Christmas Break

Christmas Break Reading List 2014

Hello, readers!

Now that I’m on Christmas break, I have an opportunity to read for fun. (Not that reading college texts isn’t fun, but it can be a little draining at times.) Here’s a picture list with summaries from Amazon–as well as personal anecdotes–of the books and poetry I’m hoping to read over the break:

Poetry

Billy Collins’ The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems 

Playfulness, spare elegance, and wit epitomize the poetry of Billy Collins. With his distinct voice and accessible language, America’s two-term Poet Laureate has opened the door to poetry for countless people for whom it might otherwise remain closed.

In this dazzling new collection, his first in three years, Collins explores boyhood, jazz, love, the passage of time, and, of course, writing–themes familiar to Collins’s fans but made new here. Gorgeous, funny, and deeply empathetic, Billy Collins’s poetry is a window through which we see our lives as if for the first time.

Mary Oliver’s Thirst and A Thousand Mornings

                    

Personal Anecdote: I was introduced to Mary Oliver’s work through a now-deceased friend from my church. Her name was Gayle. A woman of faith, she also loved poetry. Gayle gave me Thirst as a confirmation present. Several years later, I still need to read it. I cherish Thirst not only because of the richness of Oliver’s words, but also because of the personal memories that this book of poetry carries for me. I got A Thousand Mornings as a Christmas present last Christmas. I can’t wait to read both!

Ed Bok Lee’s Whorled 

Personal Anecdote: I had the pleasure of hearing Lee read in person last spring at the Prairie Gate Literary Festival at Morris. In short, he was amazing. While he read for an hour or two, it honestly felt like 10 minutes. The majority of his poems are not short, but he has them memorized. He pulled me in with his imagery, his presence, and his perceptiveness. At one point, he almost brought me to tears.

Novels

Christopher Paolini’s Brisingr and Inheritance 

                        

Personal Anecdote: I loved these books as a teenager. Now, as an adult, I recognize that while these books are fun and pretty easy to read, they aren’t masterpieces. (This is my opinion.) I still  think that dragons are cool. I do take issue with these books, while at the same time, I enjoy the adventure aspect of the Paolini’s novels. I am re-reading (and listening because I own the CD’s) Brisingr, but I need to read (and listen) to Inheritance. I’m interested in what the final book will have in store for our hero, Eragon.

Brian Malloy’s Brendan Wolf

Who is Brendan Wolf? It all depends on who you ask.

*  To the staff of a Minneapolis nursing home, he’s the devoted partner of a much older man who’s recently suffered a debilitating stroke.

*  To the women of a conservative, Christian pro-life organization, he’s the tireless volunteer grieving over the recent loss of his wife and their unborn child.

*  To one gay activist, he’s the unaffectedly charming, yet directionless and unemployed man that he’s fallen hopelessly in love with.

* To his brother and his brother’s wife, he’s the lynchpin of a scam that will net them enough money to start their lives over somewhere new.

* To the general public, he’s an armed and dangerous fugitive.

All of these people – and yet none of them – Brendan Wolf is an ambivalent lover, reluctant conspirator, counterfeit Christian, and, most of all, an unemployed daydreamer obsessed with a dead man.

From the author of the award-winning The Year of Ice, this is a tour-de-force – a compelling, hilarious, heart-breaking novel about one utterly typical, and completely original, figure:  Brendan Wolf.

Personal Anecdote: I am pumped to read this book, because Brendan sounds like a fascinating character to me. Not because he is gay–which doesn’t bother me one bit–but because of his personality: Brendan seems to purposefully distance himself from his emotions, the people that he interacts with, and his current (mostly sad) situations. I’ve peeked at this book several times, and love Malloy’s use of imagery, metaphor, and present tense. And there are parts that have made me laugh, especially the scene where his brother calls Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild Into the Woods, or something like that.

Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay

Personal Anecdote: I just need to read this. I’ve read the other two, but my sister nabbed this before I could read it in my dorm room a few years ago.

Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass 

Lyra Belacqua is content to run wild among the scholars of Jodan College, with her daemon familiar always by her side. But the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, draws her to the heart of a terrible struggle-a struggle born of Gobblers and stolen children, witch clans and armored bears. And as she hurtles toward danger in the cold far North, Lyra never suspects the shocking truth: she alone is destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle.

Personal Anecdote: I read this years ago. Upon learning in high school that Pullman was writing to spread non-religious views, I was shocked. This book, as well as the rest of trilogy, is highly controversial. Even though I am a Lutheran, I want to re-read this. I am more accepting and open to views that are contrary to my own, now that I’m in college. And, as I understand it, Pullman is playing with the themes that John Milton brings up in his Paradise Lost. Since I’ve read bits of Milton’s Paradise Lost for a Brit Lit class, this will an even more interesting and fun re-reading.

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