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"Have mercy on me, Lord, I am Cuban."

I notice a lot of people are pulling together their lists of books they'll read in 2005. I love to read, but this is beyond my power as I usually just see what looks good in paperback that's on sale at Target and that's how I decide what to read. Because the Memphis Public Library revoked my library card when I checked out "Zelda" and never returned it. I still have it at home. It's not that I was trying to steal it or even intended on keeping it, just that, next thing I knew, four years had passed and I still hadn't returned the damn thing. I could still give it back - and plan to one day - but I still don't think they'll let me borrow again without paying some exorbitant fine and I can buy an awful lot of paperbacks on sale at Target with that money.

I also accept loaner books from friends (and am much better about returning these, really) so if you have a stack of books you've read and you'd like to start a book exchange with me, I'm all for that.

In fact, the very best book I read this year was lent to me from a friend. Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire is the memoirs of a boy who, at the age of 11, was part of the Pedro Pan airlift that shipped 14,000 children out of Cuba when Castro took over.

The world changed while I slept, and much to my surprise, no one had consulted me.

Eire felt compelled to share this loving testament to his homeland following the Elian Gonzales affair in Miami, when Castro insisted the boy be returned to Cuba because "children should be with their parents." This brought to surface years of pain and bitterness in Eire, who, along with the thousands of other Cuban children, lived as orphans in the states for years because Castro would not allow their parents to leave.

Eire's writing is brilliant, almost poetic. His depth and humor and magical descriptions are powerfully emotional. His memories of Catholic school made me laugh out loud. His wistful longing for the Cuba of his childhood moved me to tears.

This book will captivate you. If you're making your Must Read List for 2005, Waiting for Snow in Havana should surely be a part of it.

I'm now reading a book I've seen highly recommended on several people's sites, and that happened to be on sale in paperback at Target: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Review to come.