Some of my favorite movies are sports movies; I love Hoosiers, Rudy, and Breaking Away. I recently watched The Blind Side, which is based on the life of Michael Oher, an offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. Michael’s life from birth to his early high school years was one of hardship and poverty in Memphis. His mother was addicted to crack, and he never knew his father. These are the facts that could have made Michael just another statistic. How did he lift himself out of the life that seemed destined for him? The Blind Side was so inspiring that I wanted to know more about this young man; so I turned to his memoir, I Beat the Odds from Homelessness to the Blind Side, and Beyond. What impressed me throughout the memoir was that no matter what life threw at him, Michael was determined to succeed. When he was about eight or nine, he realized that sports could be his way out of poverty. He assumed it would be through basketball, but once he was accepted at Briarcrest Christian School, he started playing football and playing it very well.
Michael loves and respects the Tuohy family who took him in and helped him achieve his dreams, but it was his own courage, personal responsibility, and perseverance that brought him to a successful life.
Other books you might want to read are In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy and The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis.
You can read more about other books and movie connections in Dori’s post and Megan’s post.
When Stacey asked us to gather together our favorite books for 2010, I thought, “piece of cake!”
Settled in the Wild by Susan Hand Shetterly
Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell
Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven
Rose in a Storm by Jon Katz
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons
Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
Gail Caldwell, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, has written a wrenching memoir on love, loss, and friendship. Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship is a deeply touching tribute to Caldwell’s deceased friend, Caroline Knapp. The memoir quickly draws the reader into their remarkable friendship. These two generous and talented women forged an ironclad bond in midlife. They added richness and texture to each other’s lives. They walked their dogs together, taught each other their favorite sports, and celebrated their professional successes.
Gail and Caroline would sometimes joke about caring for one another in their old age, but this was not to be. Lung cancer ended the younger Caroline’s life quickly and painfully. Gail was left to console and support Caroline’s husband and cope with the immense emptiness in her own life. Let’s Take the Long Way Home is not a wistful or airbrushed version of friendship, but it is an exploration of the power and depth contained in our connections to one another.
Jon Katz is a prolific author; he has nineteen books to his name, seven of which are novels. He lives on a farm in rural New York with his wife and an assortment of animals, including his Border collies. His books about these medium-sized herding dogs drew me to his nonfiction, for I have also known the love and companionship of a sheepdog for fifteen years.
His newest novel, Rose in a Storm, is about a Border collie named Rose and her owner, Sam, a middle-aged farmer. Rose and Sam face a raging blizzard and must keep the farm animals safe and fed. The snowstorm is the worst that anyone can remember, and they are toughing it out together, until Sam is seriously injured. When the National Guard comes with a helicopter to take Sam to the hospital, Rose refuses to go with him. She stays to protect and defend their farm.
Rose in a Storm is a touching and harrowing story of one dog’s courage and resilience. Author Katz does a superb job of showing the fierce love and loyalty between Rose and Sam.
Last evening I started reading author Greg Kincaid’s Christmas with Tucker, the prequel to A Dog Named Christmas. I thought I would read just a chapter or two, but before I knew it, it was one a.m. and the book was finished. I thoroughly enjoy reading books that are part of a series. I look forward to the familiar characters and settings. It is always a pleasure for me to see the characters and plot develop, with each book building upon the previous one. I admire the authors’ skills at keeping each new book in the series fresh.
Here are six series that I highly recommend:
The Chet and Bernie mysteries by Spencer Quinn, the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries by Charles Todd, the Bride Quartet novels by Nora Roberts, the Irish Country books by Patrick Taylor, the Lady Julia Grey mysteries by Deanna Raybourn, and the Judge Deborah Knott mysteries by Margaret Maron.
I could go on and on, but these are definitely tops on my series list.
One of my favorite things here at the library is our wonderful collection of magazines and newspapers. Sometimes a magazine is just what I want. Sometimes all I want to do when I have a few minutes free is to read Martha Beck’s newest column in O, the Oprah Magazine.
We have magazines for every taste. There are magazines for cooking that are perfect for the beginner or for near-professional chefs. I am the sort of cook that stops reading the recipe and moves on to the next one when I see “meanwhile” do this or that. In Cuisine at Home there are inspired recipes without too many of those dreaded “meanwhiles.”
The library’s magazines and newspapers can save you quite a bit of money on subscriptions, too. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, the Plain Dealer, and Investor’s Business Daily are all here waiting for you. The next time you are in the library, be sure to check out these treasures.
