3 Grownup and 9 Children’s Books

July 18, 2010

130. Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich

Here I show my true colors: I cannot resist the latest Stephanie Plum book. Go ahead and call me crass, call me uncultured, but it’s a fact: I live for the next Plum mystery. I loved sixteen just as I loved thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and I can’t wait for seventeen.

131. In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction edited by Lee Gutkind

Not quite as good as last summer’s Norton Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction, but In Fact was nevertheless a good read. In fact, In Fact has proven to be one of my favorite reads of the summer. How can you not like well-written essays about the true world? Written creatively, of course.

132. The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

I decided to add this book to my iPad, quite spontaneously. I am happy I did. Manguel, a book lover, seemed to be sharing all his favorite thoughts about books with me, another book lover. I only wish I’d finished this book in time to discuss it with my online group.

133. The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
134. The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl

I’ve been a fan of Dahl ever since I first read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; reading these two short books confirmed my fandom. Funny in a sly way, almost as if Dahl hopes his rudeness toward adults will elude them.

135. What Do Smurfs Do All Day? by Peyo

I’d never have thought this book would be included in the 1001 Children’s Books list! Smurfs? Serious children’s literature?
I must say that I still wonder if I simply am reading an abridged version…or is the wonder of Smurfdom lost in translation?

136. Teo va al mercado by Violeta Denou

I was unable to find the actual Teo book listed on the 1001 list, but surely this is a representative sample. Lovely little story of a boy walking with his mom through the market, with each page enlarged upon in notes in the back.

137. Peace at Last by Jill Murphy

I’d believe the whole story more had the tale been told by Mrs. Bear. After all, Mr. Bear can find peace and quiet at work, right?
The story follows Mr. Bear seeking that all-elusive peace at his home. When he finally finds a quiet spot and he is able to sleep, he is abruptly awakened; it’s morning.

138. The Sea-Thing Child by Russell Hoban

The little sea-thing child is dropped off by the ocean on the shoreline and he is too afraid to try flying back or swimming back to whence he came. Luckily he meets a fiddler crab and an eel and an albatross and the conversations with his new friends help him find the courage to head home. A quietly clever story.

139. The Church Mice and the Ring by Graham Oakley

Where has this book been all my life? I’m adding it to my list of favorite reads ever. Very believable characters (okay, I can hear you snickering…yes, these are talking mice and dogs and cats, but, trust me, they are very believable.) A hilarious sense of doom confronts these characters, doom yet also salvation. Fun illustrations…clever story…oh, I don’t know why, but I just loved this story.

140. This is the Bear and the Scary Night by Sarah Hayes

Deservedly on the list for the 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up. Must obtain this for my library. Bear is lost and has a serious of adventures before finally returning to the one who loves him. Lovely story.

141. Humphrey’s Bedtime by Sally Hunter

Lottie knows she does not need to go to bed early; she is a big girl and she has lots of dolls and stuffed animals that need tending to. Tend she does, finally wearing down into what any parent will recognize as a small meltdown. Perfect depiction of children at bedtime. Brilliant.

Three Books Read

July 11, 2010

127. This is Getting Old by Susan Moon
Moon is just a little bit farther down the road of life than I am, so it helps me a lot to see what’s ahead for me. It’s not a pretty world, the sixties. Falls, for example, are already a problem for me. I’ve already taken several spills in my fifties, all of them embarrassing but, so far, not life-altering. Moon has a whole chapter on falls which might seem tedious to a twenty-something, but is amazing insight to me at fifty-three. Moon also talks about her difficulties with depression and loneliness and caring for her elderly mother during her mother’s last days and all of these are lovely.

128. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
I read A Year in Provence while I was in Provence. Perfect mesh of book and environment for reading. Mind you, I read this book when it first came out, but this reread was not in any way tedious as rereads (for me) can be. Little stories of life in a new spot, centered on the changes in the seasons, were delightful.

129. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Why is it that even the best nonfiction books always have terrible titles? “Celebration of Discipline?” Who decided to call this wonderful book by such a banal name?

Foster explores the various approaches to Christian spiritual growth (Okay, face it, that little sentence makes this book sound as awful as the title….Why is so difficult to put words to experiences so close to our heart?) Let me just stop talking about the book and suggest that if you are interested in growing spiritually, you give this book a look-see. I found it very thoughtful yet practical.

