Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Title: That Old Cape Magic

Author: Richard Russo

Year: 2009

With its smooth prose, wit, and tragi-comic portrayal of marriage and family life, this book was a fast and truly enjoyable read that ranks among my favorites for the year; I wished the story could've kept going after the final page.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Title: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Year: 1901

A quick and absorbing novel, this one only took me a day to complete, and I even predicted a portion of the outcome; read it!


Title: I Know This Much Is True

Author: Wally Lamb

Year: 1998

This 900-pager took me a month to complete, mostly because I only read a few chapters at a time; it's a great book but truly a comprehensive family saga, so I'd recommend reading it all within a week instead of over a larger span of time in order to keep all the details fresh.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Title: The Old Man and the Sea

Author: Ernest Hemingway

Year: 1952

Short but packed with meaning, this book deserves a read even if you're (like myself) not typically a Hemingway fan.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Title: Picturing Personhood
Author: Joseph Dumit
Year: 2003

This book provides an interesting look at how brain scans function as signifiers of social meaning when used outside of the lab, within popular culture; while I am interested in visual rhetoric and how images are used to persuade, I feel like much of the intrigue got lost in Dumit's over-use of technical jargon and extensive excerpts from his interviews with brain scan specialists.


Title: Narrative Medicine

Author: Rita Charon

Year: 2006

A readable and engaging introduction to the developing field of narrative medicine, this book takes a humanistic approach to health care, arguing that we "emplot" our own lives and therefore create our own realities; if personal identities are formed out of our personal stories, then doctors and nurses can foster better relationships with patients, based on mutual respect and equality, by listening to patients' stories and thereby recognizing the individual rather than the illness.

(P.S. This may be the best scholarly non-fiction book I've ever read).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Title: The Time Traveler's Wife

Author: Audrey Niffenegger

Year: 2003

Beautifully written, this book now ranks among my favorites for the year despite its more bizarre and unsettling moments; the last 50 pages are unspeakably poignant and powerful, especially for the emotionally-sensitive, deeply romantic dreamer.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Title: Health and the Rhetoric of Medicine

Author: Judy Z. Segal

Year: 2005

I haven't included textbook-like selections in my yearly tally because typically they aren't ones you can pick up for a bit of fun, casual reading; however, this text, while not exactly "fun," is accessible and informative not just for students of rhetoric, but also anyone interested in the intriguing and dynamic relationship between health and language.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Title: The Last Battle

Author: C. S. Lewis

Year: 1956

This final book in the Narnia series was intense, and the last chapter made me teary-eyed (in a good way); the Biblical imagery and symbolism, while clearly present throughout the series, couldn't be any more obvious in this Revelation-like conclusion.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Title: The Silver Chair

Author: C. S. Lewis

Year: 1953

The sixth book in the Narnia series was excellent; I think it rivals the second as my favorite overall, and now there's just the final book to go!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Title: The Pursuit of God

Author: A. W. Tozer

Year: 1948

I'd wanted to read something spiritual for a while, and since this book is hailed as a Christian classic, I decided to give it a try; while I agree with many of Tozer's ideas, I had a hard time ascribing to some of his beliefs (such as his claim that humans' desire to "shine" is "evil", and other lines that condemn intellectual pursuits), and his blatant attack on the Catholic Church on the second-to-last page seemed inappropriate considering how the rest of the book offered positive suggestions for living, not outright criticism of others.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

#37 B

Title: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Author: C. S. Lewis

Year: 1952

Reepicheep the mouse is one of my very favorite characters; two more books in the series to go!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

#37 A

Title: Prince Caspian

Author: C. S. Lewis

Year: 1951

This fourth installment in The Chronicles of Narnia was much more entertaining than the third, though the second one still remains my favorite thus far.


Title: The Turn of the Screw

Author: Henry James

Year: 1898

This short novel is psychologically deep and very engrossing, but I warn you not to read it before bed; the descriptions of the ghosts were vivid and left a lasting, creepy impression in my head!

Monday, October 5, 2009


Title: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

Author: Roddy Doyle

Year: 1993

While I liked the stream-of-consciousness impressions, I had trouble at times believing that a 10-year-old boy narrated some of the language; regardless, the challenges and tragedies of growing up in 1960s Ireland are captured quite well, and the powerful conclusion makes up for some tedious reading moments within the 300-pages of text.

Monday, September 7, 2009

#34 C

Title: The Horse and His Boy

Author: C. S. Lewis

Year: 1954

This book starts off really slow, and I found it boring for quite a while since Lewis bogs down the narrative with too many details without enough plot development; however, near the end, it becomes more interesting, though I think it's not nearly as strong or enjoyable as the previous two books.

#34 B

Title: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Author: C. S. Lewis

Year: 1950

The book that's most commonly read from the collection, this installment has been the most enjoyable thus far, including adventures with a wicked witch, talking animals, and a lion's sacrifice; on another note, I wish I had more time to explore all the Biblical symbolism that is clearly rampant in this series.

