My Favorite Reads of 2019

I read some really fantastic, moving, remarkable books this year. It looks like 48 of them by the time the year is through, which is about ten times the number I might have read three or four years ago. I have really grown to LOVE books!

These are the books that I loved most from each month of 2019:

January – Everything I Found on the Beach by Cynan Jones

February – Misery by Stephen King

March – Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

April – American Fork by George Handley

May – The Dry by Jane Harper

June – Lanny by Max Porter

July – The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

August – If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais

September – The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

October – The Institute by Stephen King

November – Wacko’s City of Fun Carnival by Jeff Metcalf

December – ??? Still too early to tell.

Have you read any of these fantastic books? Are any of them in your “To Be Read” pile?

Jeff Metcalf – Wacko’s City of Fun Carnival

I received this exciting bookmail from author Jeff Metcalf and The King’s English Bookshop here in Salt Lake City

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This book is an exciting fictional account of a young man who finds himself in trouble and runs away from home, eventually joining a traveling carnival in the Western US. Fictional, but very firmly based in the real life experiences of the author. The first 30 pages of this book have already sucked me into a world of misdemeanors and a young troublemaker afraid to return home.

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From the author: “I’m very excited about the novel (fiction) called ‘Wacko’s City of Fun Carnival.’ It is loosely based on my own experience of running away from home at 15 and a half and joining a traveling carnival. As my mother always told me, ‘How could somebody be born on Halloween, in a cab, in San Francisco and not have an interesting life?’ And, she was absolutely correct.”

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#italicbookmarks #jeffmetcalf #metcalf #books #bookstagram #bookmail #thekingsenglish #kingsenglishbookshop #carnival #cityoffun #bookstabuddies📚

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

I’ve been knocking out audiobooks like mad as I’m working on our basement bathroom project. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was a book that I wanted to read for quite awhile. A non-fiction account set in Savannah, Georgia that includes memorable characters, beautiful southern landscape, and… Murder! This book was released in 1994 and stayed on the NYT bestseller list for 216 weeks (4 YEARS!)

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I liked the details and history of Savannah, I enjoyed hearing the stories of some of the people that John Berendt lived and worked with. I also liked the intriguing story of murder and a cover up, but particularly the fact that the murder triad were each somewhat condensed in the account.

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Have you ever visited Savannah? What did you think? Worth a visit?

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#italicbookmarks #nytbestseller #midnight #midnightinthegardenofgoodandevil #goodandevil #voodoo #johnberendt #books #audiobooks

End of Year Bookstack 2019

Well, here it is. My end of 2019 stack. I hope to get through these four books within the next two months. I am about half way through East of Eden and The Overstory. I started those books earlier this year then got distracted with other books I was excited for, or had to return to the library, etc. I am also hoping to get through two of Colson Whitehead’s shorter books from a few years back. Zone One and Apex Hides the Hurt.

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Which books are you hoping to finish before the end of the year?

The Institute book review

The Institute is a good chance for anyone who has wanted to give Stephen King a try. It’s not as gritty, not as strange, not nearly as brutal or terrifying as many of his other books. It is wonderful, gripping, and man can the man write!

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The Institute tells of a young boy abducted and sent to a secret facility in the woods where they conduct very strange experiments on the minds of young people. Good guys and bad guys are clearly defined in this story. You will very quickly wish for the very worst to come to the people that run The Institute, but you have to wait until the very end to find out if it ever happens.

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The book is lengthy, about 550 pages, but I flew through this one like I tend to do with many of King’s books. While it wasn’t quite as clever or original as some of his other books, I still really loved The Institute.

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Are you excited to read The Institute? If you already read it, what did you think?

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#italicbookmarks #theinstitute #stephenking #king #newbook #books #bookstagram #bookstabuddies📚 #bookreview

Candy Canes are Crimson

Candy Canes are Crimson

I haven’t been very excited for Christmas since I was much younger. For so many years, the best thing about the season was a pack of new socks that I would give to myself each Christmas. People just get completely wrapped up in the holly and mistletoe, the lights, and all the wrapping paper. I don’t mean to sound pitiful, and I don’t intend to reminisce. Actually, I want to warn you.

I heard a story recently. It goes something like this:

It’s nearly Christmas, and a man returns home to find an ornate box sitting on his doorstep. It’s about the size of a shoebox, but crafted of dark-stained wood with ornate carvings on the lid. A crisp, bright red bow sits on top of the box. It looks like it fell right off of Santa’s sleigh. The man picks up the unexpected item and takes it inside. When he opens the box he finds a soft, red cover made of velvet. He moves the cover to find six candy canes carefully arranged inside. He’s certainly seen candy canes before, but these are different. These aren’t the cheap, mass produced variety from the grocery store. They are larger and look to be made by hand. Each one is a small work of art, perfectly smooth and polished. The thick crimson swirls are a brighter shade than he has seen before. Looking closely, the man can see the slight texture left by a brush. The stripes are even and uniform, but it appears that they have been painted on by hand. There is no indication of who has left the box, only a handwritten note that explains the purpose of the gift in elaborate, black font:

“Please accept this humble gift in recognition of your outstanding citizenship. You are an example and an inspiration to those around you. I want you to know that a lot of thought and effort goes into each one of these special canes.”

