Friday, February 7, 2014

The 2013 (yes, 13) Book List

I don't know why I've been having such trouble with this post! I started it in early January and -- well, there you are! I guess I've been too busy "arting" and reading and Christmas and enjoying life to review! That changes now!

In 2013, I read 25 books. Some were frivolous, some marvelous, some "just there." I wanted to share my highlight a few notables I haven't mentioned in previous posts. Those mentioned in earlier posts here or on Chopsticks and Strings include links to the posts.


These are my two favorites. Hands down. I'll be doing another post about Vivian Swift soon, but if you aren't familiar with her wonderful and enchanting illustrations and delightful text, check out these two books.

"Wanderers" focuses on her year deciding to stay put at her home in a small Long Island town. You follow Vivian through the seasons, her cats, her neighbors and take some side trips back into her memories of other enchanting places. If you are an artist or designer, you will appreciate the book (both of them, actually) for their splendid illustrations and layout. But that's bonus points. Pure and simple, bonus points.
"Le Road Trip" chronicles Vivian's honeymoon in France with magical paintings of various locations, wry observations on love and France and terrific heart. Ask for this one from your Valentine! (Speaking of which, my valentine, Rick, has picked up this book more than once to read through parts. It's terrific.

Vivian's wonderful blog (which includes many painting lessons) is on hold while she finishes her book and comments are closed. But the blog itself is HERE and well worth a look. If you check out THIS POST on how to draw a cat, you might find a familiar face!

Living in a Foreign Language (Michael Tucker)

Rick thought this was sort of a cream puff but I loved "L.A. Law" star Michael Tucker's food memoir of his life in an Italian village in Tuscany (with his wife and "Law" star Jill Eikenberry). This book follows them from their vacation visit to owning their own home with a heavy emphasis on foodie Tucker's love affair with Italian cooking, wine and cuisine. You will want to make pasta every day after reading this (and learn a few tricks of traveling in Italy, too!)


Dearie: A Biography of Julia Child (Bob Spitz)

I don't know how many bios I have read on Julia (and I have another on the stack). This doesn't strike me with quite the authority of Julia's own "My Life in France" but it is far more comprehensive, going from her childhood (actually, the childhood of her parents) to her death. Spitz writes in an engaging way (some parts were laugh out loud funny -- in a good way).
Julia fans -- check this one out.

Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm  -- Mardi Jo Link

I love memoirs and Bootstrapper is an empowering one. Writer Mardi Jo Link is a Michigan author whose husband left her and the three kids for another. (He still lived in near her farm outside Traverse City). He also left her with debt and a lot of struggle.
This biography covers her struggles to save her farm, feed her kids and keep her dignity. She is funny, feisty, well spoken and filled with love and determination. Highly recommended.

Jacqueline Kennedy Conversations (Arthur Schlessenger, Jr.)

Shortly after the death of President Kennedy, the former first lady sat down with Arthur Schlessenger, for a number of conversations about her husband. She reveals her take on such things as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs, various diplomats and leaders of state (including Kruschev and DeGaulle) and both praises and disses a lot of well known folks (not the least of which, and surprising to me, was her secretary Letitia Baldridge.)
The book I have came with CDs of the conversations as well. It's a longer listen if you go the CDs, but it's worth it to listen to at least some to get the tone of the conversation, the intimacy, Jackie's voice. Maybe it would be a good road trip listen for the more cerebral or politically oriented. (Don't look for much on fashion, the kids or the rest of the family. This is mostly Jackie's take on JFK and his presidency.)

 Health and Inspiration

The Last Best Cure (Donna Jackson Nakazawa)

Hands down, the most important book I read all year. This is non-fiction, health oriented. Nakazawa is a writer who had more health problems than I do and most every other sick person I know. She was a mess -- a total mess. She decided to do her own "research" project -- to find a "last best cure" that would help alleviate, cure or at least make manageable her many issues.
She embarked on a one-year mission to explore alternative treatments (without forsaking her medical doctors) -- treatments that would be available in almost any area of the country and while not necessarily inexpensive could be affordable. Think meditation, yoga, massage, accupuncture, counseling, nutrition.

