Books Read in 2007

Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
This is the true story of the Kingsolver family, and the year they left Arizona for a farm in southwestern Virginia. They left behind a processed-food life -- one that gives 85 cents of every food dollar to processors, marketers and transporters – to a life where they plant, raise, eat, and subsist on what they are able to grow on the farm.
It’s an inspirational read, but also chronicles the often humorous journey, like in July when she gladly took some tomatoes from a neighbor. Three weeks later (after being crowned “the tomato queen” by her daughter) she had harvested more than 400 pounds of tomatoes from her own garden! Everyone who cares about their health and the health of the planet should read this book. Highly recommended.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Set in war-torn Afghanistan, A Thousand Splendid Suns is about two women married to the same man. Mariam was forced to marry 40-year-old Rasheed when she was only 15. Then, 18 years later, Rasheed takes another young wife – in hopes having a son. After a somewhat rocky beginning (imagine that) the women become close.
The book covers 30 years of Afghan history (Translation: lots of war,) but despite the horrors, it really shows the incredible depth of a woman's love for her family. Remember a few years ago the media showed an Afghani woman being taken to the stadium and shot? Hosseini wondered what events had led her to such a fate, and used that as a premise for the story. Honestly, parts of it were brilliant, but I didn’t like it as much as The Kite Runner.

A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindberg
Called one of the most beloved books of our time, Anne Lindberg wrote this book while on a vacation, by herself, at the sea shore. She questions “modern” time saving devices and contemplates life-style choices that take parents away from homes and families. Lindberg was an incredible woman –writer, aviator, mother of five and wife of Charles Lindberg.
Oh-my-gosh I’m old! I read this book ages ago and re-read it recently. I can’t remember what I thought of it way back then, but this time around I was pleasantly surprised. This book, written more than 50 years ago, questions the same things we are questioning now, which is either an endorsement for Lindberg’s foresight or our lack of listening.

Blaze by Richard Bachman
Blaze is the story of Clayton Blaisdell, Jr. who was once a smart student, but since his father liked to throw him down the stairs, he became a “slow thinker.” He’s shipped off to a boy’s home and eventually meets up with George, a real seedy guy. They commit a plethora of crimes – but the story is as much about the crimes committed against Clayton as the crimes he and George pull-off -- i.e. kidnapping a baby heir worth millions of dollars.
Written circa 1973, this "trunk novel," is really by Stephen King. I did not want to read this because scary books are not my thing, but a friend convinced me this wasn’t usual Stephen King fare, and she was right! It’s a great read.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
At the age of thirty-one, Gilbert was married and trying to get pregnant until she realizes she doesn’t want either. Instead, she embarks on a year-long trip to confront the “twin goons” of depression and loneliness, with three main stops: Italy, to master the art of pleasure; an Indian ashram, to experience the liberation of mediation; and finally Bali, where she finds love and achieves a kind of balance.
Whew! What a choice Gilbert made -- to leave modern America (and success) to tramp around the world to find what she truly wanted from life. This memoir is not only beautifully and honestly written, but funny.

Idle Banter by Chris Bohjalian
In 1986, while living in Brooklyn, Chris Bohjalian and his wife were cab-napped and then dumped on a deserted street, where police officers were about to storm a crack house. They were told to hit the ground, and while lying on the pavement, Bohjalian's wife suggested that it was time to move to New England. They moved to Lincoln, Vermont (population 975), and Bohjalian began chronicling small town life in magazine essays and in his newspaper column, "Idyll Banter."
I have enjoyed every Bohjalian book I’ve ever read – including the first one-- “Midwives” which was so well-written I thought Chris was a woman! Idle Banter is a great collection of stories, and perfect for your night-stand.

If Today Be Sweet by Thrity N. Umrigar
Tehmina Sethna's ancestors were let into India almost a millennium ago because of their promise to "sweeten" and enrich the lives of the people in their adopted country. Tehmina takes this ancient promise seriously, so when her husband dies and her son, Sorab wants her to move to America with him, his American wife, and their child she has to really ponder the move.
This little novel celebrates family and community, deals with issues of immigration, identity, family life, and hope. It is a novel that shows how cultures can collide and become better for it.

Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessums
Sessums is a writer in real life -- one who has achieved success in his field – and this is his memoir about growing up in 1960’s Mississippi. Orphaned at an early age, and victimized by bullies and molesters, his life was very lonely until journalist Frank Hains becomes his friend. Hains's is murdered which gave Sessums the courage to confront his sexual identity, leave the small town, and pursue his journalistic career.
I’m usually a sucker for true stories and this one is a whopper with tons of potential -- but darn it -- it didn’t deliver!

Once Upon a Day by Lisa Tucker
Nineteen years ago, a famous man disappeared from Hollywood, taking his two children to a desolate corner of New Mexico. He raises them in complete isolation and tells them their mother is dead. One day the son, Jimmy, has had enough and strikes out to discover the world. His sister Dorothea is worried about him and leaves the 35-acre estate to search for him. Luckily she meets a doctor-turned-cabbie, who helps her navigate the modern world.
There are several parallel stories going and all of them are pretty darn good!

Returning to Earth by Jim Harrison
Donald is dying of Lou Gehrig's disease at the ripe old age of 45, so he dictates his family history to his wife, Cynthia. The story begins with Donald's half-Chippewa great-grandfather, Clarence, who set out in 1871 at age 13 for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Clarence worked the farms and mines of the northern Midwest, and finally arrived in Michigan 35 years later. Very adventurous compared to Donald’s life which has been steady and settled. Or has it?
Started like a trip to Disneyland, ended like a back-yard swing. Don’t get me wrong, a back-yard swing is o.k. – it’s just not Disneyland.

Small Moments by Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum
A collection of short stories, each chapter is a moment in time in the life of a different woman. One woman decides she really should be French; another woman gets a new spin on family politics during an outing with mysterious Aunt Vivian, another woman finds her life disrupted when a young violin prodigy enters her life. All the stories were good, and packed a powerful message: the bullets we dodge can be the direct result of a good choice or just good luck. It’s a fine line and this book explores it very well.

She Got up off the Couch by Haven Kimmel
This installment takes up where Kimmel left us in A Girl Named Zippy. Funny delicious stories about her family and friends and her hometown of Mooreland, IN., once again narrated from a child's point of view. Mainly about her mother, Delonda, who after 20 years of marriage, takes a television ad as a sign from God that the time has come for her to take a College Level Entrance Placement test. She learns to drive, gets a bachelor's degree and becomes a teacher to support her family. While that doesn’t sound too earth shattering remember it’s the '60s! With stories ranging from Zippy's run-in with a territorial cow on a friend's farm to "A Short List of Records My Father Threatened to Break Over My Head If I Played Them One More Time,” her characters are quirky and real. As hilarious as the book is, it’s also honest. What happens to their family is common and sad.

Sufficient Grace by Darnell Arnout
One fine day, Gracie Hollaman, who has been married for ages and leads a normal life, hears voices telling her to get in her car and leave her entire life behind. But not before she paints Jesus scenes all over her house.
I loved this book! It covers about everything: menopause-coming-of-age, mental illness, love, forgiveness, race issues, food, and art -- and does it with tenderness and humor.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Jemubhai Popatlal, a retired Cambridge-educated judge, lives at the foot of the Himalayas, with his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, and his cook. The neighborhood enjoys a quiet life, well that is until the revolution. You say you want a revolution? Well, besides threatening their lives, the revolution disturbs the romance between 16-year-old Sai and her tutor, Gyan. Meanwhile we hear from the cook's son, Biju, who is living as an illegal alien in New York.
It’s interesting to follow these characters as they struggle with their cultural identity, economic standing and the forces around them: modernization, revolution, romance, and loss. It may sound hard to follow and depressing, but it’s actually quite good with a bit of comic relief.

