The entire world has changed seemingly overnight. No, that’s not true. COVID-19 had been brewing and building for months and months. Festering and threatening overseas. We knew it would come our American way, and yet. Yet! Here we are. I have been laid off from my job; have been quarantined for 40 plus days; have not seen the inside of a store of any kind; have not driven a car or talked face to face with another human being besides my Kisa. For over a month, I have been separated by screens and paranoia. I couldn’t even say goodbye to one of my closest friends for fear of contamination before he stole across borders towards a new home. Words like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Hangout, and Live Stream rule my daily existence. My insanity has been kept in check by these words, walking 8-9 miles a day, writing letters, and finishing chores I always said I would get to but never did (sewing ripped clothes, making curtains, hanging art, you name it). The one activity I haven’t done much of is…read.
Nothing bothers me more than someone saying, “think of all the time you have to read!” They mean well but they just don’t know. When I was a kid I spent a lot of time reading. When I could get away with it, my nose was constantly in a book. In the dead of winter, when the summer tides of friends had gone out, I was left with my sister and a handful of kids close in age. Close, but not quite. Dead low tide was a boy one year older. A girl three years younger. A boy two years older. A boy four years younger. No one exactly shared my birth year. I found myself turning to friends within the pages of books. Lots and lots of books. Lots and lots of friends. My dad was not a fan of these relationships. He viewed fiction as leisure or worse, laziness. “Get outside! Get some fresh air!” was his constant bark from early October through May. His bark was so biting I grew up fearing fiction was a form of loafing; something to never to be caught doing in broad daylight. I remember smuggling Nancy Drew under my shirt when I went to the school bathroom; ducking under covers with a flashlight to join Bilbo on his great adventure; climbing trees with Stephen King clenched in my teeth. Hiding to hang out with a paperback became normal.
In 2006 when I started the BookLust Challenge, I thought I had slayed the old insecurities. I thought I could spend time with a book without guilt. For fourteen years I held onto this belief as a private gospel…until I got laid off and I couldn’t sit on the couch with a book. All the old feelings of leisure, loafing, laziness came flooding back. Guilt. I realized I only read when I was killing time, waiting for something else. Constructive book devouring? I don’t know. For years, I could juggle reading 5-6 books at a time and finish 10 in a month. But! That was when I was on hold with a vendor, bored in the boardroom, waiting in line at the grocery store, fighting nerves in the doctor’s office, sitting as a passenger on long car/train/plane/boat rides. Reading kept me from waiting for anything. Take all the time you need while I finish this chapter…
I have been out of work for one month, collecting unemployment equal to my take-home pay and yet I’ve only managed to finish two books. I guess I could try to tell myself I am waiting to go back to work, but that’s too abstract for my too literal mind. Mayday! Mayday, I can’t read.
I always said I will die before I officially finish the reading Challenge. Now I know it to be true.
When I look back at August my first thought is what the hell happened? The month went by way too fast. Could the fact that I saw the Grateful Dead, Natalie Merchant (4xs), Trey Anastasio, Sirsy, and Aerosmith all in the same month have anything to do with that? Probably. It was a big month for traveling (Vermont, Connecticut, NYC) and for being alone while Kisa was in Charlotte, Roanoke, Erie, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Colorado. And. And, And! I got some running done! The treadmill was broken for twenty days but in the last eleven days I eked out 12.2 miles. Meh. It’s something. Speaking of something, here are the books:
- African Queen by C.S. Forester
- Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas
- Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object by Laurie Colwin
- Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen
- Beauty by Robin McKinley
- Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
- American Chica by Marie Arana
- Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge
- Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson
- Die Trying by Lee Child
- Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov
Early Review cleanup:
- Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm
- Open Water by Mikael Rosen
Rosen, Mikael. Open Water: the History and Technique of Swimming. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2019.
Reason read: part of the Early review program for LibraryThing.
