This list is way easier (read: shorter) than the audiobook list, because my in-bed or at-home reading time is almost nonexistent these days. But about three or four months ago I discovered the ebook section in my library, and began reading library books on my laptop. And now I've purchased a Nook (OK, my mom purchased it for me as a Chanukah/early birthday present), so I can read a lot more on the go. (The iPhone Stanza app just wasn't cutting it for me; the pages were too small, it would turn off while I was in the middle of reading if I got distracted for even a half a minute...) So I'm hoping next year's list will be more impressive. On the other hand, the book that's on my Nook right this minute is A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book. Which is 699 pages long. So, yeah. Maybe not so much on the ripping through three dozen books next year.
As for this year...
1. The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton: I know I was supposed to find this deeply affecting, troubling, moving. I have no idea why I didn’t. But I felt removed from the story, from the very beginning. No connection.
2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A reread of one of my all-time favorite books. I was worried about whether I would/could enjoy it as much this time around, because the first time I read it through was in an attic dorm room in Scotland, when I was visiting my then-boyfriend at university; I fell ill while there, and the long hours while he was in class plus the slight fever...I don't know. I just thought it was probably a unique situation in which to read the book. I will admit that I found it more difficult--at times near-impossible--to follow this time around. But, nonetheless, I found it no less enchanting and real. Phew.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Laurel Lee: Em read this for school, and I had to read it again myself, despite it being my second re-read in a row. Just perfect.
4. Rashi's Daughters, Book III: Rachel by Maggie Anton: Maggie was a member of my synagogue before she moved, and our book club made a point of reading each of these three books when they came out. Maggie actually came and spoke to us after we finished this one. I enjoyed these books a great deal, and I really enjoyed chatting with Maggie.
5. Rules by Cynthia Lord: This and the next book were recommended by members of my special-needs posse (i.e., pretty much everyone reading this); both are, I believe, young adult books. I found this one a little simplistic to my taste, but the parts of the story about the young girl's experience as the older sibling of a special needs kid really hit home. Or hit Em's home. Or something like that. You know what I mean.
6. Anything But Typical by Nora Baskin: Interesting and insightful. And hopeful.
7. About Alice by Calvin Trillin: So sweet. I was more than a little jealous. To affect someone like that...To be loved like that. Not that I'm not loved, but...Oh, again. You know what I mean.
8. The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris: Unbelievable. Incredible. There were tiny flaws—I'd have liked the daughter's character to have some more depth to it, and the murder-case subplot fizzles oddly—but Tim and Jane are so real, so believable, so heartbreaking, that in them Ferris more than makes up for any deficits. Plus, dude. To come up with that kind of believable and yet surreal medical condition. My hat's off.
9. Noah's Compass by Ann Tyler: Sweet, but I never bought the basic premise. And I sort of resented the contempt everyone had for Liam, the way he was treated, and then--at the same time--the way he treated Eunice. Not a favorite, and done no favors by me when I bookended it with the two Ferris novels, both of which I loved and both of which felt fresh and new and real.
10. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris: So real. And all the more amazing for how so much of it was about caricaturing the classic office personalities. But he layered, and he layered, and suddenly, they were real. Buffoons, often, but real. And to accomplish this all in the first person plural. Oh, yeah. He's good. (Plus? Best line ever, from a Jewish man discussing his upcoming marriage to an Italian woman: "So yeah, the wedding's going to be like the Montagues and the Capulets. Except the Montagues won't have swords, they'll have Saturday-night specials, you know, and us, we'll just have the Torah and whatever shards we can collect from the breaking of the glass." Bwah!)
11. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (on iPhone via Stanza): Brilliant. Of course. But, really, I want her to write it again, this time from May's point of view. (Yes, I know just how many levels on which that would be impossible.) Something about May really speaks to me...moreso than do either Newland or Ellen...though not the May Winona Ryder plays in the movie. (Which I thought was actually really, really good, too. But different from how I'd read the book. Movies can be weird that way, sometimes.)
12. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (on laptop via Adobe eReader): What a wonderful story, with a truly disappointing ending. Or was it? I actually spent a couple of hours after finishing this book looking up reviews and writeups that talked about what happened at the end of this book, so I guess calling it disappointing is a bit disingenuous. Frustrating might be a better word. To say much more would be to spoil it for anyone who has yet to give it a shot, so I'll stop here. But if you read it, and if you have something to say about the ending, gimme a shout out. I'd love to discuss it. (Funny how reminiscent this is of my reaction to the ending of Her Fearful Symmetry, which I'll be mentioning in my next post on the books I listened to this year. Clearly, this was the Year of the Frustrating Ending.)
13. Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson: I love Joshilyn's books, even if they are pretty much the antithesis of the kind of book I usually love. This one was good; no gods in Alabama, but really good, and really satisfying.
14. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (on laptop via Adobe eReader): Everyone told me this was a page-turner, a can't-put-it-downer. Everyone was right. Which is not to say it was the best book I've ever read, or even the best of this year. But it was compelling, and it didn't quite turn out the way I expected, and when secrets were revealed, the revelations were satisfying. Thanks, Everyone.
15. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (on laptop via Adobe eReader): This was another truly satisfying, compelling read. And fun. Which isn't an obvious thing when you're talking about a family sitting shiva for a father. But it was fun. Somewhat predictable, but sometimes, that's what's the most fun...predicting, and being right.
16. Bite Me: A Love Story by Christopher Moore (on Nook): My first Nook book! Fun, fun, fun. It's impossible, I believe, for Christopher Moore to deliver a not-fun book. But it's not his best (to my mind, that was A Dirty Job), and if you didn't read the first two in this series, I wouldn't start here. I think he's done with the vampire thing; I think he's played it way, way out, and I hope he goes somewhere else, does something else for his next book. Still, I'm pretty sure he'll decide what to do next without really considering what I think. The bastard.Next up: Audiobooks. Which is a list almost twice as long as this one. And includes all seven Harry Potters. Stay tuned.