Engaging Books: A Book Club for the next 4 years

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Summer wildflowers by E.A. Schneider

Salutations, dear pond readers! Today, I am excited to launch a new project at Technicolorlilypond just in time for Summer. This project is a book club for the next four years that I’m calling “Engaging Books.” The election for the 45th president of the United States has made the world an extra tumultuous place and stirred up a lot of feelings in people. I think that if we could all be on the same page of the same book engaging in the imaginative exercise together, and then sharing thoughts on it in a polite way, that that would make the world a little bit better place right now with a little bit brighter future. What can I say? I’m the child of librarians; I can’t help but think that books are the best place to start when faced with crises.

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Ring-tailed Lemur hugging its tail by E.A. Schneider

Engaging Books is designed with three specific goals. Goal #1: pierce our self-made bubbles of knowledge and, by so doing, achieve Goal #2: foster consideration for each other as human beings whilst doing Goal #3: read some amazing books. In short, the ultimate goal is to become a more engaged, informed, and polite member of society. Our self-curated bubbles of information have highlighted our polarized political climate in the United States as well as contributed to a crumbling sense of community. There is data to support this belief and there is no shortage of evidence that we are more likely to believe that the “other” is a subhuman enemy when we don’t know anything about them personally. I’m hoping that reading these books and works will help us all see the world with more compassion.

Like a lot of others in the USA, I felt a little blindsided after the November elections and I want to read up on points of view that I’m now aware I knew nothing of as well as perspectives that I might have mistakenly taken for granted.  A lot of thought went into this list of books. The books are a mix of fiction and non-fiction and every book is less than 600 pages long.

Because this is the Internet, everybody reads at different paces, and there’s this pesky thing called Real Life that rudely interrupts one’s ability to read, I have some guidelines for how this is going to work. Naturally, these are subject to revision as things develop. The books are listed below in the rough order I will aim to read them in. There are 60 books on the list which works out to 15 books a year for the next four years. As I read, I will post thoughts on the books here on my blog as well as on Goodreads in the Engaging Books Group. If you are reading along, please post your thoughts. If you’ve already read something on the list, feel free to post your thoughts on the work even if it’s way down on the list. However, all people posting will need to put SPOILER warnings on their comment where applicable and always be politely respectful in their remarks.

The books on this list are purposefully challenging. I fully expect many of them to contain content that is disturbing, offensive, graphic, and emotionally affecting. That is the point. Again, we all curate bubbles for ourselves regardless of facts to protect our identities. It is our nature. However, we can and should challenge that nature to stretch because that is how we learn and grow.

This isn’t a class. There are no grades and no credit beyond the personal. All I can offer is my own written commentary, some cute animal pictures, and the truth that when you read a book, you’re going to learn something you didn’t know before. Personally, I think that reading these books is a worthwhile endeavor and I hope you do too. On to the list!

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Relaxed Seal by E.A. Schneider  Seals are one of the cutest animals around!

 

Engaging Books: The List  

# / Title / Author / [page count]

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood [311]
  2. Tracks by Louise Erdrich [226]
  3. News from Nowhere by William Morris [167]
  4. The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher [272]
  5. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed [274]
  6. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance [272]
  7. It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis [400]
  8. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler [345]
  9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley [288]
  10. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglas [160]
  11. Bus Girl: Poems by Gretchen Josephson [107]
  12. The Irony of American History by Reinhold Neibuhr [174]
  13. We by Yevgeny Zamayatin [225]

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    Diving sea turtle by E.A. Schneider

  14. 1984 by George Orwell [322]
  15. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond [418]
  16. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood [400]
  17. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank [200]
  18. Selected Poems by Langston Hughes [320]
  19. Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston [243]
  20. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hothschild [288]
  21. Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt [527]
  22. Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach [181]
  23. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg [308]
  24. Muslims and the Making of America by Amir Hussain [150]
  25. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine [160]
  26. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot [370]
  27. Waist-high in the World: A life Among the Non-Disabled by N. Mairs [224]
  28. I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai [352]
  29. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver [436]
  30. Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson [240]

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    Summer wildflowers at dusk by E.A. Schneider