Her method worked for her -- worked well. And it has made some impact on my issues as well, although I've not done all her things. It is well backed up with scientific research studies and she quotes the data which may be a little much for some but I found rather supportive. I didn't agree or experience all her issues and back story but I think it's an important book for anyone dealing with certain chronic issues including fibromyalgia, blood pressure, arthritis and many other diseases.

Help, Thanks, Wow  (Anne Lamott)

First of all, it's Anne Lamott -- so you  know it is well written. This is a small non-fiction volume about prayers -- there are three prayer categories, according to Lamott -- Help (when we or someone we care about are in trouble), Thanks (when we dodge that bullet) and Wow -- for that awesome mystery of life.

Lamott contends (and I agree) that we make those prayers everyday -- even if one doesn't really believe in prayer to God or some higher power. She outlines each -- and she is (as Lamott fans would know) very funny about it at times. You don't have to be of faith to appreciate this book, to take in her words and give them consideration. If you are, you still will like it.

I would strongly recommend this book as a gift to anyone who may be having a challenging time and could use a little support. That's how it came to me and I will be forever grateful.


The "Aimee Leduc Series" (Cara Black)

I love Cara Black's Aimee Leduc series, all set in various areas of Paris. This year's offering was "Murder in the Lanterne Rouge." If you are looking to enjoy this series, start with the first, "Murder in the Marais." The stories are self-contained but the characters develop over time.

The Henning Mankell "Wallander" Books

I love the television mystery series "Wallander." Thanks to a book club friend, I have now read some of the mysteries by Henning Mankell that formed the basis for the series. I went to the beginning ("The Pyramid" -- five novellas from Wallander's early career) to "A Troubled Man," the final Wallander book. They are well written and for those who have seen the series, faithful to the characters presented on television.

The "Maisie Dobbs" Series (Jacqueline Winspear)

Without doubt, my favorite detective series. This years book was "Leaving Everything Most Loved." Maisie is a psychologist/investigator occasionally helping -- or butting heads -- with Scotland Yard. The first book begins post WWI and this particular book has taken Maisie up to the early 1930s. It appears to be a pivotal one for her various characters.
Again, I recommend this series from the beginning to end because of character development but each book is self-contained.


Joanne Huffman said...

I always love your book reviews - I need some new mysteries and will try Maisie Dobbs.

Jeanie said...

I love the variety of your reading. I will definitely look for some of these. I have seen the Winspear books but have never read any...they are now on my list.

My Grama's Soul said...

Thanks for this wonderful list. I have read two of your selections. The one by Anne Lamont, one of my very favorite authors, and the first book by Vivian Swift....both were fabulous.

BTW....just read your last post ...... made me sad to read of such a "good Soul" passing so suddenly.


anno said...

Thanks to you, I've read several of these! Am deeply indebted to you for the introduction to Vivian Swift and Mardi Jo Link... and I suspect that Maisie D. and I need to make an acquaintance sometime very soon. What a great list! (And what a great thing to do--another inspiration!)

Sally Tharpe Rowles said...

Thanks for all of these great recommendations ….I look forward to some good reading.

The Old Parsonage said...

Wow - this was great! I love to hear what others have read and their take on things. I have to check out the Last best cure - my fibro is really giving me fits and I know that I'm not focusing on me and my health.


HerzBlatt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HerzBlatt said...

From all your books I only know Henning Mankell`s Walander books and I watched all the films which I loved very much.There were a lot of different films with different actors and police inspectors. Which ones do you know? I love the films with Krister Henriksson as Wallander.Rolf Lassgard and Kenneth Branagh also played Wallander.
The first 19 film versions were with his film daughter Johanna Sällström, who was found dead in her home from an overdose of sleeping pills in Malmö shortly before midnight on 13 February 2007. Before that she had been released from a psychiatric unit where she had been receiving treatment for depression. Her lifelong struggle with depression was exacerbated by her harrowing experience in Thailand with the Zunami.
For me these 19 films were the best of all the 32 Wallander films.
But I also love the other films from Henning Mankell, for example "Faceless Killers", "The dogs of Riga", "The White Lioness","The Fifth Woman" and so on.
And now Mankell has cancer. That is very sad.But he will fight against it. Hopefully he will win.
Best wishes

Janet said...

