26. No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front In World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon Schuster, 1995. 761 pages.)
It's been a long, long time since I've read anything like this work from Doris Kearns Goodwin. Brian's read her acclaimed Team of Rivals, and I've read her memoir Wait Till Next Year. We respect her work, and that respect's only increased with this new title. I was originally inspired to read something on the Roosevelts after our friends visited from Texas this year, and made a point to visit Eleanor's home in Hyde Park. I also realized I only carried a fuzzy picture of Roosevelt's years in office , gathered from individual bits and pieces of school studies. It felt like a good time to better understand his influence on the twentieth century in the U.S. and across the world. Even more, I wanted to better understand Eleanor's relationship and influence on her husband and on the American landscape.
Kearns Goodwin is so skilled in creating a chronological narrative while threading informative background history, that I felt I was getting a whole picture without getting bogged down by too many asides. She weaves together so many primary sources while maintaining an accessible, compelling narrative structure that, at times, I felt like I was reading a novel rather than a history book. She also seems to use restraint in drawing her own conclusions on the unspoken motivations of the characters - primarily Eleanor & Franklin, whose relationship was so unusual it's almost impossible not to try to psychoanalyze them!
In the end, I feel like I better understand the United States' involvement (including the much-discussed delay in entering) in World War II. I have a bit more clarity on the complicated decisions that needed to be made to survive both the Depression and WWII; decisions that introduced progress in the areas of economic growth, labor disputes, and racial and gender equality. I also understand better the context (and continue to lament) for the ways the "win the war at all costs" mentality that introduced the military industrial complex and a nation that could never go back to the homes in quite the same way again. I lament the astonishing ways our nation, both actively and passively, betrayed the cause of democracy and the civic peace of Japanese Americans, Black Americans, and Jewish Europeans, even as they rallied every force for the cause of democracy. For every good result, there seems to be a corollary that broke our nation in ways we are still paying for today. I respect the great work of the WWII political, industrial, military, and civic generation, understand better the almost impossible hurdles they had to navigate, and at the same time, lament many of their choices. I applaud the incorrigible life of work of both Eleanor and Franklin, and at the same time, lament the ways they were unable to live out their own relationships with peace and love.
27. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (Grand Master Editions, 1985. 256 pages)
A sweet, lovely, and, sometimes, odd little novel - that reads a bit more like a collection of stories around the same characters in a little town in 1930's Illinois. Most of the stories are told through the eyes of two, imaginative and mischievous young brothers Douglas and Tom (which happen to be my own Dad and uncle's names). The best comparison I can think of is a less-cynical, equally-quirky version of Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegon. Sweet bedtime reading.
28. A Ring of Endless Light: The Austin Family Chronicles by Madeleine L'Engle
My annual summer re-read since I was young. Here's what I wrote about it the first time I mentioned the book on the blog: As for the Newberry Award winning book four, A Ring of Endless Light, all I can say is sigh....
I love this book so much I want to marry it -- or at least take it with me on the ever-threatening deserted island I may be stranded on with only one book and nothing else to read for the rest of my days. I joyfully suspend disbelief as I revel in Vickie Austin's ability to communicate telepathically with dolphins. I smell the salty air surrounding Grandfather's Cove and hear the back porch screen door slamming as the busy Austin family come in and out of the house and I wait alongside Grandfather's deathbed with the family and sense that this is such a right thing to do -- to wait with a loved one as he nears Eternity.
There's more, but you'll have to discover it for yourself. For now, I keep shoving the books into my daughters' hands as soon as I finish reading...just like my own mother did years ago with me. (In fact, my eleven-year-old Natalie is sitting on the bed next to me reading Meet the Austins as I finish this post. She just rolled over and said, "I loveMadeline L'Engle." Ahhhh......)
29. A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979 - 1997 by Wendell Berry (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2002. 140 pages)
Another favorite re-read for summertime (at the top of the list of my Top 15 life-changing books I've read since beginning this blog in 2006). This year, I invited our church's reading group to join me. We're meeting on Sunday to discuss, and I'm looking forward to hearing about their experience.
Here's what I wrote about A Timbered Choir following my first read in 2011 (and also, how this collection of poems inspired a comparison to King Solomon's in Ecclesiastes).
30. Life in the Dark: the Film Issue, Image Journal, Issue 93 guest edited by Gareth Higgins and Scott Teems
Such a great journal. Such a great issue. I especially loved reading everything from Scott Teems in the issue, and discovering that he was a a director for a couple of episodes of Rectify, one of the most beautiful, heart-tugging television series Brian and I have watched in recent years. Along the same lines, it was a fun surprise to read the contribution of J. Smith-Cameron (along with so many other industry voices) in the Symposium feature centered around the question "The film that helps me live better".
Go to my reading lists page to see my reading lists from 2016 and previous years.
Here's my Goodreads page. Let's be friends!
I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
What are you reading these days?
p.s. This post includes affiliate links in this post because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!