  31. Prophesy Deliverance! by Cornel West [188]
  32. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks [243]
  33. The Dictator’s Handbook by Bueno de Mequita [352]
  34. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury [249]
  35. Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik [218]
  36. Coyote by Allen Steele [436]
  37. The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force by Eliot A. Cohen [304]
  38. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins [374]
  39. The American Jeremiad by Sacvan Bercovitch [256]
  40. High-Rise by J. G. Ballard [204]
  41. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine [291]
  42. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd [296]
  43. Caesar’s Column by Ignatius Donnelly [278]
  44. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks [174]
  45. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer [240]
  46. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin [349]
  47. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman [208]
  48. The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (pseudonym of Stephen King) [384]
  49. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson [448]
  50. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt [528]
  51. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli [140]
  52. Animal Farm by George Orwell [112]
  53. The Wave by Morton Rhue and Todd Strasser [143]
  54. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez [120]

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    Coneflower by E.A. Schneider

  55. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson [433]
  56. Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900 by Ida B. Wells-Barnett Jacqueline Jones Royster (Editor) [288]
  57. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels [48]
  58. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society by Herbert Marcuse [320]
  59. The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama [585]
  60. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins [294]

Thank you for reading to the end! I am going to intersperse my reading of this list with other lighter works and hopefully I will blog about those, too. I’ve already read a couple of these and will be posting my reviews sometime soon. Hopefully, this will help you launch your Summer Reading with some fascinating books and dynamic thinking. Any thoughts? Concerns? What are you reading now? Please, share below, happy Summer reading, and thank you for stopping by the pond today, dear reader.

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Onward by E.A. Schneider

 

 

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Thankful Thoughts

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Whale shark and friends by E.A. Schneider

Happy Thanksgiving, dear pond readers! Today I find myself counting my blessings. I’m thankful for my spouse, my family, my friends, my faith, my work, my words, my readers, and this incredibly beautiful world. This post is filled with pictures of some of our magical wild neighbors which I hope you enjoy. Despite multiple setbacks, I’m thankful that I’m still plugging away at NaNoWriMo, slowly but surely (2574 words and counting!), as well as my reading goal of 52 books (43 books and counting!) this November.

This Thanksgiving may be extra stressful for many in the USA because we’re dreading the P-word (P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S) rearing its head over the turkey and sweet potatoes while grappling with the usual stresses of travel, family, distance, and cooking things we only cook once or twice a year. Fingers crossed for no food poisoning or flu! Look on the bright side, given the statistics on political opinion in the USA, odds are high that we’re all stressed out together. If misery loves company, then surely anxiety enjoys a crowd.

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Jellies in the deep by E.A. Schneider

No matter how tough it is or how divided your dining room might be, it is more important than ever to hang on to those we love and find the strength to keep talking to each other. Count your blessings together, I guarantee that you will find many in common if you try. The future may be uncertain with lots of things to be afraid of, but, cultivating a grateful, loving heart can only be an asset. Especially when coupled with yummy food in the company of dear ones.

What are you grateful for, dear readers? Are you in the final sprint of your own NaNoWriMo experience? Are you cramming in some reading time? Or cramming in a new tasty recipe? Please, leave a comment below while you have a safe, happy, and tasty holiday filled with love. Thanks for stopping by the pond today.

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Tanuki in Autumn by E.A. Schneider

 

Finished some reading!

I got to do some reading the last couple of days, dear pond readers, and I have a couple tiny updates for you.

Changeless (Parasol Protectorate, #2)Changeless by Gail Carriger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series is distractingly addictive and I am thoroughly enjoying every page. Alexia is a fabulous heroine and I can hardly wait to read what further adventures she encounters in book three armed with her parasol, glassicles, and preternatural wit.

View all my reviews

Red Hood's Revenge (Princess, #3)Red Hood’s Revenge by Jim C. Hines

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stakes keep building for the trio of no-nonsense princesses in Red Hood’s Revenge. I absolutely love how Hines is mining the deep, dark recesses of classic fairy tales to tell these very realistically positive fantasy stories. I can hardly wait for book four.

View all my reviews

I’m over halfway through my goal of 52 books this year with 29 books done. Here’s hoping that I can not only power on and finish some more books but also do a longer capsule review heavy post for all of you. What are your reading and writing goals this Fall, dear readers? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by.

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Budding possibility by E.A. Schneider

 

If you want to support Technicolorlilypond and check out some super fun books, check out these links: Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate) and Red Hood’s Revenge (Princess Novels) Thank you!