This year most of my favorite books are nonfiction titles. I loved reading Good Poems edited by Garrison Keillor. As with any poetry anthology, the poems can be read over the course of one snowy day, or they can be savored one at a time over a month of Sundays. The anthology contains so many of my much-loved poets: Billy Collins, Robert Frost, Robert Bly, Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman, and Denise Levertov.
Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford has just been listed in the NYT Book Review’s 100 Notable Books of 2009. Crawford holds a PhD in political philosophy, is a fellow at the University of Virginia, and owns his own motorcycle repair shop. Crawford suggests that our modern world has disconnected us from truly understanding the material world. To reconnect, he proposes that we become able to make and repair things, not just to save money, but for the satisfaction of becoming the “master of one’s own stuff.”
Diane Ackerman’s Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day would make a perfect Christmas gift for the nature lover on your list. Her writing is thought-provoking, lyrical, and beautiful. There are underlying themes of change and suffering, but her focus is truly joy. Joy in being alive. Joy in being a part of this immense universe.
Of the two fiction books that have topped my reading list, one is purely fun and the other is serious with themes of duty and honor. Dog on It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn is the start of a great new series. Chet is the canine narrator of the mystery and is partnered with Bernie, a private investigator. Chet and Bernie have each other’s backs as they hunt for a missing teenage girl. The story is very humorous, but readers will be in suspense until the very end as they worry about Chet’s fate.
A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd is also the beginning of a series. Charles Todd is the pen name for this mother/son writing team best known for their Ian Rutledge mystery series. Bess Crawford is their new heroine. She is serving England as a nurse during the Great War. As she tends to a dying soldier, he asks her to take a message to his family. After Bess is rebuffed by the family, she begins to probe into the family’s history only to discover a hidden and devastating betrayal. Readers will be fascinated by this brooding and evocative mystery.
~Merry Christmas from Rosemary
I was surprised as well to find one of my very favorite books removed from a school reading list in Oklahoma. Montana 1948 by Larry Watson was removed, according to the American Booksellers for Free Expression, for “profanity and descriptions of nudity and sex crimes.” Montana 1948 packs a quiet punch. It is a coming-of-age story in which 12-year-old David observes his parents trying to reconcile loyalty for family with the need for justice for those wronged. David’s uncle, a revered doctor, has been accused of the sexual assaults of Native American women. Author Larry Watson brings Montana and the 1940s to life with his beautiful writing. Young David was forever changed by witnessing the moral courage of his parents.
Matthew B. Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft, holds a PhD in political philosophy, is a fellow at the University of Virginia, and owns his own motorcycle repair shop. Although he was raised in a commune, this isn’t another Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in which Robert Pirsig motorcycles half-way across the country with his young son in search of himself. Crawford is not on a road trip, but a philosophical journey through the value of manual labor. Not assembly line work, where an employee often has little feel or care for the objects created, but rather the trades such as carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, as well as car and motorcycle repair. These are the kind of jobs that will always be, not able to be outsourced across the world; jobs in which the good worker is intimately part of building or repairing an object.
After college, time spent in an office of cubicles writing summaries of technical articles, followed by a stint as the director of a think tank, convinced Crawford to try work he loved — motorcycle repair. He repaired and rebuilt motorcycles slowly and lovingly, learning that understanding the whole machine is a necessity. Soon he was accepted by a community of riders and old-timer mechanics who knew every cycle ever made. To earn a living, he knew he would have to work faster or charge exorbitant rates, neither of which he could do. He now divides his time between manual labor and the academic world.
Crawford leaves us with the view that our modern world has disconnected us from truly understanding the material world. To reconnect, he proposes that we become able to make and repair things, not to save money, but for the satisfaction of becoming the “master of one’s own stuff.”
If you are not mechanically inclined, parts of the motorcycle sections might not be for you, but his philosophy of work could intrigue you.
Donna mentioned a few books she is hoping to read before summer is over. I have a few books, too, that I hope to read before Labor Day. I’ve just started Pat Conroy’s South of Broad, and I’m already falling for the troubled Leo. The book has received mixed reviews. A friend’s husband is well into the story, and he thinks the character development is excellent. I think Chas is right!
I’m also looking forward to David Rosenfelt’s New Tricks and Kwei Quartey’s Wife of the Gods, one of Stacey’s favorites. ~Rosemary