Monday, December 19, 2005

Book Report

For the last 15 years or so, I have inflicted an annual Christmas letter upon family and friends. If you're a friend and haven't gotten one, feel grateful, not insulted. One feature of the annual letter that recipients seem to enjoy the most (right after the fact that it only comes out once a year) is our annual book and movie picks. The winner of Best Movie Viewed in 2005 (we list only movies seen in theaters; movies were not meant to be watched on television, and although we watch DVD's occasionally, I refuse to review Bowdlerized versions) in both the Amishlaw and Mrs. Amishlaw categories is "Crash." (Official website:

Best Book in the Amishlaw category was "Gilead," by Marilynne Robinson. Ms. Robinson, who teaches at the Iowa Writers Workshop, has agreed to meet with our Sunday afternoon reading group. If that happens, I will certainly have plenty to blog about. In the Ms. Amishlaw category, Best Book was "Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford," by Kim Stafford.

Here is a listing of all of the books I have read this year (51, so far) by rating, 5 stars being the best. Only a few books in my lifetime have ever rated the 5 plus rating, which is the highest rating known to humankind.

5 Plus Stars

  • "Gilead," by Marilynne Robinson
5 Stars

  • "Gain" by Richard Powers
  • "Silent Retreats" by Philip K. Deaver (This is a collection of short stories by a local boy made good. I particularly liked the story called "Arcola Girls," about the fast girls of Arcola High School from whence I graduated in 1964.)
  • "Embers" by Sandor Marai
  • "The Time of Our Singing," by Richard Powers
  • "Ex Libris," by Anne Fadiman
  • "Dreams From My Father," by Barak Obama
  • "Plan B: Further Thoughts on Religion" by Anne Lamott
  • "An Artist of the Floating World," by Kazuo Ishiguru
  • "We Were The Mulvaneys," by Joyce Carol Oates
  • "Paradise Gate," by Jane Smiley

Four Stars

  • "The Translator," by John Crowley
  • "The All True Travels and Adventures of Lida Newton" by Jane Smiley
  • "The Secret Life of Bees," by Sue Monk Kidd
  • "The Last Report on Miracles at Little No Horse," by Louise Erdrich
  • "The Testament," by John Grisham
  • "All Over But the Shouting," by Rick Braggs
  • "Colored People," by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • "Memoirs of a Geisha," by Arthur Golden
  • "Before the Trumpet," by Geoffrey Ward
  • "The Virgin in the Rose Bower," by Joyce Carol Oates
  • "Their Eyes Were Watching God," by Zora Huston
  • "One Foot in Heaven," by David Waltner
  • "A Tramp Abroad," by Mark Twain
  • "Until I Find You," by John Irving
  • "Shop Girl" by Steve Martin
  • "The Kite Runner," by Khaled Hosseini
  • "Shalmar the Clown," by Salman Rushdie

Three Stars

  • "A Widow For One Year," by John Irving
  • "Folly and Glory," by Larry McMurtry
  • "Home on the Prairie," by Garrison Keillor
  • "They Harry The Good People Out of The Land," by John Oyer
  • "The DaVinci Code," by Dan Brown
  • "A Complicated Kindness," by Miriam Toews
  • "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason," by Helen Fielding
  • "Seize the Day," by Saul Bellow
  • "The Adventures of Augie March," by Saul Bellow
  • "Trout Magic," by Robert Travers
  • "Pellman Family History," by Hubert Pellman and Miriam Maust

Two Stars

  • "Chronicles," by Bob Dylan
  • "Simplify Your Work Life," by Elaine St. James
  • "Memoirs," by Pablo Neruda
  • "Growing Younger, Growing Healthier," by Deepak Chopra
  • "Out in the Midday Sun," by Elizabeth Huxley
  • "Cutting a Dash," by Lynne Truss

One Star

  • "Candide," by Voltaire
  • "Regarding the Pain of Others," by Susan Sontag
  • "Loop Group," by Larry McMurtry
  • "The Fair Tax Book," by Boortz & Lindner

Zero Stars

  • "The Pillowman," by Martin McDonagh


PG said...

While I'm impressed by the number of books you have read, I have to take issue with a number of them. You certainly have odd taste. McDonough's The Pillowman was the only "book" you give 0 stars too, while you rate "Until I Find You" by John Irving (which you need to correctly identify; you call it "Now That I've Found You") -- mostly about girls holding a boy's penis -- higher than Irving's A Widow for One Year, a more complex and developed (and moving) story by far, IMHO. Did I miss something? Where are the movies? Movies seen in theatres are less easy to appreciate these days than those seen with "text" in hand: DVD.

Amishlaw said...

There's no accounting for taste. You and the New York critics loved McDonough. I didn't like the subject matter, the narrative, the writing style. Some in our reading group found it to be unreadable. Others didn't think it was so bad. Regarding Irving, I will correct the title. Sorry. I can't explain why I liked "Until I Find You," better than "A Widow for A Year," but I did. What's so bad about girls holding a boy's penis, anyway?