My Jólabókaflóð

26 Dec

You’ve probably seen one of these memes over the last few days or weeks.

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I am at an age and stage in my life when the getting and giving of books is the most fun part of Christmas. On the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, I like to share what I gave and what I got.

My twin sister learned to knit socks this year, so I gave her one of my favorite sock knitting books,  Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush. The introductory chapters give good information about sock construction which are followed by beautiful patterns based on older patterns.

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Throughout the year, I sent my sister some of the books I’d received for the Morris Committee. I am not allowed to sell them and so I sent her the some of the best that didn’t get nominated. I also did a bog book giveaway at work, reducing my stash from six boxes to two, that I will donate to a local library. I saved one of them for my sister for Christmas, Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen.

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Publisher Summary: Mira is just beginning her senior year of high school when she discovers her father with his male lover. Her world–and everything she thought she knew about her family–is shattered instantly. Unable to comprehend the lies, betrayal, and secrets that–unbeknownst to Mira–have come to define and keep intact her family’s existence, Mira distances herself from her sister and closest friends as a means of coping. But her father’s sexual orientation isn’t all he’s kept hidden. A shocking health scare brings to light his battle with HIV. As Mira struggles to make sense of the many fractures in her family’s fabric and redefine her wavering sense of self, she must find a way to reconnect with her dad–while there is still time.

Told in raw, exposed free verse, Skyscraping reminds us that there is no one way to be a family.

My brother-in-law has eclectic tastes that include an interest in the Dada movement and avant-garde art. So, I got him a collection of essays on modern art, Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art by Julian Barnes.

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Publisher’s Summary: As Julian Barnes notes: “Flaubert believed that it was impossible to explain one art form in terms of another, and that great paintings required no words of explanation. Braque thought the ideal state would be reached when we said nothing at all in front of a painting . . . But it is a rare picture that stuns, or argues, us into silence. And if one does, it is only a short time before we want to explain and understand the very silence into which we have been plunged.”

This is the exact dynamic that informs his new book. In his 1989 novel A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, Barnes had a chapter on Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa,and since then he has written about many great masters of nineteenth- and twentieth-century art, including Delacroix, Manet, Fantin-Latour, Cézanne, Degas, Redon, Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton, Braque, Magritte, Oldenburg, Lucian Freud and Howard Hodgkin. The seventeen essays gathered here help trace the arc from Romanticism to Realism and into Modernism; they are adroit, insightful and, above all, a true pleasure to read.

For my 17-year-old niece who reads everything, I got The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough.

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Publisher’s Summary: Flora and Henry were born a few blocks from each other, innocent of the forces that might keep a white boy and an African-American girl apart; years later they meet again and their mutual love of music sparks an even more powerful connection. But what Flora and Henry don’t know is that they are pawns in a game played by the eternal adversaries Love and Death, here brilliantly reimagined as two extremely sympathetic and fascinating characters. Can their hearts and their wills overcome not only their earthly circumstances, but forces that have battled throughout history? In the rainy Seattle of the 1920’s, romance blooms among the jazz clubs, the mansions of the wealthy, and the shanty towns of the poor. But what is more powerful: love? Or death?

On a side note, I wanted to share with you the banner from Brockenbrough’s webpage,

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For my birthday, I got Tim Wynne Jones’ newest novel,  The Emperor of Any Place.

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Publisher’s Summary:When Evan’s father dies suddenly, Evan finds a hand-bound yellow book on his desk—a book his dad had been reading when he passed away. The book is the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a small Pacific island in WWII. Why was his father reading it? What is in this account that Evan’s grandfather, whom Evan has never met before, fears so much that he will do anything to prevent its being seen? And what could this possibly mean for Evan? In a pulse-quickening mystery evoking the elusiveness of truth and the endurance of wars passed from father to son, this engrossing novel is a suspenseful, at times terrifying read from award-winning author Tim Wynne-Jones.

The last half of this year was a little hard because of the loss of my dad and Fiona. My sister, who lost our father and her mother-in-law within weeks of each other, walked into her local book shop and ran into a friend. When her friend heard about my sister’s losses, she recommended this book, They Left Us Everything:  A Memoir by Plum Johnson.

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Publisher’s Summary:After almost twenty years of caring for elderly parents—first for their senile father,  and then for their cantankerous ninety-three-year-old mother—author Plum Johnson  and her three younger brothers experience conflicted feelings of grief and relief when  their mother, the surviving parent, dies. Now they must empty and sell the beloved  family home, which hasn’t been de-cluttered in more than half a century. Twenty-three  rooms bulge with history, antiques, and oxygen tanks. Plum remembers her loving  but difficult parents who could not have been more different: the British father, a  handsome, disciplined patriarch who nonetheless could not control his opinionated,  extroverted Southern-belle wife who loved tennis and gin gimlets. The task consumes  her, becoming more rewarding than she ever imagined. Items from childhood trigger  memories of her eccentric family growing up in a small town on the shores of Lake  Ontario in the 1950s and 60s. But unearthing new facts about her parents helps her  reconcile those relationships with a more accepting perspective about who they were  and what they valued.

They Left Us Everything  is a funny, touching memoir about the importance of preserving  family history to make sense of the past and nurturing family bonds to safeguard the  future.

So, I will be holed up for the next few days (weeks?) reading these and the books I have to read for various commitments. I will probably ring in the 2016 with a book in my hand.

 

 

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