for as Americans. And one way we can continue to do that is to continue to be a welcoming land that opens its arms to people of all races and integrates them to create a better world.

Even beyond that, this book is a fantastic read. If you love a good murder mystery, and you love the Northwest, this will be a tremendous page turner. I promise. It made me want to move to Orcas Island and open up a strawberry farm, but I digress. Anyway, the tale follows a white male who’s first girlfriend is Japanese. Her husband – also Japanese – eventually is accused of murder and lots of old racial tension returns to the island, before coming to a thrilling finish.

Here is a passage I really liked:

“Tell you what to do?” his mother said. “I can’t tell you what to do, Ishmael. I’ve tried to understand what it’s been like for you – having gone to war, having lost your arm, not having married or had children. I’ve tried to make sense of it all, believe me, I have – how it must feel to be you. But I just confess that, no matter how I try, I can’t really understand you. There are other boys, after all, who went to war and came back home and pushed on with their lives. They found girls and married and had children and raised families despite whatever was behind them. But you – you went numb, Ishmael. And you’ve stayed numb all these years. And I haven’t known what to do or say about it or how I might help you in some way. …”

Mrs. Chambers talking to her son Ishmael

Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson, Page 347

Dance with a Poor Man’s Daughter – Pamela Jooste

A powerful novel about South Africa when apartheid is first taking root. The story follows Lily, who is raised by an aunt and her grandmother after her mother skips town when she is very young. When the government starts to kick the natives out of their houses and force them to move to reservations, Lily’s mother returns home to try to fight back against the government.

I dream of visiting Africa one day, but for now I will content myself with just reading books about it.

A passage I underlined that I liked:

There have been times lately when I think life is a bit like The Whip. You pay twenty cents so you can go round and round at the speed of light and feel the lights flashing in your head and hear the music playing and the people shouting after you while you fly around but after a while it makes you feel a bit sick and you want to get off but the lights are still flashing and the music is still playing and there’s no one to tell you feel sick and have had enough and you have to stay on until the end of the ride because that is what you paid for.

11-year-old Lily talking about life.

Dance with a Poor Man’s Daughter – Pages 294-295

The Song of the Lark – Willa Cather

One thing I love about Cather is her strong female lead characters. While the other two books of hers that I’ve read – O Pioneers! and My Antonia – are about women who grow up and live on farms in the Midwest, Song of the Lark follows Thea Kronberg as she goes from rural Colorado to Paris and New York. Kronberg eventually becomes one of the world’s most renowned opera singers, and Cather explores Kronberg’s artistic life, how she realized it, advanced it and eventually grew into it.

It’s a very inspiring book, and fascinating considering it was written in 1915.

Here is one of the passages I enjoyed most, granted not a quote from the main character:

“When you sit in the sun and let your heels hang out of a doorway that drops a thousand feet, ideas come to you. You begin to feel what the human race has been up against from the beginning. There’s something mighty elevating about those old habitations. You feel like it’s up to you to do your best, on account of those fellows having it so hard. You feel like you owed them something.”

Ray Kennedy talking about the Native American cliff dwellers.

The Song of the Lark – Willa Cather, Page 77-78

And the rest

A Long Way Down – Nick Hornby

A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir – Donald Worster

As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

Brooklyn – Colm Toibin

Cannery Row – John Steinbeck

Chronicle of a Death Foretold – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl

Mrs. Mike – Benedict and Nancy Freedman

O Pioneers! – Willa Cather

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

Reservation Blues – Sherman Alexie

Rose – Martin Cruz Smith

The BFG – Roald Dahl

The Golden Mean – Annabel Lyon

The Pearl – John Steinbeck

The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

The Sweet Girl – Annabel Lyon

The Winter of our Discontent – John Steinbeck

Tortilla Flat – John Steinbeck

War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells

– Craig Craker

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