The Grave Diggers Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates
The Schwarts family, desperate to escape Nazi Germany, settles in a small town in upstate New York. The father, a former teacher can only get one job there and it’s the gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. After her father kills her mother, Rebecca begins her journey into America, which includes a marriage where she almost gets beaten to death, escape into a new identity, and finally a triumph -- of sorts.
I was looking forward to this, Oates’ 36th novel, and it delivered somewhat. The story-line was splendid, but why make it so difficult to follow? To me that’s not “intellectual” but trying too hard to appear intellectual.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
Set in Edwardian London and on the coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck brings to life the years when great shipping companies were building bigger, faster ocean liners, scientific exhibits dazzled the public and rich folks blatantly displayed their booty. This is the story of two men: Hawley Crippen, a mild-mannered murderer; and Guglielmo Marconi, creator of the wireless --whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.This book opens a magic door to the era of séances, and science inhabited by inventors, magicians, and Scotland Yard detectives. Rich with detail. I was engrossed immediately and learned a thing or two!

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
Laurel Estabrook was the victim of a brutal attack. Despite her emotional scars, she throws herself into her job at a homeless shelter. One of her clients is Bobbie Crocker, who has a history of mental illness, but also alludes to an earlier life as a very successful photographer. Laurel finds it hard to believe that he could have once chronicled the lives of musicians and celebrities, but a box of photographs and negatives discovered among his possessions after his death may prove otherwise.
While Bobbie Crocker, the photographer in The Double Bind, is fictitious, the photographs that appear in the book are real. They were taken by a man named Bob "Soupy" Campbell, who, as Chris Bohaljian explains in his Author's Note, "had gone from photographing luminaries from the 1950s and 1960s to winding up at a homeless shelter in northern Vermont." Great book – Bohaljian’s best ever.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
The “Great Secret” has been documented in oral traditions, literature, religions and philosophies throughout the centuries. In this book, all the pieces come together and Byrne (along with a cast of real-life practitioners) guide us on how to use the ancient secrets, and include chapters on money, health, relationships, and the pursuit of happiness.
Holy-moly! After I got over the “woo-woo” introduction music I really got into the message. It’s not a typical self-help book, but how to create the life you want – whatever that might be. I actually apply the knowledge everyday with some pretty great results. I bought this book on CD, which I highly recommend. I keep my copy in my car and re-listen during drive-time.

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich Award-winning author Louise Erdrich is German-American and Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, and she uses her incredible heritage in this story. This is a big story -- spanning the 20th century from 1910 to 1996, and revolves around Father Damien Modeste, who is actually a woman. As the title indicates there are miracles in this epic tale. Father Damien writes long letters to the Pope seeking guidance and when at last the Vatican sends somebody to the tiny North Dakota reservation the Father is more than 100 years old.
Sublime book.

The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
After her older sister runs away to marry a rodeo cowboy, eleven year old Alice Winston is left alone with her really, truly dysfunctional family. For example, her mother never gets out of bed. It’s the hottest summer in fifteen years and the bills are piling up on their run-down horse farm. Things look pretty bad until a wealthy girl shows up for riding lessons.
This is Kyle's first novel and superb! Don’t fight it. Go out and find it, buy it, borrow it – just read it! One of my favorite books of 2007.
Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier
Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain) has written another tale from the 19th century. This one stars a 12-year-old boy named Will who is given a horse, a key, and a map, and sent alone into Indian country to run a trading post. He befriends a Cherokee chief named Bear and places his allegiance on the side of the embattled Indian Nation -- along with a young woman he won in a card game
I loved this book -- historical fiction set in the western wilderness, infused with a great (if quirky) love story. Of course there’s heartbreak and loss – oh man, it’s great!

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon
Jewish refugees and their descendants, including detective Meyer Landsman, have lived in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe location created after the Holocaust, for many years. But the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and they are once again facing the great unknown. Things get interesting when Landsman discovers the body of his neighbor (a former chess prodigy) in the cheap hotel where they both live. As the investigation continues, word comes down from on high that the case is to be dropped immediately.
Sounds great right?? Wrong. It’s full of Yiddish slang – and there’s no reference dictionary. All in all one of the most difficult to follow books I’ve read in ages. How do you say YUKE in Yiddish?

