My favorite five titles of 2015:
1. Don Quijote, Cervantes:
I wrote a review as an interview, but I can say what I love about Don Quijote is that is a book bigger than life. It’s a book of books, a universe in which I got to meet Sancho, Don Quijote, and through them and with them, live adventures, listen to poetry and stories, and learn about many life topics.
2. Fortunata and Jacinta, Galdós:
XIX century literature, also known as naturalism, Fortunata and Jacinta is another universe you get to inhabit. Galdós to me is more readable than English counterparts such as Dickens. I’m not comparing but saying that as a person for whom the Spanish language is the one who touches deeper than any other language, this book engaged all myself, my mind, heart, and my senses. Galdós love for the simple things in life, his descriptions and most specially, his dialogues, sprinkled with his humor and his astute observation of human nature, blew me away. Galdós is quite humorous too. Yes, he is a wonderful writer.
3. Reading Lolita in Teheran, Nafisi:
A book of great impact. I got to know about a culture and some people I knew nothing about before. Those in the middle of wars cannot afford being insubstantial or silly. Questions about the meaning of life, the value of an individual, the mechanics of power, the role of literature and reading in the midst of all this, are piercing. It takes a book like this to remind me of how good we, christians, have it in life. His promises are eternal, He is our rock, I wonder if I, who profess faith in Christ, would have shown the moral integrity some of the men and women in Nafisi’s book show, they who had no Great I Am to rely on, but just good versus evil.
4. The Odyssey, Homer: The Iliad was a hard book to read, but I remember the experience of reading it with others as an intense and unforgettable one. I was skeptic about The Odyssey, but a tad curious. Every year I read some books for growth, and I thought it would be OK to submit myself to a difficult read, to be able to say I’ve read Homer! 🙂 And I was in for a surprise when the book read so seamlessly, effortlessly. There’s a lot of fuss and buzz about translations, our favorite translators… I chose Butler (prose), actually, a translation in Spanish from Samuel Butler’s translation. Yes! His prose is poetic, but not cryptic. Even in the event you are not familiar with the gods and goddesses, etc., you’ll be well able to follow. It was such a pleasure, and fun too.
5. The Wonderful O, James Thurber:This is a short book, allegedly for children, but I love it. What would happen if someone stole the letter O from your town? Simple, charming, philosophical, a book full of questions, humor, and with such a rhythm. Perfect read aloud.
A special mention:
6. Great Books, David Denby: A grown up man, movie critic, goes back to his Alma matter and enrolls in the two literature courses where freshmen are reading the polemic western classics. It inspire me to read many classics I have not read (which is pretty much everything!) My only disappointment is that the professor glossed over Don Quijote, and so did Denby. They only read a few stories. Blah. I understand how difficult it is to have it in full in a course where you want to cover more books, specially when there is so much to read in English. I so much enjoyed his connections while reading those classics, I related so much to what he says, even though I share practically nothing with him (he being a male in his 50’s, American, from Jewish descendant, not religious, father of an only son, living up north; and me being a female in her 40’s, Spanish, currently a christian, mom of two daughters, living in Texas…) We shared a love for the classics, and a point of vantage as readers (we are not freshmen anymore), and we both read the classics for pleasure, though, as he realized, as he progressed in his readings, he found value in challenging himself at different moments in order to grow as a reader and get into some classics and the worldview they offer to us. I guess there’s also some delight in challenging yourself as a reader, it’s like climbing new mountains from your sofa, 🙂 He also never failed to make connections to his reality, and we both shared that too, we both live in this whatever you call it era (Internet, cell phones, prosperity, etc).
7. Meditaciones del Quijote, Ortega y Gassett: Small jewel for some who have this love for meditations or reflections about books, literature, translation, and some philosophy. Gassett is a philosopher but also a writer, thus his essay is so full of poetry. He is like C.S. Lewis and Chesterton, one of those authors with so much wisdom that their writings go over my head, but that which you understand will captivate you and be food for thought for long. Actually, typing about it makes me want to read it again. It’s a short essay, dense but not insufferable, on the contrary, it’s highly poetic. And it does not talk about Don Quijote’s content, you don’t need to have read Don Quijote at all. It’s more about how the Latin and German traditions and philosophies of life differ, and what novels and authors mean in the context of history, thought, language, and life. And then, the poetry in the middle of his meditations. A jewel for those who love language, books, poetry, life.
