Milo loves to read so please enjoy his reading list from 2009 along with some notes and quotes he has compiled from some of them.
"Indecision" Benjamin Kunkel
"Black Dogs" Ian McEwan
"I can see you think I'm a crank. It doesn't matter. This is what I know. Human nature, the human heart, the spirit, the soul, consciousness itself – call it what you like – in the end, it's all we've got to work with. It has to develop and expand, or the sum of our misery will never diminish. My own small discovery has been that this change is possible, it is within our power. Without a revolution of the inner life, however slow, all our big designs are worthless. The work we have to do is with ourselves if we're ever going to be at peace with each other. I'm not saying it'll happen. There's a good chance it won't. I'm saying it's our only chance. If it does, and it could take generations, the good that flows from it will shape our societies in an unprogrammed, unforeseen way, under the control of no single group of people or set of ideas..."
"The Darkest Evening of the Year" Dean Koontz
"The Widow of the South" Robert Hicks
This tale begins with the telling of the most horrific battle of the Civil War: the battle of Franklin, Tennessee on November 30, 1864. This is based on the true story of Carrie McGavock, who's colonial southern mansion was taken over as a hospital to tend the wounded. Little did they know that 9,000 men would lose their lives that day. Her empathy for the dead and wounded became so strong through this ordeal that she and her husband John eventually buried and marked graves on their own property for well over 1,000 confederate soldiers that were dug up and transferred from the original shallow graves they were dumped into shortly after the battle.
I pitied Becky for reasons other than her station in life. What was station anymore? I could feel my own station slipping away, and good riddance. I wore plain clothes and quit bothering to powder my neck. I swore occasionally in front of the men and committed to memory the new curses I heard the men sputtering. I thought of the curses as passwords, the lingua franca of my new life, one I could not yet envision but which I knew would be coarser and not possessed of the layers of fine scrim that had kept me in gauzy ignorance of the clang and stink and sharpness of things outside of Carnton.
"The Double Bind" Chris Bohjalian
A term came to her that they used on occasion at BEDS: the double bind. The expression had a clinical origin, referring to Gregory Bateson's theory that a particular brand of bad parenting could inadvertently spawn schizophrenia. Essentially, it meant consistently offering a child a series of contradictory messages: telling him you loved him while turning away in disgust. Telling him he needed to go asleep when it was clear you merely wanted him out of your hair. Asking him to kiss you good night and then telling him he has offensively bad breath. Over a long period of time, Bateson hypothesized, a child would realize he couldn't possibly win in the real world, and as a coping mechanism would develop an unreal world of his own. The double-bind theory had not been completely discredited, but Laurel knew these days that most clinicians viewed nature - brain chemicals - as a much more significant determinant than nurture in whether a person became schizophrenic. Nevertheless, at the shelter they used the expression in much the same way that they would a term like catch-22.
"Run" Ann Patchett
Not her best effort (read Bel Canto) but Patchett weaves a tale of family that reminds us that the life we lead is sometimes not what we think it is.
"Up In Honey's Room" Elmore Leonard
I like a good murder mystery and Elmore Leonard ranks with the best.
"Baudolino" Umberto Eco
This is from the author of "Focault's Pendulum" and "Name of the Rose". I wanted to stop reading this tale several times but stubbornly kept at it. At times witty and throughout fantastical, Eco has woven a tale as told by the self-admitting liar Baudolino about his life-long adventure, along with his longtime companions, to find the legendary priest Prester John, a character he himself conjured up. This one requires patience as it's not to be skimmed through. Due to the weaving of historical references, theology, philosophy, languages and medieval allusions, having your laptop with google handy is not a bad idea.
"The Witch of Portobello: A Novel" Paulo Coelho
The story of Athena, an orphaned Romanian gypsy, is told post-mortum and chronologically by people who knew her throughout her life. Just on the heels of reading the book below, the idea of embracing 'chaos' into a way of life reared its head.
