Book Report: The 14th Book

September 29, 2022

Recently blogger Melanie (http://comfy posted a series of fun book topics (“Best sequel,” “Currently Reading,” “Drink Choice While Reading,” etc.). The one that captured my attention was “Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book.”

I modified that somewhat and decided to pick the 14th book on several of my bookshelves housing fiction. Why the 14th? Well some of the shelves don’t hold 27, and I just chose #14 at random.

Here are the 14th books from seven different shelves–four shelves with only hardcovers and three with paperbacks.

  • The Tomcat’s Wife and Other Stories by Carol Bly (1991). Carol Bly was a Minnesota writer who died in 2007. She was married to (and divorced) the writer Robert Bly, who is probably better known than Carol, but she was known and respected not only for her writing, but also her teaching and speaking gifts. I heard her speak on a number of occasions and always appreciated her wit and wisdom. My favorite book of hers was a collection of essays, Letters from the Country (1981), originally published in Minnesota Monthly. Do I still own that book? I will check. Anyway, the copy I have of The Tomcat’s Wife is autographed, but frankly, I am not sure I actually read it. Yet.
  • The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton (2016).I loved her previous books, The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World. I only have a vague memory of this book, a coming-of-age story set on her family farm, an apple farm, the main character “Frankie” loves dearly and worries about its future.
  • Green Earth by Frederick Manfred (1977).Manfred was another Minnesota author (1912-1994) perhaps best known for his book Lord Grizzly, but he wrote many books, many in the “western” genre. Green Earth is a big book, over 700 pages, and Manfred was a big man with a big presence. I remember noticing his big hands when I met him at a book signing event at the independent bookstore where I worked many decades ago, Odegard Books. I don’t think I ever got around to reading this book, but I am attracted to it now because it is a family saga set in what he called Siouxland (northwest Iowa, southwest Minnesota, southeast South Dakota), an area that intrigues me for its prairie landscape. At one time he lived in a house that eventually became the interpretive center of Blue Mounds State Park in Rock County, Minnesota.
  • Moo by Jane Smiley (1995). Another autographed book, this book brings back memories. I won this book in a raffle at a library event in Cleveland, OH. This is not my favorite book by Smiley, but I love how she has written books in a variety of styles. My favorite book of hers is A Thousand Acres for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992. More recently, I throughly enjoyed the quirky novel Perestroika in Paris.
  • The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (2008). Just holding this book makes me want to read/re-read all of Erdrich’s books, first to most current. I know there are book groups who are doing just that, and I admire their devotion, as she has written 28 books–fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and children’s books and has won the National Book Award for Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. A Plague of Doves, which is the story of the unsolved murder of a farm family that continues to haunt a community, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. And I would be remiss not to mention that Erdrich is the owner of one of my favorite bookstores, Birchbark Books, Minneapolis.
  • How It All Began by Penelope Lively (2011). Lively is a prolific and celebrated English writer, whose works often explore the power of memory, which perhaps is why I am attracted to her books. I loved The Photograph (2003) and Moon Tiger (1987), and I recall thoroughly enjoying the disparate cast of characters in How It All Began. I can imagine re-reading it.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943). This is one of my all-time favorite books, and if you haven’t read it, do not delay. If you haven’t re-read it since your youth, re-read it now. If you decide to pick one book from this eclectic list of books, let it be this one. Enough said.

In plucking these books off some of my shelves, I thought I might discover some I could donate to a Little Free Library, but that is not the case. I was surprised by how many of the authors are Midwestern–Bly, Hamilton, Manfred, Smiley, Erdrich–and I wonder if that would be the case if I focused on a different number or other shelves. Also, I am pleased that I have only NOT read two of the five, and I am more inclined to read them soon. All in all, I am delighted to become reacquainted with these books.

Happy reading!

An Invitation

What are the the titles of your #14 books? I would love to know.


Next week’s Book Report Thursday will be a summary of what I read in September.

