Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Friday, February 19, 2021
Saturday, December 19, 2020
The Ultimate Best Books of 2020 List from Literary Hub - An amazing list sourcing 41 lists to present the most frequently found titles. (The book that landed on the most lists was The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.)
NPR's Book Concierge - A great place to browse, with categories such as Staff Picks, Book Club Ideas, books For History Lovers, etc.
Goodreads Staffers Share Their Top Three Books of the Year - This list includes 2020 titles as well as older ones.
Library Journal: Worst Year, Best Books 2020 - 144 titles across 15 categories such as Literary Fiction, Biography and Memoir, Graphic Novels, etc.
The Amazon's Editor's Best Books of the Year - Including customer favorites as well as staff picks.
This year I do not feel motivated or qualified to make a list. Usually I analyze my Goodreads list and pick the 5 star reads to write about. But during this pandemic year, I scrounged around my house for books to read during the time the public libraries were closed. Then a childhood friend who now lives in Los Angeles started sending me boxes of books which I then passed along to other friends. All well and good, plus eventually when the libraries reopened, I could reserve books again. But I fell out of the habit of writing reviews here or on Goodreads. Maybe that habit will return, I don't know. I will say that my all-time favorite book of the year was 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand. It was one that everyone I knew who read it wanted to talk about! Here are the only books I blogged about here this year Hidden Valley Road:Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker, This is Happiness by Niall Williams, and In the Distance by Hernan Diaz.
I also noticed my attention span for books was not quite as strong as usual. And I started streaming various series from around the world. I got hooked on Heartland (Canada) and Offspring (Australia), both very long running series. I was also making art and sewing. And there were some months at the beginning of the year that our family was busy helping my husband retire and move out of his large wood shop. Somehow we managed to sell his table saw and other large tools, so that was a big success. He is happily ensconced in his man cave now called the Hideout located in a wing of our rebuilt garage.
And so ends a most trying year. 2021 has got to be better! I count our blessings that no one in our families contracted the virus, and that my brother came through heart surgery AOK. I am grateful for the blessings that my secure retirement from Harris County Public Library brings me. All over the world, so many people are suffering and there are many repercussions yet to come. Hopefully there will also be improvements in disease prevention, the environment and world unity. May it be so.
Monday, November 2, 2020
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Saturday, August 22, 2020
Monday, June 29, 2020
This Is Happiness (Bloomsbury, 2019) by Niall Williams seems to capture the very love of storytelling the Irish carry in their souls. For some readers, it may be on the slow side, but I sunk right into it.
The novel takes place in the remote Irish town of Faha which is not yet electrified though the twentieth century is several decades old. A man named Christy comes to town to get the electrification process started. Later, we learn he has another reason for being there. In any case, he boards with an old couple whose seventeen year-old grandson, Noe, is also visiting for a spell. Noe has left the "thorny austerity" of a seminary, not sure he wants to be a priest. His "wings had failed to open." Noe is ripe for change.
Faha has always been a very rainy place. But during this particular spring, it stops raining. People are almost blinded by all the unfamiliar sunlight.
Christy and Noe become fast friends. Christy has pretty much been around the world, yet he is a humble man. And I found him to be wise, as does Noe. Yet, he carries a secret that has in some ways has broken his spirit. He needs to right an old wrong. He confides in Noe, and soon Noe is also involved in hopefully orchestrating a resolution for Christy. (I am being a bit vague here because I don't want to create a spoiler.)
More than just these two characters and their shenanigans (Christy takes Noe to pubs, etc.), the novel is a richly detailed portrait of life in Faha. You come to appreciate the way folks talk, tell their stories and interact. Everyone knows everyone else's business and history. Noe's grandparents are in the minority as far as electricity goes, deciding not to go though with the wiring of their house. What a phenomenal period of time it is in Faha. The whole town is stirring, changing and we wonder if it will be for the better.
Another development involves Noe's first taste of love and romance when he comes down with a fierce crush on the snooty town doctor's daughter, and eventually also wonders if he isn't a bit also in love with her two sisters.
I have forgotten to say the book is told from the point of view of Noe looking back several decades at his this period of his life. He appreciates that poignant time of his own coming of age, as well as Christy's wise ways. Christy had a way of living in the moment. "This is happiness" is something Christy says, meaning simply being alive as he and Noe are cycling over the hills, winded, on their way to a pub one night. As they listen to some plaintive music at the pub, Noe mentions how looking at Christy, he could see not only his happiness, but also his sorrow. Hanging out with Christy greatly enlarges Noe's world.
I liked this book so much, I almost wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it. I have always been impressed with the tenderness of Niall Williams' writing. He has never let me down. I've only physically been to Ireland once (with my 100% Irish mother), but reading Niall Williams' books means I feel like I been there many times, privileged to go way deep into the heart of many Irish matters. And so I am grateful to the author. And impressed by his literary talents! Thank you, thank you.