Friday, December 5, 2008

Making a List with Uncle E.

*Uncle E fixes Esme's new backpack

Almost every year, Uncle E. and I have a conversation about what books should be on the shopping list for the readers we know. This year, Uncle E is away, and our conversations are all via email, so I'm writing this post as a substitute for our yearly list-making.

Because I have so many on the list of recommendations, I'm going to divide it into two posts. Today, I'm putting up fiction and poetry. Tomorrow, non-fiction, biography, and mystery.

First, let's think fiction:
I found some books I absolutely adored this year for my summer reading. Among the best: Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan. It's set in the Mississippi Delta, and deals with family disfunction. The story is so layered and rich--it's a book you'll want to read again.

In an earlier post this year, I also raved about City of Thieves, by David Benioff. I am still raving. This is a story that sticks in your mind and follows you around. That's the best kind.

While I'm rehashing things I've already recommended, let me add this to the list:
Ursula Under, by Ingrid Hill. This is a sweeping epic novel that starts in modern day Wisconsin and takes you all over the world and the past. I was sucked into it and was so sad to see it end. I still think of many of the minor characters, and I read this book 4 years ago. As I said, those "following" stories are the best.

I also loved Thirteen Moons, by Charles Frazier. It's a story of an orphaned boy raised by the Cherokee in the mid-1800s, and I was captivated by it. Live in Will's skin for a bit, and see the world anew.

The Apprentice to the Flower Poet Z, Debra Weinstein
Quietly dramatic, with a love triangle, artistic characters, and a great sense of humor. If you like poetry, you may really like this. This was a gift to me from my sweet husband, who always knows what book I will love.

Song of the Lark, Willa Cather
This is an oldie but a Goodie! Another semi-western theme, tied firmly into a love story and a dramatic tale of an singer’s rise to stardom. Very, very good.

Another classic that I can't read enough times: Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner
Do you know Wallace Stegner? It took me a long time to discover him, and when I did, I was hooked. He is a quintessential American writer. His focus is on the whole “westward ho” mentality, and he gets right into the hearts of his characters, who are flawed and strong and beautifully interesting. This is the first one I read of his, and it’s still stuck in my mind, nearly 10 years after I read it (meeting the test for my top picks, clearly). Any of his books are wonderful. I think this one is a good place to start.

Time and Again, Jack Finney, and from Time to Time (the followup novel)
I love, love, love these. Sweet and thoughtful, they are about a guy from modern times who gets back to the late 1800s. So fun and engaging to read.

And just because I'm smitten with the idea of time travel:

The Timetraveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
Among my very favorite books. A great book to get lost in. I can’t believe this is her first novel, but it is. Wow!

As for poetry:
New and Selected Poems, Mary Oliver
My favorite poet. Her poem “Wild Geese” is a mantra for me

Carnival Evening, Linda Pastan
Her poems shock and thrill me, and I love sharing them with people when I find someone else who loves poetry.

Garrison Keillor’s edited collections of poetry
If I had the money and time, I would send everyone I know a copy of one of these: Good Poems or Good Poems for Hard Times. It's not that I'm a diehard GK fan like my dad. I like Keillor okay (I’m an National Public Radio junkie), but I love the choices he makes as an editor of poetry. He chose so many that I would have. I love that there are so many contemporary poets that aren’t in many anthologies, and some of them are just amazing.

Speaking of amazing poets, I got myself a Christmas gift, which arrived in the mail yesterday! It's Irene Latham's collection of poetry called What Came Before. You might recognize her name from the poem I posted here. Generous as well as talented, she wrote this poem after being inspired by my work on Ada's Giselle dress. Irene was named Alabama's Poet of the Year in 2006, and What Came Before was chosen as the 2007 Book of the Year by the Alabama State Poetry Society. This collection of poems has a voice as clear as water, and just as powerful.

Was that enough? Well--I forgot a few that I've heard would be good, but haven't yet read...Uncle E, these are also ones to look for:
The Hour I First Believed, Wally Lamb
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, Elizabeth McKracken
So Brave, Young, and Handsome, Leif Enger (author of the fantastic Peace Like a River)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer (I've resisted the popular wave long enough. I'm going to give this one a read)

Whew! And there are more for tomorrow in non-fiction, biography, and mystery! (These Uncle E. conversations take a long time, you know.)

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Paula said...

Ohhhh! So exciting! Your descriptions sucked me in and now I want to add all these to my reading list 9I can't believe I haven't yet read one of them-although I have heard other good things about several of the choices). Thanks for the wonderful post!

Kirie said...

Paula- I'm glad you liked the suggestions. Writing this out makes me want to get in the car and head to the bookstore right now to find some more treasure. I'm sort of a book-freak
I'd love to see what's on your reading list,too...


Julie P. said...

Kirie -- Great blog. I'll be adding you to Google Reader. I loved Guernsey and Exact Replica so make sure you read them soon!

La Belette Rouge said...

I am just not feeling a call to fiction as of late.If you were to pick one of your fiction books for me to read which would be your one must read of this list?

Thanks to you, the Storialist, and Irene I am getting back to my old love of poetry. I do love the poems that Garrison picks. And, Mary Oliver and of course Irene!!

Great post and I look forward to part 2.

Kirie said...

Julie: It's great to meet you! I love your blog, too, and I'll be checking out a bunch of your recommendations. And at the bookstore today: definitely getting both of those.

Kirie said...

La Belette: Okay, just one.....hmmm.... If you are okay with cold and some serious violence, then City of Thieves would be my choice. Those characters are vivid, and complex. While I was reading it, I had the strange sensation of something like some weird cross between a film in my head and a dream in which I was the main character.

If the cold, Stalinist setting is too much for you, my second choice would be Apprentice to the Flower Poet Z. It's an overlooked book, but a great story, especially for a writer to read. I think you would really enjoy it.

Well. That was two, wasn't it? Sorry. I do have the most amazing book to tell you about this weekend. As I was starting to read it yesterday I caught myself literally chirping with glee at some of the writing. I'll do a full post on it by Sunday.


La Belette Rouge said...

Thank you so much for narrowing down your list for me. I just am fiction resistant at this point in my life. I have theories about why that is. Anyways, whenever I do read fiction I am usually glad I have. I did really enjoy the Time Traveler's Wife( and I am usually pretty resistant to popular fiction. Yikes that sounds terribly elitist).

I will add both of your books to my list. If you think they are both that good then I will definitely read them. I absolutely trust your literary taste and I don't do that lightly. I am really picky about spaghetti sauce and what I'll read. There are just so many books and just not enough time to read them all.

I CANNOT WAIT until your next post. A book that makes you chirp with delight. You have me waiting with baited breath.:-)))))

Irene Latham said...

Kirie - I am so honored to be on your list! Thanks for reading poetry... truly, it is a beautiful art form that is not read nearly enough. I, too, recommend Keillor's GOOD POEMS, for anyone, but most esp. for those who fear poetry.
Now, off to get Thirteen Moons! Your endorsement is enough for me.
Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy WHAT CAME BEFORE. xxoo

Derek said...

What about bats in the library? It's a good follow up to bats at the beach.

Kirie said...

You've reminded me: I think I should write a post on kids books soon. Bats at the Library is a current favorite of the girls. Esme begs me for Bats at the Beach.

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