Four More Reviews

July 5, 2010

123. How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton
If you have considered reading this book, you are probably aware of who Proust is, but I honestly knew little about him before reading this book. I’ve been on a French author reading kick for, oh, five months or so, and I’ve had this book in my TBR for quite some time, so this was a must-read for me.

The question is, then, How? And, importantly, Can He?

The answers read like a how-to-be-happier self-help guide, but this book is not of that genre; this book is actually a book of literary criticism, oddly. Reading Proust can change your life by teaching you to focus on slowing down, relishing, thinking, reading thoughtfully, and your senses.

That’s the How. Now for the Can He.

I say yes. Of course I do. I am a librarian, for goodness sake. Of course Proust can change your life. I’m of the opinion that all books can and do.

124. Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
It all started with lunch. Bard met a man and it soon became quite apparent that he was The One. And, happily, Paris, it seems, was The Place to Live. All turning out nicely for Bard, and she got a book out of the deal as well. A satisfying book at that.

125. 52 Loaves by William Alexander
Alexander tasted a fantastic piece of bread and that was it for him: he was off in pursuit of making the most excellent bread ever. To achieve this goal, he set out to bake a loaf of bread every week for a year.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, was able to stop Alexander from making that wonderful bread. He traveled around the world to bake in an old oven, to enroll in a bread baking class, and to a monastery where he become head baker.

Funny. And surprisingly helpful for those of us who love to bake bread.

126. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expery
I read this simultaneously in English and French. In France. A happy experience. Love this book.

A Book a Day

June 12, 2010

118. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Oh dear. I hate going against the flow of public opinion, but this book was just not my kind of read. I got through the first few chapters, thinking it was going to get better. It didn’t. Finally, I decided to jump to the end, to see what was going to happen. The ending intrigued me enough that I jumped to the middle and read a few chapters there. Back to the near end to see how the relationship played out. Then back toward the front to pick up where I’d initially stopped….Well, you see where this goes.

Not sure this counts as a read, given that I read the front, the end, the middle, the end, the middle, the front. But I feel I read enough to warn the wary: This is a hyped-book that did not (for me) live up to the hype. The writing (the translation?) felt like it was a color-by-the-numbers story.

119. Citizens by Simon Schama

I can see it is going to be one of those weeks. First, I barely get through Sarah’s Key, which everyone is raving about, and then I have to force myself to read (skim?) Citizens, an online group read.

And I just knew I was going to love this book. It’s about French history and I’m going to France in one week.

Come to find out, I’m just not that interested in knowing so much about the French Revolution. Call me shallow, but I was happy to go read the summary at World Book and be done with it.

120. French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook

It seems the secret is mostly water. And portion control. (And, some say, don’t forget that over half of all French women smoke. That could have something to do with it.)

It’s a mystery, but French women are, despite lots of butter and cheese and wine, not fat. I definitely think it’s something scientists should be looking at, but, in the meantime, I had lots of time to look through these recipes which were mixed in with lots of speculation about why French women don’t get fat.

121. Mystically Wired by Ken Wilson

God made us for prayer with Him. He wired our brains in such a way that we long for prayer with God.

So, why is it so hard for us?

Thus, this book. Wilson helps us through the hard parts, including just the very act of getting started and making prayer a habit. He suggests stillness. He suggests praying outdoors. He suggests meditating on scripture. He suggests holding loved ones in memory during prayer.

Wilson has some wonderful ideas. He is able to talk down nay-sayers of meditation using lots of Scripture, and that in itself is a feat. Recommended.

122. God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours by Regina Brett

Brett has had a rough life. Dropped out of college. A young single mom. Discouraged from her life’s dreams. And, just when she finally found happiness with her husband, cancer.

All these tough times have made Brett tough and she is happy to share what she has learned here.

The chapter titles sound like she’s going to get preachy, but, perhaps because we know she’s been where we are, she never does. And each little essay is much, much better than the title, so don’t let that stop you from reading on.

Four Read This Week (Mostly French)

June 6, 2010

114. The Lunatic Express by Carl Hoffman

Here’s Hoffman’s idea: Travel around the world using the most dangerous forms of transportation. Sound like fun?

And he does it. He rides on dangerous places, goes on dangerous trains, travels on dangerous ferries, and takes dangerous buses. All the while, he ruminates on why he is not content to stay home with his wife and children.

