You're lying in bed just before dawn, covered by sleep and soft light. You might stir slightly when the dog shifts in his crate, but otherwise, all is peace and goodness and rest. Then you are rattled awake by the insistent beep - not of your alarm - but the one that all people everywhere know means a truck is backing up. And this one is apparently in your driveway. And you have no idea why. 

Scared? Yeah, me too.

But here I am, behind the wheel of the oversized truck backing up to the blog, ready to dump a year's worth of reading into storage. Don't worry. I'm not actually going to write about everything I've read this year, but I thought I'd highlight a few key moments and at least keep a record of what I read. Go back to sleep if you can.

I tackled two BIG books this year, and unbelievably, I read real book versions of both. The first was Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. It was thought-provoking, and I was glad to "live with" Dietrich Bonhoeffer for so many months, but the book wasn't particularly well-written. Or maybe I should say it wasn't well-edited? There were just several hundred redundancies (and maybe pages) I would have eliminated. Still, good. The other was The Iliad, which I've read before, but this was a new translation from Barry Powell. The introductory material, the physical book itself, and the translation are excellent. Powell also has a new translation of The Odyssey, which Oxford UP kindly sent me as well, and I am really looking forward to reading it this summer. I've been teaching the Fagles translation, but these Oxford editions are tempting me to switch. There's so much I could say about The Iliad, but it would take too long, so maybe at some point, it will get its own post. Suffice it to say, most of what you think The Iliad is about it kind of isn't. I've got lots of thinking still to do on the subject. I also read Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles, and it blew my doors off.

I've read a fair amount of YA and kid lit as usual, but three are worth mentioning. First is Neil Gaiman's Fortunately, the Milk. This book made me laugh out loud more than I can recall a book ever doing. So funny. Here's a great line: "We have spoons. Spoons are excellent Sort of like forks, only not as stabby" (6). The second is actually two: Young Fredle (which we listened to) and Angus and Sadie by Cynthia Voigt. If you are a dog person, or an animal person, or a person who likes words, you will love these books. Angus and Sadie is chronologically first, but we read Young Fredle first and liked it that way. The third is Tove Jansson's Comet in Moominland. The quirky in this book is off the charts, and we'd love to read the next in the Moominseries, but it keeps not being at the library. Hmm....

Another standout from the year was from one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry: Jayber Crow. Oh, if I could only quote you the whole book. I'll try to choose just one:
And yet I had laid my claim on the place, had made it answerable to my life. Of course, you can't do that and get away free. You can't choose, it seems, without being chosen. For the place, in return, had laid its claim on me and had made my life answerable to it.
Just flipping through the notes on my kindle make me feel I need to reread that one - and soon. I still am not able to fully engage with what I read on the kindle. I speed through, somehow, but I don't hang on to things like I do with a book, or even with audio, which leads me to my next and last highlight of the year. I listened to Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding. It took me forever, and I kept having to renew it from the library's digital service, but I enjoyed it, and I especially enjoyed this part from chapter 36:
For Schwartz, this formed the paradox at the heart of baseball or football or any other sport: you loved it because you considered it an art, an apparently pointless affair undertaken by people with a special aptitude, which sidestepped attempts to paraphrase its value, yet somehow seemed to communicate something true or even crucial about the human condition - the human condition being basically that we are alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not.
Being an audio "read," I may have mispunctuated, but man, that's a good sentence. And true. So true.

Oh crap. That can't be the last one because I also read Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things, which is one of the most perfect and amazing things I've encountered in awhile. Even though I don't use profanity myself much, it doesn't get much better than this. OH and The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis and Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath and.... and.... and...

Well, there was a lot of good. Here's the whole list:

The School for Good and Evil      Somani Chainani
Over Sea, Under Stone         Susan Cooper
The Dark is Rising                Susan Cooper
Junonia                                Kevin Henkes
Jayber Crow                          Wendell Berry
Fortunately, the Milk           Neil Gaiman
Peter and the Starcatchers   Barry and Piersant
Ender's Game                       Orson Scott Card
Insurgent                              Veronica Roth
Longing for Home               Frederich Buechner
Black Beauty (audio)            Anna Sewall
Bonhoeffer                           Eric Metaxas
Little Women (reread)          Louisa May Alcott
Song of Achilles                    Madeline Miller
Tiny Beautiful Things             Cheryl Strayed
The Silver Chair (audio)        C. S. Lewis
Allegiant                               Veronica Roth
Young Fredle (audio)            Cynthia Voigt
Angus and Sadie                   Cynthia Voigt
The Weight of Glory             C. S. Lewis
David and Goliath                 Malcolm Gladwell
Mr. G                                    Alan Lightman
Comet in Moominland          Tove Jansson
Preface to Paradise Lost       C. S. Lewis
The Creation                       Edward O. Wilson
Looking for Alaska (reread)    John Green
An Abundance of Katherines    John Green
The Art of Fielding                      Chad Harbach
Paradise Lost                         John Milton
The Iliad                                  Homer, Barry Powell translation
Flora and Ulysses                  Kate DiCamillo
The Garden of Eve                 K. L. Going

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