"Seven Life Lessons of Chaos" John Briggs and F. David Peat
This is one that I'll be picking back up again soon. It's not a 'how-to' book, but a meditation on embracing life's unpredictable nature. Here's a short paragraph that gets to the heart of what chaos is and is not:
Just what is chaos? The answer has many facets and will take a little explanation. To begin with, chaos turns out to be far subtler than the commonsense idea that it is the messiness of mere chance - the shuffling of a deck of cards, the ball bouncing around in a roulette wheel, or the loose stone clattering down a rocky mountainside. The scientific term 'chaos' refers to an underlying interconnectedness that exists in apparently random events. Chaos science focuses on hidden patterns, nuance, the 'sensitivity' of things, and the 'rules' for how the unpredictable leads to the new. It is an attempt to understand the movements that create thunderstorms, raging rivers, hurricanes, jagged peaks, gnarled coastlines, and complex patterns of all sorts, from river deltas to the nerves and blood vessels in our bodies.
They discuss the way we view living as a timeline "much like a journey between two railway stations. Instead of it being our companion and friend, it is what is being eaten up fast, just as the train eats up the track ahead of it.
This attitude is also reflected in our conventional view of history. History is a procession along a road whose milestones are battles, the death of kings, and the elections of presidents. Virginia Woolf suggested another sort of history, one in which women are engaged in continuous small acts of nurturing and holding our society together. Woolf challenges our preoccupation with a historical time demarcated by dramatic 'events' strung out along a line of time. She suggests that the real significance of time lies within the realm of subtle, human interactions and enfolded, multi-layered moments of human contact.
It's difficult to change the basic paradigms that have been drilled into our beings as we've been socialized from day one to ride the track. This book may help to upset the cart a bit...gently unscrew the top of your head, pour in new ideas, shake gingerly, drink lots of water, share with others.
"Music For Torching" A. M. Homes
We've all read or heard of novels filled with dire suburban angst and the middle class dilemma of achingly unfulfilled lives. Well, here's another...kinda.
We really do not want to care for Paul and Elaine, the lead characters, and Homes has a way with her black humor to keep us in the game long enough to empathize and have quite a few laughs along the way. Somehow she's able to reveal just enough of the creative vacuum of the any-town suburban void yet manages to make it a fun read. Nothing profound here, but worth putting on your list.
"Another Thing to Fall" Laura Lippman
Another Tess Monaghan crime thriller...I actually had to turn the pages myself on this one, unlike "What the Dead Know".
"Voodoo Dreams" Jewell Parker Rhodes
The imaginary story of the notorious voodooienne Marie Laveau, the third Marie in a line of voodoo practitioners, in 19th century New Orleans.
"My Son's Story" Nadine Gortimer
The story of one complex family relationship set in South Africa focuses on a father Sonny, a black schoolteacher turned revolutionary, and his affair with a white activist. The young son Will unwittingly discovers his father's deception and the story evolves around his struggle to deal with that along with his loyalty to his mother Aila.
There came a point, not possible to determine exactly when, at which equality became a cry that couldn't be made out, had been misheard or misinterpreted, turned out to be be something else – finer. Freedom. That was it. Equality was not freedom, it had been only the mistaken yearning to become like the people of the town. And who wanted to become like the very ones feared and hated? Envy was not freedom.
For them, their kind, black like the others, there was only one meaning: the political struggle. (As he loved the magnificent chices of Shakespearean language, the crudely reductive terms of political concepts were an embarrassment to him, but he had to use them, like everybody else.)
Joy. That was what went with it. The light of joy that illuminates long talk of ideas, not the 60-watt bulbs that shine on family matters.
"Samaritan" Richard Price
"Oh My Stars" Lorna Landvik
A novel of hope, a good read and timely.
"Drowning Ruth" Christina Schwarz
Another fast, suspenseful read...well done.
"Impossible Vacation" Spalding Gray
I really loved this book. Spalding writes as if he's reciting one of his monologues; engaging and surreal.