He survives. Finally, it is time to go home.

“It was time to go home….Time was only worthwhile when your eyes were fresh, when it surprised you and amazed you and made you think about yourself in a new way. You couldn’t travel forever….In everyone, I suspect, lay a tension between the need for otherness and home. We all want security, we all want adventure, the familiar and the new always jockeying for control.”

115. The Lover by Marguerite Dumas

If you suspect that Dumas is French, then you have obviously been reading my blog for a while and know that I am currently obsessed with all things French. This book was recommended in Great French Books and, since I had it in my TBR (and it’s been there for a good year), I decided to give it a read.

Would you like it? Do you like to read stories about poor young women who give themselves to rich fellows? In real life, this apparently happened to Dumas. It’s quite sad, really. I’m starting to find that many (most?) French books are quite sad.

116. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Dick Driver is a psychiatrist with a crazy, though rich wife. They travel together around France and don’t seem to know what to do with themselves.

Driver meets a young actress who is taken with him, but it not until five years later, that the two take up with each other. Neither is in love, and Driver seems to have forgotten about his wife and children, so, once again, another sad story.

117. Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday Living by Robert Arbor

Arbor is a Frenchman now living in America who owns a restaurant. One of the pleasures of this book is that it contains many, many recipes. But that is certainly not the only pleasure.

And that’s what this book is all about: Pleasures. Simple pleasures. The pleasures that French people find in their every day lives. Preparing food. Eating. Spending time with their families. Spending time with their friends.

A lovely, lovely book. I want to see this way of life at work (and, hopefully, I will…in two weeks!) and I want to bring it back home with me to my town.

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews (Catching Up, Pt. 4)

May 30, 2010

100. Crazy Love by Francis Chan

101. If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus by Philip Gulley

Both scathing, but both authored by pastors who love the church despite its weaknesses. I, too, love the church, but find it disappoints me….We could be so much more but for our complacency and off-putting piousness, the very things Jesus stared down in his Jewish faith.

102. Reality Hunger: A Manifesto by David Shields

What is fiction and what is nonfiction? The boundary line is no longer clear. Shields argues that modern novels are a form that does not satisfy a world increasingly alienated from reality, using bits and pieces of others’ writings to make his point.

A book worth reading if just for the cleverness of its form.

103. Nicholas by Rene Goscinny

A 1001 Children’s Book. Nicholas is a bad boy, a Dennis the Menace from France, in and out of (but mostly in) trouble. He attends a boarding school where most of the other boys are also bad boys. It makes for a story equally compelling for children and grownups.

104. The Last Supper by Rachel Cusk

This book arrived in the mail a few weeks ago from LibraryThing. It’s a memoir of a time the author spent traveling around Italy with her husband and two young children. I like travel stories, usually, but this one was quite different from my typical travel story. Cusk seems removed from the story, aloof, distant. Her children are not named, for example, and do not feel like people but concepts. Cusk is vague about the reasons for her trip to Italy and even more unclear about what she took away from the experience. As a result, I felt disassociated from the story and the characters as well.

105. Weekend in Paris by Robyn Sisman

A young woman is thrilled to be chosen by her boss to accompany him to Paris for a business trip, but she is devastated to learn he has ulterior motives. (Wanna guess what these are? Yep, just what you thought.) She quits her job and decides to go to Paris anyway. Of course she meets a handsome Frenchman and of course there is heartbreak and of course she learns not to be so naive and of course she meets a nice person who offers her a better job and of course everything turns out okay in the end.

106. Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas

Sandra Dallas is one of those writers who appeals to both readers who read to escape and readers who read thoughtfully. Whiter Than Snow is the story of the families of a group of children caught in an avalanche. The reader knows from the very beginning that most of the children will die, but one of the hooks of the story is trying to figure out just which children will live. Like the other Sandra Dallas books I’ve read in the past, there is a nice sense of redemption by the final pages, with the characters all experiencing a new sense of connection and feelings of empathy that can arise out of a tragedy.

107. Get Lucky by Katherine Center

Sarah Harper has crashed and burned at her job and has run home to Houston and her sister to get back into the air. She and her sister have always been close and, when she discovers her sister has given up trying to have a baby, decides to serve as a surrogate mother for her. She ends up carrying twins, but the surrogate motherhood is really just a small part of the story. Sarah meets up with a former boyfriend who she cruelly dumped in high school and tries to reconnect with him and make amends…she works on her relationship with her sister…and she tries to figure out her place in the world. All of these plot lines come together to make a satisfying story.

