Archive | October, 2013

Nothing Better than Books.

28 Oct

I know I haven’t posted in a while, and here’s why: I got married this weekend. It was amazing and exhausting and the best party ever. Instead of reading in the weeks leading up to the 26th, I spent a lot of time getting books ready for my guests.

You know how when you go to a wedding and you pick up your table assignment on the way in? And usually it is a paper tent with your name on the outside and the table number on the inside? Well, we changed that up a bit. So Loren and I sat down, made a list of our all-time favorite books and ordered them in multiples (thanks to Rainy Day Books!). Then we sat down with the list and went through every name; matching them up with the book we thought they’d most love (and hadn’t read). My dream afternoon. And then my brilliant Aunt Linda did this:


This is actually not precisely how it ended up looking (she did a lot of work tweaking it so it was just right) but it will give you an idea. Isn’t it beautiful!?  She is deserves all the credit for making our idea look cool. My dad gave a toast at the wedding and mentioned that I’d be writing about why each person got each book on my blog – and that’s not quite true. I’m just going to write about why each book is a favorite of Loren’s or mine (mostly because the list of who got what has been recycled!). So these will be brief descriptions, and hopefully you’ll find other things that you want to read. Ok, here we go.


The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.  I was thankful to talk to a few of my favorite people who got this book, and none of them had read it. THIS IS GREAT. It is also a little depressing (as books that take place during the Holocaust tend to be). There are so many things to love about this book – it is narrated by Death, which sounds hokey but is actually powerful and different, the young girl at the heart of the novel loves books and words (and steals them from some interesting places). My high school reads it freshman year, but I think they’re the only one? So hopefully if you got a copy of this, it is new to you.

born to run

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. This is one of Loren’s all time favorite books. For those of you who know him, this shouldn’t surprise you. Loren likes to run, and he runs a fair bit (at least in one race a month, most recently a half marathon). I can remember back when we had just started dating and he was in the middle of reading this book, he’d make me read out loud to him every time we got in the car. Basically Christopher McDougall is making the argument that the human race was born to run – that the way our bodies are made, the way we work, make running natural. He tracks down and follows an Indian tribe in Mexico whose members have the ability to run over 100 miles. By modeling his running after them, he is able to run quite far himself.

City of Thieves

City of Thieves by David Benioff. This is one that both Loren and I loved – and maybe the best guy novel ever (it’s also a great girl novel, Stephanie Gage!). It came to my attention one Christmas, listed as Bill Kanter’s favorite book on his Christmas card (he’s one of the most respected reader’s I know). So I gave it to my brother, Paul, and he read it lickety split  – so fast that I knew it had to be great. It is the story of two young boys who get arrested in WWII Leningrad – one for deserting the army and one for stealing (I think) – who end up in the same jail cell. Instead of being executed, they are sent on a mission to find a carton of eggs for a Soviet officer whose daughter is getting married (they’re needed for the cake). This may sound like a silly ploy, but you will LOVE these two boys, and be so afraid for them as they make their way through some dangerous encounters.

Dog stars

Dog Stars by Peter Heller. This book was such a surprise to me, and I’ve written about it on here before.  We gave this one to people we thought would give it a chance – because it takes a little while to get into it.  But if you can give it a chance, it will blow you away! It is set in the United States after some sort of illness has wiped out a large portion of the population. Those that are left face some dangers – the Chinese (who are taking over), survivors that have turned into thugs (looting and killing and trying to survive). Among the survivors is a man named Hig, who has staked out a place to live in a small airport hanger with his faithful dog, Jasper. He is a pilot and will occasionally take Jasper up in his Cessna to scout for supplies. He knows exactly how far he can go on a tank of fuel, and never pushes those boundaries. Until one day he hears a transmission on his radio, and decides to head out into the unknown. What he finds is surprising and lovely, as well as a little frightening. It was such a rewarding read.


The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. This is another of Loren’s all-time favorites. I’m not quite sure how to sum this up to show what it meant to Loren when he read it – but it really moved him. And I don’t mean he cried or anything like that, but he felt a connection to the story of Jeanette’s upbringing that surprised him, and kind of reassured him. I don’t know. This is an important book to him, so he was not careless in distributing it.


Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. As you probably guessed, this is one of Loren’s favorites. I think he would love to set off into the wilderness and try to survive, foraging and hunting and camping. This one has been around for a while, and I’m sure everyone knows the gist of this story, but if you received it, it was most likely because Loren thought you’d appreciate the adventure of it, and the idea of being in nature.