Stars in my patch of sky

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Flowers at Dusk in Blue Mound State Park by E.A. Schneider

On Saturday night, after two nights of rainy disappointment, I was finally able to see part of this year’s Perseid meteor shower, dear readers. Bundled up in a hoodie and my flannel PJs, I slouched in my camp chair on the deck and trained my gaze on my patch of sky. Suburban sky looks unwell. It reminded me of the coral reefs at Hanauma Bay State Park. Those reefs had a damaged, grey sort of beauty, at least when I saw them, devoid of the vibrant colors I had come to associate with coral reefs thanks to an abundance of nature programs in my childhood TV diet. Don’t get me wrong, they were pretty and I am privileged to have had the chance to see them, but, you could tell an excess of people had left their mark. The same goes for my patch of sky. We have a lot of light pollution. Even if there hadn’t been a half-moon lighting up the night, there is still a perpetual grey sheen to the sky courtesy of the blend of street and porch lights from the neighborhood. At least the moon leant a silver tinge to the tree leaves for that touch of fey light in the gloom.

Sitting there, feeling the slight damp left behind by two days of rain only partially dried by the day’s sun juxtaposed with the chill of night and looking at the motley assortment of weakly flickering stars in the sky, I remembered that heavenly bodies are only part of the reason I star gaze. The real attraction to me is the liveliness of the night’s sound scape. Even here in the burbs, filled with cars, motorcycles, lights, pets, pesticides, and people, there is a rich cacophony of night creatures vocalizing their hearts out (or trying to sneak by unnoticed) that you can only hear when you stop what you’re doing and sit in one spot unmoving for a long time.

While waiting to see the fiery end of Comet Swift-Tuttle’s debris, I was treated to tree frogs, chorus frogs, crickets out the wazoo, insects I am unacquainted with, mysterious mammalian chitterings, soft paw-falls on leaves, and gentle flaps of unseen wings. The only missing element were fireflies and I suspect that I was up too late for their light show. I love the tenacity of wild life in the burbs, the way it is undeterred by all our human ways and thrives in spite of everything we throw in its path. Is the mix of creatures the same as what is in the real country? No. Are we missing out on some brilliant nighttime denizens? Yes. I have enjoyed country nights rife with wild sound before; I know it is remarkable, especially when paired with a visible Milky Way arching across the sky as far as you can crane your neck to see. Such places and skies are worth conserving, they are an inheritance our children deserve to enjoy.

Nonetheless, I love my patch of flawed, human tinged sky. The stars that flickered there were brilliant to shine through all our light. If I stayed very still, I fancied I could detect slight changes in color. I probably can’t with human eyes but it was fun to imagine. Hearing my wild neighbors was absolutely relaxing, their raucous calls for mates and territory a comfort to the soul. And I saw them: the meteors streaked across the sky between the stars, both weak and bright, and made me smile with delight as I made my wishes. Yes, I still wish on falling stars. Don’t you? It is a supreme luxury to sit in the night and enjoy its beauties. I feel so blessed, my cup runneth over.

I will leave you with the poem my mother taught me when I was a little kid and frightened of the dark. Even though I am now a fan of the night, this piece by Robert Frost is a great comfort and inspiration that I cannot help but think on when I revel in stillness beneath the starry sky.

Take Something Like A Star
By Robert Frost

O Star (the fairest one in sight),

We grant your loftiness the right

To some obscurity of cloud–

It will not do to say of night,

Since dark is what brings out your light.

Some mystery becomes the proud.

But to be wholly taciturn

In your reserve is not allowed.

Say something to us we can learn

By heart and when alone repeat.

Say something! And it says, “I burn.”

But say with what degree of heat.

Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.

Use language we can comprehend.

Tell us what elements you blend.

It gives us strangely little aid,

But does tell something in the end.

And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,

Not even stooping from its sphere,

It asks a little of us here.

It asks of us a certain height,

So when at times the mob is swayed

To carry praise or blame too far,

We may take something like a star

To stay our minds on and be staid.

**END**

What about you, dear pond readers? Did you get to enjoy the Perseids this year? Do you have a favorite poem that keeps your thoughts company? Please, leave a comment below with your ruminations on your patch of the sky and thanks for stopping by the pond today.

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Flower Field at Sunset by E.A. Schneider

 

Flash Fiction: Directions by E.A. Lawrence

Recently, I went on a lovely camping trip in the woods with a good friend. It was so nice to be out in the forest breathing in the smell of detritus, bark, and rain kissed wind in good company. We had some fun adventures that have provided me some much needed creative fodder. I took hundreds of photos and shockingly enough many of them are quite lovely. No doubt several will be wending there way into my pond posts over the coming weeks so stay tuned, dear pond readers.