I like Katherine Center. But then again I know Houston and that makes a book like this one, set in Houston, a better read.

108. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

All the ingredients from Rick Riordan’s earlier Lightning Thief series are here in the Red Pyramid: gods (with a very small “g”), monsters, mythology, fights, danger, potential destruction of the universe. I cannot imagine a ten-year-old who would not love this book. Pretty safe to say that if you liked Lightning Thief, you’ll like this one. Well, unless you don’t like books that are toooo derivative….

Five for the Week

May 30, 2010

109. La Surprise De Handa (Handa’s Surprise) by Eileen Browne (in French and English)

Handa puts fruit in her basket for her friend and sets off to meet her friend. On the way, Handa imagines what fruit her friend will prefer, all the while, unknown to her, animals are stealing the very fruits she contemplates. By the time she nears her friend’s house, her basket is empty. Luckily a wayward goat runs into a tangerine tree, refilling Handa’s basket. And, come to find out, tangerines are the very fruit that Handa’s friend loves best.

Here’s the surprise for me: I can read French! Mind you, I’ve been learning French for only, oh, maybe four months, but reading it is much, much easier than reading Spanish, which I’ve been learning for about fifteen years.

110. Poil de Carotte by Jules Renard

People who loathe children’s books often do so because they find the stories in them, the characters in them, insipid. Here, then, is a book for those: Poil de Carotte. Poil de Carotte as well as the family of Poil de Carotte are the real thing, fussy, feuding, calling names, having favorites, being lazy, forcing others to do one’s work, full of greed and cruelty and meanness. No sweet, sappy story here. And, astonishingly, first published in 1893. Refreshingly bleak, but not for those in search of the happy stories of yesteryear.

111. 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman

We all want to be happier, more creative, less stressed, and better parents, and we all want to be these things right now. Well, why not? Research about how to be a better person is out there, so why not write a book with the best quick ways to be better, ideas that can change a person in one minute or less? So went the thinking of Wiseman in creating this book.

My focus for the year is how to be happier, so I will share these tips here, in hopes of remembering them and practicing them in my own life. The power of positive thinking, for example, is a myth; instead, Wiseman proposes distraction. Also, writing about events is helpful in coming to terms with what happens. Keeping a list of things for which one is grateful led to greater happiness. Use money to buy experiences and not things; this leads to happiness. And, finally, “fake it till you feel it” is, apparently, quite valid.

112. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

I must have had twenty people tell me this book is their favorite book ever. One thousand four hundred pages seemed like a lot, so I decided to go abridged. Not sure one should ever try abridged and translated. (When Marius, in the last third of the story, finds a sign saying “Remove”, for example, I was completely lost. Not “remove”, I learned later, but “go away”.)

What a story, nevertheless. The plot centers on a young man, Valjean, who steals a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s family and is thrown in prison for this. Once released, Valjean is denied work, for he must present a passport tainted by his time in prison. A priest finds him in the streets and takes him in. Valjean steals the valuable objects from the church and runs away, but he is captured. When confronted by the priest, the priest denies Valjean stole the objects and even gives Valjean additional items, reminding Valjean of a (false) promise he made to the priest to turn his life around.

If this intrigues, then read the whole novel. It’s a series of these sorts of reversals and twists of fortune and little acts of grace. Absolutely fascinating.

113. Anagrams by Lorrie Moore

Gerard and Benna. Benna loves Gerard. No, Benna and Gerard are friends. No, Benna and Gerard are neighbors.

Thus, this novel. The identities of Benna and Gerard ebb and flow through this novel, changing in each chapter, each subchapter. A daughter appears, but, no, she is an illusion. A friend appears, but, no, she, too, is imaginary. Or are they?

Nothing is clear in this novel of relationships and meaning. A good choice for a re-reading, I think, and discussion.

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews (Catching Up, Pt. 3)

May 29, 2010

90. The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg

The truth is, I’ve skipped the last few Berg books. That’s the honest truth. But I liked this one, though not nearly as much as I liked her earlier books.

Listen to the gist of the book: A group of almost-sixty-year-olds goes to their high school reunion. What baby boomer would not like this book? I could not put it down and I cannot wait to tell some of my reading friends about it.