Open Water is everything and anything you need to know about the sport of swimming; or dare I say the art of swimming; the obsession of swimming? Rosen’s book is practically an encyclopedia of swimming facts as well as biography of famous swimmers and a how-to for improving your own technique in the water. It’s a well laid out, beautiful to look at book complete with maps, photographs and more. Fascinating.
As an aside, I have heard many, many stories about how my maternal grandmother used to be a beautiful swimmer. Just recently my aunt reminisced about watching her mother cut through the water with such powerful grace it brought tears to her eyes. I would have liked to have seen that. My maternal died of cancer long before I was born when my own mother was thirteen.
Confessional: Until recently I hoarded my early review books knowing I couldn’t sell them or really donate them anywhere. I tried giving some away but that wasn’t really successful either, so in my basement they languish (still). Open Water will be my first and only gift to Natalie Merchant. She is an avid swimmer and I feel she might, just might, find it interesting. What else am I going to do with it?
Postscript to the confessional: I gave the book to her tour manager. I will probably never know if she liked it.
So, by the end of November I was a blathering mess, wasn’t I? I know I was. Mea culpa. Three xrays, five vials of blood taken, one CT scan, and two therapy sessions later, here are the updates. The protruding ribs are being blamed on chiropractic appointments even though I felt the rib cage move before I started see Dr. Jim. The nerve pain is being controlled by medication. The spot on the lung and possibly tumor…no results as of today. White blood cell count still elevated. Possibility of cancer…still a possibility.
But. But! But, enough of all that. Here are the books: I have a week off at the end of the month so I am anticipating it will be a good reading month. Here are the books planned:
- Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess (EB) – in memory of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th.
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin – in memory of Le Guin passing in 2018.
- Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund – to honor Alabama becoming a state in December.
- The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer – to honor women’s suffrage law.
- Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB) – to honor the wedding anniversary of Mark and Delia.
- Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger – in honor of the moon landing.
- Stet: an Editor’s Life by Diana Athill (EB) – in honor of Athill being born in December.
- The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (AB) – to continue the series His Dark Materials, started in November in honor of National Writing Month.
- The Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series Niccolo House, started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Squelched by Terry Beard.
If there is time:
- Black Tents of Arabia by Carl Raswan – in honor of Lawrence of Arabia.
- This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun – in honor of Jelloun’s birth month.
What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
- Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.
- Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.
Fun: nothing decided yet.
Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.
I have been in physical therapy for my hip for more than a month now and here’s the sad, sad thing. I don’t feel much different. I still have trouble sleeping a night (last night I woke up every two hours) and runs haven’t been that much easier. I managed over sixty miles for the month and finally finished the dreaded half (the one I have been babbling about for months now. Yeah, that one). I definitely made more time for the books. Here is the ginormous list:
- Aristotle Detective by Margaret Anne Doody (finished in a week).
- All Hallows’ Eve by Charles Williams.
- Discarded Duke by Nancy Butler (finished in a week).
- Beautiful Children by Charles Bock (AB / print). Word to the wise, don’t do it!
- Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe
- Whatever You Do, Don’t Run by Peter Allison (AB / print; finished in less than a week).
- Sense of the World by Jason Roberts (AB / print).
- I Will Bear Witness: a Diary of the Nazi Years (1933-1941) by Victor Klemperer ~ in honor of Mr. Klemperer’s birth month.
- In the Valley of Mist by Justine Hardy
- We are Betrayed by Vardis Fisher.
- Amazing Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman ( finished in four days).
- Henry James: the Treacherous Years by Leon Edel (Can you believe I actually finished this within the same month?).
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina (read in four days).
I started this book challenge thing in November of 2006. Since then I have read over 1,000 books, thanks to Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust series. I’ve had fun. I’ve learned a lot. But, it’s time for a change. No, I’m not quitting the challenge…just changing some things up a little. All things have a natural progression. If you were to look at my first reviews in 2006 I didn’t mention an author fact or any book trivia. In a lot of reviews I didn’t even find a favorite line to quote as proof I read the book. Those elements of the review evolved slowly over time. Recently, I found two more details that need to change and, unlike the previous changes, these come with an announcement instead of a slow introduction.
