My gluttony of choice…reading, reading, reading

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had a slight hip injury (incurred while hiking the top three mDSCN1240 by you.iles of Pikes Peak without enough warm clothes), and a cold that knocked me flat for a couple of days.  Also a side effect of the big hike, probably, and someone said, “Why do you keep doing these things if you get hurt/sick?”  And my answer is: because it’s exhilarating.  Because you can get a sprained ankle stepping off a curb.  Because the air is as sweet and crisp as apple juice up there. And because CR actually chatters above 10,000 feet. 

Anyway, I’ve been reading like a glutton, devouring one book after another with sometimes barely a breath between.  As always, a few were ordinary–fast and entertaining, but forgettable.  One or two were boring, so I put them aside for now (it could just be me, at this very moment, and I won’t give them away until I have a chance to give them another try).  Some were cookbook or research things that wouldn’t interest you out of context.

But I’ve also read three novels you must find.  In reverse order of my passion:

#3 I SEE YOU EVERYWHERE, by Julia Glass.  A literary tale of two sisters over a period of 25 years. As always, I love Glass’s voice, which is mature and elegant without a shred of self-consciousness. She is a compassionate writer with a clear eye she turns to the imperfect relationships within families, and as always, I loved her characterizations.  The book is one I loved…with reservations.  It’s hard to discuss without spoilers; suffice it to say there is a dark turn that I didn’t see coming.  Perhaps I should have, but I think it’s meant to be a blindside, as life is sometimes.  It left me feeling sad for several days, and for that reason, it won’t be to the taste of all my readers here.  

Needing something a little more cheerful, I picked up

#2 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  This one I can recommend without any reservations whatsoever—I can’t think of a single woman reader of my (vast) acquaintance who would not enjoy this book.  It’s told entirely through letters between a thirty-something writer in London just after WWII, and a group of eccentrics and book lovers on Guernsey Island, which was occupied by the Germans.  It’s an ode to reading and the power of the written word, but it’s also a beguiling tale of community and friendship and love.  I loved it completely. 

Which left me wanting even more, but what? What could follow something so charming and unique?  Which led to something even more intriguing and my #1 book of the year so far:

#1 THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, by Garth Stein.  If I tell you it is narrated by a dog, you might think itwon’t be something you’ll like…too precious, too self-conscious.  But you would be wrong on both counts. Enzo the dog is one of the best characters I’ve ever met.  He’s honorable and flawed, devoted and hungry for his own goals.  His beloved master, Denny, is a race car driver who must face a terrible series of events (and there are some parts through the middle that make it hard to read). Throughout the novel, Enzo explains to us how racing works, who the masters are and how they make it work. I loved Enzo. I loved Denny.  I love the graceful, wistful, beautiful message underlying the tale, but most of all, I loved the ending.  Even thinking about it now, I feel myself getting choked up with gratitude all over again.  No spoilers here, but let me just tell you that I spent the last ten or so pages alternately sobbing and laughing and stopping to savor the explosion of gratitude I felt toward Stein for getting it so perfectly, perfectly right. 

The Art of Racing in the rain is compassionate and powerful, and dog lovers will love it with a particular passion, but so will women’s fiction readers of all sorts. 

Things on my To Be Read list are:

The upcoming release of debut author Therese Walsh’s first book, THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY; Jennie Shortridge’s new book, WHEN SHE FLEW ; Traveling With Pomegranates, Sue Monk Kidd (which I bought yesterday); and probably Eclipse for October sometime, just to get in the proper spirit of the season. 

What are you reading? What’s next? Did you read any of my favorites, and if so, do you agree or disagree?


15 thoughts on “My gluttony of choice…reading, reading, reading

  1. HM

    Thanks for the recommendations! I have heard great things about the Art of Racing in the Rain from others and now HAVE to get it. I also loved Sue Monk Kidd’s Mermaid Chair. I am going to the Friends of San Francisco Library book sale next week and I will dig for these. Thanks much!!!!! I’m reading the Cure for Death By Lightening right now. I am intrigued but not yet fully hooked. I just finished All My Friends are Going to be Strangers. It was very much a man’s book but still really interesting.

