Books I’ve Enjoyed Lately
December 27, 2012
I am already a book addict, so it is a guilty pleasure to read all those year-end compilations of “best” books of 2012. I can’t begin to list all of the wonderful books I read this past year, but I will share a few enjoyable reads from the past couple of months.
Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn is a charming tale about the weary yet resourceful Queen Elizabeth, who on the spur of the moment decides to take the train to Scotland to see once again her beloved but decommissioned yacht. Not exactly running away from home (palace), for the Queen is an adult after all. But quite out of character for the aging monarch, who (unlike others in the Royal family) has spent her life doing the right thing. This is such an endearing, human portrait of the Queen.
If you are a fan of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (and I am — I own several editions of this classic), you will enjoy Return to the Willows by Jacqueline Kelly (who wrote one of my favorite books last year, too, called The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.) This sequel furthers the adventures of Mole, Rat and Toad in a seamless continuation of Grahame’s work. Kelly seems to delight in the language and “translates” from British to American English in footnotes.
World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down by Christian McEwen is a book of essays that explores so many of the themes that interest me: silence and solitude, walking, mindfulness, etc. McEwen feels like a kindred spirit, and just reading this book was an island of calm in a busy world.
Glaciers by Alexis Smith is a quiet novel about a librarian who repairs and restores damaged books. (I do like books about librarians!). She’s drawn to thrift-shop finds and salvages other people’s cast-offs. And this novel focuses on a few days in her life at work, where she is tip-toeing around a budding relationship with a colleague.
“Her story could be told in other people’s things. The postcards and the photographs. A garnet ring and a needlepoint of the homestead. The aprons hanging from her kitchen door, Her soft, faded dog-eared copy of Little House in the Big Woods. A closet full of dresses sewn before she was born.
All these things tell a story, but is it hers? It has always been more than an aesthetic choice, holding on to the past; it’s a kind of mourning for the things that do not last.
We do not last, she thinks. In the end, only the stories survive.”
Daniel Klein’s Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life will make you want to remove yourself to the slow pace of the village of Kamini on the island of Hydra. Klein ruminates about how to have an authentic old age, with lessons from Epicurus forming a platform for his musings. “Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.” — Epicurus
And finally, Paris vs. New York: A Tally of Two Cities by Vahram Muratyan is one of the most imaginative and creative books I’ve read. Each double-page spread compares an aspect of city culture as it is experienced in NYC and in Paris. The clean designs are striking and a marvel.