** denotes favorite book(s) of the month
( ) denotes books partially completed (often compilations of short stories)
DECEMBER 2014 
Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again – Preston Yancey : It’s been a while since I’d read a good memoir, and this good one hit me right where I am: physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Gaudy Night – Dorothy L. Sayers : I love a good mystery, and this one has it all: a strong smart woman, a dashing intelligent man, a reluctant romance, a poltergeist, an Oxford women’s college, and thoughtful debates about scholarship, particularly women scholars.
**The Conjure-Man Dies – Rudolph Fisher : A mystery tale set in Harlem, this novel has multiple detectives, mistaken identities, and voodoo.
Moses, Man of the Mountain – Zora Neale Hurston : Hurston retells the Moses story in the style of an African American folk story, calling into question many of the things the biblical account assumes to be true.
The Situation and the Story – Vivian Gornick : This book on memoir looks at how these texts are constructed and what makes a good memoir so compelling.
**Quicksand – Nella Lawson : Poor Helga Crane doesn’t belong anywhere, and we follow her migratory path from the South to Harlem to Denmark to the Deep South as she constantly searches for identity and personhood.
The Blacker the Berry – Wallace Thurman : Poor Emma Lou, who (much like Helga Crane) can’t find a place in this world.
Cane – Jean Toomer : A creative hodgepodge of African-American experience in the early 20th century, this novel breaks all of the norms by combining poetry and prose, object and subject, city and country, first person and third person, and so on.
The Cloister Walk – Kathleen Norris : This book will factor largely in my thesis, because it’s progressive, informative, poetic, and just plain lovely as we walk alongside Norris as she explains a liturgical year as an oblate in multiple monasteries.
There is Confusion – Jessie Redmon Fauset : This novel was written in the sentimental style of the 19th century but speaks to the larger issues of racism, economic disparity, societal gender roles, and what is gained and lost by the drive to achieve.
**A Prayer Journal – Flannery O’Connor : While I have mixed feelings about this book’s publication and purpose, this recently-discovered brief glimpse into a young novelist’s life prompted many thoughts and questions as I considered my own prayer journals, prayer life, and communication of hopes, dreams, and failures.
Henry VIII – William Shakespeare : A lot of history in this one, but let’s be honest: I mostly skimmed it.
Attachments – Rainbow Rowell : Rainbow Rowell is my spirit animal, and while I like other books of hers more, I still thought the format of her first novel was clever, the characters were spunky, and the setting was a joy to remember (party like it’s 1999).
**The Giver – Lois Lowry : Let’s forget the movie for now, because the book is exquisite: simple and intense, poignant and arresting, challenging and life-changing, particularly if you read it as a young child like I did.
Rachel – Angelina Weld Grimké : This play written by a black woman at the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance is foundational yet troubling, particularly in its hopeless response to the racism of the time.
Pericles, Prince of Tyre – William Shakespeare : One of Shakespeare’s later and lesser-known places, this probable collaboration has incest, prostitution, and pirates, so what more could you want?!
Cymbeline – William Shakespeare : The last act has 17 revelations, which concludes a plot filled with conspiring, misinterpreting, falsehood, and even a war (also, Cymbeline is not the main character, so what’s up with that?).
**The Winter’s Tale – William Shakespeare : This one has a crazy jealous king, some sassy women, a really long sheep-shearing festival scene, and the best stage direction in all theatre: “Exit, pursued by bear.”
The Tempest – William Shakespeare : There are lots of magic and special effects in this one, plus your normal Shakespearean love story, your not-as-normal sprites and slaves, and some truly beautiful passages.
Reading French in Arts and Science – Edward M. Stack : Heck yes, I’m putting this book on here, and the fact that it’s the only book I read in June should tell you something about how much I enjoyed learning French in four weeks.
The Bird’s Nest – Shirley Jackson : Fascinating and terrifying, this story about psychological disturbances told from a variety of distinct and unsettling perspectives is clever and well-crafted.
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction – Alan Jacobs : Well, apparently I’ve been reading wrongly for many years, but the freeing part of this book is that one should read at Whim: whatever one wants and for the joy of it.
Rabbit, Run – John Updike : What to say about Updike’s sentences but that they surprise me and resonate with me and delight me, which made me alternate between love and hate for a broken man and his broken family.
**Gilead – Marilynne Robinson : This Pulitzer Prize winner is quiet in all of the right ways, a letter from father to son that discusses the nature of faith, calling, mortality, familial history, and how one lives in spite of or because of all of these things.
**The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers : This story of a deaf/mute man and the community that needs him, without thought to what he needs, is beautiful and musical and tragic in so many ways, a picture of Southern small-town America on the cusp of WWII.
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Short Stories – Stephen Crane : Poor Maggie, poor Swede, but most of the other characters in these stories of Crane’s came out okay, through no ability of their own.
Franny & Zooey – J. D. Salinger : Existential, angsty siblings discuss their messed-up childhood and overly dramatic perspectives on life and God, and somehow the end always makes me a little emotional and a little hopeful.
