2017 in Books

I read a few books this year. Not from a reading list, because I’m perennially disappointed in my inability to stick to one. When you read for the love of reading, you tend to pull books off the shelf because they look appetizing, not because they’re on a list.

This past summer I studied abroad, didn’t work, slept like a hibernating bear, and read voraciously. This past semester, I was buried under several thousand pages of theology, but I came up for air with a few fictional texts. For the year to date, here’s my catalog of fictional things devoured. Let’s pretend that they were all on that book list at the beginning of the year, shall we?

Asterisks are re-reads. And yes, I included children’s books, but only if I deliberately read them, not drive-by read them during my frequent library loiterings. As always, there’s a substantial segment of YA, an odd spattering of middle-grade, and a few lofty classics. I think I read the way I drink coffee: I’m not [yet] snobby enough to shun Starbucks or cheap paperbacks.

 

Westmark by Lloyd Alexander

Persuasion by Jane Austen*

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë*

Night School by Lee Child

The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima*

The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima*

The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima*

The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

The Sorcerer Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

The Cocktail Party by T.S. Eliot

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

Venetia by Georgette Heyer

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston*

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis*

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis*

Phantastes by George MacDonald

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

Jackaby by William Ritter

Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Home by Marilynne Robinson

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry* (Katherine Woods, y’all)

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams*

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski*

The Floating Admiral by The Detection Club of 1931

P.S. Please note: this is not a recommended reading list. The proper title is “The [fiction that filtered into Rae’s brain this year and may influence later writing] List.” Quite a bit of this would overlap with a recommended list, but if you want that, we’d need to sit down and chat over coffee. Because I can’t recommend a book until I know you. Cheers.

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With The Bath Water

When data started to accumulate,
we didn’t think the end would be so tragic.
Facts were such fun, we could eliminate
non-facts. And so we threw away the magic,
the charms, the spells, the powers that removed
all obstacles, the sacred images
that won our wars, brought lover to beloved.
Then we threw out the demigods, the muse,
the spirits in the fountains, planets, trees,
followed by symbols, sacraments—what use
did modern myth-free mortals have for these?
Our reason set no limit to our pride.
Did we kill God, or was it suicide?

“With the Bath Water” by Gail White

Published in First Things, February 2015

The FatesMichaelangelo

Domestic Incident

I hear my neighbor smashing his guitar
against the wall. He’s done it once before
when in a rage. This time he can’t afford
to get another. They’re expensive things.
And yet he loved that wooden box with strings
more than his wife. (Their daughters sit afraid
and wordless under his bizarre tirade.)
Should I call 911, report a case
of spouse abuse? He hasn’t touched her face
or body, simply bellows that she keeps him
from his writing, hovers while he sleeps . . .
She wouldn’t thank me. She remains unmoved,
shelters her little girls and simply waits
while he destroys the only thing he loved
rather than strike the woman that he hates.

“Domestic Incident” by Gail White

Published in First Things, November 2015

Narcissus” by Caravaggio, 1597

#JOY

Sometimes this world is cold
Once high and then we’re low
Don’t need a pot of gold
Just love
A smile or even hey
Can make a better day
Open your eyes
And look around

Let’s fill this world with Joy
Let’s fill this world with Joy
Let’s fill this world with Joy
Let’s fill this world with Joy

Just turn around and say hello
And let me know they’re beautiful
Let’s spread the love and let it go
We are each others miracle

Empty hearts and souls
All across the globe
All they need is a little bit of love
A smile or even hey
Can make a brighter day
Open your eyes
And look around

Let’s fill this world with Joy
Let’s fill this world with Joy
Let’s fill this world with Joy
Let’s fill this world with Joy

Just turn around and say hello
And let me know they’re beautiful
Let’s spread the love and let it go
We are each others miracle

Let’s fill this world with Joy
All we need is a little bit of love

 

P.S. This song is your standard hopelessly unfulfillingly postmodern song that expects each other to be each others’ joys, as if the drops in our cup could fill what is lacking in one another. But it does speak accurately of the longing we have for cheer and for community and for the way we speak into each others’ lives. I just wish we hadn’t learned to settle for self-manufactured joy and “a little bit of love.”

P.P.S. Also, it’s catchy, and I heard it in both a taxi and a host vehicle in Romania, so…memories