6 thoughts on “Book Report: The 14th Book

  1. The 14th book from my living room bookcase. I know, quelle horror, my living room shelves are not arranged by topic, genre, author or any other way anymore. I used to have a system, but lately I bring a book home and put it in an available space where I can see the title. So, in the living room, top shelf:

    The Best of Edward Abby, edited by Abby. Choosing at random, Abby writes in his preface about his career as a writer; “Which is not and never was a career anyway, but rather a passion!” The book is thirty-one of his favorite pieces including selections from many of his books, and more.

    Next shelf: The Lower River by Paul Theroux. I probably bought it at a booksale and haven’t read it. But, looking at the description I’ll read it soon. “A joyful return to Africa turns into a nightmare for the elderly American protagonist of Theroux’s extraordinary novel… Theroux has recaptured the sweep and density of his 1981 masterpiece “The Mosquito Coast.”

    Next: La Rose by Louise Erdrich. Need i say more? One of her most powerful books about accidental death and I’d forgotten, gardens and healing. So many books to reread and so little time.

    Naming the Unnameable by Matthew Fox. “89 wonderful and useful names for G..d….Including the Unnameable God.” A return to often book.

    Our Lives Matter, A Womanist Queer Theology, by Pamela R. Lightsey; “The book uses the tenor of the 2014 national protests that emerged as a response to excessive police force against Black people…” Lightsey uses the discursive language of liberation theology and womanist theology as she “helps readers explore the impact of oppression against Black LBTQ women while introducing them to the emergent intellectual movement known as queer theology.” I don’t remember why I bought the book. I’ve read it more than once, sometimes a page at a time for reflection. I will reread it now because Phoebe is in a class at UBC about how heteronormative sex ideas forms our culture, leading to lively conversation when she’s home.

    And on the bottom shelf: Marking the Sparrow’s Fall, Wallace Stegner’s American West. The book is Edited and with a preface by Page Stegner, his son. The book is fifteen essays chosen by Page. I love Wallace Stegner’s writing and have read Angle of Repose many times, so I clearly chose this book, probably at a sale, to soak in more of his words, sentences and views.

    What an enjoyable exercise sister – the 14th book.


  2. What an interesting invitation! I counted 14 books going both L-R and then R-L.
    Rather than listing them all, here are the ones that either surprised or delighted me (sometimes both). I’ve starred the ones I haven’t read . . . but intend to.

    This Tender Land (William Kent Krueger) — along with Ordinary Grace, this is another favorite, although I’m puzzled by the common elements with Amor Towles’ The Lincoln Highway. I enjoyed both, though.

    Benediction (Kent Haruf) — the third book in a trilogy that begins with Plainsong. Lovely!

    A Gravestone Made of Wheat (Will Weaver) — a lovely collection of short stories, including the one that gave the book its title. Powerful.

    * Corelli’s Mandolin (Louis De Berniere — to be read. I don’t know anything about the book, but I do love the title.

    Whose Body? (Dorothy Sayers) — I went through a period of reading all of Sayers’ mysteries. My favorite is The Nine Tailors, which I read years ago when I had a fever, but I enjoyed it just as much when I reread it without one.

    Everything that Rises Must Converge (Flannery O’Connor) — what a fascinating, sort of in-your-face writer she was!

    *Tinkers (Paul Harding) — I don’t know why I’ve never read it. I guess we all have books in that category.

    * North of Hope ( Jon Hassler) — I bought this in a secondhand bookstore the last time I was in Minnesota after seeing it on several “books to be read” lists.

    That’s my list, although the titles also included Dickens, Steinbeck, Dostoevsky, Tolkien, and several less highbrow.

    Thanks for asking, Nancy!


  3. Wonderful reads! A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorites. I have several of Penelope Lively’s books, but I haven’t read the one you showed. Re “pick your 27th book” in my original post, a lot of my shelves don’t have 27 books in a row either. So when I counted my 27th book, I started on the top shelf, left, and counted 27 from there – going down into the next row.

    I’ll do my #14 books from the bookcases in “my” room (AKA office, AKA used-to-be my son, Philip’s room) and the master bedroom…

    New & Selected Poems – Mary Oliver
    The Divided Mind – John Sarno
    Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing – Dr V. Lad
    Joy in the Morning – Betty Smith
    Amazing Grace – Kathleen Norris


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