Tonight, I got to sit down in a local coffee shop with some up-tempo folk music from a local band and actually begin the fun process of photo editing. That could be a whole other blog post(s) for another day, I do so love me my editing. At the moment though, I want to share a bit of creative writing that I did tonight. It flashed into my mind as I looked at the image below so, naturally, I seized my fountain pen and journal to write it all out before the muse flitted away again. Here it is, dear pond readers, enjoy!

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The offerings by E.A. Schneider Photo taken in Blue Mound State Park in Wisconsin

 

Directions 

by E.A. Lawrence

You must bring an apple. It must be small, with a flush of red on one side over the green. No, they aren’t that hard to find, I promise. All it takes is a keen eye and a deft hand. Besides, if it were easy to find, it would be a paltry gift; the time is part of the present, you understand.

Anyway, once you find the right apple, you then bring it to the cavern in the trunk. It is carpeted with the finest moss and paved with acorn shells. There is a stone lintel of pale rosy hue at the threshold. I am sure you won’t miss it; for it is just to the side of the path in the wood where the eye is wont to linger.

Once you offer the apple, you must wait by the tree but only a little while. It will be less time than it took to find the apple but not as fast as you wish. If you’re very patient, the tree folk will give you a story. You see them when your eyes are closed or when you’re looking at something else. You hear them when you think you hear a noise but you’re not sure. They smell of something you almost remember. You’ll find the tree-folk easier to describe when you’re there.

Depending on how sweet the apple, the story will savor of delight more than bitterness but remember, a good story will feature some of both. A sour note does not a bad tale make just as a too-sweet flavor may not suit. You’ll see.

Should you grow impatient or weary or frightened waiting on the path and move along before the tree folk do their work, don’t worry. A gift must be reciprocated, the tree folk understand these things. They will give you a story, but in a different way.

The story will take root and grow slowly as your mind turns like so much compost in the sun, trash and unwanted scraps metamorphosing into fertile soil for what the tree folk planted. Word by word, image by image, it will burrow like a worm in your dreams. Sleeping and waking it will rustle as it grows, teasing you from rest and distracting you from labor. The sight of a crow’s back in the sun, the sparkles on the water, the aroma of honey in your tea, and the texture of your favorite walk beneath your soles will hasten its growth.

The story will be as different as you every time you go to the wood with every unique just-right apple you can bring the tree folk.

So, to summarize: find an apple. Take it to the cavern in the tree trunk to the side of the path in the wood and you’ll see what happens next.

The End

470 words

What do you think, dear pond readers? Do you have an opinion on my little bit of flash fiction? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments below and thanks for stopping by the pond tonight, dear readers.

P.S. I (Ellen Schneider) am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you buy this lovely ROAR 7 anthology published by Furplanet publications that features my latest short story, “Kitsune Tea,” through this Amazon link: ROAR Volume 7, I will get a small advertising fee. I hope that these fees will help support me as I continue writing and doing creative things here at Technicolorlilypond. Thanks for your support!

Good News

Here is the best piece of news I’ve heard all week, dear readers: Canadian scientists have published a paper in the Lancet detailing an extraordinary new treatment for severe progressive multiple sclerosis.  That link will take you to an excellent write-up of the discovery in Vox but this link will take you to the original Lancet article.

I’ve mentioned my personal struggle with multiple sclerosis before here in the pond, heck I even have a tab devoted to it here. This is a big deal to me but I also just think this story is inspiring. Want to know one of the many cool things about science that I think I’ve mentioned a few times? Everything is connected. That amazing miracle up in Canada was only possible because there was a bunch of basic scientific research available to draw upon from stem cells, leukemia research, lymphoma research, auto-immune research, and probably many other fields that I’m unaware of; the publication has 38 cited references and 25 co-authors. The implications of the work these 25 scientists did extend beyond multiple sclerosis to other auto-immune diseases and who knows what else in the future. Just thinking about all of the citations that had to happen to make all the 38 works possible that made this paper possible, fills me with awe at the breadth of research necessary to facilitate each discovery scientists make. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Each discovery, each eureka moment, fuels the next one, even one you might not expect. Every penny towards research, be it private or public, helps the researchers do their necessary work. I also personally believe that every prayer and positive thought contributes in some way to these sorts of discoveries, too. I hope contemplating this story, and all the hands that made it possible, fills you with hope & wonder, too, dear readers. Have you read or experienced something that gave you a feeling of hope? Please share it below in the comments and thanks for stopping by the pond today.