The first is simple. If Pearl says something specific about a book or author I want to note it, so I’m starting a “Nancy said” sentence right after book trivia. If she didn’t say anything other than to list the title, oh well. I think this addition to the review is a natural one, since I have been mentioning what Nancy said about some titles. Case in point: Pearl liked Halberstam’s The Fifties and I made note of that.
The second change is very dramatic (to me in my own little world anyway). This change literally throws all my comparison stats out the window. I am moving the anniversary to a calendar year. For ten years now I have counted the books read between December 1st and November 30th as a complete year. It’s too complicated that way for reasons I can’t get into right now. Let’s just say a January 1st to December 31 cycle will work best. Let the (new) games begin!
Can I talk about books and running at the same time? I just have to. In the August batch of the Early Review program for LibraryThing I “won” a book called The Boy Who Runs by John Brant. I was pretty excited to read it because as you may have guessed from my other ramblings besides books I’m pretty excited about running. [Reading about running is probably the next best thing to running.] Notice I said I was pretty excited to read it. Past tense. Was. It would have been all well and good if I had actually received the book. Because I haven’t. Not yet. Bummer.
Fast forward to this week. Another message on LibraryThing. “Congratulations, you have won Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham.” Another Early Review book! Under normal circumstances I would be beside myself with joy. Besides being excited about books and and being excited about running I am pretty excited about yoga for athletes. [I’ll give you an example: I won Yoga for Runners by Christine Felstead in 2014 and I STILL use it as a bible for routines both before and after runs. I not only read and reread her book, I went on to buy not one but two of her yoga videos. I became a huge fan all because of LibraryThing and the Early Review program.] But, getting back to my original rant. Notice I said would be beside myself with joy. Would be. I’m not beside myself with joy because in the past 12 months I haven’t received three books (four if you count Dorothea’s book that I can’t seem to get ER to acknowledge). Given that track record there is a chance Cunningham’s book won’t make it to me. Bummer. It’s not LT’s fault. I know once I’ve “won” a book it’s up to the publisher to get it to me.
The good news is Cunningham’s book is slated to be published this coming Tuesday. I’ll wait a month and borrow it from my local library.
Okay, so here it is, the first week of February and I never wrote a summary for January or looked ahead to February. What is this world coming to? I’ll tell you what the what. My life has been upside down lately. Between being sick and injured I haven’t been myself lately. Not working out has left me crank, crank, cranky! Not running has unhinged my balance. Being sick for the second time this winter doesn’t help.
So even though I blew it for January, here’s a redeemer for February. Without further ado, the books I will read (or have already read) for the month:
- A.D.: After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld in honor of Mardi Gras
- Her First American by Lore Segal in honor of immigration month
- I Shall Sleep…Down Where the Moon is Small by Richard Llewellyn (to finish the series started in December)
- Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes (to finish the series started LAST April)
- Beautiful Place to Die by Philip Craig
- If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now by Sandra Loh in honor of Loh’s birth month
- Rocksburg Railroad Murders by K.C. Constantine (in finish the series started last month)
- As She Crawled Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem in honor of his birth month (an audio book)
- Liar by Rob Roberge (Early Review book)
- The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano (not on the challenge list; a recommendation by my sister)
Okay. So that’s a lot of books. But not really once you read my confessional: There were four that took a day apiece to read (Neufeld, Loh, Constantine, and Craig) and four more I have been reading for a while now (Llewellyn, Hughes, Roberge and Giordano). So, already a total of six are “in the can” so to speak even though it’s only early February. Clarification: I have a “new” rule for series. I’ll use the Constantine series to illustrate: I started Constantine’s series in honor of mystery month in January. When I finished the January book I didn’t wait until February 1st to start the second book in the series. True, I give myself a month to read a book but sometimes I don’t need that much time. If that makes sense.
