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My 2019 book list

GAYS MILLS - I read 28 books this year, falling way short of my goal of reading a book a week. For most of a busy summer, I was between books–I didn’t have one I couldn’t wait to get back to. It was an easy groove to get into. However, I did read some books I can recommend as my favorites for the year and here they are:

‘Parnassus on Wheels’ by Christopher Morley

This is a charming little book, short enough to be considered a novella, written in 1917. It tells of a colorful bookseller and his traveling bookstore housed in a horse-drawn wagon. He convinces a 39-year-old ‘spinster’ to buy the wagon and agrees to travel with her and train her as a book seller. They travel the countryside serving rural folks and spreading the love of good books.   

‘Kindest Regards’    by Ted Kooser

I discovered this book at the Soldiers Grove Library. Kooser was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006 and has received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Kooser’s poems deal with simple, humble, everyday topics clearly and honestly. The accessible poems give the reader a new way of seeing what is right in front of them.

‘Long Haul’ by Finn Murphy

Sub-title: ‘A trucker’s tale of life on the road.’ I liked this book a lot. Murphy dropped out of college 30 years ago and became a long haul trucker, specifically a mover, helping people relocate. He has over a million miles on his odometer(s) and seemingly a story for every mile.

‘It Can’t Happen Here’  by Sinclair Lewis

Another vintage book, written in 1935. And a chilling read. This book is a semi-satirical political novel and is said to have “predicted Trump.” And it does parallel events happening today. Published during the heyday of fascism in Europe, Lewis asks and answers the question: What if it happened here?

‘Zen in the Art of Writing’  by Ray Bradbury

Really a book about creativity by the inventive Bradbury. Read it to expand your mental landscape. The book is made up of past essays Bradbury wrote over a 30-year period and is a behind the scenes look at how this master storyteller works. The zest and gusto for writing and life he expresses are contagious.

‘Dandelion Wine’ by Ray Bradbury

I wrote a column about this book recently. A great recounting of one summer in the life of a 12-year old boy in small town America in 1928.

‘The Testaments’ by Margaret Atwood  

A long-awaited dystopian novel, the sequel to the popular ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ book and HULU series. Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize for fiction. Set 15 years after the ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ conclusion, there are many parallels between this book and ‘It Can’t Happen Here’ regarding groupthink and the plight of the powerless in a society.

‘On the Fly’ by Iain McIntyre

Sub-title: ‘Hobo Literature and Songs 1879-1941.’ An anthology of stories, poems, songs and articles that create an insider history of a subculture that has always fascinated me. So much so that a buddy and I jumped a freight train one weekend in college.

‘In the Distance’  by  Hernan Diaz

A first novel by Diaz and a very unusual western. In the mid 1800s, a pair of young Swedish brothers are sent to America by their father to seek a better life. They thought they were bound for New York, but they got separated before embarking and one of them, Hakan, wound up, penniless, in California. The book recounts Hakan’s travels, on foot, back east against the colorful tide of western bound emigrants and characters.