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Light and Leaves from Michigan by E.A. Schneider

 

2015 Reading Retrospective

Now that spring is almost over, dear readers, I have taken the time to reflect on all the adventures in books that I enjoyed in 2015. In a lot of ways, 2015 was a difficult year for me, the hardest for me since 2013. I faced some highs and I faced some terrible lows of loss. I breathed a sigh of relief when the clock struck midnight on December 31st, eager to start a fresh year here on planet Earth.

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Skeptical baby bunny is skeptical by E.A. Schneider

Per usual, I rode the swells of corporeal existence clinging to the pages of tremendous books. When I think of 2015, so much is a blur that I can’t do my usual seasonal breakdown of books. Looking back, I realize that I spent a lot of time reading series rather than stand-alone novels, which might contribute to the blurred feeling. The year had some standout authors for me including Jim Butcher, Jim C. Hines, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, Ursula K. LeGuin, Samuel R. Delaney, Agatha Christie, Lord Dunsany, and Neal Stephenson. Their books pop in my memory the most. I’m grateful that their books were there to read when I desperately needed sanctuary in a good book. Below I have made a list of everything I read in 2015 in no particular order with a short capsule review on my thoughts. Also, you will find some of my favorite pictures from 2016 so far. Enjoy!

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
    1. I can see the appeal of this book. The prose is well written and the relationship between Jaime and Claire is compelling but the book is 250-pages-too-long with excessive sexual violence. By the end, I did not feel invested enough to read more of the series; just relieved the story had reached a stopping point.
  2. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
    1. This book is incredibly beautiful, complex, and utterly fascinating. I will be re-reading this for years to come I’m sure. The way LeGuin depicts marriage, society, and all the bittersweet trade-offs of both is compelling with the sweet tang of truthful reality that good sci-fi can deliver.
  3. Ubik by Phillip K. Dick
    1. Another story where Dick messes with your mind’s perception of life, the universe, and everything. Reading this left me feeling small, powerless, and overall kind of dumb which is rather typical for Dick’s stories. That said, the portrayal of women was not incredibly offensive and I found his exploration of the twilight realm of life vs. death a page-turning experience.
  4. A Knot in the Grain by Robin McKinley
    1. I know that I will re-read this book, that it will be part of the regular rotation of comfort reads for me moving forward. McKinley re-interprets fairy tales and their heroines in innovative ways in this collection. My favorite heroine was McKinley’s Rapunzel with her heroic nature and unabashed love for her foster mother. I really appreciated McKinley’s way of obliquely mentioning magic and leaving so much so tantalizingly off page. That takes a deft touch that I hope to master in my own fiction someday.

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      Lake Michigan wave by E.A. Schneider

  5. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    1. This book was very readable with a dry, bleak sense of macabre humor. I couldn’t stop reading and even though I finished it a year ago, passages still come to mind occasionally. So it goes.
  6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    1. This book is magic. I love the story of Nobody Owens and his graveyard family. Gaiman has a real knack for repurposing monsters without losing sight of their monster nature. I copied out so many quotes from this book. I like the emphasis that Gaiman puts on the way life is defined by making choices, mistakes, and by the possibility of change whereas the dead are over, their story is done and no changes are left. Of course, he does play with that, too. How over can things be when the dead adopt a boy? It is a wonderful fairy tale and this book might be my new favorite Gaiman creation.
  7. The Story of the Treasure-Seekers by Edith Nesbit
    1. A fast, diverting read filled with all the sexism appropriate to the 19th century, especially since the narrator is one of the Bastable family’s boys. I will probably read more of the Bastable’s adventures when I need a light read.
  8. The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick
    1. Once again, a compelling read with tantalizing, mind-bending moments. I liked the characters of Tagomi and Julianna the most. I don’t know what Dick was speaking to with this story or if he was speaking to any particular thing. Pondering the ending, I feel like Tagomi pondering the pin and seeking transcendental answers to universal questions in a small, physical artifact.
  9. Moon Over the Back Fence  by Esther Carlson
    1. This was an odd story. At times the vignettes between Ellen and her Uncle George are absolutely charming and sweet while at others they are very strange with some disturbing gender/sexual politics. In the end, this is a poignant story of the end of childhood through the lens of magic realism/surrealism and, weird as it was sometimes, I’m glad that I read it.
  10. The Stepsister Scheme  by Jim C. Hines
    1. This book totally kicks all expectations to the curb and is absolutely amazing. I am a big fan of fairy tales and Hines mines all the best old ones to craft incredible heroines with character and humanity. It will take all my self-control to not blitz through this series too fast; I want to savor every page.