I will be adding two more:
- The Path to Power by Robert Caro in honor of Presidents Day
- Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (audio book) in honor of February being the month we moved to Northampton (Kidder is a Northampton author).
The numbers are in! Thanks to a severe omission of several chapters from Book Lust To Go I had to add 89 additional titles to the Challenge list, bringing my total number of books left to read to 4,809. While I am irritated by this new number, 4809 is a much better number than what I had been originally anticipating. I guessed 4,840. In order to remain positive, I will try not to fixate on the fact I thought I had 4,726 to go. I will put THAT number out of my head. I will. So. Moving forward, what this means is I will be even stricter about the “fun” stuff I read on the side. I will become pickier about the “outside” books. If you weren’t recommended by Pearl, forget about it. Wait. I’m a liar. I will still review Early Reviews for LibraryThing. I am loyal to the Thing. But being stricter with the rules also means I will give up on Challenge books more easily. Does it pain me to say that? No, strangely enough, in a way I’m relieved. It pained me more to struggle through a book I had no real interest in reading in the first place. Like that history of the atomic bomb…I found myself really reading only the even pages and skipping the odd. I would do that with any book I was particularly bored with. Hey – it worked. I got the gist of the plot and didn’t feel like I missed all that much. But, from here on out, if I don’t like a book within 25 pages I’m moving on. I don’t want Kisa reading to me on my death bed just so I can finish this challenge. So, on the plus side of these new “rules”, by not wasting a ton of time with the boring books, this means I will get to the books I am really looking forward to reading that much faster.
As penance for screwing up my numbers I am going to start a countdown on my blog. “I have read X number of books to date.”
Another confession – I honestly don’t believe Pearl read every book she recommended, either.
I’m not sure how to say this so I’m just going to come right out and say it. I fukced up. Somehow, in some way, I screwed up my Challenge list. I don’t even know how I figured out something had gone horribly awry. All I know is this- dozens of books from Book Lust To Go didn’t make it onto my lists, and believe me, there are a few. I am the queen of lists. I have a
double no, triple no, quadruple no, quintuple-check system for keeping my books in order. Behold:
- First there is the excel spreadsheet called “Twist List.” It has every single title from all three Lust books. This spreadsheet is alphabetically tabbed and each title is color coded for which Book Lust it came from (white for Book Lust, light green for More Book Lust, light turquoise for Book Lust To Go, dark green for both Book Lust and another Lust book, brown for More Book Lust and another Lust book, dark turquoise for Book Lust To Go and another Lust book, and purple for when I finish the title).
- Then, there is a spreadsheet called “Lust To Go List.” It’s the same alphabetically tabbed list as Twist only it’s not color coded and when I finish a book it simply gets deleted from the list. It’s literally a list what I have left to read.
- The third spreadsheet is called “Schedule Calendar” and it is all the titles from all three Lust books organized by the month I plan to read them in. Each month gets its own tab: Jan, Feb, Mar and so on.
- The fourth and penultimate check system is the “Chapter List.” Each Lust book has its own spreadsheet broken out by chapter. Think of it this way: it’s the index of Book Lust et al in excel spreadsheets. Example: Once I finish a book in the chapter “Montana: the Big Sky Country” (Book Lust p 156), for example, I color code the title. At a glance I cen see I read three titles and there are ten more left to read.
- The fifth and final check is not a spreadsheet. It’s actually my LibraryThing account. Every book I have to read is in my “catalog” and tagged “accomplished” when I have read it.