  2. Renee

    Hi Barbara,
    Thanks for these recommendations! I’m definitely going to get the last two. My father’s family hails from Guernsey and I’ve added to my dog brood this year with a rescue dog that came from a bushfire affected area in Victoria.
    Sorry to hear about your hip! I know why you love it and keep doing it. There’s *nothing* like the feeling you get standing on a mountain top that you’ve conquered.
    I look forward to our next hike.

  3. Renee, how lovely to see you here! You will definitely love both Guernsey and Rain, since you also love dogs. I, too, look forward to our next hike!

    HM, love the title of Cure for Death by Lightning! I don’t know about this book and am going to look it up right now.

  4. Shannon

    Hi Barbara I loved the Potato Peel Society and Julia Glass is fabulous as well. This weekend I read Cathy Lambs latest Henry’s sisters and was sadly disappointed after enjoying Julia’s Chocolates and The last time I was me. My personal favorite is one of yours; No place like home. Feel better soon.

  5. Ruthie

    Now I know what to download on my Kindle for my upcoming vacation. Thanks Barbara. Like Shannon, my personal favorite read is also No Place Like Home. I have all your books.

    I can relate to your love for hiking. I may not live in such a wonderful climate, but I do speed walk/run 6 miles every other day. It is exhilarating. Been doing this for over 20 years.

    Have you been watching Top Chef? This year, the contestants are so talented.

  6. Currently reading LOOK FOR ME by Edeet Ravel, and enjoying it. It’s about an Israeli peace activist whose husband has been missing for 11 years, during which time she has never ceased looking for him… and now, as she’s falling in love with someone else, she receives information that her husband is alive.

    I also enjoyed Ravel’s earlier novel, TEN THOUSAND LOVERS, about an apolitical student who becomes seriously involved with an Israeli army interrogator in the 1970s while she’s studying in Jerusalem.

  7. SueD

    Just finished Pat Conroy’s South of Broad. Like his other books, it packs a mighty wallop. Conroy’s characters are wonderfully complex and there are always some tough moments.

  8. Hmm, I really want to read The Art but I’m not sure if I can–just the hint of anything happening to an animal (and maybe nothing happens in this) turns me into a wreck.

    I just finished THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG and think you might very well love it. Next up is Ted Kennedy’s memoir then Theresa Walsh’s book–I’m really looking forward to that, too.

  9. I haven’t read any of your three picks, but I have been curious about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and you’ve just made me order The Art of Racing in the Rain (sounds so good!). Thanks for these recommendations, and thanks for the shout out for Last Will!

  10. p.s. I’m reading Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, which I keep starting and putting down, then starting again. I’ve avoided it all this time because it seemed too depressing to read about a murdered child, but I *will* see the movie when it comes out, so I’ve got to read the book. 🙂

  11. Therese, I loved The Lovely Bones. It seems like such a bad idea for a book and something so terrible that a mother (especially) could never read it. But it’s brilliant.

    Gabrielle, you’ll love ART. Trust me. I will not lead you astray.

    Sue, I do love Conroy and have been wondering about that. Thanks.

    Laura, that sounds fascinating, and I love the conflict. (How do you believe for 11 years?) I’m also intrigued by the Israeli setting.

    Shannon and Ruthie: thanks for the mention of No Place Like Home. I loved writing that book so very much (and just thought of it today–my Nia teacher is Italian and I think she’d like it). Ruthie, YES! Loving Top Chef this year. CR and I have been saying that it’s a very tough top field. We should have a little pool to pick the winner, shouldn’t we?

  12. Ruthie

    Definitely have a pool for Top Chef. I already have my 2 favorites. Have made my comments on Also watching Project Runway. And…just downloaded The ART OF RACING…. on my Kindle. Can’t wait to read.

  13. HB

    After finishing the Cure for Death By Lightening, I would strongly NOT recommend it 😉 The writing style was beautiful and I loved the farm stories but the girl’s coming of age story was shockingly tramautic. I couldn’t stop reading from the shock but it was a story I will have trouble forgetting.

  14. i love Fashion and i love Project Runway.~*;

  15. Project Runway is great and we always watch it at home, hope they employ more interesting and talented contestants.:~’

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