2020 books in review

December 21, 2020 § 2 Comments

Here we are then, at the end of the year, a time of reckoning. We look back and see hardship, but also such goodness sprinkled throughout. This is life, yes? The good mixed with the bad, sadness and joy, fear and courage. As usual, I am being too poetic. Here is my reckoning: books read for long hours in a yellow bungalow that’s slightly tilted to one side.

It is good to be at home, even if we are restless. It is good to sit and sift through pages. What is so very wrong with escape? If we can escape to worlds of imagination, of ideas, worlds that bring us the very courage we need to make it through yet another day of real-life madness.

All right, I’ll get on with it. Here are the books I read in 2020, novels, memoirs, short stories, poems, and more. The ones with an asterisk (*) are my favorites. The ones with two asterisks (**) hit me in that soft spot that somehow feels like my soul. I will return to these special books again and again and again, and still I will not drain every drop of wonder.

What did you read? Do you have recommendations to pass on? The next year is coming, and I am readying a new list.

Novels

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel*

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel*

Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley*

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

22 Minutes of Unconditional Love by Daphne Merkin

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr*

Short Story

Florida by Lauren Groff*

Memoirs

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett*

This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession by Cameron Dezen Hammon

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell

How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem by Rod Dreher

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor

Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro**

The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander**

What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forche*

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver*

Leap by Terry Tempest Williams**

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed**

My Victorians: Lost in the Nineteenth Century by Robert Clark

Mystery

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

Still Life by Louise Penny*

Religion/Philosophy

Where Goodness Still Grows: Reclaiming Virtue in an Age of Hypocrisy by Amy Peterson

Pain Studies by Lisa Olstein

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

Poetry

Lines of Defense by Stephen Dunn

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

The Best Poems of Jane Kenyon by Jane Kenyon**

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri*

Graphic Novel

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

On Writing

The Author’s Craft by Arnold Bennett

Good gifts: a list

July 27, 2020 § 1 Comment

Hot rooibos tea in a hand painted china cup, gifted by a friend.

Fresh cut lisianthems, lavender, mauve, and pink, clustered in a round glass vase on an old walnut table.

Homemade pizza crust and fresh tomato sauce. Roasted red bell peppers. Portobello mushrooms. Handfuls of mozzarella cheese.

Reading on the front porch surrounded by marigolds and cacti, a milkweed plant, a fern.

Sunshine in the late afternoon dappling a pink wall, a mint green couch, orange cushions.

Sunflowers in the windowsill.

Trips with your husband to Home Depot, to Tom Thumb.

The smell of ground coffee. Reading the Sunday paper. Grilling in a friend’s backyard.

Wine, lots of it. Red. White. Rosé.

Gin and tonics. Moscow mules in icy copper cups.

Just a cold beer.

Steaming, homemade waffles topped with honey and fruit and eaten with a friend.

Phone calls just to catch up. Phone calls for prayer.

A jazzy blues band playing a street concert. Neighbors seated in fold out chairs. Neighbors dancing, falling over with glee.

Bon Iver on the record player. A home with records to play.

Tentative plans held loosely. A camping trip. An airbnb reserved.

Having hope.

Seeing and knowing the Kingdom of Heaven is still right here.

Downpour

October 28, 2019 § Leave a comment

On this Monday morning, a short story to read!

I like to think of Downpour as a story for Texans, artists, and fellow admirers of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

I’m thrilled to share this story in the fabulous Southern Humanities Review.

Happy reading!

When life gives you Lyme

June 24, 2019 § Leave a comment

Over the last year and a half, I’ve struggled to overcome what I now know is Lyme Disease. For those who missed it, I wrote about that struggle — and the difficulty of so many others — to get a correct diagnosis and treatment for the disease for D Magazine’s medical directory.

Lyme Disease is surmountable, but if left untreated it can be debilitating and even life-threatening, and the number of afflicted patients is on the rise. Which is why I’m joining my voice with so many other Lyme patients to argue: “With the rise in Lyme cases, healthcare professionals should be on the lookout for the disease, becoming more educated on how to diagnose and treat it properly.”

You can find the full story here. It was not a story I ever wanted to write, but one I hope will shed some light on this terrible disease.

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