Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 5 favorite books of 2013

C.S. Lewis quote print by whatkatiedoes

These aren't actually books that were necessarily published in 2013, just my favorites out of the 64 books I managed to finish this past year.  Here are some quick hits, if you've got some bookstore gift certificates you're itching to spend and aren't sure what to spend them on (or, better yet, if you've got a library card burning a hole in your pocket):

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar -- by Cheryl Strayed

Why I love it: Above all, Strayed views advice as a contemplative job, one that requires backstories, compassion, and hard truths, and for that, Sugar/Strayed is wonderful. I would recommend this to anybody trying to live life and finding life to be not so simple. This is not your average one-two paragraph reply of advice; this is a long letter written back after thought, written over cups of tea, paces of a room, closed eyes, regrets and joys passed on. This is advice you wish you could get, but sometimes don't have the nerve to ask for.

A favorite quote: “I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods -- by Matt Bell

Why I love it:  This book is a lucid dream, a long moan of grief swollen with waking dreams and horror and slick loss, coppery blood, a howling tumble through black salty waves. It is a bear's roar of pain and anger. It is a quiet seething. Good god read this, read it slowly, read it as it wanders through rooms and worlds.  Particularly read this if you're acquainted with pregnancy loss.  Also, if you enjoy mythmaking.  Either/or.  Read it, and read it slowly, and just let it pull you under.

The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption -- by Kathryn Joyce

Why I love it: Love may be an odd choice here.  It's a cold, hard slap of reality.  The reality of many adoptions.  The reality of the concept of "rescue" so many churches preach.  The reality of the whole mess that adoption truly can be.  I read a lot of books about adoption, including things like Baby We Were Made For Each Other by NPR's Scott Simon, so I've read a fairly wide gamut, but this book really felt cold, hard and real.  And it's information that's swept under the rug.  Although we currently are not pursuing adoption, I'm very glad I read this so that I can make informed decisions (at least more informed) later, should we try again.

I Await the Devil's Coming -- by Mary MacLane

Why I love it: In the words of Mary MacLane, "Poor little Mary MacLane!" Her egotism must surely be the weight of an ark. Her genius is self-proclaimed from the rooftops. She is stuck in nowheresville Butte, Montana, and she is 19, and lonely, and despairing, and everyone else's souls are dumb, and she is so very much alone with her own philosophy, and her mad genius, and she is, by the way, 19, just to make things worse. As the forward notes, imagine the tragedy, the utter uselessness, of Napoleon being trapped in the body of a 19-year-old prairie girl. She rages, she moans, complains and philosophizes and rambles and curses the world. She is 19, she is miserable, she is, as she puts it, "a little piece of untrained Nature ... Oh the wretched bitter loneliness of me!"

 She is a mad, raging genius, who thinks she knows it, and in knowing it, is driven more mad, more raging. She is 19, and knows it: "Nineteen years are as ages to you when you are nineteen. When you are nineteen, there is no experience to tell you that all things have an end. This aching pain has no end."

Poor little Mary MacLane. But she is no heroine, and she'll be the first to spit in the face of the other prairie girls, the Mary of Laura Ingalls Wilder, she would spit in her face with glee. She is a spiteful little thing, a girl genius of 19 years who is sharpening her teeth and claws in this memoir, sharpening them, always sharpening them. She is a delight, a vile, horrid little witch, a beastly wild thing, a raging mad genius girl stuck with the heart and soul of a conqueror, who knows it, despairingly.

Stitches: a handbook on meaning, hope, and repair -- by Anne Lamott

Why I love it: I wish I could just eat Anne Lamott every day as a breakfast cereal.  She is just so real.  She is so very real, in a C.S. Lewis kind of way, even though I'm sure many readers on Lewis would roll their eyes at her a good deal of the time with her hippie-dippy-sometimes ways.  Whatever.  I think Lewis would find her charming, even as they wouldn't agree on some things.  And if I think Lewis would find someone charming, I think that's reason enough to love them myself. Favorite quote: “I wish there were shortcuts to wisdom and self-knowledge: cuter abysses or three-day-spa wilderness experiences. Sadly it doesn’t work that way. I so resent this.”


I'm in the middle of reading The Mists of Avalon right now -- for the first time, in fact.  Which is ridiculous, given that I LOVE Arthurian legend stuff.  We have a tiny collection that we've been growing for years of stuff related to Arthurian legend.  LOVE. IT.  And yet somehow, even as it's been sitting on my shelf for several years, I never actually started in on it.  However, I'm well on my way.  So while I putter through that, what should I put on my list to read next in 2014?  What did you like in 2013?  

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