McTeague – Frank Norris : This tale about the destined downfall of a brute of a dentist features every racist stereotype possible.
Herland – Charlotte Perkins Gilman : Anyone for a feminist utopia without men centered around motherhood?
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath : This account of a young woman’s attempts to find herself even by suicide is depressing and harrowing, yes, but also beautiful and unflinching.
The Call of the Wild – Jack London : There’s a lot you missed out on in this book if you read it during elementary book, and it deserves another look.
**The Professor’s House – Willa Cather : This book is lovely in its simplicity, as it tackles the big issues–art, scholarship, independence, responsibility, falling in love, falling out of love, transcendence, and finishing a career.
**Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell : On the surface, this fun story of a nerdy college freshman/internet fanfic sensation finding confidence and romance gave me all the feels, but the book also speaks to the power of writing and the impact of family on one’s perception of self.
Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell : Well, this story–about two teenagers who fall in love on the bus over comic books–was cute: sad and cute and tragic and painful and lovely and nerdy and honest and adorable and joyful and cute.
Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint – Nadia Bolz-Webber : Bolz-Webber’s honesty about how God has transformed her failures and successes (but mostly failures) into the death and resurrection of the Gospel is truly inspiring, making me think about how increased transparency could not only set me free, but others as well.
Jesus Feminist – Sarah Bessey : Beautiful and poetic, this musing about life and Scripture (with footnotes) gives shape to how women must be part of the good news of the modern church, as they always were crucial parts of Jesus’ story and the ancient church.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain : If all you remember about this book is a raft, a slave, and a little boy, you’ve forgotten a whole bunch of satire and hijinks involving traditionally hilarious subjects like fraud, family feuds/massacres, and boyhood manipulations (it’s still as good as you remember, though).
Death Comes for the Archbishop – Willa Cather : Understated and episodic, this lovely, simple book is about the conflict between the church and a culture, nature and humanity, a man and his God.
The Awakening – Kate Chopin : This novella is still arresting, painful, and challenging, as you watch a woman awaken from the social boundaries placed upon her, discover love and art, and find it impossible to maintain.
Hedda Gabler – Henrik Ibsen : A play about a strong, perhaps brilliant, perhaps crazy woman who does her best to make things work out the way she desires with a combination of wiles and manipulation, but alas (also, my sister is playing Mrs. Elvsted at Seattle Pacific University; tickets on-sale now!).
The Garden of Eden – Ernest Hemingway : Published after Hemingway’s death, this heavily-edited book focuses on with gender issues, love triangles, and the psychology of writing, in an interesting, disturbing, frustrating, and not-so-stereotypically-Hemingway sort of way.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain : A book just as idyllic and adventuresome as you remember, with more snarky commentary about society, culture, and religion than you probably realized reading this as a child.
This Gonna Hurt Like Hell: A Pentecostal Enters the Academy – Stephen R. Barrett : A dissertation that is half memoir and half academic analysis about the dismissal of religious discourse and experiences in the academy, Barrett candidly discusses his own loss, deconversion, and eventual conviction that religious discourse is of value in higher education, at least as an aid in understanding students.
**The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner : I now understand how people say this book is be hard but worth it, so much so that I already want to read it again so I can luxuriate in how the sentences sound.
Sanctuary – William Faulkner : Profoundly unsettling, Faulkner’s “guts and genitalia” novel asks the reader to consider how she views evil and redemption, in these characters and ultimately herself.
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler : A quintessential detective story, Chandler’s first Philip Marlowe novel was enjoyable due to its traditional gumshoe language and its stark contrast to the heavier, headier things I’ve been reading.
The American – Henry James : James’s tale of an American who gets caught up in the drama and intrigue of old-world European aristocracy is one that examines how we are tied to culture, family, and the expectations of both.
(Henry James: Complete Stories 1864-1874 – Henry James)
(William James: Writings 1902-1910 – William James)
**Bird By Bird – Anne Lamott : I finally finished Annie’s book on writing, and it rings so true in her conversational and personable style, like she’s whispering advice right into your ear: just what you need to hear when you need to hear it.
The Lion in Winter – James Goldman : This play is witty and snarky, almost to a fault, in that you don’t ever know who is being true or who is being false, who is lying and who is finally being honest.
This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald : Fitzgerald’s fragmented and occasionally scattered first novel concerns Amory Blaine and his trying on of different philosophies and personas: a typical intelligent young adult doing typical intelligent young adult things while believing himself to be very unique indeed.
Save Me the Waltz – Zelda Fitzgerald : Poor Alabama, or shall we say Zelda, and her tempestuous relationships, disinterest in mothering, obsession with becoming a ballerina, and inability to express herself in a culture predisposed to objectify but not understand her.
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway : Bulls, booze, and a woman named Brett: what more do you need?
(The Portable American Realism Reader – Eds. James Nagel and Tom Quirk)
(Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, and Essays, Vol. 1: 1852-1890 – Mark Twain)