Johnson City Press Sunday, September 21, 2014

Out of My Head

2012 will be a new chance to read books I missed in ’11

January 3rd, 2012 8:39 am by Jan Hearne

At the end of 2010, I wrote I was finished with resolutions. Instead, I made a list of the books I would like to read in the coming year.
I succeeded in reading “The Sea, The Sea,” by Irish Murdoch; “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman; “The House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton; “To Build a Fire” by Jack London (online Wednesday); “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruer (did not see the movie); and “And I Shall Have Some Peace There” by Margaret Roach.
The books on my list I didn’t read were “The Secret of the Old Clock,” a Nancy Drew mystery; “Four Spirits” by Sena Jeter Naslund; and “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson.
“Silent Spring” will be read in 2012. I will do it. No excuses. No, really.
I’d like to say the same thing about “Four Spirits,” but it’s been on my night stand for well over a year ...
The Book Club began 2011 with “The Sea, The Sea,” which we all loved, and followed that with “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery. The book had its flaws, but overall, it was a hit.
We disliked “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson, which is considered blasphemy by some folks, but his condescending attitude toward our part of the country and his phoney British accent (one of us saw a clip of Bryson’s appearance on a talk show) turned us off.
Two of the year’s bombs were “I Love Dollars” and “A Confederacy of Dunces.” For the first time, none of us completed a monthly selection: “I Love Dollars.” Two of us read and liked “Confederacy.” I was one of the two who didn’t. Yeah, uncool. But I didn’t like being in that world; it was too ugly and sad.
We read and liked “The Nine Tailors” by Dorothy L. Sayers, a mystery story written in the 1930s, which I thought would never get published today because it moved at a leisurely pace modern readers would find intolerable. Halfway through the book, I realized I had read it years ago, but I didn’t remember how it ended, so all was well.
One of my favorite reads this year was “Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor” by Brad Gooch. I found it on the half-price table at Malaprop’s in Asheville, N.C., on my way to the beach. I drove my friends crazy that week quoting from the book and chuckling to myself, but it truly was engaging, focusing as it did on her great sense of humor and deep faith in the face of chronic illness.
Since then I’ve been led to re-read some of her short stories. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “Greenleaf” are two favorites. Right now I am reading her letters collected as “The Habit of Being.”
This year, I also loved “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain, “Next to Love” by Ellen Feldman, “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson and “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand.
What do I hope to read in the new year? “The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes, “On Chesil Beach” by Ian McEwan, “Murther and Walking Spirits” by Robertson Davies and whatever fine choices The Book Club makes.
Let me know what you plan to read.
Jan Hearne is Tempo editor for the Johnson City Press. Reach her at jhearne@johnsoncitypress.com.

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