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      Lake Michigan shore by E.A. Schneider

  11. Nova by Samuel R. Delaney
    1. This is a rip-roaring space adventure with terrific prose and a page-turning story featuring colorful characters that were a delight to read. I found the galactic scale of political maneuvering tempered by the close human scale of the ship crew and I loved the ending. It’s a great book.
  12. Star Trek Vanguard #1: Harbinger by David Mack
    1. This was really fun just when I needed something light and fun and Trek. I liked that with Harbinger Mack came up with a new crew and a new station rather than trying to capture and sustain the unique vibe of the Enterprise officers. The Vanguard station crew is amazing with fun characters and I am eagerly looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
  13. Around the World in 72 Days and Other Writings by Nellie Bly
    1. Nellie Bly has been one of my heroines since I was a little girl. I admired her story of pluck and courage but I confess that I was always afraid to read her actual writing. What if she was terrible? How crushed would I feel? Well, come to find out, she’s not a terrible writer or a particularly extraordinary one, but a good writer of readable stories. The book proved to be a great time capsule of America on the verge of greatness from the POV of one of its great characters who reveled in being the star of the story. I found a lot of fun, quotable passages and, despite Bly’s incredible racism typical for her class and time period, there is still much that I can admire in her work. She was so brave and her persistence in the face of emotional and financial hardship is inspiring. I have no doubt that I will re-read the book and, warts and all, Nellie Bly is still my heroine.

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      Spider monkey by E.A. Schneider

  14. Ready Player One  by Ernest Cline
    1. This book is a terrifically fun, entertaining story. I get all the references but the references at times feel like the real star of the story with the narrative a stage on which they can shine. Ready Player One has a lot to say and I feel like I’m going to be talking about it and thinking about it for a long time to come, I will probably even re-read it at some point. It also has some profoundly troubling things to say about race, gender, and identity. Sadly, the future world Cline describes seems all too plausible and very frightening from my POV, I hope it doesn’t come to pass.
  15. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
    1. This book is fantastic. I loved it and will no doubt re-read it someday. The prose, particularly the prose to describe the metaverse, is beautiful. The dystopian world is complex and feels so plausible, so real in its slippery slope description of public-private partnerships, that it’s scary. The characters, particularly Hiro and YT, are definitely the best part. I like the fact that no matter how extraordinary our technology becomes, Stephenson thinks that personal relationships are what will really make the difference. I’m inclined to agree.

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      Flying together by E.A. Schneider

  16. Thirteen at Dinner by Agatha Christie
    1. One of the cleverest murders that Christie wrote, this is an old favorite of mine. Captain Hastings helps save the day with his everyday knack for the obvious that makes him a great foil for Hercule Poirot.
  17. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
    1. Hercule Poirot is in his element with this story. No clues, no evidence, and no cigarette ash but rather five different interviews recalling the misty events of 20 years ago. Only Poirot and his little grey cells could make sense of this story and I love it.
  18. Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
    1. I read this because I had re-read the play based on this novel a few months previously and I wanted to compare the two. I like how Christie plays with the cast of characters even though Poirot lifts right out, and she gets to set it in the Middle-east spots she loved so much.
  19. Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie
    1. It’s still fabulous, even with its flaws. I love re-reading this book. I read it again in 2015, after listening to a Radiolab discussion of memory and Agatha Christie. That definitely added another layer to the experience with a slightly more poignant edge. Like Five Little Pigs this story features detective work based solely on recollection and showcases dialogue. Ariadne Oliver steals the show from Poirot, too, which is always a treat.
  20. Tuesday Club Murders  by Agatha Christie
    1. I bought the edition I read because the cover art was fantastic and I was craving some Marple short fiction. This anthology is a treat filled with Miss Marple’s wonderful brand of pessimistic detection based on her understanding of human nature. Terrific stuff.

