My reading this year has been largely colored by what is going on in my life. As many of you know, my husband suffered a severe stroke in January. So I’ve had less time to read than I would like, though I still read over breakfast and in waiting rooms, etc… I could not live without the solace of books!

Of necessity, I’ve read a number of books on stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI). A few of these stand out as fascinating, not just to those whose lives are affected by TBI, but to anyone interested in how our minds work. I’ve already mentioned MY STROKE OF INSIGHT, by Jill Bolte Taylor, the story of a brain scientist who suffered a stroke and recovered to write about it. It has a lot about the interaction of the left and right brain functions and insights into how to live a more “balanced-brain” life. BRAIN, HEAL THYSELF, by Madonna Siles, is the story of a woman whose friend and roommate suffered an aneurism that left her somewhat zombie-like after conventional rehabilitation ran out. Siles found creative ways to help her friend and their story is not only a page turner but full of useful advice for caregivers. THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF, by Norman Doidge, deals with neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to rewire itself. Doidge writes about recovery from brain injury, but also topics such as overcoming learning disorders, including a chapter on maintaining mental acuity as we age. The key, friends, is not only to stay active but to always be learning something new. Something I think we Riskies and friends are into anyway. 🙂

As for fiction, I feel a bit guilty to say that it’s been hard to read romance. If I were not a writer, I’d be gulping down romance novels as an escape. As it is, I find it hard to read romance without feeling the pangs of wanting to write again.

So for a time, I concentrated on reading my children’s favorites. One that stands out is the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series by Rick Riordan. It’s sort of like Harry Potter but with Greek mythology rather than magic as a backdrop. I say this just as shorthand, not to imply there is anything about this series that is not fresh and funny and delightful. I hear there’s a movie coming out in February and can’t wait to take my kids.

I’ve also read some general fiction. I was thrilled to read the published version of my friend Therese Walsh’s THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY, which I’d already critiqued in several earlier incarnations. I also finally caught up with THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, one of those books I’d always felt I ought to read. It is a beautiful book. Has anyone seen the movie and did it do justice?

I haven’t avoided romance entirely. I read one historical in which I felt the author aimed for a Kinsalean level of hero angst and fell short. I just wanted him to get over himself! But that is just my opinion; many readers loved this book. Since then, I’ve stuck mostly with authors who rarely disappoint and who inspire me to want to get back to my own stories. My favorites of this year are older books, so you may have already read them. One of them is BEAST by Judith Ivory–I was totally intrigued by what Ivory did with her complicated, beautiful, scarred hero. I would like to see Johnny Depp play him.

I mentioned a while back that Laura Kinsale’s FLOWERS FROM THE STORM helped me hold onto hope during the dark early hours of my husband’s stroke. Since there are long gaps between her books (though they are well worth waiting for!) I have been hoarding them. This year I dove into the last one, SEIZE THE FIRE. I loved her characters, the historical background that made their angst feel so very real, and the essential goodness that helps them survive.

I allowed myself to read SEIZE THE FIRE because (hurrah!) Laura Kinsale has a new book coming out in February, LESSONS IN FRENCH. And she’s going to be our guest at the Riskies on February 7th.

So here’s looking forward to much happy reading and blogging in 2010!