Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Check It Out: It was a very good ‘Year’

As we come to the end of the calendar year, it is time once again to think about the past 12 months. Many authors have reflected and written about “The Year of,” and the Newport Beach Public Library has many titles that ruminate on special aspects of authors’ lives during a passing year.

Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” is not just an autobiography detailing her grief after the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and the sudden, serious illness of their only daughter. It’s also a memoir of their life together and a meditation on themes of loss and bereavement. Didion is one of America’s finest novelists, essayists and observers, and this small book is a personal testament to her year of mourning. Winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction, this volume will move you with its candid narrative and cogent observations.

“The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible,” by A.J. Jacobs, details the author’s one-year attempt to follow the Bible’s approximately 700 rules for righteous behavior. As well as keeping to the Bible’s moral laws at home, the author went on the road, taking himself to Israel, to visit the Amish in Pennsylvania and the biblical creationists in Kentucky. He asked himself what would be required to live the commandments for one year, and the result is this hilarious, unusual and thought-provoking book.

Months of misadventures, heartaches and confusion enliven Maria Dahvana Headley’s “The Year of Yes.” Deciding it was time to get out of her dating rut, the author decided to say yes to anyone who asked her out (excluding drunks and those she deemed dangerous). As a transplanted New Yorker, she had plenty to choose from and started with her building’s maintenance man, then continued through the year with a variety of unlikely dates. Just when she was about to end her experiment, she found herself smitten with her date.


“The Year of the Boat: Beauty, Imperfection, and the Art of Doing It Yourself,” by Lawrence W. Cheek, is a memoir of one man’s desire to build a wooden sailboat despite his lack of woodworking skills and sailing experience. The book journals his year of learning to read blueprints, cutting, sanding and basically learning by doing while becoming frustrated, satisfied and bewildered at various times. Naming his boat Far from Perfect, it becomes an antidote for his chronic perfectionism.

Considered a travel classic, British author Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” describes the year he and his wife spent restoring an 18th-century farmhouse in the remote region of Luberon. From January’s first mistral, which created havoc with the pipes, to myriad meals, hunting for mushrooms and even donating blood, Mayle provides us with a humorous and entertaining look at the Provencal way of life.

Other “Year of” books abound (“My Year of Flops,” The Year of Eating Dangerously,” “A Year of Sundays”) — all will provide hours of entertainment. Grab a book and contemplate your “Year of” for 2013.

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, please contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.