#34 A

Title: The Magician's Nephew

Author: C. S. Lewis

Year: 1955

This story was written years after Lewis began the series, but he intended it to be read first; it provides the context for the following six books and tells the details of Narnia's founding.


I am currently reading The Chronicles of Narnia. It includes 7 books, but each one is fairly short, so I'm counting the entire collection as 4 books instead of 7. That's why the numbering system will get funky for the next few posts.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Title: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Year: 1988

What appears to be a short and simple tale of a boy's quest reveals itself to be a beautiful narrative layered with meaning; this could be one of the best books you'll ever read.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Title: Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Author: Lynne Truss

Year: 2003

Truss laments the tragic state of modern punctuation usage in an incredibly witty and also informative book; she does a great job of encapsulating the frustration I feel every time someone mixes up "its" and "it's", among other grievous punctuation errors.


Title: The House on Mango Street

Author: Sandra Cisneros

Year: 1984

[I suggest you read the 2009 "25th anniversary" edition because the newly added introduction is excellent and greatly adds to the reading experience]

The childhood of a Latino girl growing up in Chicago is depicted through short, memorable, moving vignettes; the author's language is poetic, my favorite line being "You can never have too much sky."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Title: Bee Season

Author: Myla Goldberg

Year: 2000

A well-written book that travels to surprisingly dark and powerful places, this novel traces the individual lives of the Naumanns-- mother, father, brother, and sister -- a nuclear family that's anything but ordinary, and the way their lives intersect and collapse upon one another, leading to a sad but moving conclusion.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Title: Fast Food Nation

Author: Eric Schlosser

Year: 2001

I haven't eaten fast food for the past two and a half years, and after exploring Schlosser's phenomenal expose, I finally have empirical justification for my antipathy (though I'm curious to find out how conditions have changed in the years since publication); please, please, please read this book!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Title: Death of a Salesman

Author: Arthur Miller

Year: 1949

This masterpiece of American drama does not need any of my praise; with all its beauty and tragedy, it must be read (surely more than once) to be fully appreciated.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Title: Plainsong

Author: Kent Haruf

Year: 1999

The overlapping lives of several men, women and children in a small Colorado town are narrated with attention to the tiniest details, and Haruf's simple, straightforward prose lets the characters' actions stand prominent, as the beauty of human compassion shines boldly in the face of bitterness and anger; if you're looking for action and a complex plot, look elsewhere, but if you like a no-frills narrative of human emotions, give this book a try.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Title: Silas Marner

Author: George Eliot

Year: 1861

This book is one of my favorites for the year thus far; it's a short yet beautiful Victorian novel that will let you experience the genre without the usual bulky page count.


Title: New Moon

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Year: 2006

The second installment of The Twilight Saga is as entertaining as the first, but beware that the romance is even more sappy and over-the-top.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Title: And Then There Were None

Author: Agatha Christie

Year: 1939

My second Agatha Christie book of the year (considered by many to be her most famous work) did not disappoint; it's the perfect read for the all-grown-up Nancy Drew fan.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Title: Twilight

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Year: 2005

This book is narrated by a sappy, love-sick teenager who falls for a vampire; clearly, we're not going for Pulitzer Prize winning writing here, but rather a plot-driven, easy read for the backyard or the beach (I enjoyed it).

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Title: Boiling Point

Author: Ross Gelbspan

Year: 2004

This book provides a good, accessible overview of global warming's impact on the natural and social worlds; the author claims that the general public has been intentionally deceived to believe that global warming is not a real threat and not caused by human actions, and he offers a solution (which seems overly idealistic) for solving the climate change problem.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Title: Peony in Love

Author: Lisa See

Year: 2009

This novel is rich in Chinese history, detailing the struggles of women during the early Qing Dynasty; I love the author's focus on uncovering women's silent attempts to be heard, both in writing and in their society, but I feel the mode of first-person narrative seems at times inauthentic and tedious.


Title: Cutting for Stone

Author: Abraham Verghese

Year: 2009

A complex story spanning continents and generations, this 500+ page book took a while to read but was ultimately worth it; Verghese has previously published non-fiction accounts of his work in the medical field, and this novel, while at times intimidating with its medical jargon, appeals enough to the non-specialist realm of human emotion to make it enjoyable for the common reader.


Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Author: J. K. Rowling

Year: 2007

This final book in the series left me guessing until its compelling conclusion, and I disagree wholeheartedly with those who claim this series isn't "literary"; the masterful writing and complex subject matter of this epic allow Rowling's fantasy world to, in many ways, mirror reality, and therefore address the themes and concerns that persist throughout centuries of celebrated literature.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Author: J.K. Rowling

Year: 2005

Wow; that's all.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Title: On the Road

Author: Jack Kerouac

Year: 1957

I found this book to be tedious and at times frustrating, though there were several poignant passages that I enjoyed; my favorite line was: "Holy flowers floating in the air, were all these tired faces in the dawn of Jazz America" (it reminds me of an Ezra Pound poem; can you guess which?).


Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Author: J. K. Rowling

Year: 2003

With a 100-page climax, this book is one of the most intense and gripping that I've read yet this year; two more in the series to go!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Title: Shopaholic Ties the Knot (Series Book 3)

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Year: 2003

This is probably the last I'll read of the series; it was funny and entertaining at parts but just way over the top to the point where I wanted to scream at Becky and say "what is wrong with you???"

Monday, May 4, 2009


Title: Northanger Abbey

Author: Jane Austen

Year: 1818 (posthumous)

This short and witty story follows the "heroine," Catherine, through adventures in friendship and love during a visit to Bath; her subsequent follies and misfortunes are entertaining, and the conclusion is satisfying; overall, I enjoyed this book, but to me it doesn't rival Pride and Prejudice as Austen's best work.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Title: Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (Series Book 2)

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Year: 2002

For most of the book, I was annoyed with Becky and could no longer sympathize with her blundering ways (even her chatty narrative grew tiresome and repetitive at times); however, the conclusion was outstanding, though far-fetched (but what romantic comedies aren't?) and made me want to keep reading the series.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Title: As I Lay Dying

Author: William Faulkner

Year: 1930

Complex both in its form and its psychology, this novel intrigued me greatly but also perplexed me; reading it once isn't enough to fully understand it, but I guess that's expected with Faulkner, right?

Monday, March 30, 2009


Title: Confessions of a Shopaholic

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Year: 2000

This is the ideal "girly-girl" book; it has just enough clothes, shoes, and romance without the bawdy elements of many women's books, and it's easy enough to read in a day or so.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Title: Cannery Row

Author: John Steinbeck

Year: 1945

Previously, the only Steinbeck book I'd read was Of Mice and Men, and while I enjoyed it, I think I liked this one even better; its almost musical prose is rich in both tragedy and humor, and the pace was fast enough to allow me to complete the novel in just two days.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Author: J. K. Rowling

Year: 2000

The story is growing darker and more serious, and of course more captivating; luckily for me, I don't have to wait until book 5 comes out to see what's going to happen next (there are benefits to reading an entire series once it's been completed!).


Title: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Author: Agatha Christie

Year: 1926

Reading this book reminded me of many long, lazy childhood afternoons absorbed in a Nancy Drew mystery; it's been years since I've read a good mystery (I attempted a James Patterson book a few years ago but was disappointed by an excess of gruesome violence) and this book, as the first Agatha Christie story I've ever read, makes me want to read more in the future!


Title: Don Juan

Author: Lord Byron

Year: 1818-1823

Written and published in installments yet remaining unfinished at the time of Byron's death, this lengthy poetic work (written in 8-line rhyming stanzas, totalling over 500 pages) follows the romantic and other adventures of its "hero," Don Juan; certain parts were intriguing but overall, I would not recommend this book for pleasure reading because its many digressions and historical/political allusions require much supplementary reading and research to fully comprehend.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Title: Middlemarch

Author: George Eliot

Year: 1871-1872

I didn't like it at the start, but this 900-page Victorian saga has, upon completion, reached a high place on my list of all-time favorite books for its intricate portrayal of characters and emotions; if you're patient and struggle through some tedious passages along the way, you might end up feeling the same way too.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Title: Leaves of Grass [The Original 1855 Edition]

Author: Walt Whitman

Year: 1855

This slim volume of poetry, to which Whitman added until his death (resulting in the hefty "Death Bed Edition"), contains the original 12 poems, all untitled, but which would later become Whitman's well-known masterpieces (including "Song of Myself"); by no means an easy read, this collection is still accessible enough to be enjoyed by casual readers and serious scholars alike.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Title: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Author: James Joyce

Year: 1916

Intimidated by the very idea of James Joyce, I wearily began reading this novel hoping to at least comprehend a small portion; while the first half provides a relatively easy narrative, the book's language gradually grows more complex, and even the dialogue becomes rich with allusions (relating mainly to Catholicism and Irish politics) that are largely convoluted yet do not completely obfuscate the focus of the text: the adolescence and intellectual development of Joyce's partly autobiographical protagonist, Stephen Dedalus.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Title: The Glimpses of the Moon
Author: Edith Wharton
Year: 1922

Caught among an elitist social group that upholds money as its moral standard, Nick and Susy can either fall into the rhythm of a glamorous existence or attempt to transcend it; the novel begins with their honeymoon and schemes for financial gain, then continues to chronicle the following year of their marriage, set against the wanderings and moral infractions of their "friends".

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Title: The Reader
Author: Bernhard Schlink
Year: 1995

Intrigued by the hype surrounding the movie, I decided to read the book before viewing its film rendition; having finished the final pages tonight, I am flummoxed by the moral and historical tangles that Schlink creates but ultimately left feeling slightly (but only slightly) more sympathy than scorn for Hanna, an imbalance that the novel's first-person narrative seems to subtly invite.