Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Books I Read in 2009

As I compile these long-assed lists every year, I say to myself, "Self, this sucks. Next year, let's do it differently." And so, as each year rolls into the next, I tell you guys about how I'm going to do it differently. Sometimes, I even follow through...for about thirty seconds. But mostly? Not at all. And then I wind up here, close to the end of the year, starting pretty much from scratch.

This year is the worst of all, in that sense. Because while I kept a list of what I read (and listened to) this year, I didn't put down even vague notes as I went. And my brain? She ain't what she used to be. (Which wasn't much. Trust me.) So these notes are a bit, um, sparse. Or, in some places, essentially nonexistent.

I'm starting with the books I read this year. There aren't very many, and that makes me wonder what the heck I was doing all year long. I mean, I could have sworn I read more than this, and yet...not according to my list. It wouldn't bother me at all if it didn't meant that my 12-year-old daughter beat me--and by quite a bit--in the book-reading game.

But when it comes to book-listening-to, well...I'm a master! (For those, however, you'll have to wait until tomorrow, or maybe even New Year's Day.)

Here's what I managed to physically page-turn this year:

1. Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis: So much fun! Plus, the list of q-without-u words turned my Facebook Lexulous game totally around! Win-win.

2. Princess Bride by William Goldman: As I noted in my last post, Em and I read this one together, and it was awesome. Possibly even more fun than the movie. And that's saying a whole heckuva lot.

3. Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet: Fascinating memoir of a man with both Asperger's and savant syndromes. What Tammet goes through in his life is simultaneously jaw-droppingly unique and eminently relatable.

4. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier: Taking a well-known painting and turning its creation into a full-fledged novel is a brilliant idea. I enjoyed this book's execution, though I wouldn't quite call it a brilliant novel. Still, it was fun, and it was well worth my time.

5. Persuasion by Jane Austen: No year is complete with at least one Austen read (or, rather, re-read).

6. Blankets by Craig Thompson: What I'd read about this well-done graphic novel/memoir before picking it up led me to believe it was one of those abusive-childhood stories, and yes, there were elements of that. But mostly, it was a compelling story of a young, first love.

7. I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb: I would say that Lamb put everything but the kitchen sink in this book, but I'm pretty sure that the sink was in here, too, somewhere. I finished it because I don't like to give books up in the middle. But, really? Bleh.

8. Anyone but You by Jennifer Crusie: See below.

9. Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie: So I got these two through my library's ebook program. I wanted to see how it works, and I wanted something light and quick to read. And Crusie? Always makes me smile. These two were no exception. Fun. Fun. Fun!

10. Schuyler's Monster by Robert Rummel-Hudson: I've read Rob's blog (or blogs, since he's moved around once or twice) on and off for years, since before Schuyler's diagnosis. I remember emailing him a number of years ago to tell him I thought he had the voice--and the story--with which to write a book. I'm beyond certain that I wasn't the only one...that I was one of dozens, probably scores. I'm not even vaguely suggesting that I had anything to do with this book; what I'm saying is that I'd looked forward to it for a very long time. It was worth the wait--different from what I'd expected, and yet absorbing.

11. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks: Another one I already wrote about in my last entry. There's not much more to say.

12. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson: I say the same thing every time I read one of Joshilyn's books. I shouldn't love this book--it's not my thing, not my genre--but I do. I love every single one of them. And I can't wait for the next one to come out.

13. This Lovely Life by Vicki Forman: Vicki's become a friend of mine, but that has absolutely no bearing on how incredible this book was. I wrote about it (though mostly in passing, and not with the careful thought it really deserves) in a post I wrote back in July. What I said then--that it's heartwrenching and beautiful, that it requires quiet digestion and time for tears to dry--only begins to express how profoundly Vicki's words and story touched me. If you add one book to your reading list from my reading list this year? This is the one I want you to add.

14. Mother on Fire by Sandra Tsing Loh: Part of my job involves working with Sandra, and she cracks me up. The book overall made me laugh. But the "inside LA" jokes? Made me laugh a lot.

15. Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster: My friend told me I would love this book. I probably should have loved this book. I didn't love this book. At all.

16. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver: I want to do this! I want to spend an entire year living off the land, growing and cooking local or homegrown foods. It sounds so absolutely idyllic. But I do have to say that, while I loved this book, it's almost impossible to write about these sorts of ideas and projects without--at least in some places--coming off as condescending, supercilious, and...annoying. Kingsolver's no exception. I just ignored it when it happened, is all.

17. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: I read this for my temple's book club, though I didn't make it to the meeting, so I never got to talk through it. I thought it was really clever, and well-written, and all that good stuff. But I also thought it was unnecessarily elliptical in places (he rarely said anything straight out when he could instead vaguely imply it and leave you wondering), and perhaps more than a little bit too carefully foreshadowed. It made it feel a little bit fake, a little places. I also wonder whether the bulk of the kids (officially, "young adults," whatever that means) to whom this is marketed actually really get it. I'd have been interested to hear what the rest of the book club had to say, though since they're all my age or older (mostly older), that last point probably wouldn't have been addressed.

18. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith: I fully expected the conceit behind this book to get old quick. But it really didn't. It was fun. Really. Just plain fun.

19. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: This, on the other hand, was not fun. But it was good. I read it mostly because Em had read it, and I wanted to know what she'd been exposed to. (Turns out? A lot.) Like The Book Thief, there were times when the whole tape thing felt overly contrived. And it certainly wasn't uplifting or hopeful, even if there were bright spots in the book. But I thought it was good, impressive, something meaty for teens to consider. And, hey. No vampires! That's definitely a point in its favor, at least in my book.

Next up: Books I Heard in 2009. But for now, since it's 1:39 am and I'm exHAUSted, I'm heading to bed. Without doing any reading, most likely. Darnit. Em's going to beat me again in 2010, isn't she. SIGH.


Leightongirl said...

Thank you, and what a perfect shot of a nearby box of Kleenex. Lovely company, and so appreciated.

Daisy said...

We've read several of the same books! Are you on I save a bundle on books for me and audio books for my blind teenager. We love books, and we love the site.

Brook Stableford said...

This is truly inspiring. Barbara Kingsolver will be presenting writers' workshops at the San Miguel Writers Conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico February 19-23. I just signed up. It looks like a rare opportunity to meet her. Are you going?

the mommy porch said...

I read your list a couple of years ago and was so impressed! This is the first year I've gotten it together to put a list together (on my mommyporch blog). I tracked my books and tried to write at least a brief review using Visual Bookshelf on FB. Thanks for the inspiration!

Lynn S.

Miz S said...

Okay, I clicked on the link to your July post to see what you said about This Lovely Life. And now I have a crush on your dog.