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What We Read Then: 2010 (John's List)

Tree RingsYesterday, Dave posted a list of the books he read in 2010. My list is posted below. I read 50 books overall, including 13 fiction and a surprisingly high 27 nonfiction books. Only three books (approximately 6%) were written by non-whites – all of them Asian or Asian-American writers. Only eight books were by women, and only four books originally appeared in a language other than English.

Dave compared his list to “rings on a tree.” I like that. My reading list tells a few stories. It tells the story of just how much writing I did last year. I read many of these books because I was going to write about them in Besides the Bible and in book reviews, articles, and essays. It also tells the story of who I want to be. I read two books on running, and I read two books on running a successful small business. I read quite a bit of poetry – 10 collections in all – because I started writing poetry again. And I read 11 books by Wendell Berry because I like the way he sees the world.

This year, my book reading will be more focused; I’ve set several specific reading goals for myself: (a) re-read the Harry Potter series, (b) read Wendell Berry’s Port William fiction in chronological order and write about it on this blog, and (c) read several “big books” in common with Dave (he’ll introduce that series later). In addition, I am going to read the collected works of Shakespeare and one other author I haven’t picked yet. Maybe Flannery O’Connor. Or Henry David Thoreau. Or William Faulkner. Finally, this year I start work on two major projects, including what I hope will be my next nonfiction book. This will focus my reading even more. To indulge my neglected eclectic inner-reader, I will rely on magazines like The New Yorker, High Country News, Orion, Books & Culture, The Englewood Review of Books, Image Journal, Poetry Northwest, and the Oregonian newspaper, with the occasional Bookforum and New York Review of Books thrown in for good measure.

A digression: I was born in Portland, Oregon, but I was raised in the Midwest. My mom owned a little restaurant in Gypsum, Kansas (pop. 500) called “The Restaurant,” and I worked there in the summers. Every morning at ten a.m., the farmers came in from the wheat fields, their barns, and their appointed errands, and they sat at a long table and drank coffee and ate one of the restaurant’s world-famous cinnamon rolls. (You’ve heard of them, haven’t you?) I timed my breaks so I could sit with the farmers and listen to them talk. A few days ago I realized how large those mornings loom in my imagination. I’d guess they played a part in Kate’s and my decision to move out of the city last February. And I know those mornings animate much of my writing, which often ends up as a tribute to the people and places often derided as “fly-over country.”

APHC at Rhubarb FestivalI bring this up because I notice now that last year I also read five books by Garrison Keillor. (His book Homegrown Democrat almost convinced me to switch from non-affiliated to registered Democrat. Almost.) Keillor writes about a little town not so unlike the ones I grew up in. He is, I think, America’s greatest living storyteller, and I treasure his two radio programs, A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should watch the documentary Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes. Toward the end there is a scene I especially love. It’s at the Rhubarb Festival in Lanesboro, Minnesota, and  A Prairie Home Companion is doing a live show there. The people in the audience are spread out in lawn chairs over Lanesboro’s baseball diamond, and they are getting just dumped on by rain. And there is Keillor, drenched, walking through the crowd singing “You Are My Sunshine,” and making people smile. Well, I tear up every time. I think he must have the best job in the world – writing about a single fictional town, with all its pleasures, flaws, and eccentricities; and singing, acting, and making people smile despite the rain. That is a life well-lived.

Here’s my list from 2010:

  • A World Lost, by Wendell Berry
  • The Sabbath, by Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • Love is an Orientation, by Andrew Marin
  • No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green, by Melody Green
  • The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, by Phyllis Tickle
  • The Rule of Saint Benedict
  • Silence, by Shusaku Endo
  • Union Atlantic, by Adam Haslett
  • First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process, by Robert D. Richardson
  • Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis – and Themselves, by Andrew Ross Sorkin
  • Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, by Gary Snyder
  • Little Girls in Church: Poems, by Kathleen Norris
  • Leavings: Poems, by Wendell Berry
  • The Land Unknown, by Kathleen Raine
  • Slow Food Revolution: A New Culture for Eating and Living, by Carlo Petrini
  • The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, by Alice Schroeder
  • The Wild Birds: Six Stories of the Port William Membership, by Wendell Berry
  • Imagination in Place: Essays, by Wendell Berry
  • Sayings & Doings and an Eastward Look, by Wendell Berry
  • Farming: A Handbook: Poems, by Wendell Berry
  • Entries: Poems, by Wendell Berry
  • Watch with Me, by Wendell Berry
  • The Country of Marriage: Poems, by Wendell Berry
  • Dead Man’s Walk, by Larry McMurtry
  • The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber
  • Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, by Michael Pollan
  • Lake Wobegon Days, by Garrison Keillor
  • All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost, by Lan Samantha Chang
  • Liberty: A Lake Wobegon Novel, by Garrison Keillor
  • Pontoon: A Lake Wobegon Novel, by Garrison Keillor
  • Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts from the Heart of America, by Garrison Keillor
  • The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis
  • Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, by Garrison Keillor
  • Growing a Business, by Paul Hawken
  • Window Poems, by Wendell Berry
  • The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami
  • Swan: Poems and Prose Poems, by Mary Oliver
  • Drops Like Stars: A Few Thoughts on Creative and Suffering, by Rob Bell
  • Besides the Bible: 100 Books that Have, Should, or Will Create Christian Culture, by Dan Gibson, Jordan Green, and John Pattison
  • Clearing: Poems, by Wendell Berry
  • The Museum of Clear Ideas, by Donald Hall
  • Howl: A Graphic Novel, by Allen Ginsberg
  • Life Work, by Donald Hall
  • Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World, by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder
  • America the Edible: Why We Eat, What We Eat, Where We Eat, by Adam Richman
  • A Christmas Carol: In Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, by Charles Dickens
  • Farming as a Spiritual Discipline, by Ragan Sutterfield
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
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2 comments on “What We Read Then: 2010 (John's List)

  1. My wife and I saw Garrison Keillor a couple of summers ago at Blossom when we were in Ohio. It was raining and we were sheltered, but when he started the show with a song he made a beeline for the people outside the pavilion in lawn chairs. I don’t remember what he sang, but that made an impression on me.

  2. You mention reading Wendell Berry’s Port Williams novels in chronological order. What is that order?

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