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      Massasaugas resting by E.A. Schneider

  21. Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
    1. Hercule Poirot talks to people to solve an unsolvable psychological murder per usual but the cast of both sleuths and suspects are a delight and I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this story. I particularly like that my beloved Ariadne Oliver gets to be both a first rate sleuth and the comic relief. Oliver also gets the chance to talk a bit about the hum drum work of writing to dispel some of the romantic illusions people, especially fans, might hold.
  22. The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah and “Agatha Christie”
    1. Having re-read some Christie before this book, reading Sophie Hannah’s interpretation of Poirot did spur me to re-read some more Poirot afterward. Hannah’s interpretation was pretty okay. I think she did a good job capturing Poirot but I found the detective he works with, Catchpool, a rather unappealing fellow but I suppose not everyone can be Captain Hastings.
  23. Cradle in the Grave by Sophie Hannah
    1. An entertaining read with good dialogue. I can understand why the Christie estate chose Hannah to carry the dame’s characters forward.
  24. Fatal Enquiry by Will Thomas
    1. I am a big fan of Barker & Llewelyn and this adventure is a splendid read. I could not put the book down except with the most grudging feelings. I believe I finished it in less than 72 hours, which is some kind of record for me given how busy I was at the time.
  25. Codex Born by Jim C. Hines
    1. The second in Hines’ Libriomancer stories, this book really spotlights the incredible character of Lena Greenwood, book born dryad who is so much more than the ink and words that created her. I don’t know what to say about this book without spoiling things but this series is amazing and Greenwood is a complicated heroine who rocks this book.
  26. The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde
    1. This is third in the Last Dragonslayer series featuring heroine, Jennifer Strange, and the magicians of Kazam. The book is terrific; a page-turner that drew me in and gripped me and then had the temerity to end on a cliffhanger. Fforde had better take his vitamin, that’s all I have to say about that.

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      Whooping Crane portrait by E.A. Schneider

  27. Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers
    1. The book started out strong then took a 90-degree turn into shallow waters and left me feeling rather disappointed. It features interlocking narratives of past and present in the Netherlands. The narrative of the past by Gertruui was wonderful and the prose overall was lyrical with some very quotable passages but the modern narrative left me feeling cold. Maybe it just needed a second draft? It was pretty okay but I don’t need to re-read it or more from this author.
  28. More Valley Cats: Fun games and new friends by Gretchen Preston
    1. A charming book and a great sequel to the first Valley Cats adventure with gorgeous art featuring some fun new characters.
  29. Mangaboom by Charlotte Pomerantz
    1. I heard about this picture book because of the efforts of someone who tried to ban it from a library. It is a charming picture book with a good story about being true to oneself and being able to find others just the way you are. The dope who tried to ban the book missed the entire point of the story but since the person probably stopped reading on page two I suppose that is hardly surprising. I’m glad I’ve read it and that it is in my library now.
  30. Something Rich and Strange by Patricia McKillip
    1. McKillip’s language is lovely, I can only quibble with some of her lack of narrative clarity but I do enjoy her prose to the point that I don’t care so much about a few fudged descriptions. McKillip creates an enchanting world that draws you in and grips your imagination with her imagery.

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      Inca tern by E.A. Schneider

  31. Growing Up Lutheran: What does this mean? by Janet Letniss Martin
    1. I did not grow up Lutheran. I heard a lot of stories of the Lutherans growing up from my mom as well as A Prairie Home Companion. I did marry into a Lutheran family and I feel welcomed by the tribe. Reading this book explains so many of the stories I have heard with so much loving good humor that it was an absolute treat to read. I highly recommend the book to all who love Lutherans or have been curious about their ways.
  32. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
    1. This is the Austen that I re-read the least. In fact, my re-read this past summer might have been the first time that I re-read it in many years. Yet, I think that will change. Re-reading Fanny Price’s story this last summer, I found so much more to empathize with and admire than I had before. Fanny Price is an underrated heroine with her own brand of implacable courage that I found very comforting to read this past summer. Also, Mrs. Norris is such a terrific villain, she made me laugh when I needed a laugh.
  33. Persuasion by Jane Austen
    1. Second chances, wonderful humor, and a beautiful romance who could ask for more? I have frequently said that Persuasion is my favorite Austen over the years and I know that that will continue to be true. There’s just something about the steadfast relationship between Wentworth and Anne that gets my heart beating every time.
  34. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    1. Every re-read of this book I notice some nuance that I either never noticed before or am struck anew by some layer to the story that never used to catch my notice. This time, I was very struck by the discussions of mercenary vs. prudential motives for marriage and the double standards we put on the sexes. Reading this after having re-read Persuasion I was struck again by the second chance that Darcy and Elizabeth get against all probability or social expectation. While Pride and Prejudice is not my favorite of her novels it is a nonetheless treasured friend, I look forward to getting to know it all over again the next time I re-read it.
  35. Macbeth by Shakespeare
    1. This is my favorite of Shakespeare’s tragedies. I have read it many times and every time I notice things anew. This time I read a scholarly edition that I hadn’t read before with some fascinating annotations. The tragic end of the Macbeths is still a compelling story that sucks me in and spits me out every time.

