Yearly Reading List-updated 10.3.10

I do so dearly love to read. I'm always on the look-out for a new author, new releases, and old classics that I've never read. I've never attempted to track just how many books I read in a year, although I'm often asked. I bought a snazzy red and black notebook last fall in a half-hearted attempt to track what I ate but gave up after a few days. Why not track something that makes me happy and makes me feel good about myself? So here it is: What I've Read So Far This Year!

I'm just going to list them, unless I really loved or really didn't love them. Feel free to help me find new things to read or share your thoughts on what I've read.

1. Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard

2. U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton--I love this series and am eager for the next at the same time I want them to slow down so that we don't reach the end of the alphabet.

3. Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg

4. The Year of Pleasures "

5. The Art of Mending "

6. Open House "

7. Until the Real Thing Comes Along "

8. Range of Motion "

9. Never Change "

10. Dream When You're Feeling Blue "

11. Say When " If I read a book I like, I tend to read everything else the library has by that same author. Home Safe was a gift from my hubby for Christmas from my Amazon wish list and I really liked the main character. The library had several more of Berg's books so I read them in two batches over Christmas break. I was sadly disappointed to find that the main character I'd really liked in Home Safe was merely renamed and given a slightly different life story in every other book. She likes Snickers bars, Neruda's poetry, tends to be abandoned by a spouse (death, divorce, etc.) has mother issues, likes the retro housewife image and works in some sort of writing/book-related field. The one book I read about a man was essentially the same character, but with a masculine name. Not bad books, but, having read them, I now can't remember what distinguishes any one from the others. Grrrr

12. The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

13. Dying for Mercy by Mary Jane Clark--I accidentally came home with a few of Clark's books last summer because they were mixed in with the Mary Higgins Clark books I was checking out at the library. Several of her books center around the members of a tv news team and are interesting, easy reads. I found two more newer ones at our local library and enjoyed them both.

14. It Only Takes a Moment by Mary Jane Clark

15. Run by Ann Patchett--very interesting story by the author of Bel Canto

16. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell--assigned reading for my administration graduate class

17. Listening is an Act of Love by David Isay--a collection of the stories recorded by the StoryCorps project, a non-fiction book I found on a clearance table at Border's and bought for my dear hubby because I had heard him listen to a few StoryCorps podcasts in the car. We both enjoyed the stories.

18. Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls--my favorite book that I've read this year. I loved Glass Castles by the same author and ordered this when I bought a book for class from Amazon to get my free shipping. Love, love, love these two books. Read them both.

19. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

20. Blessings by Anna Quindlen

21. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See--have always been fascinated by Asian culture. I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and liked the focus on women's history in a time and place when women were not highly valued and this one is in the same vein. It takes place in the 20th century and partly in the US, so I liked this one even better. There's another Lisa See book in our library and I will be checking it out.

22. My Antonia by Willa Cather--a classic I'd never read until it was referenced in another book I was reading and I realized that I had no idea what it was about.

23. Envy by Sandra Brown

24. Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin

25. Peony in Love by Lisa See

26. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy--picked up at the supermarket the night before leaving for Little Rock to have something to read in the car. Totally wasn't about what I thought it was going to be about based solely on the fact that I knew there was a Streisand movie version.

27. House Rules by Jodi Picoult--If this was the first of her books I'd read, I'd be raving about how great it was. It's well-written, about an unusual topic, and made me think about the legal system in a new way. Since I've read every single one of her books, I was left thinking, "My, isn't this familiar?" My number one complaint about most authors who have written more than two books is that they tend to repeat themselves. Too bad Jodi Picoult fell into this same trap. This book is about a mother who fiercely protects her child (someone misunderstood by society) from a legal system that doesn't take shades of gray into account and finds a little love along the way. I'll keep reading her books because they are very well-written and include interesting perspectives. I just wish she'd branch out a little. Some of her earlier books (before she was uber-popular) are more creative.

28. Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd--teen lit, found it in the library at school, kinda crazy...wouldn't recommend

29. The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber--wow, he's smart and I feel smarter by reading and pondering his choice of words. This might make it onto the long list of favorite books ever!

30. Bound Feet & Western Dress: A Memoir by Pang-Mei Natasha Chang--love that it was non-fiction and an account of a real family struggling to find their place in a modernizing China and then in the US. Of couse, fed my fascination for Chinese culture. Probably time to reread The Joy Luck Club.

31. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger--this book kept popping up in random places and I have been trying to read the classics that make regular appearances in pop culture. I guess I should have read it ten years ago because I couldn't get past thinking that Holden would diagnose me a phony adult and that I wouldn't really be devastated by it.

32. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd--not sure why I didn't read it before now. The story's a bit far-fetched, but I like the unique Southern voice. I'll probably watch the movie and like it too since I didn't love the book so much it would make any movie pale in comparison.

33. Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger--chick lit, blends in well with the target big paperbacks that I love so much, perfectly acceptable way to spend a rainy Saturday morning.

34. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann--This takes place in NYC in the 1970s and is described as the first great 9/11 book. It's so deep, I read most of it twice. On the surface, it is the story of the day Phillipe Petit walked on a tightrope suspended between the twin towers and the lives of a handful of people who were on the ground that day. It reminds me of the movie Crash because of the very interesting way that all the people end up connected in the end. On a deeper level, it is the story of the people of New York and how they are connected to the ideal of the city. Made me feel smarter, which is becoming a goal with selecting books. I'm trying to read less "trash" and more that will teach me about something new or expand my vocabulary and understanding of the world.

35. The Alienist by Caleb Carr--my uber-smart friend at work recommended this book to me but cautioned that it was a bit "dense." Nodding like I understood what she meant by that, I had to read it to see what it was about. A serial killer that targets cross-dressing underage male prostitutes...that's dense. Because it's set in NYC at the dawn of the 20th century, includes TR, Jacob Riis and Lincoln Steffens (figures from a time in history that I've always been interested in) and was a murder mystery thriller, I actually liked it quite a lot. I have a new reading buddy at school!

36. Little Bee by Chris Cleave--I love books set in Britain and have to remind myself not to speak with a fake British accent as I'm reading them. I picked this book up at Borders because I think the cover is beautiful and I do occasionally read books solely because of a great cover design. As it turns out, the title character is a fascinating Nigerian refugee seeking asylum in GB who has an amazing story to tell which is intertwined with the story of a successful magazine editor with an unhappy marriage and child who thinks he's Batman. I really, really liked this book and wanted it to keep going when it ended.

37. Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner--I have read (and liked) Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, and Little Earthquakes by the same author. I've always wondered if her last name is really pronounced like the hotdog...I digress. This book is the follow-up to Good in Bed, a book I loved and lost. Literally. I have had hoarding periods in my life, at least where books are concerned. I try to be one of those people who shares and passes along books, but secretly I like them best when they are lined up on my bookshelf, spine un-broken, pages un-bent. A co-worker borrowed Good in Bed and never returned it, thus giving me a mean feeling in my heart anytime I thought of this author. Probably why it took me so long to read this book, which was decent. I almost always read the sequel to a book I liked and almost as often don't like it as well.

***The year is a little over 1/3 through. I've been toying with what a goal should be for how many books to read. Maybe 100? I'm afraid, however, that if I set a goal, I will speed-read crap books in an effort to get the quantity of books I need to meet my goal and will sacrifice the quality.***

38. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris--Everyone else seems to be obsessed with Sookie Stackhouse, so I checked at the local library and, finding one giant book with the first three of the series, decided to get with the times and read them. I like them. I don't love them like everyone else seems to but I will read the rest of them from the library.

39. Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

40. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris--this one's my favorite so far. Alcide's my pick. Kinda like I was Team Jacob instead of Team Edward...

41. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson--I've been slowly reading this one because I was sad to be reading the last book in the series. Lisbeth Salander is probably my favorite fictional character ever. This is one of the very few series that stayed good until the end. I loved it.

42. Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris--Sookie Stackhouse #4

43. Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris--Sookie Stackhouse #5

44. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell--His books fascinate me. He makes the very complex seem obvious. Hockey players succeed because of their birthdays; Asians are good at math because of their language and rice paddies; it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at something.

45. Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris--Sookie Stackhouse #6

46. All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris--Sookie Stackhouse #7

47. From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris--Sookie Stackhouse #8

48. Look Again by Lisa Scottoline--interesting idea-woman sees her adopted son's picture on a kidnapping flier and struggles with what the "right thing" to do is. Got a bit far-fetched in the last 100 pages, didn't love it.

49. Southern Lights by Danielle Steel--hello, old friend. I started reading DS books when I was in middle school because I thought it was scandalous and, for many years, I had read every single one of her books. I got away from them when I discovered the world of Target chick lit, but was happy to note that this book was as sweet and predictable as the dozens of others I loved as a child. I know, it is wildly inappropriate for a middle schooler to read Danielle Steel. I turned out okay, in my mother's defense.

50. A Touch of Dead, Sookie Stackhouse: the Complete Stories--random short stories that fit into the series. Not very good. I wish I hadn't wasted milestone book number 50 on this particular choice.

51. Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts)--I would have never started this series had it not been for a snowstorm that happened Christmas 2004. A coworker that I often traded books with gave me a Kroger sack full of the first dozen or so books. I left them sitting in the bag for a while, thinking that anything set in 2060 was probably not something I'd like. Then it snowed and I was trapped in my apartment for part of Christmas break with nothing else to do so I started the series and loved them. Eve Dallas is one of my favorite characters and, now that I think about it, reminds me of Lisbeth Salander from #41. I wish these books had numbers in the title or some better way for me to keep track of which ones I've read and haven't, but that's not a complaint about the contents of the books.

52. Survivor in Death by J.D. Robb-this one is my favorite of the 20-something in this series that I've read. I cried. Twice. It's the first book of the year that made me cry. After reading Kindred in Death (one of the most recent), I went to the public library and looked for any of the other new-ish ones I might have missed and found three. I need a running list of the titles to keep myself straight...

**June's almost over and I'm over the 50 mark, so it looks like I'm making good progress toward my goal of 100 books in 2010!**

53. Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb--good to see that Nora Roberts is exploring the outer reaches of NYC to find new ideas for stories. This one in Spanish Harlem is a unique depiction of gang violence intersected with Church dogma.

54. Promises in Death by J.D. Robb-I think I may be caught up through book 29 now. Love these books. I'm ready for Dallas and Roarke to have a baby, if you're reading this, Nora Roberts!

55. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus--I took care of two sweet boys while I was in college and had the complete opposite experience. The parents were fab and made me feel like part of the family while paying me a more-than-adequate salary. This book is very well-written and I'll read (of course) the sequel.

56. Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus--this one didn't seem to be as smartly-written. Oh well, about what I expected...

57. Born in Death by J.D. Robb--this one's about babies and I might have already read it. I'm still counting it, as I (re)read every word.

58. Somewhere Inside by Laura Ling and Lisa Ling--this is the account of the five months that Laura Ling and Euna Lee spent captive in North Korea. I had a lump in my throat the whole time, even though I knew how the story ended. Very well-written.

59. Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen--smartly written, not sure why I've avoided her books before.

60. Memory in Death by J.D. Robb--oops, found another one I hadn't read.

61. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen--I avoided reading this because I thought the title was some wacky metaphor. Then I read the dust jacket and realized it's actually about a circus so I checked it out from the library. I really liked it. It's one of the top five best books I've read all year.

62. Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz--an Oprah selection, though not one of my favorites. It is about Lutherans who make kuchen, so I like the resemblance to my husband's family.

63. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd--there seem to be several books about people falling in love with monks and nuns and even more books about middle age people having affairs and then realizing that they just want to be with their spouse. This is another along those lines. I always root for the cheater to see the error of their ways and go back home. Predictably, this one did.

64. Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris---Sookie Stackhouse #11--This one came open on the library waiting list, so I read it before reading 9 and 10. I didn't have any trouble catching up. I think Charlaine Harris must be trying to sex up the books to match the overly sexualized HBO version. I'll keep reading them, but only from the library. I did like the addition of another real-life character in this one. Nothing like a little Bolshevik Revolution to spice things up...

65. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory--This book comes up often among people who like the same kinds of books that I like. I really liked the story and was reminded of all the European history that I've known and forgotten. My only complaint? It was a giant hardback book from the library and my hands are tired from holding it for two days. I went back to the library and checked out several more Philippa Gregory books and started a couple of them but couldn't get interested. I suppose there's a limit to my interest in reviving my college love of European history.

66. The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond--According to the Library Journal review on the front cover, this book is recommended for fans of Jodi Picoult and Jacquelyn Mitchard. I can see that. It's a very well-written book about a woman who looks away from her fiance's daughter for a split second on a foggy beach and the child disappears. She spends a year looking for the child, in every nook and cranny of San Fransisco to the beaches of Costa Rica, eventually finding her and returning her to her father. I like that the book doesn't end with that happy reunion. The relationship goes south and the narrator realizes that the memory of the "year of fog" is too much for their relationship and that she will move on. The book is interspersed with short chapters that detail memory research through the years.

67. Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich--It's official; I'm over this series. They just aren't as funny as they used to be.

68. I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb---This is an epic of a book. Seriously, it's almost 900 pages long. I picked it up because it has a picture of twin babies on the cover, not anticipating the complex tale of twin brothers trapped in a constant state of dealing with one brother's schizophrenia. The surface tale was engaging and full of real emotion. However, the book was interweaved with a flasback-style manuscript describing the life of the main character's grandfather. I could have done without the pages and pages of repetitive description of the "sins of the father." I read She's Come Undone by the same author years ago and vaguely remember it also including mental illness. A bit much for me.

69. Leap of Faith; Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor--this is my first on-purpose repeat read of the year. I am fascinated by Queen Noor of Jordan, who grew up in the U.S. and married King Hussein when she was in her 20s and has since been an influential figure in the Middle East. I cried as much this time when Hussein died as I did the first time I read this book several years ago. I stumbled across a pristine copy of this book at the local library book sale and happily paid $2 to have it on my shelf.

70. Smash Cut by Sandra Brown--her murder mysteries always have a neat twist at the end. Didn't see the father daughter connection coming. Probably shouldn't have paid $8 for a random paperback, but hadn't read anything in awhile and this sounded interesting.

71. In the Woods by Tana French--this book was on my Amazon wishlist for awhile until I finally bought it at Target. I started reading it and then forgot it in my husband's car for several days, making this the first book I've started in a very long time that I didn't finish within 24 hours.

72. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson--love this book so much I bought it (along with #2) and re-read it in a day. I'll probably end up reading the other one tomorrow. I'm not sure what it is about these books that I like so much. Maybe it's just the different-ness from everything else I've read lately.

73. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson---have I mentioned lately how much I like Lisbeth Salander?

74. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver--I love that this book is told in alternating perspectives by the wife and daughters of the central character. I love the time period, the setting and the unique voices of the sisters. I'll even admit that I like Rachel the best...

75. Beach Music by Pat Conroy--Conroy is the author of The Prince of Tides and a master wordsmith. I don't feel like my measly words do justice to this story. Including stories from the Holocaust, Vietnam and the 1980s South, the family at the center of this story is flawed, messy and lovely. I will be reading more of Conroy's books. This year will be over in less than three months and I've slacked off on my pace to get to 100 books. Oh well, I've read more books this year than some people do in a lifetime.


  1. Thanks for the kind words, Mrs. Mroch.
    I appreciate it.
    All the best,
    Mary Jane Clark

  2. Holy Cow...I didn't know anyone actually read my blog...especially a real writer...

    I liked your books, now I like YOU!


Elsie Louise Mroch

Elsie Louise Mroch
the puppy who changed my mind