Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Books I Read 2003 – 2005

I recently came across a notebook I kept with brief notes on books I read in the years 2003 – 2005, before I started this blog. I thought I’d list them here, in the interest of keeping them all together.


  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand –  NFic – fabulous!
  • Forever by Pete Hamill – Fic – excellent
  • Half Moon Street by Anne Perry – Fic – Victorian murder mystery. Inspector Pitt. Photography. Morality. Good.
  • West of Kabul, East of New York by Tamim Ansary – NFic Memoir – Growing up bi-cultural in Afghanistan and the U.S.  Fabulous. Amazing insights.
  • American Chica by Marie Arana – NFic  Memoir -Growing up bicultural in Peru and the U.S. Very good. Good insights into parents’ inability to adapt to each other’s cultures.
  • Never Fade Away by William Hart – Fic – An ESL (remedial English) instructor and his Vietnamese boat person student write parallel journals. Very good.
  • Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan – JFic – Young adult novel about a young girl in contemporary India, married to a dying boy and left widowed to serve a vicious, cold mother-in-law, but who finds a way to live a fulfilling life. Very good.
  • Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer – Fic – I didn’t like this and did not finish it. It was confusing and much was written in the style of an over-confident ESL student (wrong words). (Note: I tried again with an audiobook in 2006 and did finish. See
  • Pern Trilogy by Anne McCaffrey – JFic Fantasy. Dragonsong, Dragonsigner,  and Dragon Drums. I had thought I’d read all of these, but only the first seemed familiar. I enjoyed them.
  • The Living Reed by Pearl S. Buck – Fic – A novel about Korea, 1881 to World War II. Very good, and I learned so much about Korean history and culture! It gave me a new appreciation for my Korean students.


  • Peace Like a River by Leif Enger – Fic – Eleven-year-old narrator, father and younger sister set out in an Airstream trailer to look for outlaw elder brother Davy. Good.
  • Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts (reread) – Fic – First read audiobook and loved it. There’s a movie, too.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon – Fic – an extraordinary novel from the perspective of an autistic teen. Loved it.
  • Raney by Clyde Edgerton – Fic – Strange book, some funny moments. Narrator is a young Southern wife, uneducated; husband is a liberal Atlantan. They both experience major culture shock in the marriage, about racism, family, religion, sex…
  • The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi by Jacqueline Park – Fic – The life of Jews in Renaissance Italy. Excellent!
  • The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler – Fic – Very gory. Jewish life in Portugal around the turn of the 16th century.
  • Boychiks in the Hood: Travels in the Hasidic Underground  by Richard Eisenberg – NFic Memoir – about Hasidism and Hasidim
  • Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom (reread) – NFic Memoir – Every few years, I need to refresh my memory of this awesome little book detailing the life philosophy and courage of Morrie Schwartz as he lives with ALS.
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom – Fic – Interesting vision of what heaven is like
  • Montana 1948 by Larry Watson – Fic – amazing novel told by a young boy whose world changes when he realizes who killed a young Native American woman who worked for his family
  • The Chosen and The Promise by Chaim Potok – Fic – The Promise was good, but not as good as The Chosen. It continues the saga of The Chosen‘s Orthodox narrator Reuven Malter and his Hasidic friend Danny Saunders as they enter young adulthood.
  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – Fic – page turner; interesting ideas about Christian history.
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – Fic – an opera diva and a bunch of diplomats held hostage in a mansion in an unnamed South American country (loosely based on a somewhat similar siege in Peru). Music and language. One of my favorite books!
  • The Smoke Jumper by Nicholas Sparks – Fic – beach read, but excellent
  • When Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher by Richard Rubenstein – NFic – From Google Books: “A thoroughly researched and vivid re-creation of one of the most critical periods in the history of Western religion The life of Jesus, and the subsequent persecution of Christians during the Roman Empire, have come to define what many of us know about early Christianity. …”
  • Singing Lessons: A Memoir About Love, Loss, Hope, and Healing by Judy Collins – NFic Memoir – Collins’ battle with alcoholism and her anguish at her son’s suicide at age 33. Hard to believe her alcoholism, drug use, and general self-abuse did not destroy her heavenly voice.
  • A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance — Portrait of an Age by William Manchester – NFic History – the Middle Ages, the medieval mindset, Renaissance and Reformation (audiobook)
  • The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections on Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould – NFic – 31 essays originally published in Natural History  magazine
  • The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin – NFic Memoir – really interesting, even though I never watched Pepin’s TV show
  • Precious Bane by Mary Webb – Fic – Another of my favorite books, vastly improved when listened to due to Shropshire dialect. Prue Sarn, harelipped heroine of 1800s Shropshire, England.
  • The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith – Fic – Loved it! My first acquaintance with Precious Ramotswe, logical and kind sleuth in Gaborone, Botswana and all the wonderful characters that populate her world, like in this one, her indomitable assistant, Mma Makutsi. Following this initial dive into the series, I went back to the beginning and over several years, read