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      Vulture by E.A. Schneider

  36. The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    1. This book is absolutely fantastic in the most gut-wrenchingly real way. I love it. Junior’s story is powerful, charming, and a poignant look at growing up different. I find snatches of this story popping to mind so often, especially his way of talking about his brain damage when my brain is doing less than awesome things; it has really stuck with me. I look forward to reading more Alexie.
  37. The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway
    1. At first, I thought this was the dullest book in the world. After awhile, I began to see an austere poetry to the prose and the descriptions pop more because they are so few and far between. I found myself empathizing with Santiago and his need to think everything out step by step and endure everything through good-humored suffering. Still, the macho bullshit about the brotherhood between Santiago and the incredibly noble fish was super irritating to me. While the prose was clear and memorable, I don’t see myself re-reading this book.
  38. The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany
    1. The language is incredibly beautiful in this book. The prose is lyrical with syntax that just makes me want to seize my fountain pen and paper to write and write and write the most incredibly fabulous tales ever dreamed in my fancy. I can see why this book inspired so many authors. All in all, The King of Elfland’s Daughter is enchanting, succinct, and certainly the most delightful cautionary tale that I have ever read.

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      Portrait of a greater kudu by E.A. Schneider

  39. The Suspicion at Sanditon by Carrie Bebris
    1. Bebris really gets Jane Austen’s dialogue and style more than any other Austen inspired author I’ve read. The story is delightful with an almost Shakespearean comedy vibe to the mystery that is funny even as it is also kind of suspenseful in a gothic way. Now that Bebris has run through everything that Austen left besides the Juvenilia, I’m not sure where she can go next with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Personally? I think Bebris and her characters are good enough that she can take them somewhere entirely new and it would be fantastic.
  40. Unbound by Jim C. Hines
    1. A splendid end to a splendid fantasy series, I highly recommend both this book and the Libriomancer series. I particularly like that Hines lets his characters make unconventional, difficult choices. A lot of things in this story surprised me and I feel like that doesn’t often happen to me as a reader anymore. I really like this series and am positive that I will re-read Isaac Vainio’s adventure.
  41. Anatomy of Evil by Will Thomas
    1. A fascinating interpretation of the Jack-the-Ripper case by two of my favorite private inquiry agents, I would definitely recommend both the Barker and Llewlyn series and this book. I sincerely hope that Will Thomas has more of these stories ready to publish because I am eagerly looking forward to the continuing adventures of these enquiry agents. I do hope that Thomas sends them to America in the next book; it would be a treat to see how they would do outside of their comfort zone in London.
  42. The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope
    1. An adventure of derring-do that had just the right amount of romance, I thoroughly enjoyed this diversion. I kind of bought it for the cover art based on fond memories of watching the movie on PBS with my dad when I was a kid. I honestly had no clue that it was based on a book. Now that I know Anthony Hope apparently wrote a series starring the Rasendyll’s I will definitely have to investigate the sequels.
  43. The Cinder Spires: the Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
    1. A new series by Butcher gets off to a great start with this book. I can hardly wait to see where he goes with this story. I like the eclectic characters that he has assembled and am delighted with the steampunk style of the world of spires he describes.

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      Boat billed heron and Ibis by E.A. Schneider

  44. The Little World of Liz Climo by Liz Climo
    1. This book is whimsically delightful. It is charming, beautifully illustrated, and the humor really speaks to me. Also, there are sloths and honey badgers and snakes. You can’t go wrong with characters like that.
  45. The Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher
    1. The five books of the Codex Alera series are amazing. I devoured these books and reading them was good medicine when I really needed some. This series has everything: strong characters, amazing heroines, complex politics, fantastical magic, a brilliant love-story, machinations within machinations, and probably the best depiction of non-human species that I have ever read. I will re-read this series I’m sure.
      1. Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
      2. Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher
      3. Cursor’s Fury by Jim Butcher
      4. Captain’s Fury by Jim Butcher
      5. Princeps’ Fury by Jim Butcher
      6. First Lord’s Fury by Jim Butcher
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White headed laughing thrush by E.A. Schneider

All told, 2015 was quite a year for reading. I got to spend a lot of nights up late with a good book, I met some incredible characters, and I got re-acquainted with characters that I thought I knew. What about you, dear readers, what stands out to you when you think about the books you read in 2015? Are any books making an impression on you in 2016? Please, leave a comment below with your thoughts and thanks for stopping by the pond today.

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Inca tern in flight by E.A. Schneider