On Saturday, November, 26, 2016, I finished reading Anthony Doerr’s 2004 novel About Grace. This novel was the 24th book I’d read in 2016. The author won a Pulitzer prize for his 2014 novel, All the Light We Cannot See, a very popular title and a New York Times best-seller as of this writing. He shares the luminous listing with such authors as Jodi Picoult, Jeffrey Archer, and Danielle Steele.
The best-selling Doerr book was circulating; I put my name on the waiting list and settled for what the library had to offer of the author’s other works.
About Grace was an interesting book. I suspended disbelief and made it through 400 pages to the somewhat happy ending; the story wove through a twenty-five year span of time in an Alaskan hydrologist’s life. When I finished, I put the book on my nightstand and thought about what to read next.
I spent some time analyzing the 24 books I read this year, sorting my Excel spreadsheet one way and then another. Almost half of the books I read were by one author during the first half of the year. Because I was rusty at reading, these formulaic books helped re-establish the habit.
The oldest book I read was Kenneth Robert’s historical novel Arundel, written in 1930. This book was also one of my favorites, a thrilling account of the overland trek of Benedict Arnold’s Revolutionary War soldiers through Western Maine to Quebec in 1775. One passage I underlined, written in the voice of narrator Steven Nason:
“To me, as I huddled in my blanket, it seemed weeks ago that we had passed Morgan’s riflemen coming up from the last of the Chain of Ponds, their bateaux rubbing their shoulder raw; and I thought what young men sometimes foolishly think when things look dark: that in one day’s time I had grown to be an old, tired man.”
I’ve started to read the sequel, Rabble in Arms.
The second oldest book I read was Listening Valley, by Scottish author D.E. Stevenson, written in 1944. A random read, the recently republished book was sitting in a display at the local library. It was the story of a quiet and introspective young Scottish girl and the circumstances of her life in the years leading up to World War II. She marries a much-older man who dies unexpectedly. As she grieves his death, she remembers the lesson he taught her:
“Robert had made friends with life, and life had been good to him…She had begun to see what he meant. Not to shut yourself up and grieve or dream but to go forward with your eyes wide open and accept what life offered.”
It snowed here last week, ‘twas Wednesday, I think. It was beautiful to look at through the glass, but better that it didn’t stick around. It gave me time to read.
My reading volume is average and generally tilted toward dead authors. As I think about next year’s reading, I’ll need to include some specific non-fiction titles to compliment my writing goals, but I’m pleased with my accomplishment, as average as it might be.
Reading…it won’t save the world, but it’s a temporary escape from it.