Thanks for all the book ideas. I'm always on the lookout for something good to read. I've read every one of the Maisie Dobbs series. I love them! I just wish she could write faster so there would be more of them to read.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Hello Jeanie! IT IS FRIDAY, and that means the weekend, and that equals, READING TIME for me! Thank you for this wonderful list; I wish I had 48 hours in a day to read all the things I want, but two delicious days on the weekend with a good read is so relaxing. Thank you!

And thank you also for coming to visit. LOVE ON! Anita

Mary said...

Oooo, thank you for sharing Jeanie! I will definitely delve into some of these. I have read most of Henning Mankell's books, but haven't read Cara Black's. They sound good, and i would love the Paris setting. And i definitely want to read the memoir of the Michigan farm. I love stories of strong, capable women, especially true stories!

Marilyn said...

I am reading the first book you mentioned, one chapter a month through the year. Anne Lamont's book on prayer sounds intriguing and the health book too. Sending you hugs and thanks for all you share.

Anonymous said...

Great list of books, I have read a couple of them! :-)

vicki (skiourophile) said...

I'm so far behind on both Aimee Leduc AND Maisie Dobbs -- they're just writing them quicker than I can read! Both really good series too.

Cottage and Broome said...

Oh thanks so much for the book reviews, I'm a big reader too. I always start writing down the books I've read for the year then forget about half way thru. I liked the Michael Tucker book too, made me want to move to Italy! Stay warm, Laura

Arti said...

Looks like a fine and fun list. When I was visiting France, someone recommended me to read Henning Mankell. I've come across his works many a times, but never started on any of them. Hope I'll have time some day. Thanks for sharing these!

~*~Patty S said...

WOW that IS a lot of books ...
How wonderful to get to escape to so many times and places Jeanie ♥

wishing you a very happy weekend
p.s. so many people say that after they've retired they don't know how they ever had time to work a 9-5 job ;)

Esme said...

I liked Le Road Trip and Dearie.

You would really enjoy the bakery tour.

shoreacres said...

I have a friend who grew up on Long Island Sound, and who really would appreciate Vivian Swift's book. I never, ever would have found it without you, so - thanks!

Shelia said...

Hi Jeanie! Thanks for the book review. I don't read like I used to. I need to write some of these down and get back to it. Thanks for popping in to see me.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

paris parfait said...

So many delights here to consider! Am a big fan of Henning Mankell's books (did you know he's battling cancer now)and the Swedish series as well. Haven't read the others you mention; thanks for the recommendations!

Jennifer Richardson said...

These are wonderful reviews,
a gift, really.
You're the second person I've heard who loved Bootstrapper.
I have some new material on my wish list, now....thank you!
I love your zest for living big
and the way you love and share.
Big grateful hug,

Retired English Teacher said...

You would have to write this just as I am trying to trim back my purchases on Amazon. It is so easy to buy a book that way. So, I did buy one of the books you reviewed. I am putting more of them on my list. This list of reviews was just great. Thanks for sharing!

must love junk said...

I LOVE to read, and I really enjoy your 'reviews'! I'll be looking into some of these :)

Tamara said...

Jeanie, I know what it's like trying to get those reviews posted. Like you I only just got to posting my Japanese literature reviews... Thanks for the review of the Kennedy conversations, I'm really interested to see if I can find these. I think it would be fascinating to find out more about the woman and her perspective on things at a critical time in American politics. I'm also interested in the Aimee Leduc Series - maybe for Paris in July?

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Fun post! I love hearing about the great books others have read. I bought Le Road Trip since you highly recommended it, but have not gotten around to reading it yet. I am kind of saving it for a getaway so maybe I will bring it with me to Florida next month when I spend some time with family there.

I haven't read any Anne Lamott books but I need to. I have heard she is an amazing writer!

Keicha Christiansen said...

Perfect timing! I just finished a book last night and was looking for something to read next. I think I'll check out Bootstrapper.

Sandy K. said...

You are very good about exploring various genres. If I were not in a book club I would be quite content with my Grisham, Evonovich, occasional Dickens and Bronte, sprinkled with young adult fiction like The Book Theif and Kuzak work. We finished The Starboard Sea and are starting on Guernica. I need to review our reads by getting out my log/journal! Lovely meander through the possibilities for this year's reading! Thank you!

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