The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan
Thanks to the movie adaptation of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, Mary Magdalene and her relationship to Jesus is a hot topic in the biblical/ancient mystery/thriller genre. Maureen Pascal, a journalist researches her new book on misunderstood heroines of the past. She discovers her family has been involved – namely with a secret society linked to Mary Magdalene. It seems Mary hid a set of scrolls containing her own version of the events of the New Testament in the foothills of the French Pyrenees.
McGowan’s book is fantastic, and although historical fiction, it is based on 20 years of research, and addresses not only the possibility that Jesus and Mary Magdalene produced offspring but also that other biblical relationships may have differed from what the Catholic Church had ordained to be true.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Jurgis Rudkus, his fiancée, and her family came to America expecting a new life full of everything they’ve been told America has offer. Instead they find a machine that has no regard for human life. It paints a grim picture of the conditions in the meat packing plants in 1906 and big city (Chicago) life at that time.
In 2006 Upton Sinclair’s masterpiece “The Jungle” turned 100 years old! Sinclair was 27 years old when he was catapulted to fame with his novel on the meatpacking industry – which by the way instigated the Pure Food and Drug Act. I loved this book just as much as I loved it the first time I read it 20-odd years ago.

What You Have Left by Will Allison It’s 1976, and Wylie Greer has just buried his wife. He drops off his five-year-old daughter, Holly, at his father-in-law's dairy farm cause he needs a little time to clear his head. The next thing you know 30 years have past and Holly still hasn’t seen her father.
This story takes us through nearly four decades in the lives of this southern family – and what a family it is/was. How many girls can say their mother was a pioneer NASCAR driver? The measure of this book is not so much in lack of tiny detail and descriptions, but in the keenness of that lack.

World Changing edited by Alex Steffen
World Changing just may be the Whole Earth Catalog for today’s earth-sensitive folk. It’s packed with information, resources, reviews, and ideas that give you the tools to make a difference. Brought together by Alex Steffen, writers include Cameron Sinclair, founder of Architecture for Humanity, Geek corps founder Ethan Zuckerman, sustainable food expert Anna Lappe, and many others.
Because of the sharp lay-out, it’s easy to find the topics you’re interested in. Such as: why buying locally produced food makes sense, what steps to take to influence workplace sustainability, eco-building, responsible shopping and humanitarian relief to name a few. If you’re baffled by what you can do to help our earth just read this book.

Why You Crying? by George Lopez
Sitcom star George Lopez and Emmy Award-winning correspondent Armen Keteyian combine talents to tell the story of Lopez's rocky road to fame. He started out being poor and fatherless; had problems with drinking and depression; and finally ended up with a showbiz career.
I admire Lopez and his ability to overcome great odds. That said, unless you love George Lopez and want to find out all about him, or can’t get enough tell-all Hollywood stories, read something else.

And these others, some of which I really enjoyed marked with**
**First Light by Sue Monk Kidd
Idle Banter by Chris Bohalian
**Gentleman & Players by Joanne Harris
**Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
The Art of Friendship by Horchow
**The Painted Veil by Sommerset Maughan
The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Nineteen Mintues by Jody Picholt
**Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir
**The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery
Flight by Sherman Alexie
Dream When You're Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Smith
**Thirteen Moons
Too Soon Old Too Late Smart
If Today Be Sweet by Thrity Umrigar
Special Places of Washington
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
**Breakable You by Brian Morton
Utopia Parkway by D. Solomon
Jesus Land
Blessed Unrest
**Last Night I Dreamed of Peace
**The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
**People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Ana's Story by Jenna Bush
Home to Holly Sprongs by Jan Karon
**Three Cups of Tea by Mortenson
The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritson
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
Loving Frank
The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

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