Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Year in Books: 2017

Hi Friends,

This year I moved twice, returned to paid employment after 15 years as a homemaker, and got a divorce. Now I'm living in my parents' home with my five children.

Over the past 12 months, my reading choices formed the backdrop to everything that was rapidly changing in my life. Like always, it was through books that I was able to process these changes and make sense of things.

Here's the list of books in the order I read them:

1. Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson by Mary Rowlandson

A first-hand account of the abduction of a colonial woman by Native Americans in 1676. The first American best-seller.

2. Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

How to experience the presence of God through routine tasks. This idea isn't new.

Pair with The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

3. Possession by A. S. Byatt

The last novel on The Well Educated Mind fiction list! Break out the champagne!

4. Born Again by Charles Colson

A title on the Well Educated Mind autobiography list.

Charles Colson served seven months in prison for his involvement in the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration. This memoir recounts how his experience nudged him toward conversion to Christianity.

Pair with Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.

5. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

A memoir of hope and dreams by a marginalized protagonist. Great introduction to writing by Hispanic women.

6. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

I cannot overstate how much this memoir moved me. It was while listening to the audio version narrated by Lisa Renee Pitts that I finally decided to separate from my husband of fifteen years.

7. Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti

I loved the idea of this book because it reminded me of issues of Victoria Magazine from the late 1980s--early 1990s. There would be a spread depicting scenes from a classic novel with quotes that sucked me in entirely. That magazine introduced me to a lot of great culture in general. Novel Interiors didn't quite live up to that level of inspiration, but it was fun to reminisce.

8. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

I've seen Ben Franklin's clothes at the Smithsonian; now I've heard his voice.

Listen to the audio version narrated by Robin Field.

9. Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim

I barely recall reading this book. Maybe I was in a fog because of what was going down in my life at the time. Anyhow, it left no impression.

10. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Graphic, poignant, heartbreaking, and lovely. Now I know why Maya Angelou is a National Treasure.

Listen to the audio version which is read by the author.

11. Fiddler in the Subway: The Story of the World Class Violinist Who Played for Handouts. . . and Other Virtuoso Performances by America's Foremost Feature Writer by Gene Weingarten

The world class violinist was Joshua Bell. You can search it on the Internet. He really did play for handouts in a subway. I think he earned like twenty bucks.

12. Swan: Poems and Prose Poems by Mary Oliver

"If you have ever gone to the woods with me,

I must love you very much."

13. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

A funny novel about a friendship between a middle-aged female French concierge and a 12 year old genius. Would make a good movie.

14. Optimism by Helen Keller

The name "Helen Keller" is pretty much synonymous with optimism, so the fact that she wrote a book with this title just makes sense.

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it."

15. Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Lemmon

I love anything that stretches my comprehension of other cultures, especially with regard to the daily lives of women. This true story of determination, creativity, cooperation, and perseverance was inspiring.

16. The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie by Andrew Carnegie

I gleaned much more from this book than I expected. It was the right book at the right time. I listened to the audio version during the summer as I walked mile after mile at a local park. I needed to start shaping a vision of a future for myself and my kids that was going to be much different than I had prepared for heretofore. Andrew Carnegie helped me make some practical decisions.

17. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

During my brief time in college, when I was in about 20 years old, my English professor wrote a note at the bottom of one of my essays:

"You are a gentle, yet persuasive feminist."

I was mortified because I had been raised in a culture that taught "Feminism" was a bad word.

Reading this book was like a reunion with a part of myself that I had lost sight of, a part of me that I want my children to know.

18. The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

This was the second time I've read this book.

I still have a lot to learn about love.

19. Autobiography of Teresa of Avila 

One of the books on the Well Educated Mind autobiography list. I always enjoy a front row seat to history. There is nothing like a famous person's own words.

20. Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart by Steven M. R. Covey

Thought-provoking insights for those interested in establishing a unified team in the modern workplace.

21. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A novel about the attempt to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s. A solid, hefty piece of modern fiction which stretched me. I'd like to read more of this author's work.

22. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

A novel as vivid and dramatic as an opera. There's even a opera singer in it. Plus there's lush scenery, a terrible problem, forbidden love, and an evil villain with a rash on his face.

23. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the Whitehouse by Alyssa Mastromonaco

A light, entertaining read with some helpful advice for anyone starting a new career.

24. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Listened to this while playing Lara Croft: Relic Run on my phone. Now they go together in my mind.

25. Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Finally got around to reading this. Now it's a movie with Julia Roberts.

26. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Another title from The Well Educated Mind autobiography list. This slave narrative is essential reading material. On Valentine's Day 2018, we'll celebrate the 200th birthday of Frederick Douglass, so this is a title you'll want to put on your TBR list now.

Side note: It was quoted heavily in Half a Yellow Sun.

27. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories From a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook -- What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry

Extremely Insightful. This book helped me further clarify my career goals.

28. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

A young neurosurgeon is diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer. This book is his final gift to humanity. Poignant and life-affirming.

"Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete."

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!




  1. The only one on your list I've read is Colson's Born Again. It's a fascinating look at Watergate and faith.

    1. Yes, it was fascinating. A good conversion memior. Watergate happened before I was born, but I grew up hearing Chuck Colson on Christian radio so I was familiar with his Prison Fellowship ministry.

  2. Such a fabulous list, Adriana! You've given me some great ideas. I have read Half of a Yellow Sun, but not the other Adichie book; it sounds fascinating. Purple Hibiscus is my favourite of hers that I've read - so good. I've also read When Breath Becomes Air; it's so beautiful and inspirational. Bel Canto is fantastic as well.

    I was interested in your reference to Elizabeth and Her German Garden. I haven't read it, but it's mentioned in Downton Abbey (did you watch that)? Molesley, a valet, is interested in Anna, a maid, and gives her a book to read; another maid gets hold of it and makes quite a show of reading out it's title -- and it's that book.

    May 2018 be a great reading year for you -- and a year of growth, confidence, and stabilizing. Love you Adriana!

    1. Pardon me for using the words "fabulous," "fantastic," and "fascinating" all in the same paragraph. I guess I got a little carried away. A little fanatical, if you will.

    2. Jeannie, If you only knew how much I love alliteration, you wouldn't apologize. Plus, I'm your fan-girl, absolutely. :-)

      I've always loved your annual post about what you've read and I have wanted to do that this year. I spent the night with my sister last night so I could use her WiFi and write the post!

      I love Downtown Abbey! Isn't it interesting -- all the things we Readers pick up that others miss?

      Thank you so much for the encouragement I hope 2018 is all of those things for you as well! Love you, Jeannie!

  3. Wonderful list, Adriana. You inspire me. I've only read a couple on the list above. I have a copy of The Well Educated Mind, too; I need to pull it out.

    1. Hi Prasanta, The inspiration is mutual. I'm so intimidated and challenged by poets. The Well Educated Mind has been a good "meat & potatoes" list for me. It's given me a framework that I come back to time & again. In past years I worked from it obsessively, now I spend more time branching into new territory; it feels empowering to be able to do that with confidence.

  4. Adriana, I've missed your blogging! You name several books that I've loved and some I mean to read. And now I really want to know more about your college paper and your thoughts about that book, which is one I haven't read yet. I did love Half of a Yellow Sun.

    1. Jean, The Adichie book gives some solid advice on how to raise a strong daughter. I have a deep desire to model this for my girls. They have recently begun to see me in a new light, I believe, because I love my work very much. After years of struggling with depression, I've found a very supportive community in which to bloom.
      As for the college paper: it was research on Eliza Lucas Pinckney, a Founding Mother of the American Revolution. I was really fascinated with her for a time.

    2. BTW, that book is really short. Under an hour to read, I'd say.

  5. Adriana,
    I totally miss reading your blog. I am saddened to read that you had some major life changes, and I hope you are hanging in there. Anyway, I am really excited to see that you are still reading through TWEM. I found you on Twitter, and maybe I can follow your progress that way. : )

    1. Thank you, so much Ruth. I love following your progress as well. Yes, I am using Twitter more now. Maybe we can link up for a Synchro-Read sometime! Have you read War & Peace?


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