Olive Kitteridge

oliveOlive Kitteridge is a no-nonsense and cantankerous retired school teacher living in rural Maine.  The book is a series of short stories, unconnected in any way except for the involvement of this prickly character.  The stories are varied, and often depressing, detailing the lives and struggles of the people living in this small town.  There is a good deal of depression, suicide, adultery, marital difficulties, but ultimately there is also love, understanding, and hope.

Olive’s part in these stories is sometimes central and sometimes only fleeting, a glimpse of her on the periphery.  She is definitely a strong presence and a difficult woman, who often behaves appallingly, puzzling her husband and alienating her son, frightening students, and generally disliked by most of the town.  But as we watch her through this myriad of stories we see moments of true connection, moments of hurt and loneliness.  We begin to see that behind her rough exterior there is depth of feeling, she is often nothing more than a frightened, sad, and lonely person struggling through life.

Travelling with Olive through these stories, and glimpsing into the private lives of others within the town, we are reminded that everyone struggles and we can never truly know what lives in the hearts and minds of those around us.  All we can know is that we are each on our own journey and that in our travels we will impact those around us in ways we cannot predict, as others will impact us.

Well-written with thought-provoking tales about life and love, Olive Kitteridge is a wonderful story of a woman’s struggle with life, her attempts to understand it, her desperate need to be forgiven and loved, and her hope.

“Her eyes were closed, and throughout her tired self swept waves of gratitude – and regret.  She pictured the sunny room, the sun-washed wall, the bayberry outside.  It baffled her, the world.  She did not want to leave it yet.”

Title:  Olive Kitteridge
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 288
Publication: Random House, March 2008

Top Ten Books I HAD To Buy…But Are Still Sitting On My Shelf Unread

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week the challenge is to list the books that we just HAD to buy but that we still have not read.  I am a book nut, and I love all kinds of books, and I love to own books.  But since I’ve been working at a library I find that I rarely buy books anymore, mostly I borrow them, read them, and take them back.  The books that I buy are often ones that I’ve already read and have decided that I want to own EXCEPT for books at used book sales…  that’s where I really have a tendency to go nuts and display great weakness (seriously, eventually you run out of places to stack the things!).  Having said that, I do have some books on my shelves that I have purchased with the best intentions, and that I will read, eventually.  Books that I saw somewhere, and just had to have, but that seem to get lost in the shuffle of all the books I am bringing home from the library!

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1.Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun : A Personal History of Violence by Geoffrey Canada.  This one I actually did buy new.  I am a huge fan of Geoffrey Canada and his work with the Harlem Children’s Zone.  The book written about his work, Whatever it Takes, by Paul Tough and the documentary featuring him, Waiting for Superman, were both informative and inspiring.  I was fortunate enough to get to hear Geoffrey Canada speak in October, and to have a chance to meet him and have him autograph both books, and now I just need to read this one!

2. Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams by Lynne Withey.  I adore Abigail Adams.  Where John seemed more than a little cranky and egotistical and well, downright whiny sometimes, Abigail was calm and nonsensical and kept the household and the family together and solvent, taking on new roles for women.  I picked up this biography at a used book sale and really want to get around to reading it!

3. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham.  Thomas Jefferson is another historical figure that I greatly admire (he loved books and libraries – what more can I say?).  I picked up this new book about him and I hear great things, so it definitely needs to find its way to my nightstand!

4.  Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.  OK, has everyone read this but me?  I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t gotten to it yet, but I did pick it up and it is on my shelf, so hopefully I will soon!

5. Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey.  I love the cover of this book, I love the description of this book, I love the reviews of this book, I just haven’t actually read this book yet…

6. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.  I feel like this is another book that everyone else has read – like I have some catching up to do!  I have wanted to read something by Tatiana de Rosnay for some time, now that I picked this up I will need to actually do it!

7. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.  This was added to my to-read list after I finished reading The End of Your Life Book Club.  Imagine my surprise when I realized I already owned it but just hadn’t read it yet!

8. My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss.  I love books about self-discovery and books about food (even though they always make me hungry!)

9. Water Witches by Chris Bohjalian.  Mr. Bohjalian is another author that I’ve always been meaning to try, so when I saw this book at a used bookstore I had to grab it.  And I’ll get to it eventually, really I will!

10.Three Junes by Julia Glass.  Honestly, I’ve heard mixed things about this book, but it’s one that I’ve wanted to read.  Stories that trace characters through time are always interesting to me, and I heard enough positive things about the book that I had to pick it up!
What books did you just have to buy, but haven’t actually read yet?  Have you read any of the books on my list?  Are they worth putting at the top of my to-read list?