This is how it goes in book group some nights: someone says, “Didn’t we read a book about ____?” and then several other people nod. “Yes. Yes. I remember. That’s the book where ___ happened.” Someone else says, “Right! And the mother is ___.” The conversation goes on and on without me because, meanwhile, I am sitting there in a cold sweat, thinking: I am long overdue for a brainscan.
I lead our book group. I choose the titles after serious research. I’ve only missed one meeting in ten years. So, unless it’s Mill in the Floss, I’ve been part of an hour long discussion on every work . Where, then, are those details that are so readily accessible to others?
When, finally, the details bubble up, one neuron sparking another (if that’s how these things happen), until I follow a blinking light through the darkness in my mind and towards that one gold thread that will lead me to a relief more divine than any reading experience I’ve ever had (and I’ve had any number of terrific reading experiences), I celebrate. Not only am I not losing my mind, I remember that book! The book! The book is not lost to me. Those hours I spent in its company. The pages I felt beneath my fingers. The characters into whose intensely private moments, I eavesdropped.
Eventually, I decided to keep a list of the books I read each year. This mostly helps (though, I confess, sometimes only a few weeks after I’ve closed the covers, I have to check the Amazon review to remember the plot). So, here are some of my favorite titles from this year. I’d love to hear what you recommend!
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher was, by far, the funniest.
Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala was definitely the most heartbreaking, but a beautifully written book.
Why has it taken me so long to read Montana by Larry? It has been on my shelf for years. Thank God, I finally plucked it off. A quick and brilliant read.
Crossing to Safety Wallace Stegner. Again, long overdue, but I’ll read it again someday. And again.
A Visit from the Goon Squad Jennifer Eagan (okay, so I’m not exactly prompt with these things)
Good-Bye Shoes Jill McCorkle (short stories). How does she do it? The humor and then the gut-wrenching poignancy?
How to be Good Nick Hornsby. I read this alone and wished (still wish) I had been part of a discussion on it. It raised so many questions for me. Loved it.
One Man’s Meat EB White (re-read). What can I say? White has been my favorite writing teacher forever.
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt. I fought to get to page 100 but when a writer examines truth the way Hustvedt does, you have to work at it, and WOW it was soooo worth it.
Family Life Akhil Sharma (If you love the craft of writing, this is the book I would recommend. Stunning.)
So many other wonderful books, poems!!!, stories, kept me company in 2015. I hope the same has been true for you.