91. Asterix the Gaul by Goscinny

I saw this book a while back and could not see the charm in it. But now I’m in a I-Love-All-Things-French mode and this children’s book reentered my radar.

I found it clever and fresh. A little more sophisticated than a children’s tv show, but not far from the bang them over the head humor that some kids love.

92. T’choupi se perd au supermarche by Thierry Courtin

I read this book. In French. I did. Really.

Somebody needs to help me with this: Why did it take me ten years to be able to figure out anything in Spanish and here I am, a couple of months into French, and I can read children’s books?

Inexplicable.

93. Sundays With Ron Rozelle by, well, of course, Ron Rozelle

In a better world, Ron Rozelle would be writing for the Houston Chronicle each Sunday instead of his small town Brazosport Facts. I loved this little collection of his columns. He talks about newspapers and writing and friendship and family and, inexplicably, John Wayne. Loved this book.

94. Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt

Rosenblatt’s daughter died. She was young and seemingly healthy, but she died, leaving a husband and young children. Rosenblatt and his wife moved in with the husband and the grandkids and tried to put things aright, to make sense of what happened and to help the little family figure out what to do next.

A lovely read.

95. Otto Grows Down by Michael Sussman

Otto, in a fit of anger, wishes his sister had never been born and suddenly finds himself growing steadily younger. He almost immediately regrets his wish but feels incapable of reversing his reversal.

Clever and thoughtful. I cannot wait to share this with my students at school.

96. Poetry Speaks: Who I Am: Poems of Discovery, Inspiration, Independence, and Everything Else edited by Elise Paschen

I’ve read the whole series now…Poetry Speaks (for grownups)…Poetry Speaks (for kids)…and, now, this one, Poetry Speaks (for teens). Some of my favorites are here, including Langston Hughes’ “Dreams” and “I Loved My Friend” and Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”; I honestly cannot imagine a collection for teens without these poems. But lots of new surprises here and that is always welcome.

I’ll be passing this book on to a librarian friend at the junior high who will add this book to her collection and share it with teens at her school.

97. Poems to Read: A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology edited by Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz

Why did I wait so long to read this book? Zowie. Beautiful.

98. Winter’s End (Combat d’hiver) by Jean-Claude Mourlevat

A 1001 Children’s Book. That’s Winter’s End. It’s translated from the French. In view of my upcoming trip, I’ve decided to focus on reading those 1001 CBs that have French authors. And, though this book was set in a mysterious alternative universe following a dictatorial takeover, the book had a decidedly French feel, placing its trust in art to save the world. Very dark for a children’s book, but with a hopeful ending. I worried the book would be first in a trilogy, but, no, it was complete in itself.

99. Paris Times Eight: Finding Myself in the City of Dreams by Deidre Kelly

That’s Paris Times Eight. Kelly visits Paris, yes, eight times, and each trip changes her. Hope I will have my own Paris Times One experience this summer.

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews (Catching Up, Pt. 2)

May 29, 2010

80. On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town by Susan Herrmann Loomis

Another moving-and-starting-over book, this one set in a French town in Normandy. Loomis, her husband, and her young son buy a convent and convert it into a home.

French things I learned from this book: One must, at times, be quite stern with the French in order to make a point; amazing recipes; fresh food is everywhere; more French words.

81. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson

Lots of buzz about this book in the blogosphere and well deserved, I’d say.

Major Pettigrew is Atticus Finch in his small English village. His wife is dead and, though he speaks with his son, he despairs at times of their relationship. The village is on the verge of change and Pettigrew and his fellow villagers are wrestling with what changes are acceptable and which are not.

Pettigrew is an admirable character in oh-so-many ways, and that is one of the charms of the books. But it is also his ability to find wry humor in most situations that makes his an endearing character.

I loved this book and I’d love to hear what others think about it.

82. The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff

83. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

84. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s reflections on his time in Paris during the time after the first world war. He encounters and befriends Gertrude Stein and Sylvia Beach and Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Oddly, this book links rather well with Tender is the Night and Good Morning, Midnight, both of which were written during this time in France, and both of which I am also reading.

85. Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

An aging woman, down on her luck, meets a younger man in Paris and has high hopes for their relationship. Grim story of the woman’s years of drinking and meeting up with men.

86. Serve It Forth by M.F.K. Fisher

Brilliant essays loosely written on the theme of food.

87. Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong (Why We Love France But Not the French) by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow

Lots of useful info about France and the French. Key info for me: French rudeness; French history especially during WWII; education in France.

88. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou

Life can be very strange. Why would I pick up a graphic novel about the life of philosopher Bertrand Russell at the library convention? And, even odder, why would I choose to read it while I waited for a session to begin?

I like odd books. And I did like this one. But, warning: It is not for everyone. (Honestly, are there others who would enjoy reading this book? Not sure.)

89. Essential Guide to Spanish Reading for Children and Young Adults by America Reads Spanish

An excellent bibliography of books written in Spanish for children and young adults. To the library this book will go….

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews (Catching Up, Pt. 1)

May 29, 2010

70. This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson

You can’t write a book like this with a title like this without knowing it will be a shoe-in for every library collection in the world…and that is…well, how many books? A lot, anyway.

So, is that what inspired this book? Or was it heartfelt? Does Johnson really believe that librarians are going to save the planet?

Certainly a satisfying read for this librarian. Johnson gets librarians, for starters. Most don’t. Most have this impression of us, faithfully stamping the books and retreating to the shelves for a quick chapter between the occasional patron in the library. Johnson takes the time to see where the cutting edge librarians are going. Yes, where no man has gone before. We need someone leading us into this new unexplored world. Who better than librarians?

71. Dino-Baseball by Lisa Wheeler

The illustrations captivated the kids at my school from the first moment the book arrived. “Oooh,” the kids squealed. “Dinosaurs! And baseball! Can I check it out?!”

72. Poetry Speaks: Who I Am edited by Elise Paschen

I love books. You know that. But do you know I especially love poetry? It’s my favorite. Good poetry, that is.

And this book is just full of poetry. Good poetry. Poems I’ve been scribbling down in my journals since I was a junior high girl. “One Art.” “Acquainted With the Night.” “Road Not Taken.” All those poems every young teen has sighed and cried over for generations. Along with lots and lots of new poems to sigh and cry over.

A fabulous collection.

And it comes with a CD. Fabulous.

73. The Way to Stillness: Powerful Tools for Those in Helping Professions by Anne Alexander Vincent and Gayle Alexander

My heart dropped when this book arrived. It had been a bad day. Rare for me, really, to be feeling this low. And I was quite worried that this book would turn out to be one of those books written by a stuck-in-the-sixties wannabe, with chants or mantras or other hocus-pocus feel-good fixes.

Nope. Sigh of relief. This is a book from a grounded person and the advice is old and wise. It immediately restored my spirits and changed my focus and brought me back into a happy place.

74. How Lincoln Learned to Read: Twelve Great Americans and the Educations That Made Them by Daniel Wolff

I read this book start to finish in one afternoon. Couldn’t stop reading. It’s all about twelve famous Americans’ educations, both formal and informal, and how they acquired what they needed to know to become the people they became. I won’t give away who the people are as that is part of the fun; each chapter is titled with a little-known nickname of the person so you aren’t always sure who the story is about until you get to the last page.

It gives one a lot of hope to see how little formal education most of these people obtained in light of the amazing successes they achieved.

A fun trip through American history.

75. Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

If I’d read this book as a child, I’d have returned it without reading it, denying the main character of this book is the real Mary Poppins. Mary, in this book, is a sharp nanny, and she’s skinny and self-absorbed. Not what I think of as Mary Poppins at all.

There’s no denying she’s the source of the movie and plays, but you could have fooled me.

76. Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Damien and Anthony are two brothers who find a bag of money. Lots of it. Millions, in fact. And it must be spent quickly as the British pound is soon to be replaced with the Euro and the bills will become worthless.

Add in the fact that the boys’ mother has recently died and that Damien is obsessed with saints and you have a fantastic story. Loved it.

77. Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler

I’ve read and loved Hessler’s previous two books about China, but this is by far my favorite.

Hessler really knows China by now and does he ever have stories to tell! Sad stories. Hilarious stories.

78. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

79. Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull

Sarah Turnbull impulsively decided to follow a man home to Paris, but the trip was supposed to be for a week, not a lifetime. Instead, Turnbull married the man and made Paris her home.

French things I learned from this book: Lots of French words; waiters and those working in stores can appear rude to the non-Frenchperson; making new friends is a slow process; homeless people are accepted as a part of life; work strikes are frequent.