I thought I'd list some of the books I read in 2010. When compiling this list I was surprised to see just how much nonfiction I'd read.
Small Beneath the Sky (Lorna Crozier) - This is poet Lorna Crozier's memoir of growing up on the Canadian prairies.
Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott) - Just one of many books on writing that I read in 2010. Most were okay, some were good, but this one stands out. Lamott, who has written several novels as well as nonfiction books about her faith journey, is really funny and nutty but very insightful about the writing process.
Escaping into the Open (Elizabeth Berg) - Also on writing, by a very popular and prolific novelist. It's been said that there are two kinds of writers: those who love to write and those who hate to write. Berg is definitely in the former group; her joy in writing is the antithesis of Anne Lamott's neurotic angst. I like Berg's novels, which I find similar to Anne Tyler's but a little "lighter." Escaping details how she became a writer and gives lots of good advice and encouragement about writing and publishing.
Hamlet's BlackBerry (William Powers) - This book's thesis is that in our overly connected world we need regular opportunities to disconnect. Powers looks at various writers and thinkers from the past (from Socrates to Shakespeare to Marshall McLuhan) to show how we can incorporate those times of "disconnectedness" into our lives and how they can help us live more deeply and meaningfully.
The First Man in My Life (ed. Sandra Martin) - This is a book of essays by famous and less famous women (Pamela Wallin, Christie Blatchford, and Camilla Gibb are just a few of those included), telling about their relationships with their fathers.
After Tehran: Reclaiming a Life (Marina Nemat) - Nemat, who is now a Canadian citizen, was imprisoned in Iran for two years as a teenager. This book tells of the years after her imprisonment and how writing her first book, Prisoner of Tehran, helped her deal with the past and offered her opportunities to speak out against torture and persecution. (By the way, Nemat also has an essay in the aforementioned The First Man in My Life.)
The Art of Possibility (Benjamin and Rosamund Zander) - This inspiring book encourages us to reframe the situations in our lives so that we see the possibilities in life rather than just the limitations.
The Return of the Prodigal Son (Henri Nouwen) - We studied this book in our Bethel Church women's group this fall. In it, Nouwen explores Rembrandt's painting of the Prodigal Son, focusing on the three main characters (younger son, elder son, and father) and how he sees himself as like each of them in certain ways.
The Hour I First Believed (Wally Lamb) - It's a little difficult to describe this novel in one sentence, but essentially it is about a Columbine High School teacher, Caelum Quirk, who is faced with many crises including the trauma experienced by his wife, a school nurse who is present during the Columbine massacre.
Good to a Fault (Marina Endicott) - This book starts with a car accident between Clara, a middle-aged single woman, and a poor family who are living in their car. When the mother of the family has to be hospitalized, Clara takes the rest of the family in to her home, changing her life forever.
Blue Shoe (Anne Lamott) - The lovable main character, Mattie, deals with divorce, raises her kids, chases someone else's husband, looks after her mom who has dementia, explores her relationship with her father, and periodically checks in with God to make sure He still loves her. (Busy, busy, busy!)
A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini) - This beautiful but very tough book by the author of The Kite Runner is about two women in Afghanistan whose lives are brought together through strange circumstances and whose relationship sustains them through the horrors of domestic abuse, political upheaval, and war.
I would recommend any of these books as worthwhile reads.