The Lost City of Z by David Grann. Another of Loren’s! He really dominated the middle of the alphabet. He’s recommended this book to so many people over the course of our dating years, there is no way it’d be left off of his list of favorites. It is the story of Percy Fawcett, a British explorer, who travelled to the Amazon with his son in search of the fabled lost city in 1925. Both Fawcett and his son disappeared without a trace. David Grann decided to recreate the trip, with all of the modern technology he could muster, to see if he could figure out what might have happened to Fawcett and his son, and to see how close they might have gotten to finding the lost city.

The News from Spain

The News from Spain by Joan Wickersham. This one is one of mine. And maybe the one I was most excited to give. I’ve written about it on here before, but think that it is not one people will go out and get on their own (mostly because it seems like a collection of short stories), but really and truly, it is a great, great book. I think we had 8 copies of this to give, and I had no trouble thinking of 8 great readers to give this to. It was the book I first thought of when we decided to make books the favor. The connector between the seven stories in this book is the phrase “the news from Spain.” It appears in each story, but you won’t notice it (I had to go back and look for it). But each story is such a masterpiece. I didn’t want it to end; I wished I had the talent to write something so beautiful. I want everyone to love it!

Rocket Boys

Rocket boys/October sky by Homer Hickam. Loren loved this book. The very first time we ever talked, I asked him what his favorite book was (of course I did) and without hesitating this is what he said. I think it appealed to the science in him, as well as the sense of adventure and exploring the unknown. You’d think I would have read it once learning that it was his fav, but no. So I may have to borrow it from one of you!


Rules of civility by Amor Towles.  I loved everything about this book. I was trying to save it for a long flight, but got to the airport too early and had it read just after the plane took off. So I went back and started it over, which I almost never ever do. It reminds me of Gatsby in some ways, which isn’t really why I loved it. It’s set in New York City in the 1930s, and follows two young women (who fall in love with the same guy? Of course!) as they try to make it in the big city. It was very good and fun.

shadow divers

Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson. This is another of Loren’s top books, and the first time he ever heard me try to sell it to a customer, he yelled at me for making it sound less exciting that it is. So he told me how I should sell it. It’s the true story of an old fisherman, ready to retire, who has been fishing the same “money spot” off the coast of New Jersey his whole career. Rather than give his spot to another fisher, he calls in a friend of his who scuba dives as recreation and says “I don’t know what’s down there, but it’s huge and it’s about 230 feet down.” So Richie Kohler and John Chatterton, the divers, set out to dive deeper than had been dived before to find out just what was down there. And that is just the beginning of the mystery.

snow child

Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.  This is a great one, too. I love stories that have roots in fables or myths but are totally their own great, semi-contemporary novels. So this is the story of a couple that’s been living in the secluded forests of Alaska. Unable to have a child, the two find themselves falling deeper and deeper into darkness. One fateful day, they seem to come to peace with the fact that there is no baby in their future, and begin to rekindle the romance that led them to Alaska. On this charmed, loving day, the two build a girl out of snow, dress her in red mittens and a scarf and head to bed feeling at peace. The next morning, though, the woman sees a young girl hiding in the woods, wearing the red mittens and the scarf. And the story goes on from there. A perfect read as we head towards winter.

Tell the Wolves

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carla Rifka Brunt. This is the best book I’ve read lately. But because of that, I’ve already recommended it to everyone I can think of! Hopefully if you got it, you haven’t read it, and you’ll love it just like I did. I’m not going to go into the whole story, but it is one of those that I wish I could read again for the first time. So I’m a little jealous of the read that is ahead of you!


Wingshooters  by Nina Revoyr. This is the book I had just finished when I met Loren (so of course I made him read it, and of course he put it on his list of favorites, but I think that was just to remind me that he read it). It’s a contemporary To Kill a Mockingbird that I couldn’t put down, and can remember reading in the back hall during every spare moment at work. I thought the writing was refreshing, and I loved everything about it except for the last chapter. Feel free to leave that one unread (totally unnecessary to the story and left a bad taste in my mouth).

walk in the woods

Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. This one is laugh out loud funny – the true story of Bill Bryson’s decision to walk the entire Appalachian Trail. That doesn’t sound hilarious, I know, but Bill Bryson (at the time, I don’t know about now) was an overweight, not-very-outdoorsy writer with bad knees and no hiking experience. He has all sort of hilarious encounters (including one with a bear) along the way. This is my kind of non-fiction.

Heart and Fist

Some of you got others, just 1 copies of things that called to me (especially for my high school & bookstore friends). There were a few copies of The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens, which is the book that my Navy brother George recommends for anyone interested in the SEAL program. But other than that, everyone should have one of those listed above. Let me know if you have questions, and let me know if you love the book you got once you’ve finished reading!


Elizabeth & Loren