I know, I know. It’s complicated. But, it works. So. Back to my dilemma. Somehow I realized that whole chapters of Book Lust To Go didn’t make it onto the first two lists. I’m not sure how that happened. It kills me to say my comprehensive reading list is not so comprehensive. How to fix this mess? Right now I am systematically (read=painfully) going through Book Lust To Go‘s index and checking the titles against Twist and Lust To Go. I’m up to ‘M’ and I’m adding titles where necessary (and that’s the part that REALLY kills me). Sometimes I only need to add a title to Twist and not To Go. Not sure what happened there, but whatever. Occasionally, I have been checking LibraryThing to see if I included the missing title in my catalog. Nine times out of ten the title is there, so I’m not going to worry too much about that. The lists I haven’t checked (yet) are the Schedule Calendar and the Chapter list. I’ll cross those bridges later. For now, I have enough titles mapped out that I won’t miss the missing…if that makes sense. Watch – I’ll probably end up reading nothing but books on Hong Kong at the bitter end because that’s one of the chapters I completely missed. Oh well.
Frost, Robert. “the Road Not Taken.” The Road Not Taken and Other Poems.New York: Dover Publications, 1993.
This is such a simple poem with such a complex meaning! But, having said that, how many people have used this poem to explain the things that they have done; the decisions they have made? My uncle read this poem at his brother’s funeral. His message was clear – my father, seven years his junior, chose a much different path than him or even the rest of the family. My father chose love over money. Happiness over family. My uncle offered this poem as an explanation for why they weren’t close as brothers but I also think he was (finally) voicing how proud he was of that courageous decision “to take the road less traveled.” It’s the last line that drives the point home. It has made all the difference. I know it did in my father’s short life.
Reason read: National Poetry Month. Need I say more?
Author fact: Robert Frost is one of the best known, best loved poets. We also associate Frost with New England but he was born in California.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237).
Sandburg, Carl. Complete Poems. “The Road and the End.” New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1950. p 43.
I see a solitary traveler planning to face whatever comes his way on his journey. He has anticipation of the road ahead and the hours spent going down it. I say anticipation…for he hasn’t left yet. “I SHALL” indicates a plan to do so. The capitalization indicates a determination; a desire to convince someone (maybe himself?) he will eventually leave. It’s a nod to nature. Perfect timing for the changing seasons and hopefully, the warmer weather.
I took this poem personally as I have been slow to start training for my 60 mile cancer walk at the end of May. The apathy I was feeling spread into neglecting my favorite charity event. For the first time in five years I haven’t walked down my road of training the way that I should be by now…to say nothing of the fund raising (which sucks, by the way).
Favorite line, “in the silence of the morning.” Can anyone guess why?
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month…as I’ve said before.
Author fact: Carl Sandburg died two years before my birth. He is the second Chicago poet I’ve read this month.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers Tales in Verse” (p 237).
I have a decidedly dumb dilemma. Books. Too many of them. Well, more accurately I have too many uncorrected proofs. Nearly 70 different titles. In the beginning…we’re talking 2006..I was asked to join LibraryThing’s Early Review program. Here’s how it works: ever month LT posts a list of new books to be published and you request one to be reviewed before publication. I have been honored to “win” nearly 70 early publications and I have reviewed them all. Well, let me clarify. I have faithfully reviewed every title I have received. I’m still waiting for two…
In the beginning it was a pride thing. I was so thrilled to be asked to join this program that I saved every single book I was asked to review. I wanted to keep an entire collection of “librarythings” to mark the accomplishment. But now they are taking over! Ironically, the two favorites I wanted to keep I loaned away and never saw again (The Translator and Losing Clementine). But, back to the books I can’t keep. I argue with myself and moi about what to do all the time.
Here’s how it goes:
Me: We donate them to a charity?
Myself: It’s uncorrected proof. No one wants to read an unfinished product.
Me: We could donate them to a library?
Moi: You wrote tags, notes and stuff all through them. You underlined and dog eared pages. (Shame on you, librarian!)
Me: We could give them to friends?