I see I missed

  1. The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (2013)
  2. The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Cafe (2014)
  3. The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine (2015)
  4. Precious and Grace (2016)
  5. The House of Unexpected Sisters (2017)
  6. The Colours of All the Cattle (2018)

I love listening to the audiobooks narrated by Lisette Lecat. After I started carpooling to work and then taking the shuttle bus, I stopped listening to audiobooks, and that explains why I now have seven new titles to explore!

  • How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn – Fic – narrated in a delicious Welsh accent by Patrick Tull. I loved it Much better than the movie!
  • The Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys – NFic Memoir – I’ve heard about this all my life but never read it. It really was amazing: not just mundane stuff but the plague, the Great Fire of London, and an excruciating extra-marital affair with his wife’s maid!
  • The Bomb in My Garden: The Secrets of Saddam’s Nuclear Mastermind by Mahdi Obeid – NFic Memoir – written by the father of one of my 005 students, Zaid Obeid, who gave me the book. About Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program. Fascinating and scary.
  • Bluebeard’s Egg and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood – Fic –
  • The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World by Ken Alder – NFic History – about the start of the metric system and triangulating across France. Interesting, though I didn’t understand the science. Two interesting facts:
    • Besides the US, only Liberia and Myanmar persist in using non-metric systems, and
    • Wherever the metric system was adopted, it generally accompanied political upheavals, changes in government, and revolutions; but it was invented after the American Revolution, and the US has not had any major political change since then to warrant a forced change in systems of measurement. (The change is always forced, because no one gives up their known system happily.) I had always wondered why the US had never adopted the metric system!


  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – NFic – I loved this book. It’s more a short history of science and scientists. Clear, funny, fascinating.
  • The Summons by John Grisham – Fic – pretty good, but not great
  • Lucky Man: A Memoir by Michael J. Fox – NFic Memoir – good (audio)
  • Charles Kuralt’s America by Charles Kuralt – NFic – nice (audio)
  • Skipping Christmas by John Grisham – Fic – forgettable
  • The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver – Fic – gory, gruesome, excellent thriller though. I didn’t like the reader (audio)
  • Living to Tell the Tale by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – NFic Bio – Garcia Marquez’s first autobiography
  • Plainsong by Kent Haruf – Fic – Tom Guthrie (Ike and Bobby), Maggie Jones, Victoria Roubideaux, the McFarren brothers in Holt, Colorado
  • Dalai Lama, My Son by Diki Tsering – NFic Memoir – amazing document of life in the Potala palace and rural Amdo (Tibet) before the Communists forced trhe 14th Dalai Lama into exile (audio, narration by Arabella Hong)
  • Typical American by Gish Jen – Fic – about immigrants in the US
  • The Dog Who Rescues Cats: The True Story of Ginny by Philip Gonzalez – NFic Memoir – fantastic, amazing story of Ginny, the rescue dog who saved her master’s life (he was immobilized by depression after a disabling accident) and then proceeded to lead him to dozens of disabled cats and kittens, with which she seemed to have a mysterious connection (audio)
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