8. Macbeth, Shakespeare:
Reading Macbeth with the Ambleside Online Forum ladies was simply a blast. I got to understand and “get” a lot that I would not have understood had I read it on my own. I enjoyed the questions and observations of other clever moms. If Shakespeare intimidates you (and it should but shouldn’t), because you don’t think you’ll ever fully understand him, Macbeth (knowing most of us will never exhaust or understand his plays, at least not until we have read them multiple times), is I believe one of the most approachable plays. It’s quite short, so while we were discussing it, I sometimes read the comments and read the act or acts again this time with more meaning under my sleeve. I’m still in the “I cannot believe I can read some Shakespeare” club, 🙂
9. The Everlasting Man, Chesterton: A few of us read and commented on this book at the AO forum too. Chesterton made an impression on me, specially the first two parts of this book. The first part was familiar. I believe I’ve tried and failed to read this book before. I could finally stay interested with that little I could understand.
10. Johny Tremain, Forbes:
I read it aloud to my family, and we fell in love with it. It has humor, history, suspense, it’s a well written historic fiction book for all ages.
This was a good reading year, I cannot say there was any book I didn’t like or would have liked not to have read.
The whole list:
1.Fortunata y Jacinta, by Galdós. Such a title. I was transported to Madrid in the 19th century, and I had the pleasure to meet people that will always live with me. I cannot wait to discuss it with two of my best friends (yes, I have two possible friends who may read it). There is much about the characters and happenings I’d love to discuss with ANY who has read this book.
2. The Wonderful O, by James Thurber. We all adored this title. We have since ordered more books by the same author.
3. Anne of Green Gables. Wow. And to think I had missed this title until now!
4. La Odisea. (The Odyssey). Another title that has climbed very high in my all time favorite books list.
5. Wind in the Willows. This is my second time reading this book, which I adore.
6. Through the Language Glass. Very enjoyable, specially for language lovers and amateurs.
7. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
8. Thirteen Clocks, by James Thurber (with the girls).
9. Little Duke, Yonge
10. Wind in the Willows, Graham
11. Soledades, Galerías y otros poemas, Manuel Machado
12. A Confederacy of Dunces, Toole
13. Kidnapped, Stevenson.
14. Christiana (Part II of Pilgrims Progress), by Bunyan
15. The Buried Giant, Ishiguro
16. The Idiot, Dostoevsky
17. Mistress Marsham’s Repose, White
18. Rip Van Winkle, Irving (short legend)
20. The Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O’Dell
21. Macbeth, Shakespeare
22. Past Scents, Jonathan Reinarz
23. Flatland, Abbott
24. Richard II, by Shakespeare
25. Great Books, David Denby
27. Strong Poison, Dorothy L. Sayers
28. Johnny Tremain, Forbes
29. The Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver
30. Snow Falling from a Bamboo Leaf: The Art of Haiku, Hiak Akmakjian
31. Abigail Adams, Natalie Bober
32. Story Book of Science, Fabre
33. Doña Perfecta, Galdós
34. The Book Lover, James Baldwin
35. Wartime Letters, Rainer Maria Rilke
36. La perversión del lenguaje, Amando de Miguel
37. The Everlasting Man, Chesterton
38. Ruinas, Rosalía de Castro
39. Why Translation Matters, Edith Grossman
40. Meditaciones del Quijote, Ortega y Gasset
41. En las orillas del Sar, (poetry) Rosalía de Castro
42. Crow Lake, Mary Lawson
43. Little Britches, Ralph Moody
44. Don Quijote, Part I, Cervantes
45. Reading Lolita in Teheran, Nafisi.
46. The Boy in the Alamo, Cousins
47. Minds More Awake, Anne E. White
48. The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving
49. Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro (2nd time)
50. An Invitation to a Beheading, Nabokov
51. Trafalgar, Galdós
52. Dos novelas cortas, Unamuno
53. Letters of a Woman Homesteader, Elinore Pruitt Stewart
54. A Christmas Carol, Dickens
55. Don Quijote, Part II, Cervantes
56. Inferno, Dante (part I of Divine Comedy)
57. Dressing Your Truth: Discover Your Type of Beauty, by Carol Tuttle
58. El principito, Saint Exupéry
59. Kristin Lavransdatter, The Wife, Book II, by Sigrid Unset
60. El psicoanalista, Katzenbach (audio)
61. La vuelta al mundo en 80 días, Julio Verne
62. El perfume, Suskind
63. The Family Under the Bridge, Natalie Savage Carlson
64. Pedro Páramo, Juan Rulfo
66. Right Ho, Jeeves, by P. G. Wodehouse
67. The Clockwork Universe, by Edward Dolnick