Myself: And how would you decide who gets what? Think of that Orgasmic Pregnancy one! Who would get that?
Me: We could offer them up free to anyone interested near and far? FaceBook? They would just pay my shipping costs?
Myself: And what if people don’t send you $$ to mail them? You are trying to renovate your kitchen, remember?
Me: We could throw them out?
Moi: You would hate yourself and chase after the recycling truck to bring them back.
Me: We could just keep them?
Myself: Out of the question. You don’t hold onto books unless you love them. You are running out of room with things you don’t love.
Me: I do hate clutter.
So. What to do? Maybe when the weather gets warmer I’ll set up an alfresco book store with a big ole “Free” sign and see what happens. It could be a study in sociology. Do people like uncorrected proofs? Would they mind my in-page musings? Do people like free no matter what? And who will take that Orgasmic Pregnancy book?
This is the list for Year Seven of the Book Lust Challenge. I’ll update it at the end of each month, just to keep myself honest.
- Abide By Me by Elizabeth Strout
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- Among the Missing by Dan Chaon
- Apollo: the epic journey to the moon by David West Reynolds
- Arctic Grail by Pierre Berton (I started this last year)
- Ariel by Sylvia Plath
- At Home in the Heart of Appalachia by John O’Brien
- Beautiful Swimmers by William Warner
Before the Knife by Carolyn Slaughter
- Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengist
- Beyond the Bogota by Gary Leech
- Big Mouth and Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
- Brass Go-Between by Oliver Bleeck
Breakfast with Scot by Michael Drowning Brush with Death by Elizabeth Duncan
- Burma Chronicles by Guy Delise
- Burning the Days by James Salter
Camus, a Romance by Elizabeth Hawes
- Cardboard Crown by Martin Boyd
- Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lillian Jackson Braun
- Child that Books Built by Francis Spufford
Churchill, a life by Martin Gilbert
- Conspiracy and Other Stories by Jaan Kross
- Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
- Deafening by Frances Itani
- Death in Verona by Roy Harley Lewis
- Diamond Classics by Mike Shannon
- Dining with Al-Qaeda by Hugh Pope
- Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
- Domestic Manners of the Americans by Fanny Trollope
Edward Lear in Albania by Edward Lear
- Fanny by Edmund White
- Final Solution by Michael Chabon
- Fixer by Joe Sacco
- Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco
- Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Gerald Martin
- Galton Case by Ross MacDonald ~ reading right now
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
- Girl in Landscape by Jonathan Lethem
- Going Wild by Robert Winkler
- Golden Spruce by John Vaillant
Good Thief’s Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan Good Thief’s Guide to Vegas by Chris Ewan
- Good-bye Chunk Rice by Craig Thompson
- Grand Ambition by Lisa Michaels
- Guardians by Geoffrey Kabaservice
- Hole in the Earth by Robert Bausch
- House of Morgan by Ron Chernow
- House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferre
- Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer
- Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith
- Light Infantry Ball by Hamilton Basso
- Lives of the Painters (
vol 2, 3 & 4) by Giorgio Vasari
- Mortality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith
- No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
- Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin
- Ocean of Words by Ha Jin
- Old Friends by Tracy Kidder
- Panther Soup by John Grimlette
- Points Unknown edited by David Roberts
- Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
- Return of the Dancing Master by Henning Mankell
- Rosalind Franklin by Brenda Maddox
- Rose Cafe by John Hanson Mitchell
Scar Tissue by Michael Ignatieff
- Scramble for Africa by Thomas Pakenham
- Southpaw by Mark Harris
- Tattered Cloak by Nina Berberova ~ reading right now
- Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith
- Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith
- Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
- Time, Love, Memory by Jonathan Weiner
Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery
Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin
- What you Owe Me by Bebe Moore Campbell
- Wholeness of a Broken Heart by Katie Singer
- Widow for One Year by John Irving
- Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
- Working Poor by David Shipler