I have really fallen behind here!
87. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I am not sure how I missed this book before now. This was incredibly well-written, and the topics that it covers, class divides and class mobility, are some in which I am particularly interested. I liked the detached narrator who frames the story. Gatsby, of course, was a very flawed person, but his flaws were much more appealling that Daisy's and Tom's flaws. His flaws stemmed from a yearning to improve his life, and be with someone that he loves, whereas Daisy and Tom only care about their own comfort and feelings. This was a very thought-provoking book.
88. Original Sin by P.D. James
This one made me cry. The story was absolutely tragic, and it very, very sad. James really works at her craft, exploring interesting questions, and transcending the mystery genre. Her characters are fully realized people, not stock characters that just move the puzzle along.
89. A Certain Justice by P.D. James
I enjoyed this one, as I do all of James' books, but I am not sure it was as good as Original Sin. Still, the story was intriguing, and the characters were fascinating, as always.
90. Have You Found Her by Janice Erlbaum
This was an Early Reviewer's book.
This was a fantastic book, for many reasons. First, Erlbaum is a great storyteller, keeping me turning pages all the way through. She is also very honest. As she describes her efforts to help Sam, a homeless junkie, and other girls at the same homeless shelter that she used when she was a teenage runaway, she reveals a lot about her own personality and life, not all of it flattering. Since she describes her behavior with a great deal of insight, she clearly learned a lot and grew as a person due to the experience, but it still must have been difficult to describe herself, flaws and all, so candidly. At times I wanted to shake her--how could she not realize that these girls were so damaged? Sure, she had gone through a similar experience and emerged successful and relatively stable, but she must have known many other street kids who did not have such good outcomes. When she describes her friends and family, none of them seem to have pasts that encompass street living. Yet, she seems to think that a little bit of care and listening from her will turn these kids around.
To be fair, she really does do a lot to help these girls, especially Sam, and she obviously does really care for them and want them to have better lives, from the very beginning. Also, she learns a lot from her experiences, obviously becoming a stronger person and more clear-headed about this all as the story progresses.
Most people who want to help those less fortunate themselves have this idealistic view of what helping others means. Even with a background that should help them to know better, they think they can just give a little and make a big difference. It also seems easy to compartmentalize this kind of giving—it’s something that a person does at certain specific times, and it doesn’t encroach on normal life, except for short anecdotes at parties to show how caring and noble the volunteer is. But when you work with damaged people, it isn’t that simple. These people have enormous needs that can’t be covered from 6:00 until 9:00 on Wednesday evenings, and they demand more than a casual volunteer with a life elsewhere is comfortable giving. Erlbaum does a great job of describing how she struggled with the desire to do more, help more, and still live her hard-won normal life.
91. Solar Lottery by Philip K. Dick
Even in a world that seems to be governed by totally random forces, people struggle to impose meaning and control on their lives. Or, some people do, at least. This was a short book that managed to get in some very interesting discussions about the nature of free will and the laws that govern our universe.
So, what kind of goal am I going to do for next year? I am thinking about aiming for 100--I don't know if I will make it, but it seems like a good goal. It wouldn't even get through my tbr list, and you KNOW I am going to buy even more books. I just got 5 or 6 books yesterday with the gift card my brother gave me for Christmas (he was going to get me these cool shelves from Ikea, but they wouldn't accept a different ship to address than the billing address :-(), although one of them was cookbook, so I don't need to add it to the list. I am thinking that aiming to read more is a really good idea, because, as always, there is so much out there that I want to read! 100 it is.
I don't think I am done with this year, yet, though. There are still 4 whole days this year, plus tonight, and the kids are at their dad's until 12/31. I am sure I will get at least one more book on the list.