It feels good to know that his benevolence has not gone unnoticed. He organized a food drive, and was a member of the community council. He has always tried to help when a need arises. It is one of the only ways to escape the pain of his recent tragedy. He didn’t do any of these things in hope of recognition, but it is still nice that someone had noticed. He places the gift on the coffee table in the living room. He is not a big fan of candy canes, but the elaborate box and the note are worth keeping. He thinks of how much his young son used to love sweets. His wife tries one of the treats the next day, and after hearing her rave about them the man also has one. By the end of the week the candy canes are gone.

Why should I warn you of this? Well, there was much more to that gift than there appeared to be. The box contained something terrifying. The delicate bow and the ornate box itself were beautiful, but insignificant. The polished, white stalks of the canes were carefully crafted, but held no secrets. The red stripe was the critical component of this unique gift. The candy-maker had no malicious intent in preparing this gift, but some might say that his mind was warped. The main component of the crimson paint was extremely difficult to procure. Harvesting the fluid required extensive planning, and significant risk. In the twisted mind of the candy-maker the “thought and effort” involved in finding and locating a specific and appropriate source for that red fluid was essential to the nature of the gift.

The candy-maker insisted that his special gift could not be given to just anyone. He searched for several months until he learned of a man who had recently lost his youngest child in an accident. The term “accident” was a misnomer. Father and son were driving to church when they were hit by a man in a stolen car. The man who hit them had so much alcohol in his system that he was barely able to stumble away from the accident, leaving his victims pinned in the wreckage. The father survived, the child did not.

To keep the story brief, the intoxicated driver was arrested but never convicted of killing that little boy. There was however, enough information for the candy-maker to track down the murderer several months later. The mind of the candy-maker was demented, but sharp. He watched the killer for weeks to find the perfect opportunity to drug the man and take him away. That went very smoothly.

The killer was tied up, gagged, and beaten but he still struggled. The candy-maker had it in his mind that it would be best if the “donor” was alive when he drew the man’s blood. He was not a phlebotomist by any means and it took a dozen tries before the needle found a suitable blood vessel. The whole affair became very messy. The candy-maker spoke only once while he worked: “Do you know the symbolism behind the candy cane?”, but the donor wasn’t interested in the discussion. The candy-maker considered releasing the donor but decided that it would diminish the meaning of the gift if he were left alive. That was something that he could not allow. The gift had to be perfect.

The specially formulated paint was applied to the brilliant white canes. The final product was stunning! He placed each one carefully in the box and placed the bow on top. It was unfortunate that the recipient would never fully understand the deeper meaning of this gift, but that was not important. It is the thought that counts. The candy-maker truly believed that it was more important to give than to receive.

So, my warning is this: Make good decisions and be aware of how much you celebrate before getting behind the wheel.

You may be wondering how the candy-maker became so twisted, and what motivated him to create such a reprehensible gift. Well, that is a much longer story. I know for a fact that this was not the first, nor would it be the last gift that he created. Maybe you are curious about how I know so many specific details of this story. That would also take some time to explain, but I can tell you that for the past year or two the holiday season has been much more meaningful to me. Giving myself new socks is no longer the most exciting thing that I have to look forward to.

The Overstory – Richard Powers

Controversial announcement this week from the Nobel Prize for literature, but I am really enjoying the pick for The Pulitzer Prize 2019. The Overstory by Richard Powers was one that I heard a lot about, but the description didn’t necessarily grab my attention. After it was chosen as the Winner of the Pulitzer Prize I also started seeing several great reviews here on Instagram. I found out that the author is visiting Salt Lake City later this month so I decided to dive in. It’s great so far! Several shorter stories somehow related to trees… and supposedly coming together somehow in the end of the book.

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What did you think of The Overstory?

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#italicbookmarks #theoverstory #pulitzerprize #pulitzer #richardpowers #bookstagram #books #trees

www.instagram.com/p/B3crI0YgkqD/

The Witches by Roald Dahl

If you want a truly terrifying read for October, try The Witches by Roald Dahl. A young boy learns that there are creatures that live among us, that look like normal ladies, but are actually clawed, child-hunting witches. They are bald, but always wear wigs that make their heads itch. They have no toes so they may look slightly awkward when walking. They have blue spit, slightly larger nostrils, and pupils that burn with a fire of ever changing colors.

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I loved the movie when I was little but I don’t know that I ever actually read this classic book. I started reading it with our two youngest (3yo and 5yo) last week, and it is much more scary than I anticipated. They don’t seem to be too bothered by it, but it is giving me nightmares!

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Do you remember this book from your childhood?

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#italicbookmarks #thewitches #witches #roalddahl #bookstagram #books #scary #scarystories #bookrecommendations #october #halloweenreads #octoberreads

www.instagram.com//B3Ug0JBgRpG/

Catapult Press Campaign for Refugee Children.

www.instagram.com/p/B2gzhoRhzEZ/

Like the Instagram post from Catapult Press and they will donate $1. Their goal is to reach a total donation of $25,000 for Refugee Children in the U.S.

(see their post for many more details)

Sign up for the Colson Whitehead Book Club newsletter

Join us for the Colson Whitehead Book Club! We will send book club updates, author interviews, articles featuring Colson Whitehead, and even share book reviews from our members. You will only receive information related to the book club, no SPAM, no ads. Expect about two emails per month.

That’s it! Now start reading!

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