Books (so far) of 2016


This has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but isn’t it a rather lovely shot of a hellebore from my garden?

Inspired by all of you who keep track of what you read (and manage to share it on the interwebs), I thought I might give keeping track of what I read in a year a try. It’s February and already I feel like I’m not doing so good at that, although I did manage to make a list the other day. However, given my tendency to have lists stuck all over the house on random scraps of paper as well as my complete ability to read a book and then either completely forget I’ve read it OR remember the book itself but forget the name and the author, I’m decided I’m going to try and keep track here.  According to what I remember, this is what I’ve read thus far this year:

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by  Elvis Costello  – Long, non-chronological and written as beautifully as some of his songs. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have been listening to the Elvis Costellos & The Attractions Pandora station since finishing the book. Edie bought this for my last birthday, with a comment about someone who listens to the album he did with Burt Bacharach as much as I do clearly needs this book ( “Painted from Memory” may possibly be my favorite Elvis Costello album). Also, I loved having as my bookmark my ticket stub from the time we saw him opening for Dylan, where it was just Elvis and his guitar. He made an arena show feel as intimate as your living room. It was divine, as was this book.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by  Laura Hillenbrand – The true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic Athlete who survived a plane crash into the Pacific, 47 days floating at sea and then years of extreme deprivation and torture as a POW in Japan.  Well written about a fascinating subject.  I can’t decide if I want to watch the movie now or not. I hear it’s not as good as the book and I hate when a good book is ruined by a movie.

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart –  A single mother, Stewart initially headed west to Wyoming in 1909 as the housekeeper of a rancher, intent on establishing her own homestead. Her letters to her friend Mrs. Coney back in Denver are rather warm, chatty, and entertaining, as are some of her adventures traipsing about the Wyoming frontier. I think this was a free download on my Kindle, as it had been on there for some time. I was in need of a new book and realized it was the only book left on my Kindle I hadn’t read. I highly recommend it, especially if you like real life feisty pioneer women.

Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams and Drugs with the Grateful Dead by Bill Kreutzmann (with Benjy Eisen):  I think the title tells it all. Bill is probably, behind Bobby, my favorite member of the Dead.  Written very conversationally (my absolute favorite way of writing, especially memoirs) with frequent invitations to just go look a particular item up on youtube.  One of my absolute favorite passages was on the subject of setlists “To this day, Deadheads love to discuss our setlists, because – once we built the repertoire – no two sets were ever identical. You could run analytics on them and find all kinds of patterns and translate them into statistics….and from those statistics, make tie-dyed tapestries or fractal maps of the stars or create whole new cosmologies and zodiac calendars or weave them into clothing for unicorns or whatever. And while that’s pulling a lot more out of it than we ever put into it, some Deadheads have found this kind of analysis to be pleasing in the same way that sports fans might enjoy running numbers with baseball.” He goes on to say, there was no ‘grand master plan’, that setlists ‘unfolded out of happenstance and chaos’.  He had me at Unicorn Clothing.

It’s a Long Story: My Life by Willie Nelson (with David Ritz)  – The life and times of Willie Nelson as told by Willie.  If you’re a Willie fan – which I am, having been raised on Willie (My dad would sing the opening bars of “The Party’s Over” at bedtime when I was growing up. Bet that just explained a little bit about me there, didn’t it?) – then it’s everything you imagined his memoir would be.

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill – I grabbed this on a library run from the “NEW” shelves by the front door because the title intrigued me.  I loved this book. LOVED.  There are some wonderfully off the wall characters in a beautifully written book. I made notes of entire passages that absolutely slayed me.  Definitely the best piece of fiction I’ve read in some time (which considering there are only two of those in this entire list probably doesn’t say much).

The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy by Peggy Caravantes – Another grab from the “NEW” shelves. A Young Adult book with informative side bars on topics like Pullman Porters, The Charleston and more, this biography told the story of the International Jazz Age star.   Easy to read and geared toward a much younger audience than myself, the subject was incredibly interesting, so it was a quick read.

Reckless: My Life as a Pretender by Chrissie Hynde – I only picked this book up because it was sitting on the “NEW” shelf at the library. After hearing a rather difficult interview she did with NPR last fall, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this book. But there it was and I have to admit right here, I love the Pretenders. Love, as in spent hours of my teenage years in my room listening to them over and over and over again. Particularly “Learning to Crawl“.  And now? It was a very disappointing book. Most of it does not actually discuss The Pretenders, but her life previous to forming them, which involves a lot of drugs and sketchy situations. She was around London in the early days of Punk and knew a good bit of the scene, but she didn’t offer much on that except that Nancy Spungen was a pain in the ass. It’s only towards the end does she talk about her band, but glosses over much of their success and ends the book in the early 80’s after the deaths of James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon.  She does not come across as relateable or likable in the least – I always knew she was tough and that’s what I always liked about her, but she also came across as heartless and a bit cold.  The book was so disappointing I am now completely reevaluating how I feel about the Pretenders.

Death in Summer by Benjamin Black – Murder Mystery set in 1950’s Dublin. Apparently it’s one in a series with a character named Quirke. I think I grabbed this from the book exchange trailer at the McIntire Recycling Center, but I’ve discovered the library has at least some of the other books in this series, which I look forward to reading.

8 thoughts on “Books (so far) of 2016

  1. melissawest says:

    Ooh, you have some interesting ones, I wrote a couple titles down. Unbroken was fabulous, but I totally skipped on the movie. If you liked it, I recommend “Devotion” by Adam Mako(?), a similar type of biography but focused on the Korean War. That was terrific.

    • Becky says:

      I’ll put it on my list. Or maybe it’s on my list, which is various scraps around the house and notes on different electronics. Because organized, I am.

  2. Patience says:

    I love impulsive grabs off the new books library shelf! There’s always something interesting there. You mentioned Letters of a Woman Homesteader to me before and I have added that one to my list.

  3. noodleroux says:

    Loooove this post!

    I’m with Melissa – I love, love, loved “Unbroken” but skipped the movie – I was just afraid it wouldn’t live up to my imagination. I’ll have to pick up the Josephine Baker and Willie Nelson books to feed my hunger for memoir, now that I’m finally done with “Life” by Keith Richards – thank you for that recommendation!

    As for Chrissie Hynde … isn’t the general consensus that Nancy Spungen was a pain in the ass? She seriously didn’t have anything new to add? Pssh.

    • Becky says:

      “Life” is sort of the best – it’s a hard one to follow up.
      I’m pretty sure it was generally agreed by everyone that Nancy was a PIA.

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