I'm never really sure what to call this list. My Most Want-to-Tell-You-About-Them Books of 2020? Or simply A Bunch of Books I Read This Year and Actually Remember Something About?
Whatever you want to call it, here it is:
Ten Something-or-Other Books I Read in 2020
Arranging a Dream
I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of this memoir, due to be published January 1, 2021. The author of three mysteries, Rose (AKA Janet Glaser) departs from fiction to tell how she and husband Ted struck out in their twenties to be their own bosses, purchasing a floral shop and greenhouses in Fremont, Michigan. Ted, a gardening enthusiast, had a knack for growing things, but neither of the Glasers knew a thing about running a business. Or arranging flowers! Readers will learn along with them and watch their marriage grow along with their business.
Read my full review on Goodreads, and come back to HeartWood December 16 for a Q&A with J.Q.
Elemental: A Collection of Michigan Creative Nonfiction
Anne-Marie Oomen, Editor
In these pages I found stunning, sometimes surprising work from some of my favorite Michigan authors--Fleda Brown, Jerry Dennis, Mardi Jo Link, Anne-Marie Oomen, Keith Taylor--and became acquainted with new-to-me others. (How have I not read Rhoda Janzen's books? Beats me, but now I will!)
There's much here about life in Michigan and much more about, well, life.
How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences
Sue William Silverman
You can always count on Silverman for honest explorations of difficult topics. Here, in a collection of linked essays, she confronts mortality. But as the cover suggests, there are touches of humor and sprinkles of pop culture (Adam Lambert--woohoo!). And as always, luminous prose.
Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools
I learned about this book through the We Love Memoirs Facebook group. In this stressful pandemic/political year, it was exactly the escape I needed. Twead vividly--and often hilariously--recounts this true-life tale of moving from England to a tiny Andalusian village. Bonus: The book includes Spanish recipes contributed by village women.
Not Tonight, Josephine: A Road Trip Through Small-Town America
Another We Love Memoirs find, and another entertaining escape. Two young Brits on a road trip across America in a decrepit 1989 Dodge Caravan. What's not to love? Having traveled many of the same roads, I found it fascinating to see them through the eyes of a visitor from another country.
No Rules: A Memoir
As I wrote in my Goodreads review, "The story would be engaging enough if it were simply a romp through hippiedom in the Age of Aquarius, but it’s a deeper exploration of the influences that transformed Dukett from defiant girl to the strong, capable—and happy—woman she is today."
Read my HeartWood interview with Sharon here.
Freckled: A Memoir of Growing Up Wild in Hawaii
I was drawn to this book because, like my memoir, it's a true story of a young American living on a South Pacific island decades ago. But there, the similarity ends. Neal's neglectful upbringing was in an anything-goes hippie community mostly isolated from the surrounding Hawaiian culture. Her fascinating story is one of resilience and, ultimately triumph.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
And now, we come to quirky. Filled with offbeat characters and fun references to literature and commercial fiction, this entertaining novel kept me engaged with surprising plot twists. (I especially got a kick from the author event scene). Through it all, the main character, prickly bookstore owner A.J. Fikry, turns out to be more complex than he seems on first encounter.
The Keeper of Lost Things
Anthony Peardew rescues and meticulously catalogues lost objects--from a pair of lime-green, flower-shaped hair bobbles to a biscuit tin containing cremation remains--in hopes of eventually reuniting them with their owners. It's a pastime that began forty years earlier when he carelessly lost a keepsake from his fiancée, who died that very day.
This novel weaves together Anthony's story with those of his assistant Laura, gardener Freddy, young neighbor Sunshine, and complete stranger Eunice.
As the book description puts it, this novel "explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.
Nonfiction & Memoir
You Might Be A Crazy Cat Lady If . . . by Janet Vormittag
The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
In the Shadow of the Valley: A Memoir, by Bobi Conn
Poetic License: A Memoir, by Gretchen Cherington
Rainbow Diner: A Memoir, by Astrid Arlen
Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
The Answer Is, by Alex Trebek
Wounds A Collaborative Memoir in Stories, by Razel Jones and Daniel Abbott
Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers
Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owen
Rain Crow Killing, by Jeff Millen
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
Homeland and Other Stories, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit, by Michael Zadoorian
Coming to Be, by Rebecca Thaddeus
Olas Grandes, by Barbara Mahase Rodman
When We Were Orphans, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Maud's Line, by Margaret Verble
Moloka'i by Alan Brennart
Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin
Rodham, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
Akua: A Novel of Samoa, by Daniel Pouesi
And Then Snow, by Phillip Sterling
Far Out: Poems of the 60s, Wendy Barker and Dave Parsons, editors
One Less River, by Terry Blackhawk
Severance, by Robert Fanning
The Straits, by Kristin Palm
Trumbull Ave., by Michael Lauchlan
from the heart of the woods
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.
Last Wednesday Wisdom